Fully self-sufficient in electricity, water and waste management, Soneva Kiri is the perfect vacation home for the climate-conscious tourist.
Open since 2010, Soneva Kiri on remote Koh Kood offers an unrivalled combination of luxury, environmentally friendly design and unforgettable, authentic experiences. Luxurious yet also self-sufficient, it’s the ideal place to escape the humdrum of daily life and wander barefoot throughout the resort, stopping off occasionally to sample exquisite dishes.
Thirty-six oversized resort villas are nestled on the idyllic beach and sunny slopes in the rainforest, and all have stunning infinity pools, natural yet chic furnishings, personal electric buggies and impeccable service courtesy of Mr or Ms Friday private butlers.
These days, indulgent experiences tend to translate into overconsumption, which outpaces sustainability and puts a strain on our planet and our wellbeing. That’s not the case at Soneva Kiri. The resort has a total commitment to responsible business and as a brand, is committed to leading the fight against climate change within the tourism sector. The ultimate goal is to become “decarbonizing” – absorbing carbon from all activities rather than emitting it – and fully sustainable in its practice while continuing to offer luxury experiences.
“We’re not allowed to order chemicals to use in our eco plant or our sustainability programme. Any such request would be rejected right away as it is against all our policies,” Thitiphan Promjeam, landscape manager of Soneva Kiri, told XP on a recent visit to the resort. “From waste management, water treatment and farming, everything is natural and organic. And since each is closely connected with the other, we cannot involve any synthetic chemicals as it will tamper with the natural cycle we manage to maintain. Apart from the beautiful setting, luxury amenities and personalised service, sustainability plays a major role in attracting guests to our resort. I believe that Soneva Kiri is one of the very few resorts in the world that highlights sustainability and seriously implements it throughout the property.”
Thitiphan Promjeam, landscape manager of Soneva Kiri
Thitiphan, who holds a degree in agricultural technology and fisheries, has been overseeing the sustainability programme of the resort for five years, making sure that the resort can rely on itself without causing more pollution and a bigger carbon footprint than it needs to.
“Starting with waste management, we managed to reduce 70 per cent of total monthly waste, from 10 tons to only three.” Thitiphan said. “We recycle and reuse most things. Used cooking oil is turned into biodiesel for wood chipping machines. Kitchen waste, both from the staff quarters and the guest F&B outlets, which makes up half the total waste each month, is turned into compost and natural fertiliser. Paper, PET bottles and other recyclable waste is sorted and sold to recycling plants on the island. And we even earn quite a lot of money from it.”
An impressive 60 per cent of Soneva Kiri waste is recycled through its Eco Centro Waste-to-Wealth programme. Wood waste is made into biochar and charcoal that is used at the resort. Soneva Kiri’s room amenities such as soap, shampoo and body lotion are offered in reusable ceramic containers, instead of plastic wrapping. More than 50,000 plastic bottles are saved per year and practically eliminated by banning imported water and bottling its own water in reusable glass bottles.
Currently off the grid for electricity from the Provincial Electricity Authority, the resort generates its own power from the biodiesel from used cooking oil.
“Dirty water from guest villas, staff living quarters, all kitchens, laundry and even the swimming pools never leaves the property,” Thitiphan explains. “We treat it with oxygen, effective microorganisms (EM), water lilies and filtration and reuse it within the resort. I even put some fish in the storage tank to see if the water is totally clean. We use this water to irrigate he plants, for our vegetable farm and for cleaning. Drinking water is also produced on site from underground and rainwater. The plant treats it with reverse osmosis, adds minerals and gas to make sparkling water and delivers it to the guests in reusable glass bottles.”
Soneva Kiri takes pride in ensuring that indigenous species are protected and that nothing harmful is introduced to the natural environment. Four rai of land, previously just the resort’s waste dumping area, was transformed into vegetable gardens following organic principles and today produces 5,000 kilograms of veggies per year. No artificial fertilisers are used but rather composting soil from the composting piles. The purpose of this is to both to lower the carbon footprint from transport of food items and to be able to serve fresh and nutritious food.
Eco Centro grows organic produce for the kitchens.
“Last month, we harvested 800 kilograms of vegetables and fruits to feed the entire property, both guests and 400 staff members, and all of them were organic produce grown on site. On the farm we cultivate various kinds of greens including green oak, butter oak, tomatoes, mushrooms, all Thai herbs as well as fruits including passion fruits and mulberries.
“Veggies and fruits thrive on compost made from food waste from the kitchen, plant trimmings, fallen leaves and twigs, all mixed with EM to accelerate the decomposition process. Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) is then added to control the fly and insect population. It’s a tedious process but the result is completely worth it. Not only do we reduce kitchen waste, we have natural fertiliser to grow our own produce. Guests are welcome to come and talk to me about the sustainable practices we implement here. Every process can be observed and inspected. I even let them visit our fruit and vegetable farm and pick some fresh produce.”
The resort, which is spread over 400 rai of tropical forest and former rubber plantations, tries its best to keep the natural surroundings intact. Guest villas and resort facilities are built to co-exist with nature, and very few existing trees were cut to make way for the construction. Lush, thick and fertile, the resort is still home to various indigenous animals of the island such as the Chinese water dragon or Thai iguana, black giant squirrel, red whiskered bulbul and other birds as well as monkeys that still roam the premises.
Soneva Kiri has received numerous awards over the years and in 2016 was placed second in the VIP International Traveller Reader’s Travel Award’s Sustainable Luxury Tourism category.
Island in the sun
Soneva Kiri is on Koh Kood in Trat province.
For information and reservations, visit www.Soneva.com/soneva-kiri.