CRISTALINO LODGE, THE AMAZON, BRAZIL
Very comfortable jungle lodge for serious nature lovers, offering particularly good chances of sighting Amazon wildlife.
Cristalino Lodge is a very comfortable Amazon jungle lodge for serious wildlife and nature lovers. You won’t find TV here: the emphasis is on an authentic rainforest experience. However, if you need to stay in contact or seek out information, there is now free Wifi available at the lodge. The rooms and luxury cottages are scattered around the landscaped grounds, fringed with dense woodland and frequented by monkeys, macaws and blue morpho butterflies.
The lodge is in Southern Amazônia, accessible by air and boat from the city of Cuiabá, which is also the gateway for visits to lodges in the Pantanal wetlands. It sits on the Cristalino Private Reserve, a rigorously protected area of tremendous biodiversity. This is one of the best places on the continent to appreciate primary rainforest: the forest here has never been cut and the density of enormous hardwood trees is testimony to that.
You won’t see as many animals as in the Pantanal but your chances are greater than at most other lodges in the Brazilian Amazon. In particular a huge variety of birds lives in the area around the lodge and can be observed from the superb canopy towers and along numerous trails within the grounds.
Aside from the bountiful attractions of the natural environment, comfort and relaxation add to the appeal of a stay here. The facilities have recently been renovated, and now present a very pleasing aspect. On our last visit we observed guests particularly enjoying relaxing on the pontoon, which floats on the sparkling black waters of the Cristalino river and is bedecked with hammocks, loungers and shaded chairs. Occasionally an open fire is lit at dusk, the best time to stargaze and look out for awakening nocturnal wildlife.
The varied excursions here are led by enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides from Brazil and beyond, and will satisfy wildlife enthusiasts. Food is excellent and plentiful with enough variety to please both meat-eaters and vegetarians.
EXPLORA PATAGONIA NATIONAL PARK, CHILE
The Aisén region in northern Patagonia is ideal Explora territory. One of Chile’s final frontiers, those who make the effort to get here are amply rewarded by a bounty of scenery and nature on a par with Patagonia’s better-known, more visited highlights.
This addition to Explora’s luxury portfolio of remote lodges is a 6-7hr drive south of Balmaceda airport, through a seemingly cinematic succession of views along the Carretera Austral highway. The newly created Patagonia National Park was a donation to the Chilean people by the Tompkins Conservation Foundation, established by Douglas and Kristine Tompkins. With just 13 guest rooms and suites there is an exclusive, intimate feel to Explora’s smallest property, which includes the classic ingredients of Explora’s signature wilderness experiences throughout. Explora Patagonia National Park offers superb guided activities by day and, after a day in the great outdoors, a cosy retreat with ample space to relax, recharge and socialise, high-end cuisine and the most comfortable lodgings available in this far-flung corner of Patagonia.
PUERTO VALLE, ARGENTINA
Puerto Valle Hotel de Esteros is a ranch-style lodge offering excursions into the wildlife-filled Ibera wetlands of northern Argentina.
Puerto Valle Hotel de Esteros occupies buildings on a former estancia in the Iberá wetlands, set within landscaped parkland fringing the Paraná river. The lawns are peppered with tropical plants and there’s a swimming pool and shaded loungers where you can relax in the heat of the day.
For cooler evenings, there is a cosy library with a log fire. Five of the guest rooms, with views over the park and lagoon, are housed in the 19th century ranch-style building while there are new deluxe rooms close by. The property’s restaurant serves nutritious meals using the kitchen garden’s ingredients and local fish and meat.
A daily programme of activities is included during your stay: exploring nature trails in search of black howler monkeys and wildlife viewing by boat on the Iberá wetlands and Paraná river where you can enjoy the silence while observing birds, reptiles and mammals. Horse riding on the estancia is suitable for beginners and kayaking may also be enjoyed. Bikes are offered for guests’ use on the property