Ecotourism is a growing industry, with an increasing number of holidaymakers wanting to travel responsibly to natural areas, to stay in a resort where damage to the environment is minimised and the income and well-being of local people are considered.
To celebrate Earth Day on April 22, we’re highlighting six of the best eco holidays in South India that are leading the way in responsible and sustainable travel.
Neeleshwar Hermitage, Kerala
Nestled in a sheltered palm grove along the shores of the Arabian Sea lies the ecologically amazing Neeleshwar Heritage, a peaceful retreat for enjoying relaxation and rejuvenation while enjoying the authentic Indian way of life.
The Hermitage is one of the biggest employers in the area and 95% of staff are local. The resort is made from local materials using traditional local expertise, with the intricate carving work provided by craftsmen who work on local temples.
Fish, vegetables and jaggery (a natural, raw sugar) are bought locally and staff bring flowers from their gardens for the hotel. The resort has been plastic-free since 2006, serving delicious pure filtered water, and treating grey water to use as manure.
The Hermitage donates to local shrines and supports their festivals, engages local artists for music concerts, and displays local artwork. The hotel also helps to preserve the endangered Olive Ridley turtle by supporting the turtle hatchery on the beach.
Coconut Lagoon, Kumarakom, Kerala
The tranquil Coconut Lagoon is set on the banks of Vembanad, one of India’s largest inland lakes with its own distinctive ecology, and home to a wide variety of natural life.
It’s no surprise that this fantastic eco hotel is on our list of the best eco holidays in South India. It won silver in the 2018 World Responsible Tourism Awards for “Best for Creating Local Economic Benefit”, as it provides customers with a range of local enterprises, including canoe tours and a floating tea shop!
The resort is made up of relocated and restored tharavad houses (ancestral family homes) as guest accommodation and public areas, making it unique and reducing the need for cutting additional wood. Inside, you’ll find quirky antique furniture, artefacts and materials that have either been reclaimed or made locally with traditional materials. Natural ventilation reduces the need for air con.
SwaSwara Resort, Gokarna, Karnataka
The SwaSwara eco retreat is the perfect choice for getting away from it all, back to nature and regenerating mind, body and soul. With yoga, meditation, art classes, nature trails and Ayurveda treatments on offer, this spiritual haven is set in acres of beautiful greenery with stunning ocean views.
The single source of resort water is rain collected in the resort lakes, kept clean by several species of fish. Any waste water is used to water the plants and gardens, and kitchen waste is turned into organic fertiliser.
The hotel works hard to promote awareness of ecological tourism. Many employees are from in and around Gokarna and the resort also runs community programmes to support local schools and small enterprises.
Spice Village, Periyar, Kerala
A tribal village in the cool highlands of Periyar, the Spice Village celebrates all things spice, from the delicious dishes on offer to the spice tours for guests. For us, this is definitely one of the best eco holidays in South India.
The accommodation at this eco resort is modelled on the dwellings of the region’s native Manan tribe with unique furniture made from old packaging crates and recycled materials.
The resort epitomises eco living, with solar energy providing 75% of power and food waste turned into vermicompost to fertilise plants and gardens. Organic fruit and vegetables are grown in the garden and farmed by the local community, with milk and poppadums also supplied by neighbouring residents.
The Spice Village even makes its own paper from old newspapers, magazines and pineapple crowns to produce paper garlands, notepads and letters for guests.
Marari Beach Resort, Kerala
A short drive from the Kerala backwaters, the eco-friendly Marari Beach Resort lies in the relaxing coastal resort of Maraikulam, offering an authentic experience of local traditions.
The resort’s simple thatched cottages are environmentally friendly, but still offer modern touches such as air conditioning and tea & coffee facilities, along with open air bathrooms for bathing under the stars.
This leading Keralan eco hotel provides numerous opportunities for the local community, with villagers rethatching the cottages with fresh palm leaves and making products for the resort from coir (a natural fibre extracted from the husk of coconut).
Marari Beach celebrates local produce and helps curb malnourishment in the local community. The 12 acre organic farm is maintained by local farmers and runs nutritional programmes to inspire the local community to supplement their regular diets by growing vegetables.
Any waste food goes into biogas plants to generate methane for the kitchen while dry waste is recovered for recycling as much as possible.
Hornbill Camp, Thattekad, Kerala
Hidden away in a coconut grove on the banks of the Periyar River is the Hornbill Camp, known as the ‘Birder’s Paradise’ due to the number of magnificent birds in the area.
This rustic luxury camp offers the opportunity to simply relax or, for the more adventurous, take part in kayaking, cycling, walking and birdwatching.
This unique accommodation is in complete harmony with nature and eco-tourism, with veranda-fronted cottage tents made using local materials, local labour and managed by local community members.
The ingredients for the Keralan dishes are sourced locally and the villagers, including the local drivers of tuk-tuks and taxis, make a decent living from the camp.
If you would like to go on one of the best eco holidays in South India, contact us for more information about eco-friendly tours.
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