On a first visit to Six Senses Yao Noi, it would be understandable for guests to perceive that they have landed in some sort of otherworldly paradise. Resembling earth, only more intensely beautiful, the luxury resort is like a digitally created backdrop to a science fiction film.
But this upscale Thai resort is rooted deeply in this world, serving as a vanguard for commercial retreats in special and especially sensitive communities to embrace ecological and social responsibility in new and innovative ways.
One of Asia’s most extraordinary luxury resorts, Six Senses Yao Noi is located on a small island in Phang Nga Bay, near Phuket Town, Thailand. It is, however, fully removed from the intriguing, but bustling tourist town.
Six Senses Yao Noi opened 10 years ago and is part of a chain of more than 30 Six Senses resorts and spas worldwide. It offers every amenity expected from a resort of its caliber, from luxurious accommodations, to world-class dining and a range of spa services. Yet, what makes this property different are the details that are not immediately noticed and the policies that underpin the resort’s operation and relationship to the greater community.
Visitors reach the resort by helicopter or boat, navigating past the iconic limestone rock formations that jut like monoliths from the surface of the bay, to find a property respectfully integrated into its natural setting. The resort was built on the site of a former rubber plantation — traditionally the major industry on the island, along with fishing, which remains rife with slavery and violence — and many rubber trees remain, providing shade and preventing soil erosion.
The resort and local residents have worked together to build a wooden walkway through the public mangrove forest just beyond the restaurant area. They also have planted 3,000 mangrove seedlings to help ensure the forest’s future health.
Ecological principals were incorporated into many aspects of the resort’s design, including spacious guest villas designed for maximum natural ventilation to reduce air-conditioning needs, even in the hottest months.
All water used at Six Senses Yao Noi comes from an on-site reservoir; several wells throughout the property and low-use water features are utilized extensively. Rain water is collected by the reservoir during monsoon season — May through October — and used to fill about 1,000 bottles of still and sparkling water daily.
Tucked into a green hillside is a spa village where guests can choose from an array of services and be treated to natural, ethically produced spa products.
The dining room features farm-to-table cuisine sourced from an on-site organic vegetable garden and organic goat, duck, and chicken farms. The farms provides eggs and milk for a variety of products, including cheese and ice cream.
As part of the responsibility to Koh Yao Noi island and its 5,000 residents, the Six Senses resort donates equipment to Koh Yao Chaipat Hospital — the only hospital on the island — organizes educational events for children attending Ban Tha Khao Plueak School and, in conjunction with the foundation Imagine Thailand, provided a drinking water system for the government-run school Baan Bang Duong and a children’s center in Phang Nga.
The resort is open throughout the calendar year, but peak season is December through May, when many international travelers are seeking respite from the Northern Hemisphere winter.