Six of our writers share their favourite wildlife lodges, from a tree house in Peru to a floating ‘lodge’ in Alaska. Each wildlife lodge has been selected for its uniqueness, that certain something that makes it stand out from the crowd.
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A Treehouse Stay in the Amazon Jungle, Peru
by Suzanne Jones, The Travelbunny
Waking up in a treehouse 67ft up in the tree canopy of the Amazon Jungle is an amazing experience which I’ll never forget. As the sun rose behind the trees each morning the nocturnal creatures clocked-off and the sounds of the night changed as the jungle kicked into daytime mode. Our stay at Treehouse Lodge was the ultimate highlight of our visit to Peru.
Our treehouse was a five minute walk from the main lodge and then a climb of 85 steps which spiralled around the trunk of a giant Ficus tree. Finally, we had to cross two suspended bridges to get to our nest. Occasionally we’d have company; something scampering above us on the roof of the walkway or, one day, a tarantula sitting quietly on the path.
Days were spent wildlife spotting with our guide Marden. We learnt so much from him during our walks through the jungle or boating up the waterways. We discovered pink river dolphins, a giant river otter and fish in the river. Packs of squirrel monkeys and sloths hung out in the trees around us. We spotted so many birds; hawks, kingfishers, toucans, parakeets and bright yellow flycatchers.
One evening we took the boat out to watch the sun dip below the horizon on the Amazon River as egrets flew past to roost for the night. The whole scene was spectacular.
We had three meals a day in the main area of Treehouse Lodge. The food was excellent; all locally produced and beautifully presented. Each night we’d head back to our little nest in the trees, shut the trap hatch and lie in the pitch black and listen as the sounds of the jungle enveloped us. Magical.
The Great Bear Lodge, British Columbia, Canada
by Lucy Dodsworth, On The Luce
The Great Bear Lodge is a patch of luxury out in the wilderness, set deep in the unspoilt landscape of the Great Bear Rainforest in the fjords north of Vancouver Island. The area is so remote that everything has to be flown in by seaplane, and your only neighbours are wolves, cougars and whales – plus, of course, the bears. This is grizzly bear country but you’ll also find black bears here too.
The lodge is a two-storey wooden building set on a floating pontoon moored just off the shore, so there’s no chance of the bears paying a visit. It’s almost self-sufficient with UV treated water and hydroelectric and solar power. There are just eight bedrooms so groups are small, with a cosy communal lounge and dining room downstairs, where the chefs create ‘wilderness-gourmet’ dishes like salmon cooked on a plank using local, organic ingredients.
In autumn, bear-watching takes place from hides along the riverbank but in spring, when we visited, you head out on small boats instead. It didn’t take us long to spot our first grizzly, less than 10 metres away, munching her way through a clump of sedge on the riverbank. The lodge’s naturalists know each of the bears and their stories. This all helps to make a stay at the lodge a unique experience and it’s a real honour to get so close to these majestic creatures.
Royal Palm Hotel, Isla Santa Cruz Highlands, Galápagos, Ecuador
by Johanna Read, Travel Eater
This Galapagos hotel is within a 190-hectare private estate in the cool highlands of Isla Santa Cruz. There’s an immense lava tunnel on the property which you can explore with the hotel’s naturalist.
Accommodation here is elegantly rustic — my six-room villa had a Jacuzzi built for two and a cosy wood-burning fireplace. At any time a giant Galapagos tortoise might slowly crawl through the rare native miconia plants and past your stand-alone villa.
Royal Palm is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, and this is where Prince Charles stayed during his 2009 visit to see the Galapagos Islands’ amazing animals.
Find out what people are saying about Royal Palm on Trip Advisor.
Port Lympne’s Livingstone Lodge, Kent, England
by Jaillan Yehia, Savoir There
You may not expect to find an African-style wildlife lodge in Kent, but here in the Garden of England, within spitting distance of The English Channel (with France in the distance), you’ll find Livingstone Lodge, Port Lympne Animal Park’s most luxurious outdoor tented accommodation.
It’s the perfect vantage point from which to spot around 600 species of animals including giraffe, zebra, bison, gorillas and antelope, all frolicking in the gorgeous setting of Kent’s Romney Marsh.
The Lodge has a watering hole right in front of it, while guests own refreshment needs are expertly taken care of at sunset and sunrise in the Laapa restaurant, a few steps from the tented camp.
The lodge offers a great option for a romantic getaway if you’d like to observe wildlife and enjoy the lovely UK outdoors without having to hoof it back home at the end of the evening.
Mandina Lodges, Makasutu Forest, The Gambia
by Kathryn Burrington, Travel With Kat
The Gambia may not have the big 5 that other African countries lay claim to, but a stay in Makasutu Forest with its mangrove swamps, gallery forest, savannah, palm forest and wetland, will give you the opportunity to see (or, more often, hear) many of the 560 or so bird species that The Gambia is famous for. Chris Packham, a well-known UK naturalist and bird expert, regularly stays here. Other animals you are most likely to spot include baboons, Green Vervet and Red Colobus monkeys, monitor lizards and even the odd crocodile or mongoose.
And it is here, in the heart of the forest, on the banks of a tributary of The River Gambia, that you will find the stunning Mandina Lodges – the perfect place to discover the people and animals that call Makasutu home.
The beautiful wooden floating wildlife lodges, each with a four-poster bed and an open air bathroom, rise and fall with the tides, connected to the land and each other by wooden walkways. The impressive Stilted Lodge (pictured above) and the Mangrove Lodge can also found by the river bank, while the stunning Jungle Lodges (pictured below) are set back from the water. With just nine lodges in total, Mandina retains its air of exclusivity.
For me, what makes this place so utterly perfect is a combination of the location, the care with which the accommodation has been designed, the wonderful staff, and did I mention the location? A stay at Mandina Lodges is a rare privilege. And I’m very excited to be going back there later this year on honeymoon.
Read more about Mandina Lodges on Kat’s blog.
A small ship cruise along Alaska’s Inside Passage
by Alison Abbott, Green With Renvy
Taking a small ship cruise along Alaska’s Inside Passage gives new meaning to the term wildlife lodge. AdventureSmith Explorations takes guests into the small coves and islands aboard an eight passenger wooden ship equipped with its original slow turning diesel engine. Built in 1924, the 86′ boat was modelled after a traditional salmon cannery tender.
Cruising the southeast islands provided a unique opportunity to visit the environmentally rich areas of Tongass National Forest, the largest in the country. In addition, Admiralty, Baranoff and Chichagof Islands, the ABC’s of bear watching, represent the highest concentration of grizzlies in the world.
A quiet anchorage at night was perfect for open portholes. The sound of gentle waves lapping might be accompanied by whale blow or other wildlife nearby. The moving wildlife lodge affords the luxury of passing through small coves and bays too shallow for the much larger cruise ships that frequent Alaska. Many days the only others we saw were animals. Seals, dolphins, breaching whales and abundant salmon were viewed in addition to the many bears and cubs.
Healthy and sustainable food practices are combined with creativity for meals. Our first meal set the tone for the entire trip: Freshly-caught silver salmon served with a wild mushroom risotto and fresh snap peas. The skin was frozen for sushi later in the week. The chef humbly underscored, “I’m the only restaurant in town, so it’s important for me to be able to provide delicious variety.”
Viewing wildlife from this unique vantage point allows the visitor to connect the dots and understand how interconnected the circle of life in Alaska’s Inside Passage is. From the salmon run to the bears and the nutrient-rich waste that feeds the forest, guests take away a better understanding of the importance of responsible travel.
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