There are wilderness lodges that sit amid nature. Then there are those that truly embrace it, providing a backdrop for adventures that introduce you to all creatures great and small, and landscapes that inspire wonder and awe.
These 15 outstanding wilderness lodges do just that with their opulent accommodation and unparalleled experiences. Artfully designed and ethically run, these stunning escapes allow nature to take centre-stage.
Marramarra Lodge, New South Wales
Marramarra Lodge may only be 45 minutes north of Sydney, but it’s a world away in outlook. Set on the Hawkesbury River, this exclusive luxury retreat boasts just 14 guestrooms.
Step from your bungalow or tent and you’re surrounded by forest sacred to Indigenous communities for millennia. Not to mention the waterways, which house all manner of oysters and crabs which turn up on your dinner plate every night at the river-to-plate restaurant. It doesn’t get much fresher than this. Perhaps the ultimate wilderness experience is just being present in your accommodation.
Here, you’ll awake to the sound of kookaburras, watch wallabies from your deck and hike to sacred Indigenous sites. You don’t have to travel far from Australia’s largest city to feel grounded.
Read: Marramarra Lodge review
Sonora Resort Canada
“Welcome to the wild” is the catchphrase of Sonora Resort. A Relais & Châteaux property, hidden within the ancient rainforest of Canada’s Discovery Islands archipelago. It is a natural magnet for eagles, whales and bears. Off the coast of British Columbia, Sonora is only accessible by water or air. Its setting and seclusion are what make it one of North America’s most special wilderness lodges.
Your stay here is focused around outdoor adventures: kayaking, hiking, cruising and fishing. Or enjoy choppering over landscapes that appear to cleave off the edge of the Earth. Then return to fir-laced rooms, suites and villas warmed with open fires and private hot tubs. All accommodation is within easy reach of the main lodge. Dining here is a highlight – everything is crafted with fresh and flavourful locally-sourced ingredients.
The Resort at Paws Up, Montana, USA
It’s difficult to conceive just how big 15,000 hectares is. But that’s your wilderness playground when you arrive at The Resort at Paws Up. The Montana working cattle ranch covers all accommodation bases, from expansive private homes to safari-style glamping tents. There’s also an Island Lodge in the middle of Salmon Lake.
You’re the only people on the island, surrounded by nature writ large. And just what do you do when in Montana, cowboy? Saddle up for epic horse-riding expeditions, try your hand at boating or kayaking or even rappel down a mountain. Resort staff adore the animals that call this part of the US home, regularly rescuing horses. They are also oh-so-knowledgeable about surrounding wildlife, including grizzlies, moose, mountain lions, elk and deer.
Singita Kwitonda, Rwanda
It’s impossible to fully describe the emotions you have the first time you spot a mountain gorilla in the wild. Goosebumps. Awe. Excitement. All of the above and so much more. This is your daily checklist when staying at Singita Kwitonda.
The wilderness lodge sits on the edge of Rwanda’s immense Volcanoes National Park. More than a third of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas find refuge in the park.
Each of the eight suites comes with a plunge pool, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, and ridiculously plush beds. As stunning as they are, the real eye candy sits outside. Views of those volcanoes will set your heart racing before you even start hiking to find the enormous endangered primates. Make the most of the Conservation Room, where the plight of Rwanda’s wildlife is being monitored by passionate naturalists.
Sleep like royalty in Rajasthan’s Amanbagh. This unique wilderness lodge is set on grounds that were once the personal hunting ground of the Maharaja of Alwar. Now, it is a protected tiger reserve.
Within a walled oasis, the resort echoes the region’s Moghul architecture. Think marble floors, carved-wood panels, silver lanterns and intricate archways. Step outside and you’re whisker to cheek with the arid Aravalli Hills in northern India, home to some of the country’s last remaining tigers. Head out on safari to spot them, alongside wildcats, caracals, sambar deer and so many other animals. When not wildlife spotting, be sure to visit the neighbouring ghost town.
Seven Spirit Bay, Northern Territory
On the rugged and remote Cobourg Peninsula, Seven Spirit Bay offers a shining blend of leisure and adventure. One of the first luxury wilderness lodges in the Northern Territory, it has been a trailblazer in experiential tourism.
Guests can enjoy a range of exclusive adventures, including fishing expeditions, 4WD safaris, beachcombing and bush tucker tours. What’s more, the Cobourg Marine Park Sanctuary sits right on the Lodge’s doorstep. Here, all manner of aquatic wildlife can be encountered aboard Seven Spirit Bay’s state-of-the-art vessels. Scattered among native tropical forest, the Habitat Villas offer absolute comfort and seclusion. All that’s left to do is relax, enjoy the sights of Coral Bay and be enchanted by your surroundings.
Explora Torres del Paine, Chile
Chilean Patagonia represents nature at its most raw and isolation at its most extreme. Here you’ll find one of the most extensive fjord systems in the world, with kelp forests, channels and estuaries providing shelter for dolphins, sea lions and Magellanic penguins. When not covered in ice, the shore is a unique mix of temperate and sub-Antarctic flora. Needless to say, it’s an extremely fragile ecosystem, and a place that could easily disappear under the trample of visitors.
Thankfully, the ecosystem is front of mind when you check in to Explora Torres del Paine. This wilderness retreat will take your breath away in more ways than one. Guided hikes and horse-riding expeditions are unparalleled. Although we wouldn’t blame you for relaxing in the lodge with a malbec and mountain views.
Kasiiya Papagayo, Costa Rica
The Central American country of Costa Rica may be small in size, but it’s big in diversity. It covers just .03 per cent of the Earth’s surface, yet is home to six per cent of the world’s wildlife. Here, half a million species of plants and animals and 922 species of birds thrive amid volcanoes and waterfalls.
Kasiiya Papagayo celebrates this natural bounty, its tented suites are immaculately hidden amid the jungle. You’ll feel like you have this patch of Guanacaste entirely to yourself. In reality, you share it with turtles that hatch on the private beach and whales that breach and blow offshore. Strap on a mask and fins and explore Punta Gorda, one of the country’s most loved dive sites. The resort’s expert guides also tailor treks around the peninsula to your fitness levels – and mood. Wherever you go you’ll see white-tailed deer, grey foxes monkeys, birds and butterflies.
Shinta Mani Wild, Cambodia
Shinta Mani Wild is nestled deep inside Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains. Bangkok-based architect and sustainability advocate Bill Bensley crafted 15 raised tents here to avoid disturbing vegetation and drainage patterns. Zero trees were cut down during the construction of this wilderness lodge. He also worked to optimise natural light and airflow in villas to reduce the consumption of electricity. Most of the electricity needed is generated by the lodge’s own solar panels. In partnership with the Wildlife Alliance NGO, a ranger station has been built on-site, dedicated to keeping the 2,000-hectares of forest in tip-top form. The initiative provides employment to locals who were previously living off illegal logging and poaching. Guests can also do their part by joining daily wildlife protection patrols.
Bamurru Plains, Northern Territory
Almost as far north as you can travel in Kakadu sits Bamurru Plains. This wilderness lodge is best described as Australia’s Top End encapsulated in opulent, yet eco-friendly, safari tents. Each is built on stilts overlooking floodplains. There’s mesh on three sides, meaning your alarm clock is the sunshine and the sound of birds frolicking in the water.
A stay here is not just about sleeping soundly. It’s about getting a front-row seat to the flora, fauna and cultures that make the Northern Territory so beguiling. It might see you exploring wetlands in an airboat, on the lookout for magpie geese and crocs; heading out on a bird-watching (there are more than 230 species in the Mary River catchment) adventure with a naturalist; or jumping in an open-air jeep at sunset for a game drive, eyes peeled for wallabies, wild horses and buffalo.
Tsala Treetop Lodge, South Africa
South Africa’s Garden Route is legendary for good reason. It traverses windswept coves, powdery beaches, rugged cliffs and ancient forests. And in the middle of it all sits Tsala, on the country’s Western Cape.
The surrounding ocean is home to humpback whales, as well as bottlenose dolphins, southern right whales and humpback whales. And don’t forget the resident colony of 5,000 fun-loving seals. Pack a picnic and binoculars, then head out on trails through Robberg Nature Reserve or the Kranshoek Coastal Walk. With any luck, you’ll spot these majestic marine creatures – and a menagerie of birds – in the wild.
Back at the resort, suites and villas offer a lofty perspective of the surrounding indigenous forest. Each suite is fitted with a fireplace and infinity pool. You won’t want to leave… but then again, there are those whales.
Cradle Mountain Lodge, Tasmania
Cradle Mountain Lodge is one of Australia’s most stunning alpine wilderness lodges. Guest cabins are dotted across tree-lined ranges overlooking grassy folds where wallabies and wombats stroll. Take in the vistas from your expansive suite, or lounge by your very own wood fire. For the adventurous traveller, there is hiking around Cradle Mountain, guided canoe tours, crater walks and waterfalls to discover.
Come face-to-whisker with endangered Tasmanian Devils at the nearby sanctuary Devils @ Cradle. Or be pampered at the Waldheim Alpine Spa with treatments reflecting the pristine beauty of the Tasmanian wilderness.
Ol Jogi, Kenya
Everything about the exclusive-use Ol Jogi Wildlife Conservancy Kenya is unexpected. From the lavish safari lodge to the 235 square kilometres of untouched wilderness that guests have all to themselves. This is Africa at its purest – wild, unspoiled and intriguing.
Fill your time with private game drives accompanied by conservation managers, helicopter flights, horse riding and guided bush walks. Wildlife abounds, and the lodge is home to the single largest population of critically endangered Grevy’s zebra in the country. The living areas double as wildlife-viewing platforms with the addition of expansive, curved glass. There is also a secret tunnel to a waterhole where guests can watch wildlife, concealed by an animal hide.
Pikaia Lodge, Galapagos archipelago, Ecuador
The world’s second-largest protected marine reserve surrounds Santa Cruz Island, a dreamy droplet among the wildlife-spangled Galapagos archipelago. This World Heritage-listed site is the domain of some of the ‘tamest’ wild animals in the world. Without the threat of predators, they feel no fear in the presence of humans. But that doesn’t mean you can reach out and touch them. The islands have strict rules around how many people are permitted on land at any given time.
At Pikaia Lodge you’ll have access to surrounding islets on a private yacht. Here you can ogle giant tortoises, meet blue-footed boobies and swim with sea lions. Rest your head in serious style in suites with volcano views. As if you needed another reason to visit.
Daintree Ecolodge, Queensland
Nestled in the heart of the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, Daintree Ecolodge offers 15 eco-friendly ‘bayans’, or treehouses, immersed in the canopy. With its private waterfall and lush spa, this truly is one of Queensland’s most sensational wilderness lodges.
The main lounge and bar overlook the onsite lagoon and the accommodation is bright and spacious. All in all, it’s the perfect base from which to discover the world’s oldest living rainforest and beyond. Cape Tribulation, Port Douglas and The Great Barrier Reef are all within your reach. Take in the scenery from a scenic helicopter flight or scuba dive in one of Australia’s most iconic natural wonders.
This article originally appeared in volume 41 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. Subscribe to the latest issue today.
Lead image: Marramarra Lodge