The onset of dark days and frigid nights can make even the hardiest of Northern Hemisphere-dwellers dream of sunnier climes.
But escaping real life and making the most of unique, faraway climates and culture shouldn’t have to mean taking advantage of them.
A guilt-free getaway is one that doesn’t exploit the local resources, population and culture, but actively improves them. That, at least, is the philosophy of luxury hotel business Soneva: when founders Eva and Sonu Shivdasani built a home for themselves on the deserted Maldives island of Kunfunadhoo in 1995, they had no idea their plan for a villa built from scratch from local materials and skills would, twenty-one years later, form the template for a collection of luxury eco-friendly hotels, resorts and spas.
Now with villas, hotels and a yacht strung across a series of islands in Thailand and the Maldives, the brand has set the standard for offering thoughtful, low-impact holidays. The undeniably glamourous villas and hotels all come with the assurance that they are adding to and part of the fabric of local life.
At Eydhafushi, for example, the neighbouring island to the Soneva Fushi resort, the Shivdasanis funded the construction of a pre-school which provides education for 200 students. They have also financed a science laboratory on another island.
The success of Soneva’s hotel business has led in part to the creation of The Soneva Foundation, which funds and carries out sustainability projects. These are no mere vanity projects: the Foundation has funded the provision of energy efficient cooking stoves to 125,000 families in Darfur, Sudan.
Soneva is just one of a number of travel companies springing up to meet the demand for low-impact, conscientious travel: African safari company Singita is another firm which offers luxury breaks with the added bonus of their commitment to actively restoring and repairing the local flora and fauna, rather than just maintaining it.
Soneva has been recognised by Positive Luxury for its careful, caring way of building a business. As Sonu Shivdasani puts it, his getaways are about “intelligent luxury…which recognises the ability for luxury holidaymaking and care for the environment to co-exist.”