Location: Cow Bay, Cape Tribulation
The space: Set on 21 acres of rainforest. Like, right in its own rainforest. Think vines, giant trees, and greenery all around you. And critters. Lots of critters.
“I might be naive, but I’d always thought sleeping in a rainforest would be a peaceful, tranquil experience. However all those panflute rainforest-sounds CDs you hear in beauty salons are clearly bogus. Nature in this part of the world is brutally noisy at night– seriously, I’ve never heard such a cacophony of sound.”
The room: We chose a Safari Hut, a wood and canvas bungalow that kind of looked ‘glamping’ style from the outside, but was very bare bones inside. But the location? Smack underneath the most amazing magical-looking giant tree that could house Moonface and Silky (that’s a reference for all the Enid Blyton fans out there). Double bed and two sets of bunks, shared bathroom facilities.
Cost: $85 + GST per night for two, plus $10 for each child (max 6 total)
The facilities: communal kitchen, a café/bar/tour booking desk, pool, Wifi.
Nearby things to do: Rainforest walks, walk to Cow Bay, drive to Cape Tribulation, reef tours, crocodile river tours, sea kayaking tours, 4 x4 tours, jungle surfing (zip lining), Jungle Bugs and Butterflies insect centre and more.
Pros: If you’ve ever dreamed of escaping into the jungle and living in a treehouse, this budget eco village is a pretty amazing base to explore the Daintree and Cape Tribulation. It’s back-packer friendly so the facilities aren’t five star – or even three star. But if your kids love camping and thrive in the outdoors, this place is the bomb. We looked at a few more expensive options nearby but chose to save money on accommodation so we’d have more funds available to do tours and activities, and we’re glad we did. Our kids LOVED this place. The reception staff were super helpful and knowledgeable about various activities (although they’d often all get swamped at once, so you’d often have to wait a fair while to get served for anything). The self-catering kitchen meant we were able to keep the kids plied with snacks and meals without them costing a packet (Tip: buy supplies in Cairns or Mossman on the way in). Meals, drinks and coffee were all reasonably priced when we felt like letting someone else do the cooking. There’s free night time rainforest guided walks and paid kayaking tours out to nearby Snapper Island from here too.
But the main attraction? There’s something so amazing about being nestled amongst the trees in a living, breathing rainforest. It’s not a manicured, pretend resort trying to emulate a ‘rainforesty feel’ – this is the real deal.
Cons: This isn’t the resort’s fault, but… I’d always thought sleeping in a rainforest would be a peaceful, tranquil experience. However all those panflute rainforest-sounds CDs you hear in beauty salons are clearly bogus. Nature in this part of the world is brutally noisy at night– seriously, I’ve never heard such a cacophony of sound. Birds screeching/mating/rummaging through the undergrowth. Animals dropping out of the trees onto our canvas roof, and occasionally squabbling in what sounded like fights to the death right under our floorboards. Leaves and branches creaking with each wind gust. Insects in biblical plague proportions singing into the night. After being startled awake dozens of times during the wee hours, I just gave up on sleeping and lay awake trying to decipher the which part of the circle of life was playing out outside our cabin. The boys blissfully slept through it all. I spent the next few days searching everywhere for earplugs (hint, stores here don’t have any). The lady in the general store in Cape Trib gave me a lump of blu tack instead out of amused pity, and I’m ashamed to say on night two of no sleep I actually got desperate enough to try it. If you’ve never stuck blu tack in your ears before, I wouldn’t recommend starting – only a limited barrier to sound, but my ears seem to fill up with moisture in the tropical heat, and when trying to remove the hot sticky blob from my ears it ended up getting stuck in my hair. Awesome. So if you’re in any way a light sleeper, bring ear plugs! And insect repellent – the bugs here could carry away a small baby.
The resort also hosts a smorgasboard BBQ on Sunday nights, which draws in people not just from the resort itself but also locals and those staying elsewhere nearby. It’s a good deal and there’s lots of families, but the bar stayed busy and noisy until late in the evening – another time sleeping in a canvas tent without earplugs failed me.
Overall though, the only cons would come down to the ‘ruggedness’ of this resort and lack of hotel amenities – but that was also it’s charm!
The verdict: A great low cost base to access the best of Cape Tribulation/Daintree region and an authentic, back-to-nature experience your kids won’t forget.