An eco-traveller’s delight – Marmalade Springs

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chairs.jpgIt has been a conscious decision to travel responsibly. I have been inclined to nature and anything that leads to its preservation. Which is why I chose to stay in an eco-lodge on one of my earlier travels. And I concluded: Staying in an eco-lodge is the only way to be.

Eco-tourism seems to be the latest buzzword. Every now and then, one hears ‘eco’ in a variety of contexts.

So what exactly is eco-tourism? Eco-tourism implies ways to support and conserve bio-cultural diversity, which empower local communities through employment and financial benefits.

I make it a point to stay in eco-lodges, in places that have them. As fancy as they sound, in reality they are a haven of nature, in every sense of the term.

Eco-lodges are built using natural material like wood, stone, bamboo, thatch, even rice husk! These could also have come into existence by way of recycled material used in a creative way, say shipping containers giving way to beautiful cabins or old whisky barrels used to make beds.

On one of my first nature retreat visits, I chanced upon the opportunity to stay at Marmalade Springs in Wayanad.  Situated atop one of Wayanad’s highest peaks, Marmalade is careful craftsmanship combined with stunning views. A 10 minute jeep ride uphill and you’re greeted by unending valleys and a walk among the clouds. It is stuff your dream mountain home would be made of.

Eco-lodges are environmentally inclined. Using renewable sources like solar energy and employing compost methods, these are a lesson in green living.

Wooden chalet built on stone stilts
Wooden chalet built on stone stilts

I do not in any way refute or disgrace lavish brick and mortar hotels, meant to please the tourist with ‘modern’ facilities.  However, it is a myth that one shall have to compromise on facilities in an eco-lodge. A lot many, on the contrary charge a premium to experience nature in its most pristine form.

Organic soap cases made from Palm. Eco-conscious and how!
Organic soap cases made from Palm at the retreat. Eco-conscious and how!

Visiting aboriginal tribes as a tourist attraction or buying locally made handicrafts and artefacts is well said and done. But does this serve a bigger purpose? This is why many eco lodges are social enterprises, meaning they serve the local community directly by providing apprenticeships and teaching them to make a living rather than fending for them.

An apprentice of the Ironwood Studio at work in the Thai-Burma border town of Mae Sot. Proceeds of the eco-lodge directly go into supporting the local community. Courtesy: The Picturebook Guesthouse (http://www.picturebookthailand.org/)
An apprentice of the Ironwood Studio at work in the Thai-Burma border town of Mae Sot. Proceeds of the eco-lodge directly go into supporting the local community. Courtesy: The Picturebook Guesthouse (http://www.picturebookthailand.org/)

We live in a world where global issues are real. Travelling helps you realise that paying for a bucket of water being fetched from several miles afar doesn’t just make for a remorseful travel channel story but is a real 3rd world problem.  You realise that immigration and sex trade are direct results of military and political turmoil in home countries, which is why we need more people who do good, in ways that benefit everyone.

Will it hurt to be eco-lodgical on your future travels? I think not.