We have many reasons to be grateful this season. All year long, all around the world, the lodges in our collection are giving back to the people and habitats that surround them. From an airlift of threatened rhinos to safe zones in Botswana to agroforestry classes for farmers in the Amazon, check out our lodges' inspiring stories in the gallery below.
The Bushcamp Company, ZAMBIA – Since its founding, The Bushcamp Company in South Luangwa National Park has worked to improve daily life in the surrounding communities, establishing boreholes to supply clean water, building schools, providing meals and school fees for students, and offering trainings and employment opportunities to school graduates. Educational campaigns encourage tree planting and teach local students about the importance of conservation.
Bentwood Inn, UNITED STATES – A founder of the Bentwood Inn helped establish 1% for the Tetons, a non-profit through which businesses in Jackson to donate 1% of their profits to local sustainability initiatives. Annual grants have funded community recycling projects, developed environmental education programs, and established water refilling stations in Jackson to discourage the use of plastic bottles. The lodge also provides housing for researchers who are working on the nonprofit’s conservation projects.
Petit St. Vincent Private Island Resort, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES – The owner of this private Caribbean isle (known to guests as PSV) has worked in partnership with National Geographic Explorer Bob Ballard’s Ocean Exploration Trust to organize field trips, community projects, and beach cleanups for students on nearby islands. A scholarship fund helps support the education of the children of PSV’s employees from preschool through university.
Zarafa Camp, BOTSWANA – Early in 2016, the organization behind Zarafa Camp, Great Plains Conservation, helped launch a massive airlift of endangered rhinos through a project called Rhinos Without Borders. National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence—and Great Plains co-founders—Dereck and Beverly Joubert were there to help orchestrate as rhinos were flown from unprotected parts of South Africa where poaching is rife to safe havens in Botswana.
Finch Bay Eco Hotel, ECUADOR – If you grew up in the Galápagos, you might take it for granted that your neighbors are 100-year-old tortoises and blue-footed boobies. Finch Bay Eco Hotel runs educational programs for young Galápagueños—including yacht outings with naturalists—to teach kids about the natural wonders of their native archipelago and inspire the next generation of stewards.
Churchill Wild, CANADA – Perched on the edge of the Hudson Bay, the lodges of Churchill Wild offer access to the remote and unique ecosystems of the Arctic tundra. They invite researchers to use their properties as a base for projects like tagging and monitoring belugas and excavating nearby ancient Inuit sites.
Sarara Camp, KENYA – Sarara Camp is 100% owned by the local Samburu community, who count among the staff and guides and who readily invite guests into their homes and everyday lives. Working together, the lodge’s conservation trust and its community have orchestrated one of the most successful community conservation initiatives in Africa. Thousands of elephants have returned to the Mathews Range area and other species—including leopard, buffalo, and wild dog—are following.
Banyan Tree Ringha, CHINA – An integral part of the experience at Banyan Tree Ringha, a collection of restored Tibetan farmhouses near Shangri-La, is the welcoming village just outside the lodge gates. Ethnically Tibetan locals open their homes to guests, inviting them into their daily lives, and the lodge in turns supports the community, funding schools and health clinics and organizing cleanup campaigns.
Aristi Mountain Resort and Villas, GREECE – The stone-slab hamlets and gorgeous canyons of the Zagori region largely emptied out during communism in the 1960s and 70s. As they’ve come back to life in recent years, the owner of Aristi co-founded the Zagori Excellence Network, collaborating with local businesses to make sure tourism develops responsibly in the area. Through tiny donations—guests are invited to offer one or two euros—they’ve funded projects to preserve the area's historic churches and monasteries, and protect the Vikos-Aoos National Park ecosystem.
Tierra Atacama, CHILE –
The Atacama is one of the driest places in the world, graced with an otherworldly combination of saltpans, volcanoes, and geothermal landscapes. Tierra Atacama was built with reverence for this unique place. Age-old adobe walls were incorporated into the design, the ground was left intact out of respect for indigenous beliefs, water is carefully reused and conserved, and solar-powered lights are angled to reduce light pollution in some of the clearest skies on the planet. To pass on this conservation ethic, the lodge provides internships to local students.
Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, SOUTH AFRICA – Bushmans Kloof has shown a remarkable dedication to preserving the cultural legacy of the Cederberg Mountains—an area that once harbored one of the oldest civilizations on Earth. Serving as a steward for more than 130 cave sites painted by the indigenous San people, the lodge works to ensure that these murals will tell the story of the land’s original inhabitants for generations to come.
Pacuare Lodge, COSTA RICA – Deep in the wilderness of Costa Rica, a former poacher leads travelers through the forest canopy, pointing out wildlife that he once would have hunted. When Pacuare Lodge opened in the 1990s, its owner sought out the area’s most notorious poacher, Gerardo Picado, and gave him a job as a naturalist. Now, 22 years later, he heads up the lodge’s canopy tours, and has encouraged fellow poachers to become naturalists as well.
Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, PERU – Just across the hill from the casitas of Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, a vast organic garden stretches for acres. The lodge engaged local farmers to help plant it with a variety of rare and native species, and taught them organic farming techniques in the process. Within its flourishing rows, you’ll find Andean mint, red quinoa, tree tomatoes, as well as medicinal plants and much more.
Lizard Island Resort, AUSTRALIA – When Tropical Cyclone Ita blasted across Queensland in 2014, Lizard Island, located on the Great Barrier Reef, sustained considerable damage. With only a handful of manmade buildings present here, the island’s vegetation took the brunt. The staff at Lizard Island planted about a million native plants in the ensuing months, and just a few years later, Lizard Island is lush once again.
Rubondo Island Camp, TANZANIA – In the 1960’s, scientists rescued a number of chimpanzees from circuses and zoos in Europe and relocated them to Rubondo Island, a wilderness haven in Lake Victoria. Decades on, the chimps’ wild offspring thrive in the forests here, and guests at Rubondo Island Camp can observe them with researchers who are carefully habituating them to human presence.
Reserva do Ibitipoca, BRAZIL – Brazil’s Atlantic Forest is one of the most fragile places on Earth, a biodiversity hotspot that has been badly fragmented by decades of development and agricultural expansion. The founder of Reserva do Ibitipoca spent years teaching local farmers agroforestry and sustainable farming techniques, and patching forest fragments together in a 40,000-acre nature reserve. The reserve is being reforested with native flora, and species that had long disappeared—such as the muriqui, or woolly spider monkey—are gradually being reintroduced.
Three Camel Lodge, MONGOLIA – Nestled in the Gobi Desert, Three Camel Lodge plays an important role in safeguarding the flora, fauna—and fossils—that surround it, and in supporting the nearby community. They collaborate with the national park and nearby township to fight poaching and prevent looting of fossil sites, and they work with local farmers to create more productive gardens so that less food has to be flown from the capital.
Rosalie Bay Resort, DOMINICA – The owners of Rosalie Bay Resort established the first sea turtle conservation initiative on Dominica more than 10 years ago and their program has since expanded throughout the island. Turtle protection at the lodge includes night patrols during nesting season, beach cleanups, education programs, and data collection, and guests are invited to participate. In 2003, there were just seven leatherback nests. In recent years there have been as many as 80 nests of three species of sea turtles — leatherback, hawksbill, and green—were counted, a dramatic conservation success for these species.
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, SOUTH AFRICA – On a hilltop on Africa’s southernmost coast, young men and women from nearby villages are being trained in conservation, horticulture, and life skills at Grootbos’s Green Futures College—and helping preserve the region’s rare floral species at the same time. The students provide landscaping services and sell plants to pay for their tuition, and are awarded a nationally accredited certificate in horticulture when they graduate.
Tutka Bay Lodge, UNITED STATES When it comes to their menu, Tutka Bay takes “shopping” local to a new level. The lodge makes use of southern Alaska’s natural bounty in their cuisine. Oysters are acquired from the floating farm across the bay, and fresh salmon and halibut are provided by area fishermen—just some of the many partnerships the lodge has forged with local food vendors.
Lapa Rios Eco Lodge, COSTA RICA – Lapa Rios has a giving-back ethic that even the livestock follows. Located on 1,000 acres of protected forest on the tip of the Osa Peninsula, Lapa Rios has adopted a number of green practices to minimize its impact on the environment. The stars of the green initiative are several pigs tasked with eating food scraps from the restaurant—and excreting it. Their waste produces enough methane gas to fuel the stove in the staff kitchen, a sustainable cycle that keeps animals and humans alike well-fed.
Fogo Island Inn, CANADA – When entrepreneur Zita Cobb set out to build an inn on Fogo Island, she involved residents at every step of the way, hiring locals to craft and staff the inn whenever possible. Because the inn is community-owned, Fogo Islanders don’t have to be directly involved in the lodge operations to benefit from its success—every penny of profit is invested back into the island.
Sayari Camp, Tanzania – Since February 2015, Asilia Africa, the company behind Sayari Camp, has worked with five villages on the edge of the Serengeti to grow vegetables to sell to Sayari and its sister properties. With the communities, they organized gardening cooperatives in each village, engaging single mothers, the elderly, and others who had fewer means of making a living. These gardeners now sell a wide variety of produce to the lodges, and keep the excess to feed their families.
Inkaterra Hacienda Concepcion, PERU – Along the banks of Peru’s Madre de Dios River, farmers have cleared small patches of rain forest to cultivate their crops. Inkaterra Hacienda Concepcion is a loyal customer, sourcing as much produce as possible from the local community, offering neighboring families a boat ride to town from time to time, and teaching organic and agroforestry techniques to reduce the impact on the surrounding jungle.
Tswalu Kalahari, SOUTH AFRICA – Twenty years ago, the area that is now Tswalu Kalahari was a hunting reserve turned desolate by overuse. Thanks to the patient restoration efforts of its owner, it now comprises 250,000 pristine acres of diverse habitats and unique species, including meerkats, pangolins, and black-maned lions. (Photo by guest Megan Blackburn)
Longitude 131˚, AUSTRALIA – A handful of elevated tents and a main lodge with a soaring canvas ceiling make up Longitude 131˚. They are elegant and beautifully furnished, each fronted with large windows that face Uluru. If necessary, they could all disappear in a few days and leave no trace. Longitude 131˚ was designed to have no impact on the sacred land of Australia’s outback; the owners left the earth untouched out of respect for the aboriginal people who have called the area home for millennia.
Ashford Castle, IRELAND – For many of the past 800 years, Ashford Castle has been a integral part of life in the nearby village of Cong. Owners like the Guinness family of stout fame employed generations of Cong families. As the property changed hands repeatedly during the past century, that bond—and the castle—began to deteriorate. Now under new ownership, Ashford Castle is once again welcoming and warm, staffed by and deeply committed to the people of Cong, and a source of local pride.
Tiamo Resort, BAHAMAS – Tiamo provides much-needed economic opportunity to the Bahamian isle of South Andros—a pristine spot that has been overlooked by cruise ships and high-rise hotel developers. In addition to being the island’s largest employer of local residents, the lodge contributes to scholarship funds for area students; provides no-interest loans to encourage community business development; and works closely with locally owned tour guides and outfitters.
Lone Mountain Ranch, UNITED STATES – Montana’s rivers are known the world over for their crystalline waters and abundant trout populations. Lone Mountain Ranch is committed to maintaining the health of the Gallatin River and its tributaries, serving as a stream-monitoring station for the area watershed. Data collected by the lodge helps shape decisions regarding responsible stewardship and sustainable development in the region.
Capella Lodge, AUSTRALIA – Lord Howe Island, a tiny but dramatic spot of land in the Tasman Sea, clings tightly to its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The island has an impressive range of endemic species, and to protect them, there are strict limits on how many humans can live there or visit. Capella Lodge does its part to keep the island pristine, replanting native species, using a number of green systems to run the property, and working with a local naturalist to build awareness about the unique ecosystems.
Mara Plains Camp, KENYA – Built on the concept of conservation tourism, Mara Plains Camp is located on a private conservancy owned by the local Maasai and leased to the lodge’s parent company, Great Plains Conservation. The Maasai are deeply involved in running the lodge—working as guides and staff—and their communities have an economic incentive to protect the local wildlife and their habitats.
Zhiwa Ling Hotel, BHUTAN – To build the stunning work of architecture that is Zhiwa Ling, the owners relied on local Bhutanese artists and artisans. The staff is almost entirely local, and the lodge’s outreach efforts are too. Zhiwa Ling hosts yoga classes and professional trainings for people in the neighboring communities, and the staff has organized cleanup campaigns and tree plantings in the area.
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Retreat, CANADA – Fly-fishing is a favorite activity among guests at this intimate lodge nestled at the water’s edge in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. When guests catch a salmon, they are encouraged to clip a DNA sample from the fin before releasing it back into the water. The samples are sent to the Salmon Coast Field Station as part of an ongoing research and conservation project.
Fregate Island Private, THE SEYCHELLES – In the years following the archipelago’s plantation era, Fregate has had remarkable success in regenerating the ecosystems of their Seychellois isle, replanting indigenous flora as a means of sustaining the resident fauna. These efforts, funded in part by lodge proceeds, have aided in conserving indigenous rare species, including Aldabra giant tortoises and the Seychelles magpie robin.
Kasbah Du Toubkal, MOROCCO – When the owners of Kasbah du Toubkal noticed that pursuing higher education was a long shot for girls in the villages of the High Atlas Mountains, they collaborated with locals to develop Education for All, a non-profit that provides safe housing and support for rural girls so they can attend secondary school in larger towns. Having started with one boardinghouse and 36 girls, they are now building a fifth house and sponsoring nearly 200 girls.
Sukau Rainforest Lodge, MALAYSIAN BORNEO – Tourists may come for the elephants, but the local communities that share their habitat often find them destructive and dangerous neighbors. Villagers who once might have picked up a shotgun to confront a wayward pachyderm now have a more benign option. The staff at Sukau Rainforest Lodge has introduced beekeeping in surrounding villages: elephants can’t stand the buzz and stay away, and the beekeepers can generate income by selling their honey.
Kapari Natural Resort, GREECE – In a place as world-renowned as Santorini, family-run Kapari offers up an experience that’s intimate and local. Stacked up the cliffs in restored cave dwellings, the lodge embodies Cycladic hospitality and sources much of the produce used in the restaurant’s delectable cuisine from an island farmer.
The Ranch at Rock Creek, UNITED STATES – Set in the mountains of western Montana, The Ranch supports a variety of community initiatives in the old silver mining town of Philipsburg. They celebrate local heritage with a weekly summer rodeo, giving staff, community members, and rodeo athletes a chance to hone their skills, while giving guests an intimate view of a sport that's integral to western culture.
Southern Ocean Lodge, AUSTRALIA – They call Kangaroo Island the Galápagos of Australia for its unusual endemic species and wild geology, and Southern Ocean Lodge, perched on the cliffs looking out towards Antarctica, disturbs this rare environment as little as possible. Their innovative solar farm has sun-tracking frames that look right out of Star Trek, and the lodge itself follows the silhouette of its landscape, elegantly bringing attention to its incredible setting and not itself.
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, PERU – The Andean, or spectacled, bear is the species that gave us Paddington. The only bear native to South America, they have suffered from habitat loss and captivity. Some have even been conscripted into the circus. In a patch of cloud forest down the valley from Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Inkaterra’s Andean Bear Rescue Center rescues captive bears and rehabilitates them to the wild.
Winterlake Lodge, UNITED STATES – With a prime spot on the Iditarod Trail in Alaska’s backcountry, the owners of Winterlake Lodge are great stewards of the wilderness around them. They have restored streams where sockeye salmon spawn, encouraged the return of wildlife by prohibiting hunting, and airlifted many a planeload of debris from abandoned hunting and fishing sites in the area.
Mashpi Lodge, ECUADOR – The former mayor of Quito, an orchid fanatic, purchased more than 3,000 acres of the pristine Chocó rain forest to save it from logging. Upon the site of an abandoned sawmill, he built an extraordinary, sustainable jungle lodge—without felling a single tree. The reserve he created here protects one of the world’s top biodiversity spots, and former loggers are now naturalist guides.
Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, SOUTH AFRICA – One of the first safari lodges in the area, Sabi Sabi has established strong ties with the communities that surround it. Along with funding schools and community initiatives, they support a day care center for HIV orphans and vulnerable youth that offers meals, educational activities, and a safe after-school environment for children.
The Brando, FRENCH POLYNESIA – On this tiny atoll, mosquitos are being eradicated, air-conditioning runs on coconut oil and sea water, and researchers are studying unusual wildlife—all in keeping with the vision of the island’s late owner, Marlon Brando. Children who come for a visit leave with a deeper understanding of the marine world—and perhaps a passion to protect it—thanks to the fun, hands-on lessons at the atoll’s outdoor Lagoon School.
Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort, CANADA – Surrounded by forests, meadows, and pristine lakes in British Columbia, Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort was built to celebrate a harmonious relationship with nature and demonstrate that a great vacation doesn’t have to have a great impact on the environment. Families are welcome throughout the summer, and while horseback riding, hiking, and kayaking, the top-notch naturalist guides impart a deep appreciation for the wilderness—and innovative ways to protect it—to kids and adults.
Tierra Patagonia, CHILE – Built from local, sustainably sourced lenga trees with an energy-efficient design, Tierra Patagonia seeks to preserve the landscapes and cultures of Patagonia. One of their initiatives is a reforestation campaign, through which they are planting 1,000,000 trees in Chilean Patagonia.
Segera Retreat, KENYA – In a part of Kenya devoid of state-protected zones, the wildlife and pastoralist tribes of the Laikipia Plateau have depended almost entirely on private landowners like Segera proprietor Jochen Zeitz for protection. To help sustain the region, Zeitz has replenished the landscapes of this once overhunted and overgrazed terrain, and provided sustainable agriculture opportunities to local communities.
Inkaterra La Casona, PERU – Set in the heart of Cusco, this 16th-century manor house has hosted Inca warriors and South American heroes, but today, its focus is on the Andean communities that surround it. The ceramics and textiles at the lodge are commissioned from local artisans, and the Inkaterra Asociacion organizes environmental workshops and donation campaigns for nearby schools and villages.
ol Donyo Lodge, KENYA – Situated on a conservancy owned by the local community, ol Donyo Lodge helps support the work of the Big Life Foundation, which employs some 130 Maasai community members in the area as rangers. Through a variety of anti-poaching initiatives, the foundation helps protect the legendary big-tusker elephants that roam through this area north of Mount Kilimanjaro.