There are some wonderful and very child-friendly eco lodges and camps throughout southern Asia and a growing number of luxury eco-resorts built out of local materials and powered by solar energy. Many of the most environmentally friendly places are based in national parks and offer animal safaris, but there are also a large number on unspoilt coastlines. Many places were set up as part of on-going charitable efforts to improve the lives of local peoples or to help conserve the land.
The many impressive family-friendly eco accommodation providers in south-east Asia vary from luxury resorts to hammocks on the beach, but this is a region where you need to read the small-print carefully: 'eco' is for some places a label rather than a commitment.
Central Asia is not an easy area to travel in with children and there are very few places that call themselves 'eco', but for the adventurous family there are some extraordinary places to stay – and getting there is part of the adventure.
This fabulous, remote retreat was built by a native islander and his friends, who look after 31 thatch tents, cottages and villas (all big enough for families) in eight acres of tropical garden next to a stunning long white beach. All ages are welcome. Delicious organic dinners follow days of diving, yoga, fishing and swimming with elephants.
A labour of love by a retired British doctor (so much better than moving to Bournemouth!), this small hotel is between a lake and the woods. Bougainvillea smothers the buildings and the garden with its outdoor pool and sports area is full of birds. The doctor is committed to supporting the local community and runs tours. The showers are solar-powered, the dinner made from produce from the organic garden. All ages are welcome: there are seven rooms, some with space for a child’s bed and two interconnecting.
A luxurious eco-village resort including bungalows and bamboo houses, with a children’s play area and playhouse, a private beach area, a healing spa including a yoga hall, and a chlorine-free outdoor pool and kids’ pool. Under-fives stay free, and children’s activities include milking the cows at the on-site farm, pottery classes, kite-flying and ballon-shooting.
A sumptuous, fantasy eco-fort built of mud, wattle and mud in the Thar desert, with nine suites, one of them a two-bedroom family suite, plus an outdoor pool and activities including village safaris and horse-riding.
Chhatra Sagar, Rajasthan
A collection of 13 traditional tents situated beside a dam, best for those with older children interested in nature (toddlers and young children discouraged for safety reasons). Activities include bird-watching and village and farm visits.
Apani Dhani Eco-Lodge, Rajasthan
A charming family-friendly lodge with rooms in bungalows, one for families. There's also an independent two-bedroom house. Activities include bike tours, cookery classes, craft workshops, music and yoga.
Shergarh Tented Camp, Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India
This lovely camp built by fervent ecologists within a tiger reserve has a lodge and six comfy tents, each with hot water and a stone bathroom. Of the low-key but very enjoyable safaris, the highlight is the elephant-back tiger safari, when children can practise being Mowgli. There are also activity packs for kids and educational trips. Everything is composted or recycled here, while the food, usually eaten under the stars or by the lake, is home-grown.
Shakhti 360 Leti, Himalayas,
The ultimate mountain getaway – four solar-powered but luxurious stone, wood and glass cabins with panoramic views, a four-hour drive north of Delhi. Children 12+ are welcome, or over-threes if you book the whole property. As well as local hiking, you can enjoy cookery classes, with Tibetan dumplings and Indian curries using local herbs on the menu. A dedicated guide is included in rates.
Samakanda, East of Galle, Sri Lanka
Two simple but stylish bungalows sleeping six set amidst more than 50 acres of biodiversity rainforest sanctuary, several acres of organic tea estate and edible tropical forest garden inspired by permaculture principles. Do yoga, hike rainforest trails to a river with rapids and bathing pools, go mountain-biking, learn to cook and use the on-site pizza oven.
An extraordinary, ground-breaking lodge in an area teeming with wildlife including proboscis monkeys, orang utans, estuarine crocodiles and Borneo pygmy elephants – all best seen from a river cruise. Rooms are constructed around trees to create a canopy-like setting.
Perfect with all ages, this lodge isn’t hard to get to but feels miles away from the touristy areas. Organic gardens supply most of its food, and you can be taken around the cacao, coffee and coconut trees. The lovely huts made of local wood have large open verandas where birds often stop for a quick peek. Have family dips in the water-holes, visit orang-utans in the wild, bird-watch with experts or sign up for workshops by local villagers, including local medicine, regional cuisine and Balinese dancing. Book the Jungle Family Bungalow high in the trees, or the treehouse sleeping up to five.
Wakatobi Dive Resort, Sulawesi, Indonesia
Although rather remote, this very special lodge is easy to get to since staff organise your flights from Bali airport. Set on a small island amongst pristine coral reefs, it’s run by committed conservationists who work with local islanders to protect the reefs from foreign fishing vessels. One of those rare places that manage to combine luxury accommodation (bungalows and villas, some right on the beach) with ecologically sound practices, it offers superb diving and snorkelling, including packages for beginners and children, plus childcare if you wish to take on more challenging diving.
Satwa Birding Guesthouse, Sumatra, Indonesia
Four ecolodges within a tropical fruit garden 500m from the entrance to the Way Kambas National Park with its rare Sumatran elephants, rhinos and tigers, with safaris available.
Nihi Sumba Island, Indonesia
A family-friendly luxury resort deep in nature an hour's flight from Bali, with villas amidst banana trees, a yoga pavilion, a child-friendly pool and lots of kids’ activities. Aiming to be sustainable, it donates its profits to malaria clinics, wells and schools via the Sumba Foundation.
Rimba Orangutan Ecoodge, Kalimantan, Indonesia
A wonderful jungle retreat to which to bring your kids to see orang-utans in the wild and other natural wonders, accessible only by boat. A percentage of profits goes to conservation projects such as tree-planting.
Udayana Kingfisher Ecolodge, Bali, Indonesia
A gentle and peaceful escape from the tourist hordes in a bird and butterfly conservation area in the Jimbaran hills, with gorgeous views over Bali. There’s a pool and simple rooms with Balinese outdoor garden showers.
A tropical getaway in the foothills of Phanom Bencha National Park, with a natural spring-fed swimming pool, the chance to eat fruit fresh from the trees, and bungalows sleeping four or five. Night treks give you the chance to see geckos, slow loris and more.
The Atlanta Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand
A charming institution that jealously guards its wholesome reputation, and one of the most-photographed hotels in Thailand, for its exquisite Art Deco lobby. It attracts ‘eccentric occidentals’ with its reasonable rates, two pools (one for kids) and shabbily comfortable bedrooms (including family suites for up to seven). A slice of old Bangkok, it’s taken great strides to become more environmentally friendly and is very supportive of its community. It’s also home to around 40 rescue cats, most residing in the staff section.
Three Camel Lodge, Gobi Desert
A 90-minute drive out of Ulan Bator, this lovely place on the sand under the shadow of a volcanic rock has luxurious gers, two specially for families. You can camel-trek, hike in the desert with locals, bird- and animal-watch (there have been sightings of snow leopards) and visit paleontological digs. The lodge is a scientific and wildlife monitoring base based on sustainable development, using solar and wind power and animal dung stoves and employing only local people.
Read about our favourite family adventure holidays in Asia and the rest of the world.