Lodge Review: Mary River Wilderness Retreat, Northern Territory

Conveniently located on the road from Darwin to Kakadu, the Mary River Wilderness Retreat is a worthy addition to any Northern Territory birding itinerary.  It’s also close enough for people visiting Darwin on business to make a weekend trip.

The property is huge and has some amazing birding habitat which is best discovered by hiring a buggy (golf cart).  Of course we did this so look for my report on birding by buggy!

The main building overlooks the swimming pool and houses the reception, shop and restaurant.  This is also the only place to get the wifi connection.

Nice display to show off the local birds!

This was our bungalow.  As you can see, they aren’t large but are set up well for budget accommodation.  They do have larger but more expensive bungalows and safari tents as well.

No cooking facilities but they do have a small fridge so suitable for sandwiches, salads and other non-cooking meals.

Just relaxing on the deck, birds can be seen flying from tree to tree.

My husband cooled off in the pool while I used the wifi.

A few garden birds.

Torresian Imperial Pigeon (I think, can’t see all of him)

Spangled Drongo

Mistletoebird

Red-collared Lorikeet

I need some help with these.

Not pictured but positively ID’d by a guide staying in the next bungalow from Experience the Wild was a Dollarbird.  He said it was the first one of the season and I reckon he would know!  I ran for my camera but the uncooperative bird had left the scene.

I really liked Mary River Wilderness Retreat and would love to come back for a longer stay sometime.  You can book on their site or try the usual booking agents like Pointshound or Rocketmiles to earn miles for your booking.

Lodge Review: Kakadu Lodge, Jabiru

Not to be confused with the similarly named property at Cooinda, Kakadu Lodge in Jabiru is managed by Aurora Resorts and is located in Kakadu National Park’s main town, Jabiru.

Welcoming comittee!

The lodge is the best budget option in what is usually an expensive tourist destination and caters for campers and people who want a room or bungalow.  We went for the cheapest budget room.

Budget means no ensuite, you use the shared bathrooms and a camp kitchen.

You still get a fridge and tea service in the room. 

It is pretty small but in a place like Kakadu, we weren’t planning to spend much time in the room.

They have an attractive shaded swimming pool with a non-heated jacuzzi.  Cockatoos will watch the swimmers below and towards evening you also get flying foxes.

In the town of Jabiru there are a few shops but I recommend stocking up before entering the park for better selection and prices.

The famous crocodile shaped hotel which is now an Accor property is also in Jabiru but was twice the price of Kakadu Lodge.

Maybe not everyone would be ok without an ensuite but since we come from a backpacker background,m we were fine with it for the savings.  The grounds are nice and plenty of birds to keep you entertained while you have a refreshing swim!  Book on their website or try Pointshound or Rocketmiles to gain some airline miles!

Lodge Review: Gagudju Lodge, Cooinda

Staying at the Gagudjdu Lodge Cooinda in September wasn’t cheap!  For some reason, this month was higher than August or October and I did plan the trip outside of school holidays.  I was able to bring the cost down somewhat by using Le Club Accor certificates.  40 Euros was equal to about $60 each and between my husband and I we had a few of them.  If you are birding in Kakadu, you really do need to stay at least one night here because this is where the Yellow Water Cruises depart from and they are a MUST!

This was our room in a building that had 4 rooms (I think), 2 on each side.

Very neat and tidy room.  Since it was my birthday, they gave me a bottle of white wine!

Nice assortment of toiletries!

One thing is that they don’t have that many tables in the restaurant.  We ended up on a couch with a coffee table in front of us.

I had a lamb shank which was really good.  They  didn’t have birthday cakes so I ordered this pineapple flavoured dessert.

The next morning, a breakfast buffet was included as part of the Yellow Waters package I bought.  It had a good selection, but again we had to take the same couch as the tables were all full.

We weren’t in a hurry to leave so had a quick swim after breakfast.

A few birds were hanging around the pool, including a Blue-faced Honey-eater, a Great Bowerbird and a pair of Torresian Imperial Pigeons.

There is a small gift & food shop and info centre near reception.

I really liked this lodge for the location and the nice rooms.  The people were very nice and helpful.  There is no wifi but you are way out in the bush!  I was sorry we could only afford one night here, 2 would have been better.

Lodge Review: Knotts Crossing Resort, Katherine

When planning this trip, I was really torn between staying out at Katherine Gorge in one of the caravan parks or in town.  The deciding factor came down to price (town is much cheaper) and the fact that the Gorge is only a half hour drive from town.  Even better, Knotts Crossing Resort is out on the main road heading towards the Gorge, plus I stumbled on a special rate that included breakfast.

After checking in, they told me how to find the car park closest to our room.  The grounds are very nice, full of trees and birds of course!

Our room was in this block fairly close to reception and the swimming pool.

The rooms are neatly furnished with a double bed and 2 bunks which is standard for a caravan park.

I found that if I lie on the bed near the open door I can JUST barely connect to the wifi.

A nice little swimming pool, we didn’t have time to use it though.

We were happy with Knotts Crossing Resort as a budget option in Katherine and would stay there again if we went back.  Be on the look out with online booking sites for special deals like the one we got that includes breakfast.  They were happy to pack a breakfast for us to take to Katherine Gorge as a picnic, the 2nd morning we got up early and ate at the buffet which opens around 6am-ish.

Lodge Review: Victoria River Roadhouse, Northern Territory

About 200 kms west of Katherine on National Highway 1, the Victoria River Roadhouse is a welcome sight after almost 3 hours driving in the heat of the day.  This was the first place we really felt the Territory’s Outback experience.

The main building houses the reception, petrol pumps, restaurant, bar and shop and the campground surrounds the main building.

The cabins are off to the left surrounded by trees which attract Corellas, Cockatoos and Red-collared Lorikeets.

The rooms are fairly typical of an outback roadhouse – simple decor but functional.  The tv only has 1 channel which is controlled by reception and shows the same in all cabins.  No wifi.

The restaurant is HUGE considering the location, maybe they get busloads of tourists at times.  We had hamburgers for lunch as the restaurant closes at 7pm and I wasn’t sure we would be back from birding by then.  We had sandwiches and noodle cups to eat for dinner.

They have some interesting souvenirs for sale and some camping supplies.

I was soooo tempted but the budget didn’t allow.

Plenty of space for caravans and tents.

The truth is they pretty much have a captive audience as there is nothing else for at least 50 kms but it’s a decent place and there are some nice birds to watch around the grounds, even out the window of the restaurant!  The top bird here is the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren as we will see in another post.

They don’t have online booking or even a dedicated website so you’ll have to call.  Trip Advisor has some reviews.

Victoria River Roadhouse Hotel/Motel
Victoria Hwy, Victoria River NT 0852
Telephone: (08) 8975 0744
Facsimile: (08) 8975 0819

Lodge Review: Lazy Lizard Tavern and Caravan Park, Pine Creek, Northern Territory

The Lazy Lizard located in the heart of the historic Pine Creek in Australia’s Outback Northern Territory was my first choice as a perfect base for birders.

Approaching from the northern entrance to Pine Creek, it’s very easy to find.

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Lazy Lizard is typical of Aussie caravan parks and caters for everyone from tent campers to caravanners to people who want a small cabin.  We chose the latter.DSCN5795

Petrol is costlier here as it is trucked in from Darwin but you will probably need to top up (we did anyway) especially if you plan a side trip to Copperfield Dam and Edith Falls.DSCN5796

General layout of the grounds.DSCN5797

We were in the 2nd cabin from the left.DSCN5798

BBQs are available to cook your dinner – a fun part of the Aussie camping experience!DSCN5799

Caravan spaces further down.DSCN5800

Cool pool to chill out during the heat of the afternoon……………..DSCN5804

………………..with Cockatoos watching the humans below.  I was actually sitting in the pool when I took these shots!DSCN5803 DSCN5808

The Lazy Lizard has tourist information on display…………DSCN5612

……………a small general store……………..DSCN5613 DSCN5614

…………..and souvenirs.DSCN5615

Our cabin was very close to the swimming pool.DSCN5616 DSCN5617

The cabins are named after lizards.DSCN5618

Furnishings are simple but comfortable and provide all you need.DSCN5620

There’s a small kitchenette and a tv.DSCN5621 DSCN5623

Shower/ensuiteDSCN5624

We really liked the Lazy Lizard for its small outback town personality.  You can get half an hour free wifi near the bar, after that you need to sign up and pay.  Or you can go to the Railway Resort, order something and use their wifi.

There are quite a few birds to be found on the grounds which will be in the next post!

Hotel Review: Hi Way Inn Motel, Darwin

Our needs were simple for this overnight stop.  We would be checking in around 2am and getting up at 6am to head out to Howard Springs.  We just needed a cheap place to lay down for a few hours.  The Hi Way Inn Motel is an easy drive from the airport and I had already programmed it into my personal GPS so we had no trouble finding it.  They are well used to late night arrivals and I had called that morning to remind them we were on that late Jetstar flight.  All went smoothly and we were quickly checked in, the even gave us a couple bottles of mineral water as nothing had been open for us to buy anything when we arrived.

Exterior photo taken in the morning after check-out.  It was dark when we arrived.

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Lobby area.  You can grab some tourist info here and some free maps.DSCN5524

Simple room but clean, wifi worked well.DSCN5519 DSCN5520

It had one queen bed and one single, fairly small but like I said we weren’t here for long.DSCN5521 DSCN5522

They do have a pool if you find yourself here for a longer stay.  DSCN5525

The location is perfect to hit the highway heading south.  Most rental car companies don’t allow you to drive between dusk and dawn in the Territory so you will need a place like this for the first night if you arrive at night.  You can easily book this hotel at any of the usual OTAs such as Hotels.com which is what I did as I needed one more stay to make 10 stays for a future free night.  Both the night clerk and the morning clerk – a French working holiday visitor were very friendly and helpful.

Hotel Review: Intercontinental San Juan

This would be our last night in the Caribbean after the most amazing birding adventure ever, the next day we would be off to mainland USA to see family.  I wanted something special, preferably free on hotel points – and I got exactly what I wanted.  Intercontinental San Juan was a spectacular finale to our epic trip and even came with some surprise birding but you’ll have to read the whole review first.

It was raining as we finally arrived at the hotel after a long and busy day so I wasn’t thrilled with the self-parking being across the street.

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The lobby is beautiful and elegant and the check in staff were very friendly and helpful.DSCN4516 DSCN4517

The room was large and very clean with nice amenities in the bathroom.  The wifi worked brilliantly as well.DSCN4518 DSCN4519

Maybe the carpet is old-fashioned but the beds were very comfortable.DSCN4520

And the view was awesome of the pool and the sea just beyond.DSCN4521 DSCN4522 DSCN4523 DSCN4524

Speaking of the pool, I knew where we were heading to relax and rejuvenate!  The small pool in front is a jacuzzi and some of the jets were very good back massagers!DSCN4525 DSCN4526

There are several restaurants, this one overlooks the beach.DSCN4528 DSCN4529 DSCN4530 DSCN4531 DSCN4532 DSCN4538

After sunset, we could see the city lights down the road.DSCN4539 DSCN4540

As I was walking back to the hotel, I could hear the distinctive and iconic Coqui frogs.  I searched in vain, never got to see one, even enlisted a few hotel staff but they couldn’t find one either.  This is what they look and sound like.

The next morning, I went back to the beach area and heard a familiar sounding squawk.  I looked up in the palm trees and lo and behold – a family of Quaker Parrots in a huge nest!DSCN4550 DSCN4551 DSCN4553 DSCN4552 DSCN4561

The perfect way to say goodbye to our Caribbean adventure!

These rooms usually go for $160-200 or 50,000 IHG Rewards but I used my annual Chase certificate so for a $49 annual fee, I got an amazing deal and we loved the hotel and would go back anytime we were in Puerto Rico.

Hotel Review: San Miguel Plaza, Puerto Rico

This may hold the record for the shortest (legit) hotel stay ever!  Due to Liat’s late arrival, then the formalities of entering the USA at SJU, getting the rental car, then trying to navigate to the prepaid hotel.  Of course I got lost a few times and had to stop for directions a few times so it was around 2am when we finally checked in to the San Miguel Plaza Hotel in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.  Why did I choose this out of the way place?  Mostly because we needed to get to Rio Abajo early to see the Puerto Rican Parrots and I wanted to avoid driving in traffic.

There’s secure parking under the building.  I always like a red rental car as they are easier to spot in parking lots.

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The room was fine, typical budget room, fine for a night but not for a whole holiday.DSCN4402

View from the room.DSCN4405

Breakfast is included.DSCN4406

Here is the location, which is why I chose this place (out of all the hotels that I could use my Expedia goodwill voucher on).  The yellow blob on the right is San Juan – old city and beach area.  The hotel is indicated in the middle.  The pink circle on the left is where we needed to go to see the parrots at Rio Abajo.  This put us well out of incoming city traffic the next morning.

San Miguel Plaza

We were up very early, I think I got 2 hours of sleep that night but I wasn’t expecting Liat to be THAT late!  Thank God it was the last time we had to fly them!  The hotel was fine for the location but on a future visit, I think we would choose to be near the beach just to the north of Rio Abajo.

Hotel Review – Tamarind Tree, Dominica

We only had one day and since I had a mission – see the 2 endemic parrots of Dominica, I went looking for a hotel as close as possible to the Syndicate Reserve, where they can be seen.  The Tamarind Tree fit the bill for location and it turned out to be a really nice place with amazing views!

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Unfortunately with a late flight we didn’t have time to use the inviting pooldscn4306 dscn4307

The room was large, clean and very comfortable.dscn4293 dscn4294 dscn4295 dscn4296

The rooms open onto a large verandah with tables and chairs to relax and enjoy the view.

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I loved the artwork in the room!dscn4297

We had dinner in the restaurant which was good.  The wifi works here so I was able to get caught up.

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They do have some parrots items for sale.  I was tempted by this huge wooden plaque but it would have been a hassle to carry around.  Now that I am home, I wish I would have bought it!  I was hopeful to find something smaller the next day in the market.  I was not to know there wouldn’t be enough time to shop!dscn4302

This is what I did buy.  It’s actually laminated in plastic and came in a set of 4 so people could use them as placemats but I prefer them as decorative art!dscn4303

A few birds in the garden.dscn4310 dscn4312

Tamarind Tree is on the opposite side of the island from the airport and it takes longer to get there than you might imagine as the roads are all twisty-turny mountain roads.   Don’t let Google fool you, it was closer to 2 hours but we were driving at night so that may have slowed us down.  The ride we got from the airport used the blue route.  The pink route leads to the Syndicate Reserve.  The grey route is where we returned to the airport.  Dr Birdy dropped us at the junction of Portsmouth and the island road and we got a bus.

Dominica map

Tamarind Tree is a great small hotel that would suit birders, but the location may put some people off unless they rented a car as there is nothing nearby.  The views and grounds are gorgeous and it is a great place to relax and enjoy the quiet island lifestyle.  You can book on their website or use a portal like Rocketmiles or Pointshound to score some more airline miles.