Ecolodges: Essentials to Elegance

by Ian Austin on January 10th, 2012
Main lodge and bungalows in the rainforest

Main lodge and bungalows in the rainforest

Part 3 of a three part series
Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 4

“Well… what’s the accommodation like?”  This question is inevitable when asking somebody if they would like to accompany you on a birding/nature trip to some remote location. Most people would not be thrilled at the idea of roughing it in the wild –  roughly the conditions at the existing “lodge” at Kitanglad.  They’d like a comfortable place to sleep that is mostly free of the local flying and crawling fauna, has decent food, and provides somewhere comfortable to take a shower and relax.  Which is one way to describe the basic functional requirements of an ecolodge.  And there would be few objections about features that are more elegant or aesthetically pleasing.

You wouldn’t have any difficulties if you proposed staying at the thirty-six Authentic Ecolodges described by Hitesh Mehta, (2010, Collins Design).  Mehta highlights three ecolodges in each of twelve categories including Sustainable Materials, Biodiversity Conservation, and Innovative Technology.  The book provides beautiful examples of world-class ecolodges, some of which appear to tread more lightly on the earth than others.

A manifestation of “simple elegance”

A manifestation of “simple elegance”

In his introduction, Mehta offers his definition of an ecolodge; “a two to seventy-five room, low-impact, nature-based, financially sustainable accommodation facility that helps protect sensitive neighboring areas; involves and benefits local communities; offers tourists an interpretive and interactive participatory experience; provides spiritual communion with nature and culture; and is planned, designed, constructed, and operated in an environmentally and socially sensitive manner.”  With the possible exception of “seventy-five rooms”, it’s a definition that integrates the concepts set out by Martha Honey in her book, the subject of the previous blog.  The majority of the ecolodges shown in Mehta’s book have less than 20 cabins or rooms.

The vision for the successful Lapa Rios ecolodge on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica fits perfectly with ours for the Philippine ecolodge; “a rainforest left standing is more valuable than one cut down”. The ecolodge appears in both Mehta’s and Martha Honey’s books and it’s only one of a handful that have been awarded the Certification for Sustainable Tourism’s “5 Leaf” award. It has won accolades for many reasons:

  • Its 16 ‘simple-yet-elegant’ thatched bungalows built of native sustainable materials with al fresco solar-powered showers, no native trees removed during construction, fine cuisine, and many eco-friendly practices.
  • An exceptional standard of community and environmental stewardship; hiring and training local staff so that the lodge provides “better income than other economic activities in the area”; building and supporting a nearby primary school; outstanding environmental interpretation and conservation programs.

Plus, it has great birds!

Photo credits: Lapa Rios Rainforest Ecolodge: