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Under the Waterfall at Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa

In the heart of the Daintree Rainforest, Kris McIntyre discovers an unexpectedly unique spa treatment combined with an authentic Aboriginal eco-tourism experience.


At the start of Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa’s guided rainforest walk our Aboriginal guide, Juan Walker, tells the story of how his grandmother escaped the plight of being part of Australia’s ‘Stolen Generation’.  With news of men on horseback traveling through the area looking to remove Aboriginal children from their families to be placed in state custody, Juan’s grandmother was hidden in a woven ‘dilly bag’ and hung from a tree as the officers passed by.

It’s just one of the fascinating stories that Juan shares about his ‘bama’ (people), country and tribe, the Kuku Yalanji, that have lived in this part of the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest for thousands of years and are claimed to be one of the oldest intact surviving Indigenous communities in the world.

Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa’s site is important in local culture. The property was occupied by forefathers of the Kuku Yalanji tribe and used as a resting place as it provided spring water, an abundance of edible, medicinal plants and bathing holes, including a natural waterfall that to this day is still considered to be sacred to women.

The Walbul-Walbul (Butterfly) Treatment
The natural healing powers of the women’s waterfall is part of what makes Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa’s signature spa treatment, the Walbul-Walbul (Butterfly) treatment special. For a start, the waterfall is a strict no-male zone so only women can indulge in this unique spa offering. But it is the Spa’s philosophy of integrating potent natural forces, traditional bush medicines and ancient wisdom that makes it extraordinary

The Kuku Yalanji named this part of their world ‘Wawu-Karrba’, meaning healing of the spirit. The Retreat’s Spa is one of the most awarded in Australia having won a string of awards including 2009 Top 10 World’s Best Boutique Spas (SpaFinder Reader’s Choice Awards USA); 2009 World’s Best Eco Spa – Finalist (Spa Asia) and 2009 Top 101 Spas of The World (Tatler UK) to name a few.

Without the luxury that award-winning spas usually hang their hat off, there’s something decidedly ‘un-posh’ about the experience that delivers substance over style.

The 2-hour Walbul-Walbul treatment starts with an amble up the rainforest path to the waterfall where the entrance to the sightseeing platform has been closed for my privacy. My treatment begins with an Aboriginal smoking ceremony to cleanse my spirit before I’m scrubbed in dessert salts, massaged in oil and cocooned from head to toe in warm mud. The finale is an immersion in the sacred women’s waters, where I’m left to soak up the healing waters and contemplate the history of the women who’ve come here for centuries to birth, cleanse and pass on their teachings from one generation to the next.

Back at the Spa, my male companions are glowing from their own Wawu Dingkarr (Spirit of Man) treatment. The Spa menu is extensive ranging from ‘Shine Face’ facials to Shiatsu, feet and hand to full body treatments.

It is ‘the experience’ (of the Rainforest, the guided Aboriginal tours and spa treatments) that makes the Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa special, but the accommodation, although not luxury, is comfortable and apt for its location. The retreat consists of 15 villas that are akin to tree houses nestled into the rainforest. Opt for a Spa Villa and you’ll be able to soak up the sights and sounds of the surrounding rainforest from your own Jacuzzi.

Wine and Dine
In keeping with influence of the Kuku Yalanji people, the menu in Julaymba Restaurant is spa cuisine with a native twist. Executive chef Chris O’Reilly (formerly of renowned Sails and Spirit House restaurants in Noosa) balances modern Australian cuisine with local produce including tropical reef fish and native and indigenous nuts, berries, flowers, leaves and seeds.

Menu highlights include the light damper loaf served with bush tomato butter, Australian dukkah and macadamia oil; the ‘Julaymba Journey’ tasting plate of crocodile salad, red claw, oysters and prawns; and the signature dish – wild caught local Barramundi, with native bush herbs wrapped in paperbark, native ginger leaf and rainforest salad.

Getting there:
Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa is located 3kms south of Daintree Village, just 40 minutes north of Port Douglas and 90 minutes drive north of Cairns International Airport. Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa can organize airport transfers to and from the retreat.


  • The Walbul-Walbul (Butterfly) spa treatment is for two hours.
  • Spa and Aboriginal culture packages are also available.
  • For bookings visit or phone: +61 7 4098 6100 or toll free: 1800 808 010 (within Australia).


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