Overlooking a private bay along the Northern Coast of Koh Samui, Thailand, The Tongsai Bay Hotel boasts more than luxurious seaside accommodations. The award-winning family-owned resort was built within a 28 and a half acre landscape that remains home to 66 different species of birds and other wildlife. The green retreat maintains its virtuous mission by growing 100 percent of its produce and turning all food waste into fertilizer and a cleaning solution for its facilities, donating the rest to the island’s stray cats and dogs. This breathtaking oasis demonstrates how hotels can thrive within a completely natural habitat.
Originally built in 1987, the environmentally-sensitive design of The Tongsai Bay was in many ways ahead of its time. Not a single tree was felled or damaged during construction, allowing the natural fauna and flora to flourish for all these years. 66 different species of birds and all sorts of wildlife, including lizards, can be found roaming the property at any given time.
With 28 acres of lush green space, the owners could have filled the property with many more rooms for more revenue per square meter, but their passion for preserving the natural environment was more important. There is not a bad view in sight at The Tongsai Bay. Each of its 83 rooms, villas and cottages are enveloped in greenery and welcome a breathtaking sea view. And there are no motorized water sports allowed on the premises. Mini sail boats, paddle boards and kayaks are available, helping to maintain a serene environment for guests and the exotic wildlife that call this place home.
The Tongsai Bay‘s three restaurants are supplied daily with native produce sustainably grown on the farm located just a short drive from the main site. Everything from lemongrass, lettuce, eggplants, limes and bananas are produced on the farm and served in a rotating menu. They have even reused the hotel’s old bathtubs as planters.
Any food waste is then transferred back to the farm. The vegetable scraps are soaked, broken down, and liquified into all-natural veggie cleaning solution used to clean the hotel toilets. The rest of the waste, including fish scraps, are placed into an open air fertilizer that is then used to grow new vegetables on the farm, thereby completing this impressive reuse cycle. Anything leftover that is mildly edible for consumption is donated to the large community of stray dogs and cats on the island.
There are no insecticides, toxic cleaners, or chemical fragrances in sight at The Tonsai Bay. Bilimbi and kaffir lime, though too sour to eat, make incredibly effective cleaning solutions, both of which are native to Thailand and grown plentifully on the Tonsai Bay farm. They are peeled, broken down and liquified into a completely natural citrus cleaner and a room freshener for oil burners. Even textiles are reused: ripped bed sheets, for instance, are turned into napkins for their restaurants.
Although tourism is Thailand’s largest industry, green practices are still not common practice. In most establishments, “takeaway” food is given to customers in Ziploc-like plastic bags and even smoothies are adorned with plastic handles. The Tongsai Bay is one place that has taken the environmental education of their staff very seriously, training them to recycle and minimize waste every day. Guests are also guided to do the same, with colorful separated trash and recycling bins peppered throughout the property.
With rooms starting at $260 per night, The Tonsai Bay may not be affordable for everyone, but it is a shining example of green hospitality. We hope to see more hotels around the world embrace a self-sustaining model as grand as this.
All images by Laura Mordas-Schenkein for Inhabitat