If you log on to their website and take a look,
the Daintree Ecolodge, conveniently located next to the Daintree River deep in the Daintree Rainforest in the Queensland region of Australia, was awarded a “certificate of excellence” by TripAdvisor in 2013 in the category of sustainability. The site claims the Lodge is “known as the “most pampering ecolodge in the world with only 15 rainforest tree-house style bayans nestled in the rainforest and with unique experiences combining to present true experiential travel.” I suggest this is NOT a good reason to stay at the lodge if you happen to be exploring the Daintree rainforest. There are better reasons.
Winning a TripAdvisor certificate of excellence (based on rave guest reviews) has given the wrong idea to some guests, who show up expecting gold faucets and silk sheets and dancing girls. In fact, some of the guest reviews on TripAdvisor indicate a degree of disappointment with the lodge, based on the expectation of 5-star luxury and the very high room prices. That’s all changed since 2013 and new management.
With the 2008 economic downturn affecting most resorts around the world, the previous management did not have the money to keep a jungle lodge in the pristine condition that some guests expected. Maintenance in a jungle setting is a huge challenge, and providing world-class food and beverage in such a remote location can be difficult if not possible. On top of those problems, I arrived just a few weeks after a devastating cyclone had bashed the Queensland coast, knocking down trees at the lodge, destroying the Internet connection and generally making a big mess.
The good news is that I had not read any TripAdvisor reviews and wasn’t expecting 5-star accommodations, and aside from not being able to download my email I wasn’t inconvenienced or disappointed in the least. Certainly the bathroom in my bayan needed upgrading, and there were trees that had fallen over and needed to be removed, but quite frankly in the midst of the riotous jungle you don’t really notice such small details. Overall, it was lovely.
The resort is located in a pocket valley, with a stream running down steep hills to form a small lagoon just outside the main lodge and restaurant. The valley is dense with trees and plants, and the bayans (tree houses) are perched on stilts looking down on the chaotic foliage. It’s a true jungle, and that’s exactly the kind of atmosphere I was looking for. Birds chirped and screamed from the trees, water murmured and dripped, and there was no evidence of the outside world even though a two-lane road was located only a few hundred metres away.
The lodge offers early morning rainforest walks led by local aboriginal people who (I am told) bring the jungle truly alive with tales and stories, but I had missed out with my late arrival so I went on a brief uphill walk to a local waterfall. A tree had fallen over the night before, the wooden steps were slick with rain, and the wooden deck needed sweeping, but you expect some dampness in the rainforest. The local people regarded the waterfall with respect, and it certainly seemed a lovely place for meditation or a ceremony.
Late in the day, though, my thoughts turned more towards meals than meditation. Silk sheets don’t interest me as much as fine food when it comes to plush resorts, and thankfully the lodge has managed to maintain high standards in the kitchen. The restaurant takes it’s name, Julaymba, from the local Kuku Yalanji word for “Daintree River.” The menu incorporates an abundance of unique and exotic sun drenched Queensland fruits, tropical reef fish and local produce mixed with native and indigenous nuts, berries, flowers, leaves and seeds.
Reef fish includes barramundi, served with Israeli cous cous, sauteed spinach, toasted sesame seeds, with poached tiger prawns in a lemongrass sauce. Atherton Tablelands raised lamb and beef is also available as well as vegetarian choices. Appetizers include Morton Bay Bug (like a small lobster), bush pepper crocodile, bush kangaroo filet, and grilled king prawns. I am pleased to report the barramundi was excellent.
I can’t report on the spa, or the swimming pool, or any lodge activities like expeditions or walks because I didn’t experience them. I did manage to take in a cruise down the nearby Daintree River with local guide Bruce Belcher, and we did spot some crocs, including a huge alpha male. Bruce pointed out some snakes in the trees, although I don’t know how he spotted them, and lots of birds. The aforementioned cyclone had done a lot of damage to the river, so the status quo in the forest was somewhat upset, but no doubt by the time you read this things will be back to normal. However, do read and obey the signs that warn about the danger of saltwater crocodiles. They are nasty.
It goes without saying that if you explore the Daintree Rainforest the place to stay is the Ecolodge. Prices have dropped a lot under new management, the food and service is great, and you get the distinct feeling you are in the midst of a jungle. Which is the main point, as far as I am concerned, and we can leave the high thread count bedsheets to the Hilton.