Hotels are competing with each other in the crush to install flippant knickknacks luring vulnerable tourists into their sticky webs of plastic luxury and formulaic sameness. But is that what travelers really want?
According to a 2015 report from the Center for Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.org), 53% of travelers consider the ethical or environmental footprint of their holiday. One in five consumers say they are prepared to outlay more holiday dollars with a company that has a strong environmental and social record. Travelers are looking beyond their own immediate needs for their next holiday.
Thala Beach Nature Reserve in Port Douglas is happily dancing to an earthy rhythm, embracing the ‘green’ energy inherent in the surrounding World Heritage landscape. Heavily forested Macalister Range mountains provide a beguiling backdrop to beachside Thala. Awarded the highest Ecotourism accreditation by offering meaningful experiences with minimal impact on the environment, Thala offers a holiday sojourn with soul.
Owners Rob & Oonagh Prettejohn opened up their private nature reserve in 1998 as a deluxe eco retreat for travelers. Thala Beach Nature Reserve is a haven of tranquility for those seeking to relax, recharge & rejuvenate. Travelers breathe in World Heritage forest-filtered air while enjoying premium comfort and warm north Queensland hospitality. Delicately perched on a prominent peninsular, tropical forests and eucalypt woodlands cascade down to private Oak Beach and rocky coves. Thala’s 58 hectares of native forest is home to many permanent guests. Recognisable by their generous covering of fur, feathers or scales, ‘wild’ inhabitants delight Thala’s transient humans. Resident wallabies have become accustomed to sharing forest trails with guests, birds nest in trees above swimming pools while monitor lizards bask on sun-warmed rocks.
Thala Beach Nature Reserve is a beacon of hope as mankind progresses from being ‘the demolisher’ to ‘the conserver’ to ‘the environmental benefactor’. Over a period of 30 years, Rob and Oonagh have led the re-establishment of complex forests on land previously cleared and devastated by extractive farming. Sugarcane plantations formerly occupied the forested nature reserve that guests enjoy today.
The main lodge is constructed from naturally sustainable materials that blend in harmoniously with the surrounding landscape. Open-sided pavilions offer views of the forest canopy and Coral Sea beyond. Cooling ocean breezes provide natural air-conditioning to Curlews Lounge and Osprey’s Restaurant. Deluxe eco-styled bungalows sit upon stilts within the forest, many with ocean views. Large private decks allow guests intimate immersion in the forest without leaving their own treehouse-like bungalow. With its own massage studio in the forest, guests unwind and relax at the hands of skilled therapists while soaking up natural energy.
Rob and Oonagh employ specialist guides who conduct complimentary daily tours showcasing Thala’s unique forests, beaches and wildlife inhabitants. Guests may spot rare snub-finned dolphins and dugongs or encounter a huge Australian tarantula, lovingly coaxed by a guide from her deep burrow. After dark the Milky Way dominates the night sky as guests enjoy a guided galaxy tour from the onsite observatory.
Guests staying at eco lodges like Thala leave a soft footprint in an environmental journey towards a better world. Leaving nothing but footprints and taking nothing but photos, guests depart with memories and an understanding to inspire them for years to come. On the other hand, travelers checking into ‘knickknack hotels’ are isolated from their environment which does little to enhance authentic experiences. They remain indifferent to their location. Travelers who are consciously aware of the impact their travels have are making a choice for the planets’ sustainability.