3 retreats for the wanderlust bucket list

Some of the most innovative retreats offer unforgettable, nature-based experiences and sustainably luxurious accommodation in mesmerisingly beautiful surroundings. Here are three that really should be on your radar…
best retreats
June 13, 2016   |    Nina Rennie

SONG SAA PRIVATE ISLAND

best for… a remote escape and marine exploration

Song Saa Resort Cambodia by Justin Mottwww.mottvisuals.comHotel and resort photography, travel photography

Song Saa means ‘the sweethearts’ in Khmer and the name couldn’t be more fitting for this retreat housed on a pair of islands in Cambodia’s Koh Rong Archipelago. Accidental hoteliers, Rory and Melita Hunter, were exploring the area when they were introduced to the over-fished waters and poverty-stricken people – which led to what is now one of the world’s most philanthropic and life-enriching retreats.

Most of the gracious staff who welcome you from your speedboat transfer, onto a carpet of off-white sand, are locals. Beyond paying good wages, Song Saa benefits local families and remote communities via regeneration and educational programmes.

The resort’s villas – with outdoor showers made of tree trunks and private infinity pools – are surrounded by virgin rainforest, and hover above warm topaz blue waters; both protected ecosystems within Song Saa’s conservation and marine reserve.

Feast for the senses

Snorkel around the reefs or head out to sea for a sublime bioluminescent swim, while psychedelic fish dart around your feet and graceful seahorses look on approvingly. A stay at ‘Cambodia’s first luxury island resort’ includes all-you-can-eat food for the soul
– sip cocktails and star-gaze over a dinner of locally-sourced gastronomic delights.

From the overwater spa treatments with therapeutic local herbs to the tabletops and pathways crafted from reclaimed wood, every detail embodies Song Saa’s philosophy. It’s ‘luxury that treads lightly’ and emanates kindness along the way.

From £840 for two nights in one room, sleeps three; from £1,600 for two nights in two rooms, sleeps five

MASHPI LODGE

best for…a jungle adventure and total rainforest immersion

Cucharillos Waterfall in the Choco Rainforest, Ecuador. This area of jungle is the Mashpi Cloud Forest in the Pichincha Province of Ecuador, South America

High in the Ecuadorian Andes, where Mother Nature governs in all her splendour, Mashpi Lodge invites you to immerse yourself in its fantastical surroundings.

This cloud forest is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet – so rich with life, new species of flora and fauna are still being discovered – it remains under threat, particularly from logging companies. Now, Mashpi protects 3,212 acres of it and all the creatures who call it home.

A regenerative retreat

This striking part hotel/part research station combines eco technology, sustainable architecture and contemporary design with exclusivity, accommodating
a maximum of 44 guests.

Floor-to-ceiling windows provide a verdant 3D cinema, screening tree frogs, monkeys, beetles, butterflies and pumas, to name a few, with surround sound provided by a gentle percussion of hummingbirds.

Resident biologists and local guides lead low-impact excursions that include nocturnal hikes along a path illuminated by fluorescent foxfire fungi.

An abundance of biodynamic produce is sustainably sourced, by the predominantly native, friendly staff. Dark chocolate from the region’s famed Arriba Nacional cacao bean features in outdoor wellness treatments, delivered beside tranquil waterfalls.

From £1,005 for two nights in one room

MONESTVOLE

best for… the riches of rural Italy on a modest budget

Tribewanted-33

Closer to home, in Umbria, ‘the green heart of Italy’, Monestevole’s guests experience the Italian countryside while contributing to the workings of its organic 40-hectare farm.
Centred around a restored 15th century hamlet and elegantly renovated farmhouse, delightful accommodation – crafted with reclaimed materials – presents views worthy of a Perugino painting.

Sunflowers flourish amid woodland, orchards, vineyards and permaculture gardens; all contribute to an impressive collection of home-grown and hand-made supplies. From wholegrain pasta and bread, extra virgin olive oil and fresh tomato sauces, to wild berry jams, lavender soaps and wild rose creams, experience satisfaction from making something with ingredients harvested on your doorstep.

Community feeling

There is always work to be done in Monestevole’s bid to become as self-sufficient as possible. Daily tasks, from collecting water from the well to looking after the resident animals, prove therapeutic. If exhausted by your efforts, you can always lounge by the outdoor pool, meditate under fruit trees or sample the homemade wine.

It’s a kind of remote design hotel meets forward-thinking agriturismo. But on a deeper level, as everyone sits around the table to enjoy lovingly-prepared cuisine, you’re made to feel part of a family; along with guests at Tribewanted’s other destinations (in Sierra Leone, Bali and Papua New Guinea), you become part of a growing community believing in a more conscious way of living for a more beautiful world.

From £70 per person per night in a private room with en-suite

What to pack

1. Mrs White’s Unstung Hero (£15, amazon.co.uk)
To ward off some of the less welcome locals.

Mrs_Whites_Unstung_Hero insect repellant

2. Cellular Sun Cream (£36.95, theorganic pharmacy.com)
Effective and natural sun protection.

Cellular_Protection_Sun_Cream

3. The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho (£8.99, waterstones.com)
To inspire you on your great journey.

The Pilgrimage

4. Havaianas Top Postos (£22, havaianas-store.com)
Step on to the beach before you have even arrived.

Havaianas-Postos

5. Canon Powershot (£379.99, store.canon.co.uk)
To capture the beauty of your surroundings.

PowerShot G9 X SL Front

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