Segera instantly feels uniquely special. There is a ferociously modern African art collection in a 10-acre garden, planted with abundance of architectural cacti. The spa feels as if you have walked into a cloud. The salt-water pool, which sits at the heart of Segera, induces the sort of pause you long for when the world is moving too fast. This is healing, restorative oasis where you through open your curtains onto a dawn of soul-warming African light and the sight of elephants moving through the landscape at the age-old pace of migrating herds.
The red-brick, 19th-century mansion sits, somewhat solidly, overlooking a glorious 300-acre sweep of ornamental lakes and pleasure grounds, a walled garden, orchard and woodland, in the majestic rolling countryside of Hampshire, 45 miles west of London. Borrow gumboots and bikes to explore, enjoy a carpaccio of locally caught river trout served in one of the legendary Skye Gyngell’s chilled-out restaurants, help yourself to free cake at teatime, sign up for a walk with the arborist, attend a cider pressing and tasting, learn about floristry, do ballet in the Little Bothy Spa, go for a screening in the cinema, or attend one of the sessions on sustainability in the lecture theatre. From the private dining room’s chandelier of fresh flowers, or the bedroom’s leather-lined cocktail cabinets to the spa’s organic Wildsmith Skin products, which are cultivated and harvested onsite according to the rhythms of nature, the sun and moon, it is Heckfied’s spirit of generosity and attention to detail that defines this very unique hotel.
A sleepy hotel off the beaten track, set in 60 acres of forest and paddy fields, en route to the popular stomping grounds of Sri Lanka’s hill country. Cottages surrounding a huge swimming pool are perfectly designed, with bamboo walls, traditional pitched roofs and shady verandas to catch the breeze so that air-conditioning is not required. You can’t argue with the freshness and organic seasonality of the food served in the restaurant here, while the property’s encyclopaedic variety of bird life and native trees can be discovered on walking trails that wind around the gardens and peacock lawns down the river, which is deep enough to swim in. This is a blissfully unexplored pocket of Sri Lanka, concealing the magical 10th-century rock carvings of Buduruvagala and the poetic Handapanagala tank nearby, an ancient reservoir that is visited by elephants and sailing boats, on which you can hitch a ride.
This stunning hotel’s most impressive features are the sun-blasted, aged and much-loved doors, lintels and pediments of ancient salvaged buildings that are collected and cuddled up around water-filled gardens and shrine-studded courtyards. Dwarika’s Hotel promotes skills and crafts (wood carving, iron work, bricklaying) that would have been otherwise forgotten. More importantly, it is sustainable, zero-waste set-up, using only hand-woven fabrics, organic linens and organic food farmed outside the city. Kathmandu blows your mind, so Dwarika’s Hotel is a wonderful respite from the city’s mayhem, as peaceful as a Buddhist temple, with morning yoga sessions on the roof terrace, where incense wafts and bags of water (to ward off mosquitoes) hang like jewels in the trees.
Morgan’s Rock has been a pioneer in putting the sexy into eco. When it opened 15 years ago, on a wild stretch of Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, the concept of the eco-lodge was ground-breaking. Today, a stunning series of lodges, camouflaged by the forest canopy, are joined by swinging hemp bridges across the dramatic ravines. The whole point and pleasure about of Morgan’s Rock is that it is all about living in close harmony with nature. Residents ecologists will take you out and organize picnics on the 4,000-acre estate, half of which if given over to reforestation. Then they are the complimentary kayaks, surf boards and mountain bikes, all to encourage an engagement with the outside. Moreover, the guest lodges have netting for walls, to keep insects out, but also to allow the stars, the rainbows, the pounding of surf, the chattering of the howler monkeys to reach your bedside, so nature becomes part of the conversation and rhythm of each magical day.