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Only a few selected luxury accommodation experiences have so far managed to come up with an environmental balance that fi t the picture for an Advanced Eco Tourism certifi cate, and one of them is Thala Beach Lodge, which is located within easy reach of Cairns in tropical North Queensland. Thala Beach Lodge is owned by Rob and Oonagh Prettejohn, who also run the highly popular Kewarra Beach Resort. It was in the early 70’s that the Prettejohns purchased the 58-hectare peninsula that juts out into the Pacifi c Ocean close to Port Douglas, where rain forest dramatically spills down from the Great Dividing Range. “When we fi rst came here, I realised what a unique place it was, and I knew we had to make the living eco-system the centre of the experience,” says Rob Prettejohn, who adds that in many of the world’s other magical destinations you will fi nd that over the time just the opposite has happened. An affi nity with nature Fortunately, Rob and Oonagh’s strong affi nity with the natural environment, enhanced in building up Kewarra Beach Resort, meant that they had the experience necessary to make their plan work. The gardens at Kewarra are carefully maintained with lush tropical plants which attract a wide range of birdlife to the property – more than 170 species have been spotted over the years. Taking a leaf from the Thala experience As more and more tourists look for eco-friendly accommodation on their travels, the demand is growing for properties that have gained Advanced Eco Tourism status from Eco Tourism Australia. Spa and pool at night “The concept of eco-tourism is often misunderstood and in practise is often abused, allowing operators to sell destructive developments that stifl e the landscape,” says Rob Prettejohn, who is both passionate and outspoken about the need to sustain the eco-environment. Thala Beach Lodge 12 w w w . S E L L I N G D O W N U N D E R . c o m J u l y 2 0 0 7

Thala Beach Lodge has taken great pains to tread lightly on its surrounding habitats, forests and private untouched beach frontage. The peninsula on which the lodge is set has a total of six different habitats. Ancient littoral rainforest, casuarinas and mangroves lap the beach, while dry eucalypt woodland, gallery forest and coconuts occupy the higher ground and inland creeks. A choice of habitat Each habitat attracts its own unique species of fl ora and fauna, and Thala rests in between, offering guest bungalows in three distinct accommodation categories. The Eucalypt Bungalows capture the intimate feel of the unique tropical forest. Each of the Coral Sea Bungalows has a spectacular view over the ocean while remaining unobtrusively tucked away in the natural landscape. And then there is the Sandpiper Suite, perched on the headland, overlooking The resort is built around the still waters of a lagoon and fringed by the Coral Sea. Individual guest mouds, (the Islander word for small tropical house), are set beside the lagoon, scattered in landscaped gardens, and nestled amongst the beachfront Melaleuca trees. Before the Prettejohns bought the Thala land it was home to a near-forgotten, run-down sugar cane plantation. To rehabilitate and return it to a wild natural state they reintroduced thousands of local plants. two secluded beaches and offering ultimate privacy – an ideal honeymoon setting. Thala Beach Lodge employs wildlife specialists who are on hand to guide guests in the forests, and along the beaches and rocky headland – all in a personalised yet casual way. Guests may spot rare snub-fi nned dolphins, or an osprey diving to fi sh for her young. Then, when delicately treading along the sandy paths through breathtaking rainforest, encounter a wide array of tropical birds and butterfl ies. Thala Beach Lodge also maintains a good relationship with the elders of the local KuKu-Yalanji community, who explain their history in the region and introduce guests to bush tucker. • To fi nd out about other members of Eco Tourism Australia and what they have to offer, go to “Australia has absolutely outstanding natural attractions and it is Eco Certifi ed operators like the Prettejohns who are leading the way in giving visitors a memorable experience of our unique natural heritage,” says Eco Tourism Australia CEO, Stephen Pahl. Ospreys restaurant Coral Sea Bungalow Eucalypt Bungalow J u l y 2 0 0 7 w w w . S E L L I N G D O W N U N D E R . c o m 13