Surrounded by the Grampians National Park on three sides and a bush golf course on the other Aquila is a luxurious escape from the city.
Aquila eco lodges are on 40ha of virgin bush on the lower slopes of Mt Abrupt in the Southern Grampians. They offer a luxurious escape from the city. Surrounded by the Grampians National Park on three sides and a bush golf course on the other, Aquila is minutes from the pretty town of Dunkeld, which has a population of just 500.
The lodges were designed as a showcase for living in harmony with the environment, featuring ecologically-sensitive materials and resources. Barbara Bjerking and her late husband Curt spent two years researching their project. Both fanatical lovers of the bush, they spent years travelling around Australia. Curt loved painting plants and trees and after his death, Barbara felt it was her duty to complete their dream. With the help of their four children, everything was achieved.
Self-contained lodges reflect the low environmental impact concept of building, at the same time maximising the experience of living with nature.
The place is surrounded by wildlife kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, koalas, emus, wombats and more than 200 species of birds. They have all made the place home and are seen regularly. The environment abounds in grass, trees, grevilleas, banksias, hakeas and native orchids, some of which are rare and endangered.
There are four lodges in two designs the Lofthouse, which sleeps up to six, and the Treehouse, which sleeps up to four, both with variable bed arrangements. They were specifically designed to suit the site.
Views were taken into consideration, with sharp rooflines and large windows to maximise visitors' enjoyment of the bush outlook. They are well apart from each other, ensuring privacy and exclusion.
The positioning minimises summer sun and maximises winter sun. Wood heaters and water evaporation air coolers provide extra comfort as required. Each lodge has television, VCR and CD/tape player.
Most power is generated by solar panels and water is collected from every rooftop and stored in multiple tanks until required. They enjoy a storage capacity of 300,000 litres.
Recycling and water saving measures include the use of composting toilets, instant water heating systems and treatment of grey water.
Building materials were carefully selected for their sensitivity to the surrounding environment and fire considerations, whilst enhancing an environmentally-responsible living experience. Local suppliers have been used to supply products where possible and there is great use of Grampians sandstone and redgum.
The Lofthouses are tiled throughout and have a mezzanine red-gum floor with large windows looking out to the trees. Each has its own tranquil, sheltered area with outdoor table, chairs and gas barbecue.
The Treehouses are three-storey lodges overlooking the tree canopy to the Victoria Valley. The ground floor of each has a sheltered outdoor area with table, chairs and gas barbecue.
An interpretive track winds through the surrounding bush and visitors can enjoy the signed pathway, reading about native plants and animals. Along the way is a hammock and, weather permitting, you might like to stop to relax. There are more native orchids on their property than any other of similar size in Australia and Barbara takes orchid tours for those interested in the fragile and delicate flowers.
Aquila is a social place and visitors enjoy gathering around the woodfire oven at night to share a barbecue. Barbara often organises musicians to complete the ambience.
Barbara provides do-it-yourself breakfast provisions on request home-made jams, bread, relish, tomatoes grown right there and eggs from their own hens.
Barbara was a school teacher and she has incorporated education into the day-to-day life of Aquila. She takes school and university groups around the property and teaches them about sustainable living, as well as her beloved orchids.
The property is also part of Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOFERS). In return for full board, young foreign travellers work four hours a day on her property. She often teaches them English and the travellers do everything from clearing bush tracks, washing windows, plumbing and general maintenance in exchange for a unique experience.