There is a misconception that Eco-Tourism means that you have to sleep in a sleeping bag, eat out of a tin can and bathe in the river. On the contrary!
Two amazing award-winning properties that have taken Eco-Luxury to a new level not only for their outstanding services and world-class accommodation, they are also setting new standards on taking care of our environment.
The Brando, French Polynesia
At the Brando they have implemented a number of innovative programs and new technologies to help achieve our goal of carbon neutrality:
- Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) harnesses the cold of the ocean depths to provide low-energy, highly efficient cooling for all the buildings, reducing energy demands by almost 70%.
- Solar energy produced from photovoltaic solar panels along the airstrip provide over half of the resort’s remaining energy needs (showing how to make typically unused space like this productive) and solar heating provides all of the resort’s hot water.
- The resort is fully biofuel capable and uses coconut oil biofuel for its power station whenever it can be procured.
- Flow-batteries for storage of energy generated from solar power are made primarily from recyclable materials and have a service life of thousands of deep discharge cycles.
Sea Water Air Conditioning
The Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) takes advantage of the cold naturally stored in deep ocean water by running the deep ocean water throughout the resort and using it to create the cold for our air conditioning system.
It’s a simple idea—but one that took many years to put into effect. A man ahead of his time (and always curious about outside-the-box ideas), Marlon Brando had heard of the principle as early as the early 1970s. He dreamed of making sea water cooling a reality on Tetiaroa for aquaculture—specifically, the farming of lobsters. He suggested the idea of SWAC to Richard Bailey when the two were trying to resolve the dilemma of relying on renewable energy without compromising on luxury. Richard Bailey’s company Pacific Beachcomber then conceived, developed and installed the world’s first air-conditioning system using SWAC. Brando did not live to see this pioneering idea become a reality, but his vision led to the system we have today.
On Tetiaroa, they are committed to keeping their wildlife thriving, the air they breathe clean, and the lagoon pristine. Toward that end, they have set a goal of net zero carbon impact. They are proud to say they are coming close to achieving that ambitious goal with the resort.
To reduce or eliminate guest travel-related carbon emissions, all the vehicles will ultimately be powered by the sun and will provide bicycles to all their guests as an option for moving around the island (and for fun!).
Platinum LEED Building
The Brando is the first resort in the world to obtain LEED Platinum certification, the organization’s highest accolade.
The resort has a garden nestled under shade-providing palm trees. When visiting you can see firsthand how they grow vegetables and fruit on this sun-drenched sand-and-coral island. They have also implemented some innovative farming techniques that they will be pleased to share with you.
Water & Conservation
The Brando will utilize low-energy water independence and is installing an innovative wastewater management system for irrigation. In addition to water conservation, the resort is implementing a robust recycling and composting program.
The Brando has joined Virtuoso, a leader in the Luxury Travel business, to promote sustainable tourism based on travel that is environmentally friendly, supports the protection of natural and cultural heritage, and benefits local people.
Mombo Camp, Botswana
Mombo was first built in 1990, with its first upgrade to becoming a really upmarket camp in 1999, plus the addition at that point of Little Mombo. The camp is located at the northern end of Chief’s Island in the Moremi Game Reserve and has become widely renowned for the incredible wildlife populations and sightings. These were augmented in the early 2000s with the introduction of both white and black rhino, with the latter population being boosted by further introductions in 2014 and 2015. The camp is Wilderness’ flagship, and arguably one of the most famous of its kind in Africa. The quality of the camp offering is demonstrated by the many awards it has earned over the years, most notably No. 1 on the Travel + Leisure 2013 World’s Best Awards list of Top 100 Hotels.
With the expiration of the Mombo concession in April 2014, the camp had been due for renovation. Once it became clear the lease would be renewed, the Board approved the upgrade of the camp. The brief for the architectural and design teams, Nick Plewman Architects and Associates, and Caline Williams-Wynn from Artichoke, was to maintain the rich history and character of the camp while remodeling it to the highest industry standards and minimizing any negative impact on the environment.
Construction of the camp was undertaken by the experienced Botswana contracting firm Lodge Builders Botswana, under the direction of Wilderness’ project manager Andrew Johnson, operating on behalf of the Wilderness Safaris Botswana operational team. The process commenced in April 2017 and was completed late in January 2018. While construction was underway, guests were accommodated in the temporary Mombo Trails Camp.
The refurbishment of the camp was focused on upgrading guest rooms and communal areas as well as front-of-house service areas. A number of essential Environmental Management Systems (EMS) were upgraded.
Approximately 3,450 m2 of Serge Ferrari canvas was used for roofing. This originates in Switzerland as there were no local alternatives which would provide the same level of quality, longevity, safety and sustainability certification. The material used is 100% recyclable, phthalate-free, Green Guard certified and fire-rated.
Approximately 3,612 m² of nylon ripstop canvas was used for exterior walls. This was clad over wooden boards and insulation. The material was manufactured in South Africa and designed to deal with harsh African conditions.
A substantial amount of timber was used, primarily for structural support, decking, walkways and floors.
Approximately 80.3 m³ of Rhino Wood was used for external decking and the main area. This is sourced from sustainably-managed pine plantations in South Africa. Rhino Wood is FSC certified and produced through a treatment process using organic compounds applied through thermal heat treatment and pressure impregnation. It requires little maintenance or restoration, negating the use of treatment oils and chemicals.
English oak was used for internal flooring in guest rooms. The timber originates in Croatia and has been listed by the IUCN as a timber of least concern as the resources are vast and well managed. The timber is FSC and PEFC certified. Approximately 39.9 m³ was used.
Doors, windows and other finishes
Iroko hardwood from the west coast of Africa has been used for various finishes such as doors and window frames. This is a hard-wearing timber which requires little maintenance or chemical treatment and fares well in exterior conditions. The timber is listed as a low risk by the IUCN, and is FSC and PEFC certified. Approximately 89 m³ was used.
Reduce – Reuse – Recycle
To maintain the original character of Mombo and minimize waste disposal, a number of structural items were re-purposed and reused:
Structural gum poles used for the ‘Rhino Boma’;
• Old walkway decking re-purposed as ceiling boards and cladding;
• Old Mombo bar cladding reused as cladding, as well as the barbecue and table pedestals;
• Original Flintstone doors from the guest rooms have been reused;
• Various furnishings have been reused at other camps in the Okavango Delta.
Responsible Consumption and Production
In order to avoid unnecessary waste, and reduce the logistics of transporting goods in and out of the Okavango, a large amount of structures and materials were re-used in the reconstruction process.
In addition, the Mombo Trails tents will be used in the construction of the new Magashi Camp in Akagera National Park, Rwanda and the inverters, photovoltaic arrays and sewage treatment plant will be re-deployed at various camps.
A number of essential systems were upgraded and improved to minimize environmental impact while maintaining a high level of service and not impacting on guest experience:
Mombo has been 100% solar-powered by a 110 kW system installed in 2012. This existing solar array was allocated to power front-of-house areas, while an additional 51 kW system was installed to serve back-of-house.
Sewage Treatment Plant (STP)
The existing plant was replaced by a container ‘Scarab’ style STP with a 25 000 liter/day flow rate. This uses anaerobic and aerobic processes to break down the effluent, following which the discharge water is sterilized, removing any remaining bacteria.
Sewage Treatment Plant
Water storage and filtration
The water storage, filtration system and distribution ring have been upgraded and simplified, which will allow for better water treatment and management. Extra water meters have been installed and water reticulation maps updated and improved.
Clean Water and Sanitation
Clean water and sanitation are closely linked. It was crucial for Wilderness to effectively manage their wastewater and ensure it returns into the environment without any contamination occurring. In order to provide our guests and staff with clean drinking water, several measures were taken to ensure this is done without producing any negative by-products which can be associated with water purification.
Smart architecture and natural cooling
A key challenge was to ensure that the climate of the area did not impact on guests’ comfort, without relying on inefficient energy solutions, such as air conditioners. The gym is the only location in camp where an air conditioner has been used. (An energy-efficient inverter has been used in this instance.) All other guest areas are cooled by natural airflow and smart architecture, including suspended wooden floors and double-layered roofing. Glass wool insulation has been used in walls and ceilings. The insulation material used is endorsed by the Green Building Council.
The first step before investing in solar power is to reduce energy demand. As Mombo is 100% solar powered, great efforts were made to reduce demand while delivering a premier guest experience.
Construction logistics and associated carbon footprint
A record of building material logistics was kept during construction. Approximately 3,250 tonnes of assorted materials were transported from Maun to site. Each truck used approximately 300 liters of diesel on a return trip, suggesting a total of 195 000 liters of fuel used for transport. The associated carbon footprint is 512 tonnes CO2e. As this operational impact could not be avoided, environmental impacts were reduced by employing a “no empty truck” policy. All trucks delivering goods to site transported waste and other materials back to Maun.
All contractors were required to adhere to and adopt the Group’s Environmental Minimum Standards. Contract worker accommodation and temporary structures for 180 personnel were assessed by our Regional Environmental Officer to ensure that environmental impacts were mitigated as a far as possible. The construction company was required to rehabilitate the site of the decommissioned Mombo Trails Camp, as well as the temporary roads, accommodation areas and storage areas which were created.
Rehabilitating the Mombo Trails site
An arborist was contracted to ensure that existing trees were not damaged during the construction process. The foundations of the structures had multiple “bury and attach” points, meaning that foundations were built around tree roots.
Life on Land
With the focus of mitigating our negative impacts on the environment, it is crucial that we avoided modification of the natural environment and placed our structures around established flora as well as game paths.
Sources: The Brando & Wilderness Safaris
Emily Lockard-Furry began selling travel in 2014. She specializes in destination weddings and honeymoons, but also plans itineraries for multi-generational families and incentive reward travel.