by Allison Neves

Have you ever been out in the middle of nowhere? Seriously. I mean a place so remote that if you didn’t leave a detailed itinerary with someone regarding your exact location that you would be virtually impossible to find? Well, I have… several times, in fact. And, what I’ve discovered is that the middle of nowhere seems to be my favorite vacation destination… which is why I keep going back.

Eco-lodges in remote rainforest regions may not always be the easiest places to get to but they often are the most rewarding. From cruising for Cayman in the Amazon Basin to studying sea turtles on South Africa’s north east coast, nowhere is the new somewhere for nature-loving, adventure-seekers. In light of this, I’ve done my own due diligence and compiled a few of your very best bets for getting lost along the roads less travelled.

Mission Beach, Australia – The Sanctuary Yoga Retreat and Eco-Lodge

Looking for the ultimate diving adventure? A two-hour drive south of Cairns, you’ll find Mission Beach. Most folks who are interested in diving the Great Barrier Reef will go to Cairns. However, the less touristy and more Zen option is the Sanctuary Yoga Retreat and Eco-Lodge in Mission Beach.

The lodge sits perched within the rainforest’s canopy overlooking the sea and breathtaking views. The Sanctuary also offers massage therapy and regularly scheduled yoga classes.

The main building is constructed of natural timbers and has been built by local craftsmen. The in-house restaurant specializes in serving delicious meals created with locally grown organic foods.

Being the closest mainland point to the Great Barrier Reef means that travel times to your diving destinations are shorter… less time on the boat means more time diving the Reef. Offshore you’ll find many deserted islands to sail or sea-kayak to and explore, most of which are protected National Parks while the rainforests surrounding Mission Beach offer a diverse range of habitats and eco-systems to explore. But, fair warning… be on the lookout for giant Cassowary!

Sabah, Borneo – Sepilok Nature Resort

If monkeys are your thing… then I have a place for you. Hidden amongst tropical plants and grasses, huge trees and rare species of orchids, are the bungalows of the Sepilok Nature Resort. The resort is within walking distance of the world-famous Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, home of the last wild Orang-utans of Northern Borneo.

Take a guided tour of the Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabitation Center and while there trek ten minutes through the rainforest to witness the daily Orang-utan feeding. Walking around the lodge and the rehabilitation center, you will likely encounter other monkeys including long-tailed and pig-tailed Macaques.

In the evening, take an hour guided night walk to the Sepilok Forest Trails to experience the nocturnal animals and insects that are abundant in that region.

You can also arrange a daytrip to the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. There you will see the Jimmy Durante of the monkey world swing overhead from vine to vine. I highly recommend adding a visit to the giant bat cave where they harvest birds nests, a highly coveted and pricey Asian delicacy, to your Borneo trip as well! The caves are protected by the federal government and armed guards who stand outside and sleep inside the cave night and day. If you can get passed the creepy bat factor and can overcome any bug phobias, you’re in for a treat.

Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica – Lapa Rios Ecolodge

In search of some Latin American flavor? Set in a private nature reserve spread over 1,000 acres of Central America’s last remaining lowland tropical rainforest in Costa Rica is the Lapa Rios Ecolodge.

Lapa Rios Ecolodge is a sustainable tourism pioneer. The ecolodge employs only community members, is committed to environmentally sound practices and has been awarded Costa Rica’s highest sustainable tourism certification. Ask to be taken on the sustainability tour where you can learn about the lodges award-winning best practices in protecting the planet… it’s a most impressive operation.

Daily guest experiences include a variety of staff naturalist led rainforest hikes, bird watching walks and sustainable/educational local project visits. Ocean-mangrove boating trips, kayaking and surfing are offered by neighboring guides, as well as massages and yoga classes.

The setting of Lapa Rios is absolutely a little piece of paradise. However, Lapa Rios has much more to offer than stunning ocean views and lush tropical rainforest. While staying in Lapa Rios, you will be able to enjoy a once in a lifetime vacation while doing something good for the planet.

Amazon Basin, Peru – Cayman Lodge Amazonie

Want to REALLY get back to basics? Cayman Lodge Amazonie is located 2 ½ hours by boat from Puerto Maldonado. The lodge is located on the Tambopata River in the Amazon Basin. It’s a wonderful place to visit the Amazonian rainforest and makes for a great 3 or 4 day addition to any Peruvian vacation to world famous Machu Picchu.

The rooms and surrounding buildings are built with local wood and palm leaves to make the thatched roofs. Each cabin is protected by mosquito netting. Flashlights, candles and kerosene lamps light your way as a generator for electricity is only used during meals and to charge the batteries that are used for radio communication.

You will be warmly welcomed in Puerto Maldonado when you arrive by Annie and Daniel. Annie does all the cooking and is an amazing cook. If you watch Top Chef, you know that knowing how to prepare a delicious soup is a sign of a great chef. And, let me tell you, Annie’s soup is on par with meals I’ve had at some of the finest restaurants I’ve ever visited.

Danny was our guide to the Macaw salt lick where we saw hundreds of macaws meet up for their afternoon snack. He also took us on a rainforest hike and on a fishing excursion where we caught piranha that we brought home and fried up for dinner. These are two of my very favorite travel experiences… for sure!

Cayman Lodge Amazonie is a private project created to protect the ecology and environment in harmony and comfort. The natural beauty of this site is crying out to be known and experienced.

Maputaland, South Africa – Rocktail Bay Lodge

Do you Zulu? The secluded Rocktail Bay Lodge is situated within the coastal forest just behind the forested dunes that occur along Maputaland’s coastline in northern KwaZulu-Natal, approximately one hour south of the border of Mozambique. The warm Indian Ocean lies just beyond the dunes and on one of the most incredible beaches in all of South Africa.

Accommodation is in 11 wooden tree-house chalets, which are raised on stilts into the forest canopy. Each twin-bedded room has its own private deck, en-suite bathroom and additional outdoor shower, for those who wish to bathe surrounded by trees. The main area of the lodge has an inviting lounge and meals are enjoyed either in the separate dining room, at the poolside or under a giant Natal Mahogany tree or even on the beach. An intricate boardwalk winds from the lodge, through the dune forest and down to the sandy shore.

The turtle research excursions which take place in the evening are a MUST do activity. You will be witness to giant leatherback turtles making their way to the exact site on the beach where they were born so they can leave their own eggs. And, if you’re lucky enough, you will see baby turtles hatch and make their way back to the sea. It’s an amazing experience!

All rates at Rocktail Bay include meals and twice daily scheduled lodge activities, such as guided forest walks or snorkelling. Rocktail Bay Lodge offers comfortable accommodation that is ideal for people who want to truly relax and unwind while learning about the local Zulu culture.

So, instead of going somewhere this year, I say, opt for nowhere. I’m sure you’ll discover, as I did, that it’s the place to be.