Setting the Standard

Setting the Standard

27 October, 2015
Thailand Eco-tourism
On a stunning, isolated peninsula lies a resort that takes sustainability very seriously
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Located on an isolated peninsula in Krabi, Thailand, on a beach-laden cove sealed off from the world by gigantic limestone karsts lies Railay – an impossibly scenic destination. Here you find tropical plants, azure lagoons, oriental pied hornbills and spectacled langur monkeys.
 
Rayavadee was one of the first resorts to establish itself on the Phranang-Railay Peninsula. And it remains one of the very best. Occupying 26 acres of the thin stretch of land between two towering craggy cliffs (which can only be reached by private boat, naturally) it is also the most expansive resort grounds in the area. There are relatively few rooms – just 98-two-storey pavilions, and four beachfront villas dotted around the property between tall coconut trees, fish ponds and lush tropical gardens. And of course the sparkling seafront pool.
 
Rayavadee is a true pioneer of ecotourism in Thailand. It was green before it became cool to be green. Back in 1994, Rayavadee won The Royal Gold Medal for Environmentally-Conscious Architecture from the Association of Siamese Architects for its unique minimal impact design that pays utmost respect to nature.
 
All indigenous, pre-existing plants and trees have been preserved, in fact the resort was built around them. This has resulted in a rather unconventional layout that lends itself to guests occassionally getting happily lost in the natural surroundings. The resort offers a garden walk service to those interested in learning more about the 120 lush palms and 250 ferns and herbal plants that grow here – not to mention the wild inhabitants.
 
While relaxing at the beachfront bar, and enjoying the peaceful, undisturbed view (jet skiis and plastic beach chairs are nowhere to be seen here) it's not unlikely that a family of spectacled langurs – a protected species – will appear in the trees above. If you're lucky you might also spot a hornbill. After sunset you can saunter over to the sea-and-cliff-side signature restaurant Khru Phranang for some exquisite, world-class thai cuisine. Try the succulent lobster red curry for a real treat.
 
Whilst there, you are sure to come across more than a few gardeners, pruning away and maintaining the verdant grounds. They'll greet you with a warm smile, as all the staff here do, and will even help you find your hut if needs be! One of many jobs they do is making sure that the leaves and plant residue is gathered, composted and used as organic fertiliser – allowing Rayavadee to be a chemical-free resort.
 
The ever-present, stunning cliffs that frame your entire experience here are the real star that steal the show, and while in Railay there are many ways you can marvel at their majesty. Make use of Rayavadee's free kayak service and explore the gaping sea caves, or have a drink in the resort's one-of-a-kind grotto bar with your toes in the sand, ocean horizon ahead, and stalagtites above! If you're of good physical fitness there is also climbing activities and a dramatic cliff hike involving ropes, cliff edges and a breathtaking lagoon that is so very worth the effort.
 
Being isolated from the mainland, the resort sources all its water underground. A water treatment plant was among the first facilities to be constructed when the resort was established 16 years ago, and has enabled no water discharge to be released into the ocean ever since. Fish ponds dotted through the resort play an important part in the filtration process – as well as providing a certain degree of zen. The recycled water is used to water the plants, and returned to the soil. Rayavadee regularly invites surrounding resorts to tour the facility and learn how they too can minimise environmental impact.
 
Education and community involvement is key to Rayavadee's approach. In 2007 the resort invited local authorities including government agencies, local businesses, interest groups, partners and volunteers to launch the Phranang-Railay Sustainable Tourism Development Project. Through this they organise monthly beach cleanups, turtle releases, mangrove planting, and more.
 
It really needs to be seen to be believed. A truly outstanding resort, and also more than than – a leading example for how sustainability in the hospitality industry should be done.
For more information, visit Rayavadee's website.

By: Alex Andersson
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