A turtle surfaced for air several feet from shore before descending again into the translucent Coral Sea. Beyond, lay forest-clad mountains, lining the horizon of a white sandy beach littered with coconut palms and the odd hammock. Such was the scene of my first 30 minutes at Thala Beach Lodge, an eco resort located 15 minutes south of Port Douglas.
Nearly as thrilling was stepping off the courtesy bus just minutes earlier, feeling the sultry warmth across our calves and well exposed toes. For this was August, and we had swapped our southern winter wardrobe for the endless summer apparel of Far North Queensland, just for the weekend.
I had arrived with my good friend and photographer Dee Kramer, who, living substantially further south than I, appeared even more excited about the weather. So it was only moments after greeting friendly staff that we bounded down to Thala Beach Lodge’s Oak Beach, a private two-kilometre stretch of pristine white sand. Here Dee tried out his new underwater camera, which the turtle managed to successfully evade.
Above: Thala Beach Lodge’s lobby has an open tropical feel. Photo: Dee Kramer
Heading back, we absorbed the surrounds – forested walks hugging deluxe cabins (ours had beachfront views), cascading rock pools, and lookouts affording views across miles of ocean. Thala Beach lodge itself hosts a social area with a striking overview of the beach, forest, sea and the mountains, while its restaurant sits adjacent to treetops, frequented by the likes of sunbirds, lorikeets and honeyeaters.
Above: Free form rock pools amongst the forest for cooling off and relaxing. Photo: Dee Kramer
Where were we again? This place was magic.
After a sun-soaked breakfast at Thala’s Ospreys Restaurant the following morning, and a quick chat with “coconut Carl” (who runs coconut tours at Thala), Dee and I leapt into the bus which would take us towards the Great Barrier Reef for some world class snorkelling.
Above: Osprey’s Restaurant has sweeping views over the Coral Sea. Photo: Dee Kramer
Heading out to Opal Reef, 50 kilometres off-shore, we witnessed whopping humpback whales breach alongside our boat. Soon after we were spoiled again with clear visibility at the reef. Here, for the next few hours, we flopped about with the likes of clownfish, parrot fish, spotted sweetlips and an array of coral in a florid world below.
Returning from our colourful Coral Sea adventure, Dee and I quelled our giddy appetites in Ospreys with local barramundi and pinot noir, disregarding culinary norms.
Above: A seasonal menu with emphasis on local produce is popular with guests and locals alike. Photo: Dee Kramer
Sated and enthusiastic, we traipsed down to Thala’s Saturday night star gazing tour to meet Rose Wyatte, Thala’s resident astronomical scout. Possibly the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide to the stars ever, Rose introduced us to the brilliant southern constellations via the on-site observatory and her flashing green pointer.
Above: Star Gazing at Thala’s observatory is an amazing experience included for all guests. Photo: Dee Kramer
Our third and final day at Thala Beach Lodge was spent wandering through littoral rainforest, spying the osprey bird hide above the coconut plantation, taking in the sublime beachfront views, and enjoying our last tropical soak in the in-house rock pools.
Above: Private Bungalows are sensitively located over the private headland. Photo: Dee Kramer
Thala Beach Lodge is the sort of place that has a hard time leaving your mind once it’s been in there. However, what separates it even further from the tropical, luxuriating pack is the staff, which are some of the most genuinely lovely people I’ve ever met.
It’s no wonder, they live in paradise.
Have a look at Thala Beach Lodge’s website for more information.
Above: Sunrise on Thala’s private beach frontage is inspirational. Photo: Dee Kramer
Above: Beach views through the forest from Coral Sea Bungalows. Photo: Dee Kramer
Above: Intrepid Eco Citizen journalist Andy Tope doing it tough. Photo: Dee Kramer