The Resort Mindset: Thala Beach Lodge

animals, food, hikes, Queensland

I don’t have photos from the wedding photographer, yet; so, let’s work backwards, and I’ll tell you all about our honeymoon, first.

Scratch that honeymoon business … Partner-in-Crime simply cannot abide anything too conventional, and as someone with deep disdain for the Wedding Industrial Complex, I have strong sympathies for his position, so we solemnly agreed to call our week-long post-wedding resort trip by a logical title: Commitment Reflection Vacation (CRV for short). And so, from here on out, we’ll call it by its scientific name.
After a lot of consideration on what kind of trip we wanted to take, plus our budget, we decided to venture to Queensland to stay in the extraordinary looking Thala Beach Lodge near Port Douglas. It’s a 5-star eco-resort that is actually affordable to the hoi polloi, like us.
We flew into Cairns the day after the wedding, and got to Thala at night. We were greeted by the most effusively friendly attendant, who seemed genuinely thrilled to check us in, get the porter to carry our bags, and treat us to some fresh fruit juice while our room was readied. The relaxation began to take hold from the first moment.
Each accommodation at Thala is a private bungalow settled in the forest. We felt so secluded from all but the birds (and a few pesky cane beetles at night). We turned the air conditioner off, opened the windows, and enjoyed the light breeze and sounds of nature for the week.
PhotobucketOur bungalow.

PhotobucketOur porch, where we enjoyed many meals.

On our first morning at Thala, we agreed to embrace the resort lifestyle by partaking in the luxurious, but pricey ($25) breakfast buffet. We loaded our plates with cold meats, Australian cheeses, croissants, cold muesli, and heaps of fresh fruit. In addition to the inspiring food, the other main attraction of breakfast was the chance to start the day in the glorious dining room. An open-air darkwood gazebo is nestled in the trees, overlooking the ocean. A bird bath is situated a few feet away in one of the trees, so that lorikeets and other local birds frolick all the live long day. Woooooosh – that’s the sound of all our cares drifting away.

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One of the selling points of Thala was the promise of a private beach. Oak Beach had this amazing feeling of being straight out of Blue Lagoon.

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Surrounded by mountains, our little haven was perfectly secluded, strewn with washed up coconuts, and featuring perfectly placed pairs of lounge chairs and hammocks. We were concerned about jellyfish, since the Queensland varieties are famously deadly, but it turned out that we’d arrived in the last week or so of safety before they went to sea, so we were able to frolic in the surf to our hearts content.

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Another big draw of Thala (as if all this isn’t enough!) was the nature tours that are free to guests. P-i-C and I do love nothing more than a good guided tour, so we signed ourselves up for everything we could. After breakfast on the first day, we had a Guided Beach Tour with Dario, who told us that it was his very first tour ever. Dario, my friend, you are a natural. He was a sweet Dr. Doolittle character who seemed to know just about everything about the vital ecosystem at Thala. Not only did he show us the highlights of the beach, but we also wandered around one of the nature paths on the property. He pointed out different insect and animal nests that we never would have noticed otherwise, showed us which plants were edible and which were unpleasant, found a few amazingly large spiders in their intricate webs, and just generally instilled a great love and respect for the natural environment that existed on the beautiful and sprawling property.

Photobucket Dario.

Photobucket Edible and delicious berry.

Photobucket One of the amazingly detailed plant species.

Photobucket Green ants nest.

On our second full day, we took the Coconut Tour, which everyone on Trip Advisor had simply raved about. Thala is actually a coconut plantation with about 600 coconut trees, so they’re an important part of the Thala experience. Carl the Coconut Guy was wildly passionate about a food lifestyle which was reminiscent of Michael Pollan’s ideas of eating close to the bottom of the food chain. The talk was as much about debunking some food myths as it was about coconuts, but I was most interested in the life cycle of the coconut and getting to taste them at different stages, including an aged coconut post-milk phase, which has inside an almost a sponge cake texture … this is not something one could ever buy in a store, but it was so darn good. (We became pretty obsessed with coconuts and their health benefits/deliciousness and stocked up on cans of coconut milk when we came home).

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I got up amazingly early the next day to take a bird watching tour. P-i-C was unconvinced about the merits of rising so long before his biological clock suggested it was time, so I happily skipped off on my own. Our guide, David, told us that it was not a great time for seeing birds, as the mating season had passed, and he was right. We saw only a few birds flitting about, and spent most of the tour in the bird hide, where P-i-C and I had already been, watching the resident osprey in its nest. This might have been exciting if I were not from Florida where osprey nests are evident on every other lamp post. Still, it was really nice to be up and in nature early in the morning, and I checked out my binoculars to lug around with me on the rest of the trip.

Our final guided tour was stargazing on our last night at Thala. Our guide, Rose, was the lovely woman who checked us in when we arrived, and her gaiety extended to the stars, as well. She walked us out to a makeshift observatory set up in a little field on the property where we had a phenomenal view on this very clear night. She had this Star Warsy astronomy laser pointer. I’d never seen anything like it before, but it pointed a green line seemingly right to the star she was talking about. Apparently, they are illegal in Australian states other than Queensland. The Southern Cross was not on display, but we did see Jupiter (stripes and all), the Pleiades, several of the astrological symbols, and most strikingly the Large and Small Magellenic Clouds, which looked like milk spots in the sky with our bare eyes, but when seen through the telescope suddenly magnified to something out of a NASA file. It is hard not to get all philosophical about our size in the universe and so forth when stargazing. The night ended with our return to the lodge, when this unappealing American started talking about once seeing a UFO. His wife implored him to stop, but he could not help himself, and P-i-C also could not help from egging him on, asking question after question of the character of the Connecticut UFO. I absented myself, as did our guide, while this went on, and P-i-C reported back that he found CT-Man’s story to be factually implausible (quelle surpirse, darling).

After our day’s activity’s, P-i-C and I got into the habit of spending the evening in the main lodge with a coconut drink (a young coconut, cold, with a hole drilled in it, infused with some Malibu and various other delicious adult enhancements)

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and a board game. P-i-C will cringe, but I did get a kick out of our first game of Scrabble where we inadvertently managed to end up with the words “Wife,” “Loves,” and “Vow” on the board. (And, yes – before you say it in my comments, “lay,” you clever people).

Ah, honeymoon CRV.

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The whole experience struck me as what it must have been like to be at one of those 1950s Catskills resorts, and I kept looking around to see if anyone was putting Baby in the corner. We were more and more relaxed everyday, very nearly comatose when we reluctantly came home.
Now, we could have stayed at Thala for the entire trip and been perfectly happy, but we didn’t. So, in the next few days, I’ll tell you about our day trips to the Daintree Rainforest and snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef.

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