Resorts and hotels all over the world are scrambling to join the ‘green’ and ‘eco’ movements. It makes good economic sense, and these practices attract a certain kind of clientele – savvy, socially-conscious and forward-thinking.
From Kimpton Hotels in Portland providing free bicycles for their guests’ use, to the Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco’s “Spare the Air” package encouraging use of public transportation, hospitality properties are jumping on the environmental bandwagon. The Sandos all-inclusive resort chain’s Caracol Eco Resort & Spa is pioneering the effort in Mexico’s Riviera Maya region, south of Cancun.
This property, built originally in the mid 1990’s, prides itself on its lack of manicured gardens and concreted areas. Rather, it is lush, full of dense jungle greenery, slow-moving rivers, lagoons and wildlife at just about every turn. No building is taller than three stories, and the canopied meandering paths hide the fact that this property is enormous – almost 1,000 rooms in total.
The property feels like it’s been part of the area for much longer than it has. Ferns, vines and thick trees sprawl throughout and guests really do see the wildlife advertised in the brochures. At dusk, ‘mapaches’ - small, endearing raccoons - emerge from the jungle thickets surrounding the 24-hour El Nido snack bar, hoping to find a stray tortilla chip or a soft-hearted tourist. Some twenty or so large turtles laze in the large lagoon outside the main buffet restaurant. Guests hang over the little wooden planked bridge to watch them swim through the towering mangroves, sometimes ferrying their little ones on their backs.
Herons, pelicans, seagulls, hawks, sandpipers and more call out in the mornings, while wild badgers, peacocks, coatimundis, two very affectionate burros and gorgeous multicolored macaws round out the menagerie. The property is currently building a free-flight aviary and apiary for Mayan bees, and the resort has hired an on-site veterinarian who works full-time to care for the animals that live in secluded areas on the property.
Complimentary “Eco Tours” allow guests to meander a path interwoven throughout the property so they can discover the nature areas within the resort, and guides assist participants in identifying and observing the 16 natural cenotes, indigenous animals and exotic fauna. Sandos Caracol Eco-Resort & Spa is an Eco-versity in which guests will view, learn and engage in ecological techniques and practices.