Boosting ‘Vitamin Me’ in Queensland


Botanical Ark's tropical treasure chest

I’m suffering from the post-holiday blues, a bad dose of ‘over it’ brought on by the damp Sydney summer, and a gnawing ache sparked by a tousle with the corporate treadmill and the growing reality that it will be another six months before i can luxuriate in annual leave. I need a shot of ‘Vitamin Me’. I know where to get it. It’s just getting there that’s the tricky part.

If i could wangle a weekend getaway, here’s what i’d do. I’d head straight for the Botanical Ark in far north Queensland. The tranquility and rare tropical fruit indulgence on offer would help ferry me through the next arduous six months, i’m sure.

The Botanical Ark is a private ethnobotanical garden hidden at the end of Whyanbeel Valley and bordering the Daintree national park. It’s an idyllic spot about one and half hours drive north of Cairns. It’s a secluded sanctuary that’s not open to the general public. That means a super-sized dose of ‘Vitamin Me’.

The Botanical Ark is the home of Alan and Susan Carle and their two-year-old golden retriever/maremma cross named Gaia after Mother Earth. It’s also home to over 3000 species of tropical plants, including 500 species of fruit and nut, and many ethnobotanical plants that are used in everyday items such as dyes, oils and medicines. Many of them have been salvaged by the Carles from rainforests around the world.

This extraordinary pair have scoured jungles from South America to Madagascar and transported endangered species back home. Their cornucopia includes soursop, guanabana, pulusan (a relative of the lychee), durian, rambutans, mangosteen, chocolate pudding fruit (also called black sapote), canistel and star apples. Also in this tropical treasure chest is breadfruit and over 400 varieties of banana. That means plenty of antioxidants and Vitamin C – along with that essential dose of ‘Vitamin Me’.

Susan has mastered the art of tropical cuisine. Guanabana cheesecake,  chocolate pudding fruit cake, cassava rosti, breadfruit gnocci, and mame sapote milkshake are some of the stars of her repertoire.

The Botanical Ark is a vital link in the food chain. The Carles hope to help protect threatened rainforests for the food value that comes from them. A single breadfruit tree can feed an indigenous family for the whole year. They are involved in several sustainable food projects, including one working with pigmies who live in Gabon in the Congo.


Indulge in some "Vitamin Me" at Tranquilla Villa

The Botanical Ark is also home to Tranquilla Villa, an exclusive holiday retreat nestled amongst the exotic gardens. The villa is surrounded by a wide verandah and has a well-positioned hammock over-looking a stream-fed freshwater pool out front. Yep, that’s where i’d be hanging out.

Imagine waking in the morning to the tropical symphony of songbirds, rather than slamming car doors and the distant drone of Sydney traffic. Or walking through the tropical foliage gently batting away butterflies, rather than commuters on the train.

“Write that book … scribe a poem, sonnet or song, ones that you’ve long dreamt about,” the Botanical Ark website suggests.

I know one stressed Sydneysider and writer who’s up for that.

I’d practice yoga on the sandy beach beside the freshwater pool, pen some posts, take a tropical garden tour with Alan, and a indulge in a cooking class with Susan. That’s about as strenuous as my getaway would be. After all, it’s all about ‘Vitamin Me’.

Note: Special interest groups can organise tours of Botanical Ark.
Photographs courtesy of Alan Carle and Norbert Guthier 



Filed under Gastronomic Travels

13 responses to “Boosting ‘Vitamin Me’ in Queensland

  1. Wow – what a great place, although I bet the humidity would make my hair go fuzzy. Mind you, I’d be prepared to pay the price for a few days of blissful peace.
    I’ve not heard of this ark before – places like this are imperative in our swiftly changing world eco-systems. What a remarkable couple Alan & Susan must be. How have they managed to get to all these exotic and obscure locations to put their collection together?


    • They do it on the smell of an oily rag, basically. I visited in Oct or Nov last year, and Susan was saying that Alan will say “we should go to such-and-such a place” and she thinks “how on earth are we going to afford that” – and somehow it all works out. They might sell some plants, or pick up some consulting work. Fate, i guess. It’s what they’re meant to be doing. They’re really inspirational. It was like walking into a dream.


  2. Oh my gosh… this looks like heaven to me!!!! Have you been, Rachel? I want to go… now!!!!


  3. Oops, sorry, I didn’t see Amanda’s comment and your response. Walking into a dream indeed…. sigh!


    • Hi Lizzy, I was only there for a group tour – so spent a couple of hours talking to Susan and Alan. A really lovely couple. You’d love it Lizzy, i’m sure. I’d really like to stay at Tranquilla Villa … maybe when i write that book!


  4. Oh how I would love to visit there. My idea of heaven. Thank you for such a transporting post 🙂


  5. I know how you feel! I left Sydney in sub-summer weather and returned three weeks later to pretty much the same weather *sigh*


  6. Oh you’ve made me homesick for Queensland! We’ve had average temperatures of -12°C lately which is a bit chilly for this Aussie! And look at all of that fresh fruit … sigh …

    I could do with some time out in a place like the Botanical Ark … or anywhere in Australia for that matter!


  7. I love visiting Queensland-I seem to really drink up the sunshine there! 🙂 The Botanical Ark sounds wonderful!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s