WORDS & IMAGES: KIM WILKINSON
Hidden Valley, it sounds like something out of Jurassic Park. As our van rumbles down the dirt road, through the bush it really does seem like we are heading into another world. Looking out into the morning mist we see the occasional kangaroo disappear into the scrub.
As we get closer to our destination I can’t disguise my excitement. Hidden Valley Cabins sounds like the perfect getaway for wildlife lovers. The discussion soon turns to the animal that Hidden Valley Cabins is famous for: the platypus.
‘What’s the plural?’ someone asks.
‘Platypi?’ I suggest.
There’s a murmur of agreement. There’s no doubt that the little monotreme (egg laying mammal) is on everyone’s mind.
Hidden Valley Cabins attracted my attention because it is Australia’s first carbon neutral resort and tour company. The resort runs on 100% solar power. If this isn’t special enough, it is also one of the best places in Australia to see a platypus in the wild. Only one and half hours from Townsville, on the western side of the Paluma Range, it’s also quite accessible.
Arriving at the resort, I am taken by the stillness. What a fantastic place to visit to get away from the hectic pace of modern life. The cottages have a lovely rustic feel to them, which suits the resort’s natural setting.
The resort is run by Ian and Bonnie McLennan, and their son Ross and his wife Chelsea. We are introduced to Ross, who takes us on a tour of the resort, including the solar power set-up.
An Eco Leader
Ross is keen to talk about the resort’s eco focus. Asked about sustainability, it’s soon clear that he has a very down to earth approach to being green.
‘Sustainability is not rocket science,’ Ross said.
‘I believe that being eco-conscious is common sense. I’m a conservationist but also a realist, I believe that you can be environmentally friendly but be cost effective as well.’
The resort certainly seems to be both these things. It has installed twelve solar panels to power the resort 24 hours a day, year round. After reducing the resort’s carbon emissions by installing solar, they then purchased carbon credits to offset their other operational activities, making it the only carbon neutral resort in Australia.
Ross says that while there has been a rise in eco-consciousness, this hasn’t meant that all ‘green’ operators are sincere. However he notes that the public are beginning to see through insincere attempts at being green, ‘eco-lodges that might not be eco-lodges’.
Hidden Valley Cabins is about as sincere as you can get. It has an Advanced Eco-tourism accreditation from Ecotourism Australia.
‘Our eco-focus defiantly puts us in a strong position,’ Ross notes. He’s right, the resort’s green focus has attracted attention not only from eco-conscious travellers but also the tourism industry. Hidden Valley Cabins and Tours has won numerous tourism and sustainability awards.
In the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Yasi, there were no platypus to be found. However we were promised that any other time of the year visitors have a 98% to 99% chance of seeing these shy animals on one of Hidden Valley’s Platypus Safaris.
Instead of a Platypus Safari we decided to head out on a Night Safari. I’ve been on a few spotlighting trips in my time, however Hidden Valley Tours delivered perhaps the best spotlighting excursion I’ve ever been on!
Armed with torches and binoculars, we headed off into the bush, scouring the trees for any sign of life. Our knowledgeable guide Ian had a good sense of humour, which made the tour a lot of fun. He was quick to point out gliders, possums, frogs and spiders, including a giant Golden Orb Spider in its magnificent web. Good thing I’d brought my camera, as I was able to get some stellar shots.
The highlight of the Night Safari was seeing the bettongs. Ian knew exactly where to find them. We had to walk very quietly to get close to these timid creatures.
Hidden Valley Cabins is a great weekend getaway. With friendly staff, comfortable accommodation, and nature galore it won’t be long before I am back, on the hunt of the platypus.
Editor’s note: we can confirm that platypus have been seen again since Cyclone Yasi, and are currently seen at Hidden Valley.
Images courtesy © Kim Wilkinson