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The hotels and resorts of Wayaj do a lot for the environment, but many contribute so much more to the communities around them. At Wayaj, we believe that sustainable means much more that using solar panels or avoiding plastic straws, that’s why we employ several criteria to create our eco score.
Whether it’s working with anti-trafficking organizations, financing medical clinics or even building and managing the lodge itself, the efforts to support and empower local communities are an important factor to rate the sustainability of the destination.
Here are some outstanding examples of community-oriented accommodations available on Wayaj.
Uakari Floating Lodge, Brazil
Located in one of the largest protected areas of Brazil’s Amazon forest, Uakari Floating Lodge is a community-based tourism initiative that offers guests an immersive experience with fantastic bird watching and wildlife viewing opportunities. Managed through shared responsibility with the Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development and the communities of the Mamirauá Reserve, all tourism-related income goes back to the local community and conservation programs. The team at the lodge comes from the area and each person works for 10 days a month.
The lodge offers all kinds of activities like trekking through the Amazon, but their photography expedition is truly unique. Each photographer gets his or her own boat with a guide trained to assist in photo taking. Try to get a shot of the red-faced Uakari monkey while it darts through the trees. Or, be quick enough to capture the arapaima fish as it jumps out of the water.
With one of the highest densities of jaguars in the world, Uakari also offers jaguar-spotting trips. Visitors can join the researchers at Mamirauá Institute in search of these gorgeous felines.
The Uakari Lodge has been designed to be completely integrated with its surroundings and the compound consists of five two-bedroom bungalows. Each bungalow has its own veranda with a hammock and views of the surrounding forest and river. There’s also a central floating area with a deck, natural swimming pool, library, bar, and restaurant. Completely sustainable, the lodge runs on solar energy, recycles rainwater, and uses tiles made from recycled plastic bottles.
Find Uakari Floating Lodge, Brazil on the Wayaj app.
Matava Resort, Fiji
The Pacific island country of Fiji boasts an ancient and rich culture that Fijians are very proud of preserving. Located on the South-Eastern shore of Kadavu island, the Matava Resort supports the local village community by organizing the “meke,” a ceremony of traditional songs, music, and dance. While the performers are usually children or women, most of the village attends these cultural events. This helps keep the meke alive, while raising money for community development projects. Matava also helps out the local community by buying from local growers, often providing the seed and purchasing the produce, in addition to employing local people for services and crafts.
The resort works in conjunction with the neighboring village of Kadavu Koro on a local marine reserve. Guests can snorkel through these pristine, cristalline waters, but this is a reserve so please remember that fishing and collecting shells are not allowed.
Back on land, the accommodation consist of traditional “bures” (wood and straw huts) positioned to catch the trade winds. With high cathedral ceilings and picture windows open to a view of the Pacific Ocean, falling asleep to the soothing sound of the surf is another treat offered by this destination.
While at the resort, Wayajers can engage in some traditional Fijian ceremonies. Gather around a bowl of “Yaqona” (kava), a ceremony dating back thousands of years that is still an important part of Fijian life today. Sample a delicious “Lovo” feast, an authentic Fijian meal steamed in an oven pit over hot stones. Or, join a local medicine man on a walk and learn the therapeutic uses and healing properties of locally grown plants.
Find Matava Resort on the Wayaj app.
Kosi Forest Lodge, South Africa
The Kosi Forest Lodge is located on the shores of the Kosi Lakes System in iSimangaliso Wetland Park and truly shows what collaborative community tourism is. The lodge supports the local uMvubu community initiative and has raised money for two local medical clinics to be built.
The lodge employs local staff and purchases fruits and vegetables from community gardens. It also supports neighborhood youth football teams, this way kids can enjoy the benefits of team sports. Kosi also conducts beach cleanups with local students.
In the Kosi Bay Nature Reserve, Kosi Forest Lodge offers a truly authentic experience of this habitat. The tents are made of thatch, tarpaulin and wood. Each has a unique bathroom with an outdoor shower and deep, wide bath situated under a leafy canopy. At night, oil lamps are lit along the forest paths and in your tent creating a warm glow. The pool overlooks Lake Shengeza, where you can regularly see hippos drinking in the serene blue water.
While at the lodge, take a 4×4 excursion to the mouth of the Kosi River. After a picnic lunch in the shade of palm trees, soak up the sun or enjoy snorkeling in the warm waters. This area of the river is known as the “aquarium” because of the clarity of the water and the abundance of colorful fish.
Find Kosi Forest Lodge on the Wayaj app.
Chai Lai Orchid, Thailand
The Chai Lai Orchid’s motto is “Travel and Do Good”. Staying at one of their awesome jungle bungalows in Chiang Mai, visitors can do exactly that by supporting human rights and helping Thai elephants. The owner is the founder of “We are Daughters Rising,” an anti-trafficking organization that fights women exploitation. The group provides a safe home, education, and employment for girls and women and empowers them to rise above poverty and help their communities.
Also, part of Chai Lai Orchid is Chai Lai Sisters, a trekking company offering tours to primeval jungles and secluded waterfalls. The treks offered are run by local indigenous tour guides who know the secrets of the jungle and mountains. Travel off the beaten path and get an immersive experience of hill tribe life while supporting the protection of their unique culture.
At the Chai Lai Orchid, guests sleep in solar powered huts overlooking a private waterfall and play with and care for the resident rescued elephants. The hotel offers programs where you can spend a day with the elephants learning to care for them. Visitors can bath these gentle giants in the river and walk with them through the jungle to forage for fresh food. After lunch, wash and swim with the baby elephants. The purchase of an elephant experience helps ensure they have a safe home.
Find Chai Lai Orchid on the Wayaj app.
Napo Wildlife Center, Ecuador
Napo Wildlife Center is a lodge set on a cliff at the edge of a jungle lake surrounded by the beautiful Amazon rainforest. Twenty years ago, a group of people from the local Kichwa Añangu community started an ambitious project to boost tourism in the Amazon. They have invested in an environmentally sound system where the energy is generated by solar panels and wastewater is processed. All proceeds go back into community projects like renewable energy, education, and health care.
Staying at Napo, visitors can learn about the Kichwa Añangu native ancestral customs and traditions. Learn about their rituals, dances, and handicrafts and taste traditional food and drinks.
This is in addition to getting an up close view of Amazon wildlife in Yasuní National Park, a sacred and diverse land. Spend hours on the nearby rivers and creeks with only the sound of canoe paddles hitting the water and the twitter of birds and spider monkeys in the trees. The guides are so familiar with the landscape they can spot creatures sheltered amidst the greenery or in the shallow depths of the water.
Be sure to take part in stunning spectacles like the Parrot Clay Licks. These natural banks contain minerals that the birds feed on. Hundreds of brilliantly colored birds visit the licks every day.
The 20 cabins and suites of Napo are rustic yet beautiful and feature the traditional thatched-hut designs of the Kichwa people. On site there’s also a 131-foot (40 meters) viewing tower with four platforms that have panoramic views of the snow-capped Andes mountains, as well as spectacular sunsets.
Find Napo Wildlife Center on the Wayaj app.
Cover photo by: Cancilleria del Ecuador licensed under Creative Commons