Well, this is a very belated blog post about a little corner of the planet that might as well be Eden. Possibly the passage of time, including traveling across polluted China for almost a month, makes our memories of the Botanical Ark even sweeter. We stayed as guests at the Botanical Ark with magical hosts, now friends, Alan and Susie. It’s a place we simply loved, could not recommend more highly, and a place we will return to. There is only one guest house on the entire property, so it’s like a private sanctuary for guests nestled close to the Australian coast, Daintree, and Great Barrier Reef.
They’ve carved out of the Australian countryside, just north of Mossman and Port Douglass and just south of the Daintree, an oasis. It was Alan’s dream decades ago to build a perfect self-sustaining eco-preserve where endangered rainforest species can thrive and where he and Susie do their research and also create a self-sustaining ecological preserve, where plants from remote jungle regions in South America (and all over the world, really) can be protected and thrive. He was patient and scoured listings for ranch property, close to the mountains and fresh water sources, but near the coast line, and nestled into the thousands of miles of protected land of the Daintree rain-forest. Unfortunately, the perfect plot was an arid cattle farm that had been razed to the ground and was left barren with just miles of empty dirt land. Up to the challenge, Alan and Susie (and their kids, now grown) bought the property and through literal blood, sweat, tears and certainly lots of happiness they remade the land over several decades into the magical rainforest preserve and guest house that it is today.
What really thrives at the Botanical Ark is their love for nature, their incredible warmth as hosts, and a place that radiates everything good about Earth and humanity. We were blessed to stay on their property in our own house, with incredibly comfortable and beautiful accommodations, with our own little swimming pond (yes, it’s cold, since it is fresh water that runs down from the mountains), and a lovely kitchen supplied with one of the best treats of our entire trip: Cliff! Cliff was instantly our friend, in addition to being an amazing chef that went above and beyond every ask. He has retired from a culinary career to volunteer and work the land and preserve at the Botanical Ark, and help as chef-extraordinaire. The meals were amazing, all created with local ingredients, including fruits and vegetables harvested in season right from the property. Even better than the meals, however, was the company of Cliff who even volunteered to join us in one of our family dinner topic conversations.
A highlight for all of us was a garden tour of the property from Alan. We followed him along the meandering paths and wandered between sections of the property rich with plants, trees, fruits, and roots all organized by the part of the planet (Central America, South America, South East Asia, Australia) that they are native to. He pulled up turmeric to taste, fruits from seeds harvested from deep in the Columbian rain forest, leaves with medicinal properties like ginger roots, cloves and even showed us a magical plant with seeds that turn into a red paste for color (the kids made face paint from the mix). The kids followed closely behind Alan, their teacher for the day, scribbling notes, tasting fruits, rubbing medicinal herbs on their skin, putting on their war paint, and laughing the whole adventure. His passion for sustaining the planet is contagious, especially when walking along the paths he and Susie created from the dust of a former cattle ranch, which is now a living, breathing, rainforest preserve.
We finished off the tour with tea at their private family house / compound, which was paired with wild and amazing fruits and tarts – all home creations, of course made from ingredients harvested right off of their land. We opened up insane and other-worldly fruits (chocolate pudding fruit?) with colors, tastes (not all good, but all interesting!) and textures like we’ve never seen. The last fun experiment was for the kids and us to suck on the seeds of a miracle fruit, and then suck on lemons that were transformed into something that tasted like pure sugar. Something in the miracle fruit seeds block the sour receptors in your mouth, so you only taste the sweet sugary goodness.
We were sad to leave such a beautiful place with beautiful people living out their dream come true, and felt blessed that they open their property to guests (and I suspect, friends all who leave after sharing their company). It was like a little miracle fruit was sprinkled on all of our hearts, and we only had wonderful and sweet experiences exploring the nature reserve that is the Botanical Ark.
Thanks Alan, Susie, Cliff and Gaia!