Floating Lodges Offer a Different Kind of Getaway
For travelers who like to live in the lap of luxury but also enjoy immersions in nature, floating lodges offer an interesting choice. These lodges are tethered to land but float freely in water--providing comfort and seclusion all at once. Four different accommodations near faraway places such as British Columbia, Canada; Tefe, Brazil; and Ketchikan, Alaska, are some of the best in the business. Here's a rundown on each.
King Pacific Lodge
Where: near Bella Bella, British Columbia
Towed to uninhabited Princess Royal Island from Prince Rupert for the May-to-September season, King Pacific Lodge is the pinnacle of luxury. The lodge, which has 17 rooms and suites, is a member of the Rosewood Hotels & Resorts collection.
Rooms in the lodge are exquisite. Each room has a private washroom, and a spa is available for massages after a long day of paddling or hiking. Gourmet dinners are served family style; with a maximum of 30 guests, people get to know each other quickly as they share stories of their daily adventures while gathered around a fresh, delicious meal.
Activities at the lodge include everything from whale- and bear-watching to fishing (the rivers and ocean here are filled with salmon, halibut and yellow eye, to name a few). Culturally inspired interpretive hikes are also available; the lodge was the first tourism business in British Columbia to sign a working protocol with an indigenous people, the Gitga'at.
Seaplane flights to the King Pacific Lodge depart from Vancouver, and travelers should allow at least a day or two to explore the city that will host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Downtown, check out Yew, a hip new restaurant in the lobby of the Four Seasons with a great raw bar and fresh game flown in daily.
Great Bear Lodge
Where: near Port Hardy, British Columbia
The name of this second B.C. floating lodge says it all--you don't come to Great Bear Lodge unless you want to see bears. Most of the bears in the area are Grizzlies, and the daily itinerary revolves around bear-watching.
Some of these excursions are by bus; knowledgeable guides from an outfitter named Great Bear Nature Tours lead visitors across a plank-like bridge and drive them up an old fire road. Other excursions are by boat; guests pile into a Boston Whaler and sit back as the same guides motor up an estuary in Canada's Great Bear Rainforest.
When the bear-watching is done, relax in one of five beautifully appointed rooms. Each bedroom has a washroom (hot showers are located downstairs), and wilderness gourmet meals, featuring ingredients such as freshly caught salmon, are included. There's also a common area for relaxing and listening to natural history presentations from biologists.
Before or after the trip, check out Port Hardy, the northernmost city on British Columbia's Vancouver Island. After marveling at the fishing boats in the harbor, settle in for a Caesar (the Canadian take on the Bloody Mary) at I.V.'s Quarterdeck Pub, a saloon where the waitstaff is friendly and the fish and chips are always piping hot.
Ukari Floating Lodge
Where: near Tefe, Brazil
Nestled in the heart of the Amazon's Mamirau�� Reserve, the Uakari Floating Lodge offers guests a perspective on Brazil's incredible wildlife from the middle of the Solim��es River. The 10-cabin lodge actually docks in a floodplain the size of England--the only ways in and out are by seaplane or boat.
Rooms here feature private bathrooms, private terraces and hot water. Meals, including fresh local fish and fruits, are served in the dining hall. The Uakari also has a library, video room, conference room and deck. The lodge often hosts working scientists, as well, so guests may be treated to talks on various research projects, as well as the history of the reserve itself.
Activities at the lodge revolve around the wildlife. Follow guides to explore for creatures and critters like Pink River Dolphins, scarlet-faced Uakari monkeys and more. Squirrel and Black Capuchin monkeys also reside in the treetops, along with macaws, toucans, sloths and the fascinating-looking Hoatzin.
Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, is the closest city and is about a one-hour seaplane ride away. Here, marvel at urbanity in the middle of the jungle, and check out the Teatro Amazonas, the circa-1896 building that is Brazil's finest opera house and is home to the Amazonas Opera Festival every April.
Rocky Bay Lodge
Where: near Ketchikan, Alaska
Fishermen, listen up--this is the lodge for you. Located in the wilderness of Cape Chacon off Prince of Wales Island, Rocky Bay Lodge is just outside Ketchikan. Fishing grounds in these parts are rife with salmon, halibut, lingcod, snapper and rockfish.
Accommodations in this lodge aren't exactly five-star, but they're clean and they get the job done. The lodge boasts 10 double-occupancy rooms with private baths and daily maid service. Mouthwatering meals are served in a dining room with a water-level view of Nichols Bay. What's more, a large common area provides the perfect place to relax after a full day of fishing.
Fishing excursions from the lodge are long days that usually start around 6:30 a.m. and don't end until dinner. All fishing trips include fish processing. In addition, the lodge offers kayaking and whale-watching during summer months.
Back in Ketchikan, be sure not to miss SoHo Coho, the gallery of local artist Ray Troll, whose cartoonish depictions of fish and other critters are witty and scientific at the same time. For more local immersion, check out "The Monthly Grind," a sort of talent show. Held at the Saxman Tribal House on the third Saturday of the month from September through May, it's always packed and the acts are sure to elicit smiles.