Thailand has long been a country known for exceeding all expectations, boasting an enormous contrast in cultures and landscapes from coast to coast. However, one thing can be instilled into any trip you take -sustainability. Whether you're relishing a wellness retreat, spending time with family or spotting the country's native wildlife species in their natural habitat, it's easy to play your part in helping Thailand become ever-more eco-friendly. After all, we want the 'Land of Smiles' to keep making travellers beam for many years to come.
While many might have familiarised themselves with Thai food from recipe books and restaurants, trace the taste back to its origin and you're promised palate-pleasing flavours you've never experienced before. The country's cuisine features an abundance of local ingredients, from fish freshly caught on the country's southern coast, to vegetables grown in family owned orchards. At renowned sustainable sanctuary Soneva Kiri, gardeners invite guests to tour the gardens and even plant a sapling from the nursery, gaining a deeper understanding of Soneva's waste-to-wealth philosophy in the process. You can also relish a traditional Thai cookery class before pulling up a seat at the garden table, where chefs will design delicious dishes utilising the day's harvest.
On Thailand's third largest island of Koh Samui, eco ambassadors Six Senses have countless eco-friendly featured embedded into the every day running of resorts. At Six Senses Samui, you'll find 20 goats and 80 chickens residing at their small but extremely valuable Farm on the Hill. Not only a sensible step for sustainability, the farm has become a learning experience for all ages, with guests, hosts and the local community invited to feed the goats, collect newly laid eggs and even pick organic produce for their next dining experience. Those staying at the resort can also savour a serene sunset tour of the grounds, before settling down for a wholesome Thai barbecue, bursting with fresh and authentically Thai flavours.
Treetop Dining at Soneva Kiri
Feeding Goats at Farm On The Hill at Six Senses Samui
Gardens at Soneva Kiri
Coral Restoration and Marine Protection
Did you know that over 200,000 tonnes of waste are thrown into the oceans each day, 60 percent of which comes from Southeast Asia? Determined to make a difference, Amanpuri is a resort that combines unrivalled Aman luxury with a focus on protecting the precious Thai environment. To do so, it has partnered with upcycling ocean initiative named Ecoalf, founded by free diver Javier Goyeneche, where the mission is to take what would become ocean waste and turn it into high quality yarn that can then become spectacularly sustainable shoes and clothing. To reduce its additions to the area's marine debris, Amanpuri is aiming to become completely plastic free by the end of 2020, while there are also schemes in place to educate, sponsor and encourage environmental stewardship within the local Phuket fishing community.
Hidden in the hillside overlooking a secluded cove, coral reefs and sapphire waters, Banyan Tree Samui is regularly hailed one of Thailand's sustainability heroes. Certified marine biologist Thepsuda Lowjiw oversees the sustainable agenda, implementing various best practices to reduce and ultimately eliminate single-use plastics, in addition to running the resort's Coral Restoration Project. What began as a small-scale project whereby storm-generated coral fragments were brought onshore and treated, before being re-planted on the reef and monitored, has now become a way for guests to take an active role in caring for the marine ecosystem. There's guided snorkelling itineraries of the house reef to see the team's hard work taking effect, along with chance to see how the eco-friendly environment is encouraging nature to thrive on dry land, too.
Home to thick jungle rainforests, picturesque islands and expansive national parks, with Thailand's diverse landscape comes a rich array of wildlife species. Found all across the country, Asian elephants are truly a national symbol, and you can get up close to these majestic mammals during a stay at Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle. Join a local mahout as you interact with, feed and bathe these gentle giants, many of whom have been rescued from the crowded city streets, in partnership with the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. They now lead lives filled with fun, food and adoring visitors in their natural jungle habitat. For dinner with a difference, enjoy an alfresco feast at the Elephant Camp, tasting Thai favourites, listening to traditional folk music and watching the elephants go about their evening!
Serious tree swingers, gibbons are endemic to the forests of southern Asia, though many of these poor primates are captured for tourism and even killed in Thailand each year. Just minutes from COMO Point Yamu, the Khao Pra Theaw Nature Park is home to the glorious Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, which rescues gibbons from captivity to rehabilitate them and eventually release them back into protected wildlife areas to live long, happy lives. Visit the centre to learn more about Thailand's four native gibbon species and the threats they face, as well as the incredible work that is done at the centre, before enjoying a gourmet picnic prepared by the COMO chefs beside the beautiful Bang Pae Waterfall.
River excursion at Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle
Longtail Boat Experience at COMO Point Yamu
Elephant at at Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle
Alongside protecting the environment, it is crucial to support the local people and communities that call Thailand home. At Six Senses Yao Noi, a number of marvellous measures are in place to ensure the local artisans, famers, fishermen and families that live in the Koh Yao Noi area benefit from the hotel being there. These include donating medical equipment to hospitals, teaching conversational English and waste reduction at local schools, and providing a clean drinking water system for both the Baan Bang Doung school and the Special Children Centre in Phang Nga, attended by over 280 students between them.
Overlooking the tranquil Ping River just outside of Chiang Mai, Raya Heritage is a hotel that honours the artistic endeavours and social values of the Lanna culture. Unmistakably Thai in design, those that envisioned the hotel worked closely with local weavers, potters, woodcarvers and artisans, supporting and celebrating their craft through the displaying of their one-of-a-kind works across the resort. The owning company also supports several superb local charities to further give back to the local Mae Rim community - including the Yuvabhadhana Foundation which offers scholarships for less privileged children, Pan Kan which resells donated items to support children's education, and Food 4 Good which provides funding towards nutritious meals for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.