Orange isn’t the new black – green is.
Private islands, outback bush camps, marine reserves and aquatic playgrounds: eco-friendly family stays come in all shapes and sizes. Here are five favourites, picked by the hotel hunters at
Mr & Mrs Smith.
Some hotels limit liquid thrills to a bath tub. Gayana Eco Resort has a lagoon-side location (where the South China sea meets the jungle), its own marine research centre and fish farm, ocean access, a glittering infinity pool and overwater villas with glass-bottomed floors. Regular boat trips leave for Gayana’s sister resort Bunga Raya (which has its own private beach), but chances are you’ll want to stay put, especially with water sports, clam breeding and coral restoration programmes on offer. Little Smiths are invited to take part in sandcastle-building sessions, cookery classes and educational visits to the Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC); parents can do as little as they like (perhaps in the soothing Solace Spa). Yes, please!
Smith Extra: For BlackSmiths, a 45-minute guided trek or kayaking trip; SilverSmiths get a cooking class for two; GoldSmiths get a 45-minute spa treatment for two (GoldSmith room upgrade only applies up to the Ocean Villa category, subject to availability)
Attention, Tarzans, teeny Tarzans and jungle Janes: Song Saa Private Island sprawls across two jaw-drop isles, its thatched-and-stone villas hidden from the paparazzi amid a sea-spying jungle canopy. The hotel has one-million square metres to its name, but it doesn’t waste an inch: this self-made marine reserve has a rainforest spa, jet set gym, 27 high-spec villas (each with a sea-view plunge pool), a ravishing restaurant and two bars (one for champagne; one for sand side cocktails). Budding mermen and mermaids will be in aquatic heaven: daily pursuits include sea kayaking, boat trips in the mangroves and snorkelling tours of Song Saa Islands, exploring the reefs, seahorses and rainbow-hued fish of this protected pocket.
Smith Extra: One 60-minute spa treatment each
Soneva Fushi is far too noble to be boastful, so we’ll do the bragging for it: the hotel is home to one of the largest solar power plants in the Maldives; sustainability lies at the heart of its modus operandi; it has a mesmerising house reef and it champions the protection of turtle habitats. Little Smiths can run wild on this private island, where geckos, chickens and rabbits wander freely. There’s a stash of bicycles and tricycles; other activities include water sports and snorkelling, table tennis, badminton, tennis and volleyball. If that sounds strenuous, factor in butler service, a superb spa and an open-air cinema (popcorn a-go-go). So Hot and So Cool, the hotel’s ice-cream parlour, serves a mind-boggling array of flavours: 60 and counting (it’s pretty much your duty to try them all).
Smith Extra: One dinner (at Nine or By the Beach) and a cookie-making class for children
H2O is taken seriously at Sal Salis, which limits its water use in order to protect the diverse ecosystem of the neighbouring Cape Range National Park. This beachside bush camp near Ningaloo Reef is fringed by coruscating coral and lapped by the lusciously warm waters of the Indian Ocean; its 16 tents are camping at its cosiest. Put your smartphone down: there’s no WiFi access or mobile phone reception at Sal Salis, which relies on solar power. You won’t miss the internet, thanks to the wealth of extracurricular activities on offer: fossil-finding missions on Mandu Mandu Gorge, wallaby-spying at Yardie Creek, swimming and snorkelling at Ningaloo Reef, cruises, kayaking and diving trips – look out for whale sharks and manta ray in season. Don’t go home without spending a night under the stars.
Smith Extra: One chilled bottle of sparkling Australian wine served with canapés on the guest’s deck or at the beach deck (weather and other-guest-usage permitting)
Three words for frazzled parents: free nanny service. That’s the least of Jean Michel Cousteau Resort’s extensive charms, mind: there’s also a diving programme run by the son of legendary scuba-pioneer Jacques Cousteau, a resident marine biologist, a free kids club, oceanfront bures, a clutch of swimming pools (including the cascading Water Mushroom Pool for toddlers) and a restaurant that relies on the organic produce that flourishes in the gardens. Guests of all ages can give Mother Nature a helping hand by signing up for the reef protection programme and clam-breeding project. Even the spa is conscientious, using eco-friendly toiletries and recycled water.
Smith Extra: A private island picnic for two, and free breakfast and lunch prior to 2pm check-in, if arriving earlier
Mr & Mrs Smith gets you the best rates, guaranteed, as well as a little something extra on arrival at every hotel. To book, call toll free at 800 905 326 or visit mrandmrssmith.com.