A DEEPER SHADE OF GREEN

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Published on May 05, 2019 with No Comments

From mere travellers to global changemakers at Soneva Kiri.

Words ANIS RAMLI
Images SONEVA KIRI RESORT & ANIS RAMLI

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Experiential travel may have been the buzzword for the last few years, but as travellers seek out to carve unique memories and niche experiences, increasingly travelling has changed into one that can be transformative as well. There are many brands that deliver, but not many can necessarily abound with surprises.

Seeking Soneva Kiri makes perfect sense. Not just for its remarkable eco-conscious design and boundless luxury, but for its many opportunities given to guests to transform from mere travellers to global changemakers.

Rather than just talking about its sustainability efforts, Soneva Kiri has cleverly designed a programme that allows guests to empower change themselves. Through the Stay For Good programme, guests are invited to experience both their laidback barefoot luxury (you’re encouraged to literally kick off your shoes throughout your stay) while having the opportunity to give back to the community.

The work that Soneva does as well as its remoteness offer a two-fold boon to guests: a chance to enjoy nature and experience sustainable best practices firsthand. The resort is luxurious, both in feel and space. Located on the sparsely populated Thai island of Koh Kood near the Cambodian maritime border, Soneva Kiri plays up on the large swathes of green of its forested headland to its advantage. There are just 36 villas, ranging from one- to six-bedroom, sprawled across the 400 hectare ground, making this a very intimate getaway. Accommodations have huge outdoor living spaces, private pools and bedrooms with billowing mosquito nets attached to four poster beds.

There are plenty to keep yourself busy, with many programmes complimentary. On clear nights, make your way to the Observatory where the resident astronomer will guide you through the starry passage for a chance to spot Venus, Mars and then some. Join a film screening in the open-air theatre and immerse yourself in the magic of Cinema Paradiso complete with complimentary popcorn. Take a boat ride to the resort’s private beach, North Beach, to paddleboard, kayak or simply lounge by the white sands. Master a new skill at the Six Senses Spa with pilates, coconut oil making and Himalayan Singing Bowl classes. Or simply indulge in free flow of over 60 homemade ice cream flavours and chocolates at the aptly-named So Chilled and So Guilty respectively.

While keeping the luxe level effortless, Soneva Kiri is serious about its eco initiatives. At the heart of the resort is the Eco Centro facility, a waste-to-wealth centre and organic vegetables garden. It is where the resort recycles its plastic and glass, turns wood waste into charcoal and cooking oil into biodiesel, grows its own produce-fed compost from kitchen waste, places and installs solar panels to save fossil fuel use, and works with vigour and optimism to monitor its environmental impact. A tour of the pesticide-free garden will let you see where many of the restaurant’s organic spread come from: salad leaves, mushrooms, herbs and tropical fruits.

Guided by personal hosts known as Fridays, a nod to Robinson Crusoe, guests on the Stay For Good programme have the opportunity to support the resort’s sustainable practices while crafting authentic experiences. Depending on your interest, your Mr/Mrs Friday will help you curate your personal eco-programme. “What’s good about the programme is, the guest decides on what interests them, says Khun Dow, Soneva Kiri’s Villa Operations Manager. “Not only that, the programme is very flexible. It can easily be incorporated into their daily excursions in creative ways. For example, as they go on a half-day waterfall trek, they can also help archive butterflies.”

On the resort’s newest experience, Koh Kood By Sea, guests will find meaningful ways to put on their eco hats. Boarding the speedboat from the resort’s jetty, the excursion follows Koh Kood’s eastern shore through Ao Salad Fishing Village for a look at traditional Thai houses on stilts before continuing on to Ao Yai Kert for snorkelling. Here, guests can help clean up the waters or the beaches as part of their programme’s commitment. The tour is also a great way to spot the area’s wildlife in both water and above. Before returning to the resort, guests stop at another fishing village, Ao Yai, to dine over a seafood Thai lunch at Noochy Seafood, whose chef previously worked at Soneva Kiri. “Partnering Noochy is one way we continue to support our family of Soneva hosts, past and present,” says Khun Dow.

“The idea is to assist our guest to have a more meaningful vacation when they stay with us, because a lot of times, guests are already familiar with our ethos and they are eager to participate in giving back to the local community,” Khun Dow continued. Guests are also invited to partake in the resort’s sustainable community initiatives. These can be visits to schools where guests can spend time conversing with or read to the children in English, or shadow the resort’s landscape manager in teaching the children how to grow organic patch gardens.

“We’ve had guests who ask prior to arrival on what they could bring for the children. They will come with pencils or notebooks, and these are great gifts to our children. More importantly, the time our guests spent knowing our local neighbours create a lasting impact on the villagers as it supports the development of the local community – no matter how small the gesture.”

For guests’ eco commitment booked through the three-night Stay For Good package, the resort will offer three complimentary bonus nights. Guests, in return, are required to generally allocate three to four hours a day committing to their eco programme.

 

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