Make Like A Mayan in Belize

The Caribbean may be a modern-day playground for sun seekers, but for those prepared to explore beyond the powder white beaches, there is a treasure trove of history deep within its forested heart.

No trip to Belize is complete without a speedboat ride through steamy jungle waterways to explore ancient ruins of Mayan cities. It’s a good hour-long bus ride to the launch site on the Rio Nuevo then a 90-minute speedboat ride that only slows to pause for photo opportunities with bird life, howler monkeys, three-toed sloths or crocodiles. Finally the river opens and the boat arrives at the Mayan city of Lamanai – the name means ‘submerged crocodile’ – which was occupied for more than 3000 years.

The further you venture into the jungle, the heavier the humidity feels, but exploring the ancient city is worth any discomfort. The scale is incredible and only matched by the precision architecture and stonework. You’ll likely want to linger and capture incredible images, as expert guides provide in-depth information that helps you to imagine the bloody history of this complex and long-lived civilisation.

Unless the stones have been made slippery by rain, it is possible to climb the largest pyramid, known as the High Temple, to take in the commanding views over the jungle. Venture deeper into the site to see the Jaguar Temple with amazing carved stone heads depicting the big cat. With much of this site still yet to be excavated and documented, so many more discoveries are yet to be made.

Island Hop around Bocas Del Toro

A day trip to Panama’s Bocas del Toro province usually starts with an exploration of Bocas Town on the main Island, Isla Colón. The central hub has plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops, but after a quick tour of the town, negotiate a deal with the local taxi boats to branch out and explore other nearby islands.

Isla Solarte is an easy 15-minute boat ride from Bocas Town and, using the relaxed bohemian resort of Bambuda Lodge as a base for the day, you can get your fix of the Panamanian jungle in short jaunts from the poolside bar. The jungle is full of life, and one of the main targets for photographers is the red frog – although poisonous it is no threat to humans. After a short walk into the jungle, return to Bambuda for a cold cocktail and lunch in the lush, serene surroundings.

The easiest way to do this excursion is to find a water taxi in Bocas Town and negotiate a pick-up time to get back after a few hours on the island.

Explore Big Corn Island by golf cart

Big Corn is one of the islands that delivers everything you would hope for in a Caribbean hideaway: sandy beaches and calm azure waters on one side and dense coral reef on the other. Locals are relaxed and friendly – not because they are working the tourist crowds (there aren’t any), but because that’s just the lifestyle.

If you want to pack in as much of the island as possible in a day – it’s one of the destinations on Hurtigruten’s Discover Cayes, Coves and Reefs itinerary – hire a golf cart and head off.

A day spent on the island with your own buggy is pure joy, zinging from beach to bar and exploring the island. Drive around the perimeter road to the north shore where the dense coral reef meets the shoreline. Stop in at any of the little dive shacks, like Dos Tiburones, and the locals will point out perfect snorkelling spots. With a single step off the beach you’ll be immersed in coral gardens, clear water and aquarium-like conditions.

When you’ve taken in life beneath the surface, fire up the buggy again and head off to the next spot. There isn’t a better way to choose your own adventure, before rejoining your fellow travellers aboard your floating home.


Colour your world in Panama

From idyllic, deserted islands scattered on warm, turquoise seas to cosmopolitan cities, this 10-day Panama experience offers a wealth of surprises and experiences.

Your first two days in paradise are spent in Panama City’s Casco Antiguo, built by the Spanish in 1673. Soak up its pastel-hued, colonial architecture and get acquainted with its warm inviting people. Dance to the beat of West Indian congo, calypso,  jazz or salsa and feast on traditional sancocho (Panamanian chicken stew with vegetables) in one of the many restaurants or cafes.

The next three days will be spent at the Caribbean coastal and Spanish colonial period village of Portobelo, located in Colón Province. Explore the fortresses and San Felipe Church, learn about Congo culture and visit one of the many art galleries with a Congo craftsperson to learn how to create masks, hats and other traditional costumes used for dances.

Mingle or even jam with a group of young musicians who are part of the ONG Bahia de Portobelo, an organisation created to keep this rich culture alive. Learn about their music, rhythms and folklore. In the afternoon, transfer to an idyllic, white sandy beach or try your hand at fishing and learn about the thousand different species of fish found in the Caribbean Sea. Afterwards, make your way to a farm to harvest some cassava that will be turned into lunch with the fish you caught and some green plantain.

The Congo Festival dates back to the 1500s and is one of the most colourful and unique manifestations of folklore in Colón. You’ll get the chance to experience it, discover traditional dances and learn about the Afro-American.

In the morning, after you dust yourself off from the previous night’s festivities you’ll fly to David City in the Chiriquí Province. In the village of Cerro Punta take part in the harvesting and roasting of coffee beans, before sampling some of the wares.

You’ll also have the opportunity to spend some time with the Ngobe community, one of the oldest native communities in Panama, in a government-created indigenous reservation.

Kick back and spend your final day resting or exploring Cerro Punta before your transfer back to Panama City where you’ll enjoy a farewell dinner. For something different give Panamanian tortillas or carimañolas (stuffed yuca fritters) a try, washed down with seco, a sugar-cane-distilled alcohol commonly served with milk and ice.


Breathe Deeply

It’s dawn and I’m surrounded by the sheer walls of a granite cirque at the top of a remote valley. The crowns of the peaks, lightly dusted with snow and stark against the blue sky, have just caught the first rays of the rising sun and are glowing orange, the whole magnificent light show reflected in the still pools of the surrounding marsh land. The rocks exude warmth I can’t share, for here, at the foot of the cliffs, the sun is still half an hour away. Amazingly, in a country receiving up to four million tourists a year, there are no stalls selling forgettable souvenirs, no children running and shouting, and absolutely no grinning youths taking selfies. I’m completely alone.

Faced with the array of wonders Chile boasts, it’s surprising most tourists stick to the same three points of a scalene triangle: the soaring towers of the southern Patagonian Andes, the arid desert around San Pedro de Atacama and the eerie isolation of Rapa Nui (Easter Island). They’re all magnificent locations, to be sure, yet barely scratch the surface of a country more than 4000 kilometres long.

Probably the fourth most popular area in Chile is the Lake District, a land of volcanoes, water, mountains and national parks that clusters at the northern end of Patagonia and flows across the border into Argentina. While some parts can be busy, others are just ripe for exploration – one of these is Parque Tagua Tagua.

Located at a wide spot in the Puelo River, southeast of the main bulk of the Lake District, this 3000-hectare private reserve has managed to remain unspoiled due in part to its protective geography. Comprising the entirety of a hanging valley carved by the passage of an ancient glacier, Tagua Tagua is shielded by high ridges either side and culminates in a 30-metre waterfall that crashes ferociously into the Puelo, creating a fearsome natural barrier that keeps away all but the most curious of explorers.

Of course, the valley wouldn’t have remained unknown if it weren’t also remote. From the regional hub of Puerto Varas we’d driven for hours through farmland towards the Reloncaví Estuary, the first finger of a fjord system that runs all the way to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Leaving bitumen behind, we wound around forested mountains that disappeared into the clouds and through small rainswept settlements. The gravel terminated at a great body of water, Lago Tagua Tagua, where a few forlorn vehicles waited for the car ferry to take them to the continuation of the road south.

A 10-minute boat ride from the dock brought me to my accommodation on the shore of the lake directly opposite the entrance to Parque Tagua Tagua. Mítico Puelo Lodge is a fabulous wooden building in the style of an Alaskan fishing lodge, constructed in 1989 by a rich American fly-fishing enthusiast. Back then there were neither roads nor ferries and all guests were flown in by helicopter. Yet despite hosting high-profile Republican Party politicians and prestigious clients such as Bob Dylan and Robert Redford, the lodge only operated for three years.

“The owner’s son-in-law was in charge of operating the lodge, but imagine a young man from North America who likes to party, has a few million dollars in his pocket and his family very far away,” says Rodrigo Condeza, the current manager. “That combination was kind of bad. Two helicopters crashed, one of the boats capsized and one of the aeroplanes went into the lake. Here in Patagonia, unlike Alaska, it is really windy and you have to know how to fly among these mountains. I think they didn’t have this kind of experience.”

The lodge is now Chilean owned and in its third full season as Mítico Puelo. “This is a refuge,” explains Rodrigo. “It is not fancy, but simple and practical. Our focus is outside. For us the luxury is in the forest, the trees, the mountains and the water. Clients must not think this is a hotel or resort and stay inside the whole time. That is not the idea.”

While there are plenty of outdoor activities offered around the lake, including fly fishing, mountain biking and kayaking, I’m here strictly for the hiking. My guide is Mauricio, a softly spoken local guy who has been working here for three years and obviously loves taking clients into Parque Tagua Tagua. A short boat ride across the lake takes us to the pounding waterfall, beyond which the valley zigzags steeply up through the forest and into the mountains, stern and craggy behind a veil of cloud.

When the boat has dropped us on bare rock, just out of the spray of the falls, Mauricio leads me up a steep but short path to the ranger station where everyone must register their trip. According to the records, the park had just 843 visitors in 2015.

The single walking track runs 10 kilometres up to the head of the valley, not counting a few side-trips to see waterfalls, where we’ll be staying overnight in a purpose-built hut furnished with bunks and a wood-burning stove. While Mauricio carries a sizeable rucksack with all our food, I require only a light daypack.

Behind the ranger station is an area of fruit trees planted by a Mapuche family who lived here 90 years ago. Grapes, apples and citrus fruit lie on the ground around a tumbledown wooden shack, still standing but choked with weeds and brambles. Leaving this last trace of habitation behind, we work our way slowly and steadily, along tracks and over basic, well-made bridges, through the evergreen Valdivian rainforest that dominates the lower half of the valley. Two days of much-needed rain have left the park as lush as a cloud forest – an explosion of ferns, mosses and lichens – and the gushing Rio Tagua Tagua is startlingly clear. “Breathe deeply,” reads a sign in Spanish at the side 
of the track. “You are entering a pristine area.”

There is plenty of wildlife living in the valley, from numerous species of bird and frog to big-ticket mammals like the puma and the southern pudú, the world’s smallest deer. Sadly, we aren’t lucky enough to spot either of these, although the only other hikers we encounter, a couple on their way back to the lodge, claim to have seen a puma footprint in the mud. The most exciting fauna we spy are chucao, small orange-breasted birds that scratch around in the dirt like chickens looking for insects to eat. Mauricio knows his stuff though, frequently pointing out small leaves and berries with scarcely believable enthusiasm. “This is one of my favourite plants,” he whispers. “Look at the way the leaves spread. And this one, this is super interesting. It is a member of the tomato family!”

After about three-and-a-half hours we reach the first of the two cabins in the park, Refugio Alerces, which overlooks a small lake complete with spectacular drowned forest. It’s a perfect place for lunch, although it soon gets chilly and we pull on our insulated jackets, Mauricio taking in added warmth from his ever-present gourd of yerba mate, the traditional hot drink of half of South America. “Most hikers come only to Refugio Alerces,” he tells me as he tidies up the hut, clearly pleased that we will be going further today. It is obvious he cares for this place, which isn’t entirely surprising since he spent three months here last year as the summer caretaker.

It’s a beautiful spot, but sees little sun and I’m happy to get going again. Just above the hut the foliage changes abruptly to Andean Patagonian forest, indicated by the presence of larch and beech trees, known in Spanish as alerce and coihue respectively. Refugio Quetrus is another couple of hours’ walk uphill. Named for a pair of steamer ducks, or quetrus, that nest on the lake there, it may lack the eerie, semi-submerged trees of Refugio Alerces but its panoramic backdrop of the cirque at the head of the valley is no less spectacular. The granite cliffs have hidden the afternoon sun, but there is still plenty of time to admire the view and explore the network of paths around the lake, spotting birdlife as we walk.

Refugio Quetrus is, shall we say, rustic. Alerce trees provide strong, waterproof timber that makes excellent building material, and the two-storey shelter is solid yet bleak in its austerity. Books and games provide homely touches and no doubt a larger group would bring the hut to life. As the sun drops so does the temperature. Mauricio expertly coaxes the stove to life and we huddle around it watching our breath dissipate. Dinner is delicious roast pork and fried potatoes pre-prepared by the chef at the lodge. The fact there is just the two of us is most appreciated at bedtime when we pile up all the foam mattresses to make comfy nests.

Rodrigo has grand plans for Parque Tagua Tagua, currently in the fifth of a 25-year concession from the government. “We manage the conservation and tourism for now, but we are working to protect the land in the future,” he tells me. “We are trying to emulate Douglas Tompkins [multi-millionaire philanthropist and owner of the North Face, who died late last year while sea kayaking in Patagonia] by buying land and inviting the government to put more into conservation and national parks. If everything goes well, in 20 or 30 more years we will have protected a quarter of the Puelo Valley as a biosphere reserve that co-exists with tourism, local communities and agriculture.” It’s a bold plan, and one that should be applauded and supported.

The following morning I am up early. With Mauricio still snoozing in the hut, I have the entire cirque to myself. Dawn mist threads through the tall stands of coihue trees and reflects the sun. With 1300 visitors to the park this season, Tagua Tagua is still a little-known secret, but time and the efforts of Rodrigo Condeza will ensure that it doesn’t stay this way for long.

Tiger shark diving

When it comes to sharks, tigers are one of the most thrilling species to see. At Tiger Beach in the Bahamas you can come face to face with these magnificent creatures, sans cage, for an experience like no other.

Get acquainted with Smiley, Princess, Emma and the rest of the gang with shark guru Gregory Sweeney. Greg’s been running shark trips here for over ten years and knows these guys well, ensuring you can relax enough to enjoy the excitement of every encounter.

Trips operate from the MV Dolphin Dream, an 26-metre expedition yacht. An intimate group of ten divers plus crew means you’ll get maximum personal time with the sharks as well as fantastic photo opportunities. Greg is an accomplished underwater photographer and expeditions tend to attract photographers from around the world, so if you want to pick up some tips from the experts this is the place to do it.

Tiger Beach trips run in October when tiger sharks gather in large numbers for breeding, but an alternative in March combines both tigers and hammerheads for the ultimate experience. You’ll also see other predators like the lemon shark and graceful Caribbean reef shark.

This is a truly unique opportunity to witness these rare and majestic creatures while also understanding and appreciating their vital role in our oceans.

Crossing Costa Rica

It’s 7am and my driver, Hector, is late. We had planned to be on the road before rush hour, although in Costa Rica’s steamy capital of San Jose, the traffic seems to last most of the day. “It could be the rain,” shrugs my maroon-suited concierge, looking up at the bruised sky for the answers.

It turns out sloths were the culprits behind Hector’s tardy arrival, and he pulls into the hotel driveway at 8am with tales of helping relocate a sloth that had clawed its way too close to the road. It must have taken the slow-moving mammal days to get to its destination, only to be shunted back to the treeline by do-gooding ticos, as the local men are affectionately known.

On a larger scale, Hector’s story is one that tells the tale of Costa Rica as a country – a nation of environmentally aware citizens on a mission to ensure their slice of Central America remains one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world.

The short dash to the car leaves me soaked in the heavy rains, but it’s short-lived and soon, the sun and warm tropical air dry my sodden hair as we take Route 32 northeast toward the country’s Caribbean coast. Before long, tall palms and dark green jungle replace San Jose’s dusty, traffic-clogged highways, marking the beginning of coffee country.

Costa Rica is one of the largest coffee producing nations in the world. The industry’s history dates back almost 200 years, and although tourism has leapfrogged it in terms of contribution to GDP, it’s still considered the first wealth creation for the country. In fact, direct taxes on coffee funded the vast majority of Costa Rica’s early infrastructure. Today there are still about 84,000 hectares of Arabica farmland left, with many of the country’s organic and biodynamic-savvy farmers growing other fruits as well, including pineapples, papaya and cacao.

We stop for a tasting of the latter at Sibu, an organic bean-to-bar chocolate producer committed to using Costa Rican flavours. Small-group tours introduce you to cacao farming and chocolate production and end, of course, with a tasting of Sibu’s bonbons – think flavour combinations such as chai and cayenne, cardamom and coffee and, a local favourite, ginger, coconut milk and caramel. Sibu’s owner tells us that even the packaging has an eye on the environment, with chocolate wrappers made from cacao nibs and recycled paper.

It would be easy to linger on the patio of the mountain-set roastery, overlooking the patchwork of green in Braulio Carrillo National Park, but we have more landscapes to discover and a jungle to explore.

The staggering diversity of ecosystems stands out the most in Costa Rica. Split by two mountain ranges, its 51,100 square kilometres – roughly the same size as Switzerland – include more than 1200 kilometres of coastline along not just the Caribbean but also the Pacific, with 12 tropical life zones in between. It accounts for 0.03 per cent of the Earth’s surface but is home to five per cent of the world’s wildlife species, and includes vast tropical rainforests, live volcanoes, 10,000 species of plants and more than 230 kinds of mammals.

Costa Rica developed its national parks system in the 1970s, taking its cue from the great North American parks. In the mid-1990s, the government instituted the most progressive reforestation program in the Americas and began an international campaign to market the nation, wedged between Nicaragua and Panama, as an “ecologically friendly” destination. For decades, travellers from the north came here to catch waves and study turtles, but then the rest of the world began to hear about la costa rica, which is Spanish for the rich coast. Visitors from all corners of the globe flocked to this slip of land to see one of the most biologically varied places on the planet, and an eco-tourism movement was born.

Hector and I see it in action at Parque Nacional Tortuguero, a protected wilderness area on the northern Caribbean coast. The beaches here are known for their sea turtle nesting grounds, including endangered green turtles, while the park’s freshwater creeks and lagoons shelter caimans and river turtles. We leave the car behind in Siquirres and catch a longboat up river to the coast, passing through wetlands and dense jungle where we spot crocs sunning themselves, iguanas clinging to hibiscus bushes, howler monkeys skipping between vines, and so many kinds of birds (toucans, pelicans, herons) that I and the other non-birders on board take solemn stock of our plight. At one point Hector points out a common basilisk, known as the Jesus lizard for the fact that it can walk on water.

Our hotel for the night, Laguna Lodge, is built on a narrow strip of land between Tortuguero’s main lagoon and the Caribbean coast. The bugs are bigger here, the wilderness wilder and the fauna at its noisiest after dark. My night-time lullaby is a symphony of red-eyed frogs and cicadas, chirping from the every-shade-of-green gardens that surround my rustic hut. I let out a long breath and feel tightness release in my belly. Henry David Thoreau had it right when he said, “We need the tonic of wildness.”

Leaving Tortuguero, Hector navigates west toward the town of La Fortuna de San Carlos, home of the colossal Arenal Volcano and another distinct ecosystem. Along the dusty highway, we detour to a small village where the Tico family shows us how they have been farming palmito (heart of palm) for generations. Things move at a slow pace here – at least a dozen well-fed dogs sleep in the sun when we arrive and mama Tico sits in a hammock peeling steamed plantain. Papa Tico dons thick gloves – the palm stalks have fierce thorns – and takes us into his plantations where he lobs off a couple of long buds, proudly revealing the tender inner hearts. Back in the open-air kitchen, mama serves me the just-peeled flesh transformed into a simple ceviche, with corn tortillas on the side. The nutty palmitos are the perfect complement to the warm bread, and I don’t leave a trace on my plate despite the fact that lunch is mere minutes away.

Lunch is at Hacienda Pozo Azul, an 80-hectare working ranch dedicated to eco-tourism. There are white water rafting trips, horse riding along jungle trails, ziplining through the forest and hikes into a private nature reserve where guides decode flora and fauna, including a large number of endemic butterflies and frogs. But I’m here to tour the expansive organic gardens and orchards that the owners, the Quintana family, use to supply the on-site restaurant. We pick corn, ginger, malanga (a type of root vegetable) and herbs, then sit down to a lunch of chorreadas (corn pancakes) and rondon (spicy coconut soup with fish and yucca), and a zingy ceviche made with sea bass, coriander and red pepper – it’s like Costa Rica on a plate.

There are similar offerings, although on a much larger scale, at nearby Arenal Vida Campesina, an organic garden and cultural centre where you can tour cocoa and coffee plantations and learn about the farm’s sustainable growing, harvesting and reforestation practices. There’s also an open kitchen where we watch chefs prepare local specialties, from gallo pinto (black beans and rice) to wafer-thin plantain chips and heart-starting coffee dripped in a chorreador, a type of cloth filter typical to the country.

This part of Costa Rica, the fertile northern lowlands, is the setting for Arenal, the country’s most active volcano and one of the top 10 most active of its kind in the world up until 2010. Until recently, it experienced 41 eruptions a day. It’s currently in a resting phase, which has paved the way for the many boutique hotels and resorts opening nearby its jungle-laced lava flows.

I check in to Arenal Kioro, known for its hot springs – my room comes with a thermal-heated hot tub – and incredible tropical gardens, complete with a backdrop of the near-symmetrical, 1633-metre-high Arenal cone. Within its foothills sit rainforest, waterfalls and the country’s largest lake, all easily accessible on hiking tours through Arenal Volcano National Park.

The park is also the site of 1140-metre-high Chato Volcano, although this particular volcano has been inactive for nearly 3500 years and has a collapsed crater that contains a picture-perfect lagoon. There are vast expanses of lava fields and forest to explore here, with short trails also leading to Lake Arenal at the mountain’s base. Significantly, the waterway supplies 12 per cent of Costa Rica’s hydroelectric energy, and there are wind farms on its banks and a geothermic plant nearby to tap into the region’s other bountiful green energy resources. It’s also a magnet for wildlife and as we stroll closer to the water, we spot white-faced monkeys and yellow-backed orioles clinging to ferns and wild orchids.

Our road trip ends at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which straddles the Continental Divide and covers 10,520 hectares of tropical rainforest. It’s home to six ecological zones and an extremely high biodiversity (2500 plant species, 100 species of mammals, 400 bird species, and 161 reptilian and amphibian species). And many of them are on show at Villa Blanca, our boutique accommodation for the night situated in the neighbouring Los Angeles Private Cloud Forest Reserve.

In addition to the beautiful casitas (cabins) – each with vaulted cane ceilings, an open fire and spa tubs overlooking the gardens – the hotel features organic gardens, a strong recycling policy, and a commitment to sustainability. There’s an on-site research station where local scientists come to study the country’s endemic species, and guests can book in to meet with biologists and naturalists who help identify photos of plants and animals snapped around the property.

In the kitchen, chefs produce everything from butter to cheese – including a creamy smoked mozzarella and a hard cheese infused with spices from the greenhouse – along with a warming soup that is half black bean and half pejibaye (peach palm), and wholly delicious.

In the early evening I hike through the hotel’s expansive grounds as mist spills over a ridge thick with jungle, enveloping the whitewashed casitas. Fireflies flicker in the gathering darkness and, from the treetops, the haunting chant of howler monkeys gathers pace. I can smell rain, the earthy aroma of droplets hitting warm soil and tarmac. And somewhere there is a wood fire burning, signalling a cool night ahead. As I make my way back to the dinner table, I know that this is the only tonic I need.


Salsa in the streets of Cuba

A visit to Cuba isn’t complete without making your way down to the idyllic, cobblestoned town of Trinidad. If you can tear your eyes away from the colourful houses, and quaint villages, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to take part in a salsa dancing lesson. Cuba has a vibrant music scene, and being the birthplace of salsa, there’s no better place to let your hair down and give it a whirl. In a lesson, you’ll be guided through the basic steps of the salsa, which you can dance alone or with a partner. Sway your hips, smile and just let the music guide you.

It won’t be long before you’re confidently stepping out onto the dance floor with the locals to show off your new moves. In between putting your best foot forward, Cuba consistently surprises and delights on Intrepid Travel’s Best of Cuba tour. You’ll get lost in the old-world charm of Havana, plunge into the iridescent waters of Bahia de Cochinos in Cienfuegos, shimmy to Afro-Cuban beats in Santiago de Cuba, and savour the taste of prawns in coconut sauce and banana-stuffed tamales in Baracoa. Sure, people will tell you the internet is slow and expensive and there’s occasions where creature comforts can be few and far between, but Cuba’s charm is undeniable.

Revel in a rustically romantic retreat

Utopia doesn’t begin to describe Negril’s aptly named Rockhouse Hotel. Carved out of the side of a limestone cliff, each villa has a lush green garden on one side and deep blue Caribbean Sea on the other. Forget the Joneses – your nearest neighbours will be parrotfish and Nemos.

These stone-floor quarters have played host to some serious celebrities over the years, such as Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones to name but a few. And it’s not hard to see why: with its charmingly simple rooms and wildly beautiful views Rockhouse could almost have coined the term ‘barefoot luxury’.

Kick back in the spa, then order a coconut cream pie to your room (just because you can). More restless visitors can partake in painting classes, daily hatha yoga, African drumming lessons and tours of the property’s organic farm.

Best of all, you can indulge in everything this resort has to offer, safe in the knowledge that the local community comes first: the hotel’s foundation has invested almost US$4 million into nearby schools and libraries.

7 of the most eco-friendly retreats

We’ve scoured the globe to find some of the most alluring eco-friendly properties; the hidden hotspots where you can rest your head safe in the knowledge that you’re treading lightly on foreign terrain, whether luxury or totally back to basics. From thatched tree houses in Nicaragua to a locally owned eco-lodge in the Solomons, here’s our top seven.