Thala Beach Nature Reserve: The ultimate spot to explore two UNESCO World heritage sites side by side
The Thala Beach Nature Reserve is located on 58 hectares along a pristine beachfront and wild jungle. With two UNEASCO world heritage sites next to this reserve this is a great place for the family to stay while exploring the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. It’s also just a short 15 minute drive from the lively Port Douglas in Northern Australia. You will be immersed in nature as soon as you set foot onto the Thala Beach Nature Reserve which provides sweeping views of the coastline and access to two private beaches while still being able to enjoy the gorgeous hotel amenities.
The Reserve also has a gift shop and art gallery, as well as a spa and massage studio. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to visit the spa with all the activities available onside and off side the Reserve. We did visit the gift shop frequently though for a little ice cream splurge.
The lodge is owned by a eco-friendly family that purchased the land with 100 acres of Sugarcane, the family spent the next 30 years planting trees and restoring the damaged ecosystem. It’s a beautiful and inspiring success story of how we can restore the environment and ecosystem of overused land. The care of the land is visible to everybody lucky enough to witness the returned wildlife and amazing nature.
Guests, upon arrival to the reserve, receive their own water aluminum bottle to keep in order to avoid using plastic bottles.
Tips for Families
Children are welcome from 3 years and up and they are happy to add a rollaway bed for children under 12 years old in most rooms for an additional fee. They provide highchairs and have plenty of games in the lounge area to play with.
Young adventure travelers who love nature and animals will have a blast at the lodge and are encouraged to join the nature activities that are offered.
The lodge is built on a hill and has small footpaths and stairs that may be difficult to navigate with a stroller or people with mobility issues.
The lodge is happy to provide golf cart transportation service between facilities, the beach and the bungalows. Work with your travel consultant to confirm the best bungalows for your family.
The resort is located 45 min drive north of the Cairns airport along the stunning Captain Cook Highway, you may need more time depending on how often you stop to enjoy the views along the coast. We decided to rent a car and self-drive since we knew we would like to explore the Daintree Rainforest as well.
You can also book an airport transfer via shuttle bus or private car from the Cairns International or Domestic airports.
Last but not least, you also have the option to arrive via helicopter as the Reserve has a heli-pad.
Nihi Sumba formerly known as Nihiwatu resort is situated at the 1.6-mile-long pristine tropical Nihiwatu beach with a world-famous surfing break. The resort sits on 567 acres of tropical forest, rice paddies and grassland of which only 65 acres are (and can ever be) developed, you really can’t get any closer to unspoiled nature.
Nihi Sumba’s gastronomical heart is the Ombak (meaning wave front) restaurant with sweeping ocean views and a sand-between-your-toe’s laid-back atmosphere. Ombak serves breakfast, and dinner and there are special dining experiences created at Ombak during the week such as an elaborate Indonesian buffet night or a spectacular BBQ. Good to know for families; the kids menu is varied and also serves breakfast for dinner! The Ombak Bar provides a meeting point after dinner for guests and staff alike to share their adventures from the day.
Kaboku (Sumbanese for “Fish”) is the beachfront sushi bar limited to 6 people per seating for a seven-course menu of fresh caught seafood prepared Omakase style.
Lunch is either served at Nio Beach House or at the pool and everybody meets at the Boat House to watch the epic sunsets with a drink. Additionally, private bespoke dining experiences in remote and exotic spots can be arranged and room service is available from 6 am to 10 pm as well.
Nihu Sumba has everything you could wish for to make everyone in the family happy. Starting at the beach with water sports facilities, beach cinema, over the edge pool, spa, horse stables, yoga pavilion, gym room, pool and ping pong tables and last but not least a chocolate factory.
Three kids experiences are included per day and the items to choose from are fishing, kids pony club, kids yoga, visiting a local village-bringing along a soccer ball, weaving and basket making, Sumba bracelet making, releasing turtles, chocolate making, scavenger hunt, rock painting, cookie making and cup cake decorating and coconut beach games just to name a few!
Our adventure started at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar (DPS) with a 60 minutes flight to Sumba Island’s Tambolaka Airport (TMC). Luckily, our trip included the VIP service with an airport concierge who accompanied us to our gate before the flight. Upon arrival at Sumba airport we enjoyed a meet and greet at the gate followed by a transfer to the resort with an open-top Land Rover that provided an Africa meets Asia experience. The 90 minute drive to the resort went by quickly, as you relish the fresh coconut milk in the car with freshly baked brownies. We really enjoyed the drive through the Sumba villages waving back to smiling children.
Alternatively, you can also fly to Sumba island from Java connecting through Kupang.
If you dream of seeing the Big Five at least once in your lifetime without all the crowds, then the only place you’ll need to visit is the Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa where game sightings are so common they’re relatively guaranteed in an intimate setting. It is one of the few places in Africa where you have the chance to see the Big Five within 2 to 3 safari days. The Sabi Sabi private game reserve is situated in Sabi Sands and includes the Earth Lodge, Selati Camp, Little Bush Lodge, and the Bush Lodge which is a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.
Sabi Sands is a private wildlife reserve where only permitted rangers are allowed to drive and tourists are not allowed to drive their own vehicles. This will give you the opportunity to be driven so close to the wildlife that no binoculars will be needed for viewing. While you enjoy your game drives at Sabi Sands you will soon forget about the outside world since you will rarely come across another vehicle with tourists on your game dives.
When not on game drives, the Sabi Sands Bush Bush Lodge has been creatively designed to allow ample space to play, relax, unwind and experience the tranquility of the nature around you. The exquisitely furnished lounge, atrium, bar and deck area are perfect places to read a book, play a game, sketch an animal, have a friendly chat or to be on the lookout for animals visiting the waterhole. The lodge décor has been collected from all over the African continent that provides a vibrant and eclectic mix of safari style throughout.
For privacy and intimacy the lodge only has 25 suits, including 2 luxury villas and the Mandleve Deluxe Suite. Each suite has two outdoor patios, a bedroom, living room, and large bathroom. The suites are so spacious it feels as if you never left home and provides ample space for the entire family.
We truly relished every one of the seven daily meals that were served either in the open buffet style dining area, on the viewing deck or during the game drives outside in the bush. Sabi Sabi has a world-wide reputation for serving mouth-watering gourmet meals and this is unquestionably true!
Executive Chef Wilfred Mtshali runs a truly exquisite and creative kitchen which provides delicious and beautifully prepared food throughout the day. He not only gives each guest an unforgettable African dining experience when visiting but also gives back to the local community through his yearlong culinary teaching program to train a new generation of chefs. While managing a 45-person kitchen team that prepares all the meals for the guests and employees Wilfred has also found time to write three cookbooks so you can recreate the memories back in your own kitchen.
Sabi’s once-in-a-lifetime experiences include exhiliarating early morning and evening safaris with close up animal encounters and bush walks with trained trackers and rangers.
Our ranger Kyle and tracker Crimson share their knoweldge and love for Africa with us during our adventurous private game drives. They scan the ground and bush relentlessly with eagle eyes and find an incredibly well hidden lion pride. It is unbelievable how well an elephant herd can hide behind a spindly bush!
We learned so much about the native wildlife and had so much fun during our game drives that the time flies by and before you know it it is time for the next meal.
A bush walk is another very exciting undertaking and highly recommended after breakfast while the kids are in the EleFun Center. You will learn a lot about the vegetation and how to behave when you are walking instead of driving in the bush. Exploring the bush on foot is certainly a very different hike than any other hike you have been on.
The Sabi Sand Reserve cares about the communities and runs several community projects such as education and care centers, teach the teachers programs, and a sports program. Guests of the lodge can partake in a visit to a local village and learn about the day to day life of the locals.
The Hotel has a small boutique, two outdoor pools, a gym, and the Armani Spa that offers the ultimate African Spa experience. Unfortunately, our time was too short to experience the spa ourselves (reason # 99 to come back). The Kids Bush Babies Treatment menu lists fun relaxing offerings such as the Elephant Foot Print Massage, the Busy Bee, or the Paw Mani/Pedi.
EleFun Center (age 4-12)
The EleFun Center is a full-fledged indoor and outdoor child facility designed by childcare professionals who envisioned creating a space that is fun, safe and educational. The Center is filled with age appropriate learning opportunities developed and supervised by qualified staff and includes fascinating bush craft subjects such as animals, bugs, birds, tracking, map-reading, and arts.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? So, we tested it. At this point I have to let you in on a little secret. My daughter Anika (6) does not like child centers, no matter where we go and how wonderful the hotel is. She does not like them, period. Therefore, I had to inform her that she is my assistant and I need her help writing this article. Needless to say, she accepted her duty and I was allowed to drop her off. Two hours later I picked up a beaming, smiling happy girl that was almost upset that I came so early! She absolutely loved the ELeFun Center. She could not stop talking about the amazing outdoor play structure with a zip line, the obstacle course where kids can try to beat the course record, the animal craft she made and that she will leave her handprint behind in Africa. She was also fascinated by the fact that she met local children, Louis and Sophia, who shared stories with her about living in Africa. I was told that the lodge employees’ kids go to school at the lodge and use the EleFun Center for their breaks to interact with the visiting children so they all learn from each other. Talking about raising global citizens!
The center is open twice a day after the morning game drive and breakfast and before the afternoon game drive letting the kids burn some energy after/before the game drives. You can also ask for a trained babysitter, if you wish.
Flight to Skukuza Airport (inside Krueger National Park), from there private one-hour transfer to the Bush Lodge. You can also drive yourself with a rental car.
The first family trip planned for 2020 will take us to Belize and Guatemala. We were looking for a one week trip for spring break that doesn’t required a long flight and meet all the members of my families requirements for an awesome vacation. I want to be close to beautiful the beaches, my husband wants culture and my daughter has to see animals. Belize and Guatemala offers the perfect mix that will make us all happy. Mission accomplished!
I am especially excited to be joining an overland and Fly-in Namibia Safari without the family. The trip will give me the opportunity to fly along the coast to view shipwrecks, seal colonies, abandoned diamond camps and sand dunes. I’ll also be tracking black rhinos and desert-adapted elephants. There will also be an opportunity to climb some of the world’s highest free-standing sand dunes at Sossusvlei and to visit the Nest @ Sossus as recently featured on Conde Nast Traveler.
My whole family fell in love with South Africa in 2018 and immediately started dreaming of coming back to this amazing continent. My 8-year-old daughter did some research and decided that she wants to see Africa’s highest mountain (Mt. Kilimanjaro), Africa’s deepest lake (Lake Tanganyika), the source of Africa’s largest river the Nile (Lake Victoria) and in addition she wanted a few days at a fabulous beach. Can you guess where this trip will take us? If you guessed East Africa, Tanzania you are right! We will explore famous game parks such as Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park, Lake Manyara, and Tarangire while staying in a mobile camp to witness the great migration. We’ll finish the vacation on Pampa Island with some intense pampering for myself!
In order to have balance in life I'll be joining a fabulous yoga retreat in Argentina. I'll start the trip by experiencing the culture and food in Bueons Aires then fly to El Calafate to start the retreat. The first day will be a day of exploring the glacier at El Calafate and then we are off to explore El Chaltan while we find our namaste. I'll then conclude the trip with more adventure around the Iguzu falls.
Since I still have family in Germany the grandparents need to spend time with their granddaughter so I'll be visiting them and adding a few days to the city of lights, Paris!
For the last few years during my daughters fall break we've been going to a different island in Hawaii. This year will be no different! The island for 2020 will be the Big Island and it will be filled with beach, waterfalls, volcano's and mai tai's!
Travel with me on Instagram @kidsapprovedtravel
What adventures do you have planned for 2020?