Dream Sleep: Cristalino Lodge, Brazil

So much more than a place to stay, this enclave of ecotourism in the southern Amazon offers a complete wilderness immersion and the chance to help protect the surrounding, hugely biodiverse environment

2 mins

The transfer to Cristalino Lodge from the airport at Alta Floresta starts conventionally enough, as a minibus takes you out of town and through bucolic scenes of grazing white cattle and fields of crops. But then you pass through a gate and the effect is like walking through the wardrobe into Narnia. Here, a boat waits to take you on the 30-minute ride to the lodge, along the Cristalino River. The water is strikingly dark and clear. And there are trees, lots of them – pristine forest cloaks both sides. You may see monkeys and some of the 600-plus species of exotic birds found here before mooring up at the walkway that leads to the lodge itself.

Cristalino Lodge, in the southern Amazon, is a beacon of sustainability. Accommodation is in wooden bungalows with natural ventilation, rather than air-conditioning, and powered by solar energy. The food is organic and local, and recycling is taken seriously. The restaurant is lit by candlelight at night; afterwards, you can retire outside to have a drink by the open fire while gazing at the stars.


Cristalino‘s two towers are located at key points in the reserve and allow guests to view the different layers of the forest (Cristalino Lodge)

While the accommodation is comfortable, guests come for the nature. The lodge sits within a Private National Heritage Reserve; originally 700 hectares, it now covers an area of over 11,000 hectares, adjoining the Cristalino State Park and part of a patchwork of reserves and protected land. It was set up by the visionary conservationist Vitória da Riva Carvalho, who became concerned by the levels of deforestation she could see happening. She dreamed of opening a lodge that would attract people who’d help conserve the environment. She has certainly succeeded – the land is now preserved for perpetuity. Education, research and monitoring for illegal activities are all part of the work here. But it is ecotourism that funds this.

The reserve is teeming with life, including white-nosed saki monkey (Cristalino Lodge)

The reserve is teeming with life, including white-nosed saki monkey (Cristalino Lodge)

here are around 30km of trails, and guided walks lead through the forest to bamboo groves, walking palms and huge Brazil nut trees, hundreds of years old. Don’t miss a pre-dawn walk to the 50m-high observation tower, from where you can watch the sun rise over a sea of endless forest, a ribbon of furling mist delineating the river. And then there are the activities on the river itself. Canoe and boat trips really do make you feel like an explorer. A sunset boat trip to watch egrets roost, before a stroll on a deserted river beach, provides the perfect finale to a stay.

Rates from £799 per night for two, all-inclusive; cristalinolodge.com.br/en

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