Staying at the Sanctuary Retreat Mission Beach was one of those experiences during our destination visit of Queensland, Australia, which we’ll never forget. Not just because of the accommodation itself, but because it made us realize how vulnerable remote ecotourism properties can be to environmental disasters, and how much conviction and goodwill it takes to be able to offer and maintain an experience as exquisite as the Sanctuary Retreat.
The Sanctuary Retreat Mission Beach Story
It all began in 1995, when Paul Verity, owner and manager of the Sanctuary Retreat Mission Beach, was searching for a suitable location to create a retreat. He found this piece of land in Mission Beach, Tropical North Queensland.
But then, four and a half years ago, there was a moment when Paul and his team must have been close to desperation. It was the time when Cyclone Yasi (2011) hit the Queensland coast, just a few years after Cyclone Larry (2006) had already left a trace of destruction.
The timeless beauty of the rainforest was disturbed on the 20th March 2006 when Category 5 Cyclone Larry swept across the coast with 300 km/h winds leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. The encompassing canopy which enclosed the forest was ripped apart to reveal views that had never before been seen.
We are glad Paul and his team didn’t give up on their Sanctuary dream but decided to rebuild, repair and get on with it, allowing us and all those other guests to experience this unique place.
On a bright side, thanks to the Cyclones you can now enjoy a magnificent sea view from the restaurant terrace…
Paul, what makes the Sanctuary Retreat Mission Beach a distinctly sustainable accommodation?
Sanctuary was designed not only to preserve the natural values of the local environment, but also to minimize ongoing operational impacts in terms of natural resource consumption.
The main buildings and swimming pool were built in existing clearings, while in and around the forest, the accommodation was built on stilts to ensure minimal impact on the forest below.
To minimize ongoing greenhouse gas emissions, we incorporated the natural cooling effect of the rainforest into the designs of the buildings, so that air-conditioning is not required. Cross-ventilation and ceiling fans produce more than adequate cooling.
Self-sustained water supply: Pure drinking water at Sanctuary is sourced on site with rainwater in the wet season and spring water in the dry.
All waste water created at Sanctuary Retreat is treated on-site, irrigated over 10 acres of land and is also recycled to flush toilets.
Sanctuary Retreat only uses environmentally friendly, fully biodegradable and phosphate free cleaning products and in the self-catering kitchen provides recycling bins marked accordingly.
Your restaurant has received impressive reviews. How do you manage to offer top quality food in such a remote location?
With the Sanctuary Longhouse Restaurant and Bar we seek to capture the essence of the tropics. Polished hardwood floors, high ceilings with fans lazily shifting the balmy air and a balcony situated perfectly to watch the sunrise, heralded by a dawn chorus, or a full moon appear out of the sea at sunset.
We specialise in locally grown, fresh foods and excellent coffee to satisfy our guests’ base desires. Our cuisine caters to all taste buds, carnivores and vegetarians alike. For those who can resist, well-equipped self-catering facilities are available.
What else does the Sanctuary Retreat offer?
Apart from the natural beauty of the rainforest, Sanctuary also offers massage therapy and yoga classes. Nestled in the shade and shelter of a nearby rainforest gully, the Retreat Centre provides a therapeutic haven in a setting of breathtaking beauty.
A range of yoga retreats are taught by skilled teachers from Australia and around the world.
How do you combine business with conservation at Sanctuary Retreat?
Sanctuary Retreat, as an eco-lodge achieves both of its aims: to share the rainforest with visitors to the area and to protect an endangered habitat and its dwellers. Guests, by choosing to stay at Sanctuary Retreat, are directly contributing to rainforest habitat conservation.
Thanks to a Conservation Agreement over 95% of the land area, we ensure the long-term preservation of a natural resource that would otherwise have been lost to more conventional land uses. Tropical rainforest covers less than 0.1% of the Australian land mass and though it is protected in National Parks, it still continues to be cleared on private lands.
The cassowaries, whose numbers have fallen to between 50 and 60 in the Mission Beach area, depend on the preservation of large tracts of rainforest in both public and private ownership. The survival of the cassowary and rainforest bio-diversity is interdependent, as the cassowary performs a unique role as a dispersion agent for many large fruited rainforest trees.
Nature refuges on private land (such as at Sanctuary) are critical to the survival of the cassowary and to maintain the bio-diversity of tropical rainforests.
At least ten cassowaries inhabit the area and two birds (a male and a female) have Sanctuary as their territory. If lucky, you can see or hear those birds roaming around. Like any wild animal, Cassowaries can be dangerous when being approached too closely, so better to keep a healthy distance.
Thank you, Paul.
This interview is part of a special series of interviews with sustainable tourism practitioners in Queensland, Australia. Our thanks to Greyhound Australia for supporting our Queensland destination visit as travel sponsor.
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