Eco-tourism, benefiting guests and the environment Featured

Responsible travel, a growing trend
by 15 December 2009

Green is growing. And while many of us are aware of the significance of our carbon footprint, the importance of recycling and the impact of energy efficiency in our own homes, ecotourism is now becoming a consideration for travellers all over the world.

Ecotourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” With travel and tourism representing the largest business sector in the world economy, its strengthening commitment to environmental issues is creating substantial change.

Resorts such as the Six Senses Hideaway in Zighy Bay, Oman, and the Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa in Dubai, were both developed with green principles in mind. While the resorts themselves offer distinctly different experiences for the eco-conscious traveller, they also provide a gentle introduction to conservationism via the comforts of a 5-star stay.

With the majestic Hajjar mountain range as its backdrop, and the clear unspoilt waters of Oman lapping a pristine beach, Zighy Bay in the northern Musandam Peninsula is a true Arabian paradise. Once submerged under the sea, the mountains shelter a natural bay, home to thousands of fossilized remains.

Access to the Hideaway is by boat, helicopter or a thrilling jeep ride through off-road terrain. Inspired by a traditional Omani village, locally sourced, natural materials were used to construct the luxurious villas. Sandy walkways wind around each straw-thatched villa, each with their own set of bicycles, the best way to explore the organic sprawl of the resort.

Designed in harmony with its natural surroundings, the resort has an environmental management system in place to raise awareness and funds for the sustainable development of the local community.

On a day-to-day basis, using energy efficient devices, water-saving equipment, recycling, general monitoring and awareness-raising among guests, maintains much of their social commitment. Every element from the well portioned and fresh, healthy cuisine to the local ingredients used in their famous spa treatments, adhere to their environmental policy. Without even moving from your enormous villa with its own infinity pool, garden and majlis, you can be doing your bit to help save the environment.

Back in Dubai, and the UAE’s uniquely famous Al Maha. Set deep into the desert dunes is a natural conservation area that exists above a vast natural well of water. Abundant with indigenous species, the area has been legally protected from rampant tourism since the hotel was first built 11 years ago. It is now the site of the region’s only dedicated wildlife conservation program.

One of the most important developments at the reserve was the reintroduction of the Arabian Oryx. Once resident in dwindling numbers, a careful breeding program has swelled the herd to more than 300. Now a self-sustaining species, the Al Maha conservation team can take a step back and allow the Oryx to follow their natural course. It’s a great achievement, and one of many. The flourishing grasses and trees, the spotting of rare birds such as the great lapped-faced vulture and the many international awards and accolades are evident from the simple view of a guest experience.

When you arrive at the front gates of The Reserve you are met by your personal field guide. Chosen for their particular expertise on wildlife and game reserves, they are able to recommend and host the best activities for you to try; from a ride on an Arabian thoroughbred through the desert, to early morning falconry. To get an overall feel of the resort and have an opportunity to spot wildlife, take a camel or jeep tour late in the afternoon.

Back in your secluded, luxury Bedouin-styled residence with a private deck and pool overlooking the dunes, you can relax with some exquisite private dining, the sound of birdsong and the odd gazelle tripping lightly over the sand before you.

Six Senses Hideaway, Zighy Bay, Oman, Tel. +968 2673 5555
Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa, Dubai, Tel. +971 (0)4 832 9900

Related articles:
Dubai's passion for polo
UAE's Sailing Community