Ethical Travel: 3 Sustainable Stays In Kerala, India

Silent Valley National Park

View from atop Meesapulimala Mountain in Silent Valley National Park. Just one sight that makes you realize why Kerala is called "God's Own Country."

Known as "God's Own Country" for its diverse ecosystems and landscapes, India's Kerala is the perfect destination to explore Mother Nature. It's also a worthwhile place to learn how to respect her, beginning with the carbon footprint you leave when traveling. The following Kerala accommodations are committed to sustainability as well as teaching guests about the local environment.

Hornbill Camp deck

Relax on your own private deck on the river at the Hornbill Camp

The Hornbill Camp, Thattekkad

Set on the Periyar River — Kerala's longest river at 244 kilometers (152 miles) — guests of the Hornbill Camp can enjoy peace and quiet in a literal sanctuary. In fact, not only is the camp situated directly across from the Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary, home to over 260 bird species, but also on an organic plantation. Staff lead guests on walks of the plantation, teaching them about how the property-grown spices and fruits are used for cooking and medicine. Additionally, kayaking excursions with knowledgeable bird watchers allow you to spot King Fishers, Crimson-backed Sunbird and Wynaad Laughingthrush. Cycling the Canal Route and seeing how locals river off the water for bathing, washing and play is also a sustainable and interesting experience. Accommodations themselves are comfortable cottage tents with ensuite bathrooms and hot showers, while food is prepared usually locally- and onsite-sourced ingredients.

Kaliyar River

Looking down the Kaliyar River at Dewalokam

Dewalokam, Kannadipuzha

For many, India brings to mind images of aromatic spices, curative herbs and sweet fruits. In Kerala, there's no better place to experience this than Dewalokam, a homestay on an organic farm. The family-run property is owned and managed by husband and wife Jose and Sinta, along with their children Tara and Paul. Onsite activities include guided walks of the spice gardens (home to literally hundreds of spices and fruits), morning Hata Yoga, bamboo rafting down the Kaliyar River, farm-to-fork Kerala cooking demonstrations, and Ayurvedic spa treatments. Nearby, there's also waterfall hiking through the Idukki Forest Reserve and viewing a large colony of fruit bats. While you'll certainly sample tastes of the spice gardens and animal farm through the cooking — the buffalo yogurt and farm-fresh eggs are delicious — your spacious room with jungle views will also have accents of this, with cardamom-spiced water and natural lemongrass cleaning agents. Free WiFi can be enjoyed on the balcony.

Rainforest Boutique Hotel

The treehouse room at Rainforest Boutique Hotel. Photo courtesy of Rainforest.

Rainforest, Athirapally

You'll be immersed in the jungle, with views of the Athirapally Falls — also known as the "Niagara of India" — Asia's largest waterfall. Hiking trails abound, with the property providing excursions for you to explore the Sholayar Rainforest and spot animals (including wild elephants!). Rooms are spacious with private balconies, deep stone tubs overlooking nature and enormous rain showers, where you can indulge with organically-made Ayurvedic bath essentials. For something that really puts you into the wild, opt for their treehouse. In their indoor-outdoor restaurant enjoy authentic Kerala cuisine made from locally-sourced ingredients amongst birds and wildlife. In fact, don't be surprised if a cheeky monkey hops on the table and steals your sugar packets. During construction of the hotel, the utmost care was taken to ensure the forest  and its eco-systems were not disturbed. Instead the hotel blends into its surroundings, intertwining the architecture with the terrain. Additionally, natural materials like granite rubble, river pebbles and local palm tree wood were used instead of concrete. To adhere to forest zone rules, alcohol is not served on the premises.

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