Projects or initiatives that go above and beyond to prioritise Planet Earth; recognising an urgent responsibility to protect our natural resources for the next generation of mavericks. No greenwashing.
Projects or initiatives that go above and beyond to prioritise Planet Earth; recognising an urgent responsibility to protect our natural resources for the next generation of mavericks. No greenwashing.
Outstanding examples of creative campaigns which both challenge and inspire travellers to think differently about exploring the world; either through masterful marketing, exquisite design or commanding copy.
Businesses or individuals who have used their platform bravely; to redefine what experiential travel means, set new standards for the industry or help others. Proving that our community truly does have the power to Change Worlds.
Projects and initiatives that proudly empower local people and communities; understanding high-end travel’s role in preserving authentic culture while promoting harmonious, innovative relationships and simultaneously providing enriching traveller experiences.
A project or initiative that strategically and sensitively integrates the local community, aligning itself with the values of the inhabitants and protecting the authenticity of their culture, while enriching the experience of the traveller.See the winners
For many Maldivians, not knowing how to swim is the norm. Soneva Fushi aimed to create the next generation of Ocean Stewards by teaching children how to swim. Their Soneva Ocean Stewards programme has three focus areas: (1) train swimming instructors on local islands, (2) teach children how to swim, (3) educate children about environmental awareness through activities. So far, they have trained 38 instructors and taught over 300 children how to swim. They have also had 50 children on their five day Soneva Eco Camp (in collaboration with UNDP) and 150 children on their one day Soneva Eco Tours.
Guests swap their current reality for life on a secluded island, under the guidance of the neighbouring Karawara people, in the tropics of Papua New Guinea. Karawara Islanders visit guests daily on Kabakon island, supplying their extensive knowledge, time and rich customs, teaching how to forage, hunt, weave, connect and play. Guests are then left to their own devices until the next visit. The project offers an additional income stream for the local community and re-ignites pride in the continuation of local traditions and cultures.
Bwindi Bar is a practical training institution for disadvantaged youth between 15-26. The aim is to provide practical training and skills to create job opportunities. By engaging our clients with the local community, we ensure that locals benefit directly from tourism. The Café opened in August 2015. VSPT selected ten trainees based on criteria such as survivors of domestic violence, HIV/AIDS orphans and Batwa. The first eight trainees successfully graduated with exemplary results. Two of the students are now in full time employment at nearby lodges. A second group of trainees will be selected for training this year.
Many luxury properties have a charitable foundation. Our charitable foundation has a luxury property. Fogo Island Inn is a social business that belongs to the community of Fogo Island; all operating surpluses are reinvested in the community through the Shorefast Foundation. In addition to immersing themselves in the natural and cultural heritage of this powerfully elemental place, guests go away with a renewed energy and enthusiasm towards engendering a holistic relationship between financial capital and community. Fogo Island Inn opens the imagination to the possibilities for using business, technology and hospitality as tools to build – and rebuild – our communities.
Children in the Wilderness (CITW) is a non-profit organisation supported by Wilderness Safaris, which aims to facilitate sustainable conservation by educating children from rural areas on their natural heritage, thus inspiring them to become custodians of these areas in the future.
This is achieved in a variety of ways: Eco-Mentor Training aims to develop both children and local community members by increasing their environmental understanding and enabling them to better implement school and village environmental projects and initiatives. Throughout the year, Eco-Clubs provide the chance to meet, learn, discuss and expand knowledge of environmental issues. More than 2,000 children have become members of 67 Eco-Clubs throughout Africa.
A selection of Wilderness Safaris’ partner camps are closed to paying guests for a few days each year in order to host three- to five-day educational and fun-filled programmes – including environmental lessons, games, practical sessions, life-skills orientation and wildlife activities – that aim to increase children’s understanding and appreciation of the diversity of natural environments, as well as demonstrating the different career opportunities that exist for them in the ecotourism industry. Since 2001, some 5,000 children in seven southern African countries have participated. The Youth Environmental Stewardship (YES) programme then identifies those children with interest, commitment and potential and helps to prepare them for a possible career in nature conservation.
CITW also extends its involvement to other initiatives aimed at community development – including school feeding schemes, school infrastructure development, access to clean water and scholarships.
A project or initiative that puts Planet Earth on centre stage, showing due responsibility to our natural resources and going above and beyond to protect our legacy – for the good of not only the tourism industry, but the world.See the winners
La Donaira joined forces with the Natural Beekeeping Trust to relocate wild honeybees to their mountain oak forest with over 20 custom designed tree hives. The aim was to restore the bees to their long lost vitality and build resistance to varroa, which wiped out populations across the planet. They have had visits and training from the NBT so the bees are kept safe, wild and chemical-free. This project is being presented as an internationally significant success story. La Donaira have also created a tour for their guests to inspire fresh thinking about the bee and its place in the world. Bees may be small, but our future depends on them.
The solar projects aim was to reduce reliance on fossil fuels by harnessing energy from this sun-rich part of the world to provide solar power. In 2015, 1188 photovoltaic solar panels were installed and connected to state-of-the-art batteries and inverters to power the lodges. In 2017, the Tesla Powerpack system was introduced. The combination of solar and Powerpack enables sustainable energy generation, consumption and storage. The system has already reduced diesel generator usage by over 70% and is forecast to reduce annual carbon emissions by 1,000 tons.
Desert & Delta Safaris wanted to launch Africa’s first fleet of electric powered CO2 emission free safari vehicles and boats. Operating inside the renowned Chobe National Park of Botswana – Chobe Game Lodge was the ideal property from which to develop this initiative. In doing so the vision is to lead the way for cleaner safaris throughout the continent! In June 2016 the fourth diesel to electric conversion took place, joining the three solar and electric powered safari boats at Chobe Game Lodge. Not only are they extremely quiet, ideal for wildlife encounters, but a combination of solar-panels on the safari boats and hydro-electric power to the region ensures this initiative is 100% CO2 emission free.
Wilderness Safaris has facilitated the largest ever cross-border translocation of Critically Endangered black rhino into Botswana’s Okavango Delta, in partnership with the Botswana, South African and Zimbabwean Governments. Between May and June 2015, eight international relocations took place, with black rhino sourced from five locations in South Africa and Zimbabwe safely transported to Botswana in a Hercules C-130 aircraft. This forms part of a pioneering and ongoing collaborative project with the Botswana government, spanning over 15 years, which has resulted in the re-establishment of viable breeding populations of both black and white rhino in Botswana.
Fuelled by rising demand, the illegal trade in rhino horn has seen the number of rhinos poached across Africa reach an all-time high. In 2013, over 1000 rhino were poached in South Africa alone – up from 668 in 2012 and 448 in 2011. A rhino is now killed every nine hours.
&Beyond believes that translocations are fundamental to securing the ongoing survival of endangered species and ensuring that they are protected for future generations to enjoy. In 2013 they carried out the first private game reserve donation of rhino to another country, translocating six white rhino from &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa to Botswana’s Okavango Delta. As part of preparing for the arrival of the rhino, &Beyond provided intensive tracking and monitoring training for game scouts from Botswana. After quarantine in a holding pen in Botswana the rhino were successfully released, with one female confirmed to be pregnant. She has since given birth and all seven rhino are doing well in their new environment.
Following the success of this project, &Beyond is working with industry partners to translocate up to a further 100 rhino. Following the release, top experts in technology, security and anti-poaching initiatives will work with the Botswana Defence Force and the Ministry of the Environment to secure and monitor the new rhino population. The final phase of the project will focus on community education and outreach to aid the continued conservation and protection of rhinos across South Africa and Botswana.
A pioneer in sustainable tourism, Inkaterra’s mission has always been to conserve and celebrate Peru’s nature and cultures. In partnership with The World Bank and National Geographic, Inkaterra’s NGO Inkaterra Asociacion created a 1,330ft canopy walkway suspended above the Peruvian jungle. This canopy walkway exists in the middle of a pristine part of the jungle, where animals are still active and numerous, and allows guests to experience a fantastic sense of place in the most high emotion / low impact way. To complete this memorable experience they built an adjoining canopy tree house 30 meters above ground, which provides an incredible oasis where guests can observe a range of wild animal species – most of which aren’t usually visible from the ground – and listen to the amazing jungle sounds, all while enjoying drinks served by a private butler. The design and construction process took into account damage to the environment, using the most low impact methods wherever possible.
“There is nothing more emotionally rich, with less impact, than the Inkaterra canopy walk in the Peruvian rainforest. Stunning!” – Richard Bangs
“The Inkaterra approach gives new meaning to “being in the forest.” You truly become a part of the action.” – Sylvia Earle
An individual whose efforts have directly influenced the development of the experiential travel movement – a true maverick whose commitment, curiosity and daring sets new standards for the industry at large.See the winners
The late Russel Friedman – one of Wilderness Safaris’ co-founders, a true pioneer of experiential travel and sustainable ecotourism, a champion for vulture conservation and a true safari industry stalwart – deserves this recognition for the instrumental role he played in the growth of both Wilderness and the industry as a whole. Russel also drove Africa’s premier mountain-biking event, the Nedbank Tour de Tuli, to great heights, raising millions for non-profit Children in the Wilderness.
Mike Reimer, co-founder of Churchill Wild, is a true entrepreneur and adventurer. The first to offer walking safaris through polar bear inhabited regions of northern Manitoba, he’s always one step ahead, planning new experiences for guests. From safe, on-the-ground polar bear encounters to an innovative way for people to snorkel with wild beluga whales to a remote Tundra Camp set up in the Barren Lands for an Arctic glamping experience, Mike’s insatiable curiosity for what’s possible keeps guests intrigued and engaged.
A lifetime spent setting and raising the bar for Ecuador’s environment, along with his well-respected business acumen, made it possible for Roque Sevilla to realize his dream of expanding the impact of his visionary purchase of 1,400 hectares (ha) of primary forest in the almost destroyed Choco region by successfully lobbying for the creation of a 17,200 ha protected area that has transformed the map of Ecuador. Visitors to the reserve’s stunning Mashpi Lodge leave inspired to forge change at home.
After co-producing Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, The Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo, José Koechlin established Inkaterra in 1975. Pioneering ecotourism in Peru, the brand works a holistic approach enhancing scientific research, conservation and sustainability. José has sponsored flora and fauna inventories, defining areas of influence: the Amazon rainforest, Machu Picchu cloud forest, the Sacred Valley, Cusco and Cabo Blanco coastline. Eco-friendly activities include the World Birding Rally; the Inkaterra Canopy Walkway; the world’s largest native orchid collection (372 species); and the Andean Bear Rescue Project. Having trained 4000 locals and annually catering for 100,000 travellers, Inkaterra confirms its commitment to culture and biodiversity.
In 1980, George Butterfield introduced (or more accurately, reintroduced, after a few valiant attempts and innovative spins) the concept of immersive deluxe biking trips for adults, virtually creating from scratch the category of travel that’s now known as ‘luxury active’. But doing so was many years in the making…
In 1966, law student George Butterfield teamed up with his brother-in-law Sidney Robinson and wife Martha to create and lead a 59-day bike trip from Naples to London with 43 students. They rode around Bavaria, hiked the Swiss Alps, explored the quays of Paris and visited the galleria and palazzi in Florence, savouring the local specialities as they went. George thought he had struck on something special. So in 1974, B&R joined with Lufthansa to offer an adult version of the trips in the Bavarian Alps. Not one person booked.
In 1979 another great travel idea emerged: Shipwreck Travel. For $600 each, travellers would be taken to a deserted Caribbean island with just a bathing suit, a plastic sheet and a bucket – simulating real survival in a beautiful place. Despite planning 15 departures in the first year, he ran one trip. Everyone hated it.
But George remained undaunted. A true entrepreneur, he knew that success in business depends upon three things: innovation, surrounding yourself with talented people and good timing (along with persistence, of course). In 1980 he relaunched his bike trip concept with far more success… We would say the rest is history, but we’d hate to be so cliché.
One of Africa’s safari pioneers, Luke Bailes opened the first Singita Game Reserve lodge in 1993 and has since helped to redefine the traditional safari experience by introducing high-end tourism to the continent, in the form of luxury mobile camps. Dedicated to environmentally conscious hospitality, sustainable conservation and the empowerment of local communities, Luke has made a real difference to the lives of local people and continues to push boundaries for better tourism. He has won several awards for Singita, including Best Hotel in the World by US Travel + Leisure.
“Bailes is streets ahead anyone else in his field… He gets my vote for doing so much over such a long period of time.” – Colin Bell
Outstanding examples of high-end design that contribute to the emotional experience of the traveller, using exquisite aesthetics and creative ingenuity to offer a new perspective and showcase the richness of its locality.See the winners
An immersive, perspective-shifting itinerary that challenges and inspires the sophisticated traveller on a deeply personal level, creating emotion through the powerful medium of storytelling and transforming their life for the better.See the winners
In 2017 EcoCamp brought the first disabled visitor to explore Torres del Paine and in 2018 their tours became fully inclusive. In the same way one wants to tell others about a beautiful sunset, they wanted to share the exhilaration that comes with immersing ones self in Patagonia. In January they trekked a wheelchair-using guest around the Park in their uniquely-designed wheelchair that allowed him to traverse the changing terrain of the park. The guides also received in depth training for the trip. The month prior to this, they hiked with a group of visually impaired guests.
The Dientes Trek is a “back to your roots” wilderness experience. There is virtually no trail infrastructure; it’s un-crowded and the immersion in nature and disconnect from the world is absolute. There is only you, silence, and the mighty peaks and legendary waterways of Tierra del Fuego. Trekkers leave with a greater appreciation and understanding of the power of nature, as well as themselves as humans in the world, where our actions have real consequences for the future of the planet.
Our Quest for the Snow Leopard itinerary travels to Mongolia’s remote Altai Mountains to track the elusive, endangered snow leopard. It is the ultimate game of hide and seek, requiring patience and persistence. In the modern world, where instant gratification is de rigueur, this itinerary truly alters perspective. Our client, Joe Rohde, travelled this starkly beautiful landscape and then painted evocative canvases to be sold to support conservation efforts. We, like Joe, believe that it isn’t what you take from a place, but what you also give in return that defines transformational travel.
Defined as ‘the land remote beyond reckoning,’ Ultima Thule sits deep in the heart of North America’s largest national park. The timeless luxury of the lodge only enhances the already indescribable natural setting – the theory being that indulging creature comforts and simultaneously overwhelming the senses is the ideal formula for creating emotionally rich experiences.
From March through to October guests can take part in flight safari adventures. Thanks to the light bush airplanes used – which are specifically designed to ensure minimal impact to the natural world – they enjoy a heightened level of personal experience, effectively ‘strapping on a pair of wings’ to explore untouched wilderness where no humans may have ventured before, unrestricted by itineraries and uninterrupted by the rest of the world. They find themselves in a world removed from civilization, picnicking in the middle of the largest non-polar glacier on earth, walking atop a high alpine plateau among arctic flowers to sample wild berries, fishing in a salmon stream alongside grizzly bears, or soaring among 18,000 foot-high peaks en-route to the Pacific coastline to witness 1000-year-old glacier ice crash into the surf.
Yet the thing that makes Ultima Thule truly extraordinary is the authenticity experienced on a human level. Guests are welcomed into the daily lives of the Clauses – a modern day pioneering family who live hundreds of miles ‘off the grid’ within a small, self-sustaining community of their own creation – where they are invited to live and share the dream of wilderness adventure and stewardship.
Great Plains Conservation’s collection of exquisite high-end camps offers guests the opportunity to truly immerse themselves in the magical African wilds across Botswana and Kenya – whether it’s enjoying uninterrupted views across the prime wildlife territory of the Selinda Reserve, shaded by a canopy of African ebony and Red ivory trees at Zarafa Camp; meandering on horseback among the “Big Five” mammals in their natural habitat on a Ride Kenya Safari; or paddling serenely down the waterway linking Botswana’s Okavango Delta and Linyanti and Kwando water systems on the Selinda Canoe Trail. Encouraging people to appreciate nature and learn how to better protect the environment is at the core of Great Plains Conservation’s mission, so it’s no surprise that the experiences they offer have a unique simplicity and rawness that allows for no distractions. Coupled with the beauty and comfort of the camps themselves and the attentive, personalised service, Great Plains offers a host of truly life-enriching experiences that are unique to each individual.
“The Jouberts convey their passion and deeply held conservation ethic and respect for the natural world that is unsurpassed, no matter what the setting, but especially in their beloved African plains. This is conveyed to those fortunate enough to travel in their presence.” – Sylvia Earle
Recognising the dedication and passion of the guides who go an extra mile to offer a truly transformational experience to their guests, often through some of the most remote areas of the world.See the winners
Working with Mobil Arquitectos for the exterior and Caroline Delpiano and Alexandra Edwards for the interiors, Tierra Chiloe doubled the size of their original hotel with 12 new rooms, a full spa, bar, dining and living room areas. The architecture combines ancient traditions of the island with contemporary design. It is clad with traditional wooden tiles, but the planes are bold and timeless. Inside, each space tells a story, which connects travellers emotionally with the culture of the island. Chilote myths, historic churches and the “Minga” can all be found in furniture, lamps and functional objects. There is a strong link with the local community – from our neighbours who hand-knit slippers for each guest, to the local farmers whose organic produce supplements that of our gardens.
Bisate’s sophisticated architectural and interior design is rooted in Rwandan building tradition. The spherical, thatched structure echoes the thousands of hills that dot the Rwandan landscape, while the richly-detailed interiors exhibit surfaces and screens made from a variety of woven materials with strong resonance in Rwandan culture. Bisate not only offers guests something completely unique to the Rwandan landscape but a lodge that is steeped in local design, culture and traditional architecture.
Homoki Yurts takes it far a step further with traditional styling. Contemporary design with an adventure interior divided into three split levels, ensuring that harmony is achieved. A gallery bed offers stunning views onto the starry dome. State of the art amenities raise the yurt far above grass level. Luxury glamping and exploration of design as a meaning for mediating mindful interaction.
New and unique Nihiwatu launched two villa residences, 5-bedroom Raja Mendaka and 3-bedroom Puncak, in August 2015. With architecture by Walter Wagner and design by Susan Colley and Marco Scarani, the two villas reflect the traditional Sumbanese residences Sumba locals inhabit. True architectural masterpieces, Puncak’s main highlight is the sunken dining area, sitting between two pools for dinner below the water, whilst Raja Mendaka takes prime position overlooking the Nihiwatu beach coastline, with infinity pool and massage cave hidden between the waterfall and boulder base. Both villas use locally sourced materials and offer views of the wild natural surroundings.
Designed by Saigon-based architectural firm Noor Design, Aqua Expeditions’ newly launched Aqua Mekong is small enough to be intimate, but equally spacious and luxurious enough for the discerning traveller, with an incredibly high attention to design detail throughout. Its outward-facing design suites feature floor-to-ceiling windows and some have balconies, enabling guests to relax and watch Asia float by, for uniquely connected ‘eye-level cruising’. The Indochine-influenced interiors are built entirely of local sustainable materials and incorporate natural fibres with artisanal touches of the Mekong’s many cultures – such as Malaysian Ekowood and smooth teak. The sleek bathrooms are adorned in handmade tiles from Thailand and feature the latest eco-sensitive technology, as well as a large walk-in shower with rainforest showerhead.
Understated elegance realised in modern, natural materials continues in the ship’s social areas. In the sunlit dining room, fresh tropical flowers add a subtle pop of colour and Mekong-influenced cuisine is served on fine Cambodian china. With its sleek, contemporary interpretations of the region’s woven cane planter chairs, the top level Observation Deck has been designed to seamlessly connect guests with the constantly shifting landscape along the mighty river. Meanwhile the exterior deck – with its river-facing plunge pool and lounge bar – has been created entirely from Reysta – a material made from recycled rice husk and vegetable oil pressed into boards to give the appearance of tropical hardwood – which has won awards for its sustainability credentials. There is also a generously sized spa and fitness centre, library and screening room aboard.