Indulgence Is a Virtue
Benguerra Island, Mozambique
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AZURA AT GABRIEL'S
BENGUERRA ISLAND, MOZAMBIQUE
For an eco-lodge, Azura at Gabriel's, a six-month-old, 15-villa resort in Mozambique's Bazaruto Archipelago National Park, seems a little sinful. The place looks like it's straight out of a Corona ad, complete with white-sand beaches and a private pool in front of every villa. Visitors fly-fish for king mackerel in the shallows of the Indian Ocean in the morning, scuba-dive with dugongs (they're similar to manatees) in the afternoon, and watch the sunset from the bows of traditional fishing dhows in the evening. Oh, and then get massaged with tamarind, aloe, and marula oil in Azura's spa before settling down for sushi made from tuna caught right offshore. A little extravagant, perhaps, but Azura is as green as it is luxurious. The resort, founded by a director of Banyan Tree Seychelles, uses its gray water for irrigation, composts on site, and plans to go carbon neutral by purchasing wind credits. By its fourth year, Azura will operate with a 90 percent Mozambican staff to benefit the local community.
Azura has a guest-donated community-development fund that is financing a local school, a reforestation program, and a dugong-monitoring project. But just getting to the lodge will burn your quota of jet fuel for the next two years.
By the time you're done with the travel from Johannesburg to Benguerra Island's grass airstrip, you'll be ready to skip the fishing and head for the spa. From $450 per person, including meals; azura-retreats.com
Machaca Hill Lodge
Punta Gorda, Belize
Until about ten years ago, Belize's most noted environmental practices were gill-netting and reef destruction. Now, the same fishermen who once pillaged reefs work as guides in a sustainable-tourism industry, thanks to the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment, a local environmental NGO. Our favorite result of the sea change: fishing-resort-turned-eco-lodge Machaca Hill. Machaca, which opened in December 2006, sits on an 11,000-acre nature reserve. From one of 12 hilltop cabanas, hike to Belize's Rio Grande and take a panga ride down the river. Eleven miles later, you and your fly-fishing guide will be playing catch-and-release in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve, where the permit grow to 30 pounds.
An on-site organic farm provides much of the lodge's food, and solar panels are being installed this summer.
It's a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Houston to Belize City, and then a puddle-jumper flight to Punta Gorda. Doubles, $210; machacahill.com
Pacuare, Costa Rica
A Land-Proof Dive Watch
Not content to rest on their green throne, the owners of the 13-year-old Pacuare Lodge built a new 6,450-square-foot, open-air main lodge last summer. Hidden in 25,000 acres of rainforest next to the Pacuare River, this place is the archetypal greener-than-thou eco-retreat, which kind of makes us want to hate it. But while Pacuare is off-grid, the accommodations are decidedlycomfortable. Guests relax in hammocks on pine decks overlooking the Pacuare, Costa Rica's premier rafting river. And the new lodge features an organic tea bar, a honeymoon suite made of native rainforest hardwood, and an extensive wine cellar. (Try the Navarro Correas Private Collection Malbec, shipped from Argentina.)
The only sin is that 1,000-bottle wine cellar. They deserve it.
You can't drive there if you want to. Visitors arrive by raft from Linda Vista, 55 miles from San José. From $326 per person; pacuarelodge.com
Georgian Bay, Ontario
Built with salvaged timber, Lake Huron's two-year-old, six-suite E'Terra Inn is almost as pristine as its Georgian Bay surroundings. The LEED Gold–certified resort sits on the eastern shore of Lake Huron, in the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve. The water in the bay is so clean that guests drink it regularly, and kayakers can see 20 feet to the lake floor.
The resort is entirely free of electromagnetic fields (read: there's no Wi-Fi or cell service).
Three hours from Toronto. Doubles, $430; eterra.ca
Posada de Mike Rapu
Easter Island, Chile
Finally opened in December after five years of planning, much hype, and $15 million in building costs, Explora's newest hotel stamps an 18,000-square-foot, 35-room, LEED-certified mark on sparsely inhabited Easter Island. The hotel is staffed by indigenous Rapanui, who lead hikes and pass on the oral history of the vigilant moai, stone busts that encircle the island.
The hotel is made of local rauli wood and volcanic rock, but 18,000 square feet is still 18,000 square feet.
LAN Chile flies from Los Angeles. $600 per person; explora.com