If you are considering visiting a bush retreat, or participating in an outdoor activity, you might like to consider this: In a natural area, you will be surrounded by wildlife of all sorts, including birds, mammals, arthropods and reptiles. Animals of various types do sometimes enter the cabins and tipees (arachnophobes might prefer a city hotel).
Here is a communication that a Huon Bush Retreats guest requested that we share with prospective guests and staff.
Huon Bush Retreats is proud of our environmental achievements. We value all creatures and construct physical barriers to separate human habitation and creature habitation. However such barriers are never perfect and some creatures will penetrate from time to time.
I'm writing to voice concern for the guests staying in your 'luxury' tipees, disappointment and horror at the lack of maintenance and information conveying that your accommodation is 'spray-free', and most of all at the lack of hospitality and assistance offered to guests when your accommodation becomes inhospitable.
Last night, the 20th of February, my partner and I returned to Tipee West around 9:30 from a very late dinner, expecting to take a quick shower and go to bed. We were discussing whether or not it was too late to take a bath in your outdoor tub for the third night running as it is brilliant, however as we were discussing this he noticed a large tarantula, around 15-20 cm wide, slowly lower itself down the thin hide wall of our tipee. We were shocked and my slightly disgusted (I say slightly because my father worked for Forestry and used to keep them as pets, and we're both aware they're not venomous) as their appearance is scary for those who live in city houses and don't often see many large tarantulas just a foot or so above their pillow at night.
I made the quick decision to spray the tarantula with bug spray from the car. I wanted it gone from the vicinity of my bed without giving it the opportunity to leap off down into the folds of the cow-hide tent wall, because as I'm sure you know, tarantulas are very attracted to warm, soft, dark spots such as unmoving human body heat inside a bed, and the chances of it crawling from the ground to our bed were high.
Before doing this we spent twenty minutes pushing the mattress, bed, and all our belongings to one side of the tipee in order to prevent the tarantula from dropping down and and concealing itself under blankets, sheets, pillowcases or our luggage. My partner, being a little more nervous than myself, sprayed one long stream at it and after successfully hiding behind one of the logs propping up the tipee for a minute or so, the tarantula fell to the ground, where my partner immediately threw it into the fire.
The spray fumes stayed stagnant inside the tipee, preventing us from entering for long - and outside, four large possums had congregated on the small metre-square porch next to our esky, fighting and hissing at each other. It was impossible to be too cross at them but we were distracted and apprehensive looking at their talon-like claws as they came up to us, more tame than house-cats. We opened the woodheater door, and the sliding door, to air out the tipee. We would have used the sliding screen door, however it was broken and would not close, and the pet-like possums were intent on entering our tipee whenever we left it ajar, so we were shivering outside, guarding the wide-open entrance, trying not to breathe in the spray.
We decided to take a quick shower and when we returned we moved all our belongings and bed back to their original spots, it now being well past 10:30. When we went outside again to air our the tipee (it had still not ventilated enough to stay inside), however, another, even bigger tarantula appeared high up above the window of the tipee, moving staggardly from the fumes of the spray.
I was a little less fussed than I was about the first as it was so high up, however I knew we'd have trouble falling asleep imagining tarantulas of all sizes on our legs under the covers. We couldn't reach to catch it, and as we watched it move every few seconds, we saw several little spiders - baby tarantulas, and possibly a wolf spider, as we saw two outside - also emerge from behind several of the wood logs high up, above the window, and also the ants we'd seen in ones and twos during the last two nights and days of our stay crawling all around the tipee were now coming out in droves.
At this point, we noticed ten or so small black wriggling things on the bed, and on the floor, and we started feeling itchy and getting bitten; the ants were dying from the fumes from up in the tipee logs, and falling onto our bed, our jackets, our pillows, and all over the floor, into our shoes, our luggage, and even on our heads. My partner was bitten on the eyebrow, and he is allergic to insect bites, most severely from little black bush wasps, of which we'd scooped up a few of inside the tipee already, and put in the fire beforehand.
It was then that we decided to tell reception and request assistance. We knew they were booked out but hoped on borrowing a small tent, as we had no wish to leave, and a tent would've been far more protective than one of your 'luxury' tipees. We were very tired, having been walking all day down south and having had quite a late dinner.
The feeling of having angry stinging bush ants in your luggage and bed, and a painful, stinging nose from bug-spray, and also a pounding heart from sleeping two metres from a wolf spider for two nights, is a terrible thing, especially when you've paid good money for a delayed Valentine's weekend with the person you love, in an otherwise beautiful place.
Having let our phones go flat in the spirit of going bush for the few days, we used our emergency power bank to charge my phone and walked down to reception to find the number to ring. It was most likely in the binder in our tipee covered in crawling ants, but should also have been pasted on a small sticker for emergency contact on our sliding door.
We waited on the concrete in the cold light outside the closed reception office and I started dialing, but the tickling I'd taken to be the hairs on my legs increased and I looked down at my exposed leg and jumped because there was a baby tarantula the size of a fifty-cent piece trying to crawl down into my ug boot. Already shaken from the insect infestation of my bed and belongings, and the five minute walk in the dark to reception with possums running at us, I jumped and smacked it off, where my partner and I watched it crawl off, one leg a little off from my smack. I was dumbstruck. I grew up bushwalking and camping and hiking, I work at an outdoor shop, and I love the Tasmanian bush and its inhabitants. But not in my bed, nor my pyjamas, and least of all in private accommodation where business depends on the comfort, pleasure and satisfaction of paying guests.
After I rang the front desk what I believe was one of the two owners came out and insisted that we had woken him up (at 11 - it could have been 2 a.m with a poisonous spidebite complaint instead), and that he was tired, and had been having "crazy dreams" that he kept mentioning during our exchange.
I explained what had happened. When I said a tarantula had come into the tent he smiled and reminded us that we are in a bush. I thought this was patronizing and felt he was belittling the situation.
When I said we had used a spray to rid our tipee of the tarantula he looked disgusted and said, "We don't use spray here."
I thought this was incredibly short-sighted seeing as we have a large variety of venomous spiders and ants Tasmania, and especially when your 'luxury' tipees' ventilation open directly from the outside of the tent - especially more so when many people like my partner have bite allergies, and there is no signage whatsoever indicating to guests that you refuse to eradicate insects from lodgings using any chemicals. There is also no signage or information available to inform guests that these tipees are not sealed and the ventilation is open to the elements, insufficient protection from poisonous and venomous insects. We would have been better off in a fully sealed tent. As my partner clearly stated afterwards, "You don't leave a hole in the ceiling of a bush cabin or house, so why should there be one in there?"
When I continued and explained that we could not use the bed as a colony of ants was slowly dripping from the ceiling, he said, "When you used the spray, you would've attracted ants in from the outside, and that's why they're falling on the bed." I remember simply looking at my partner to make sure this man was seriously suggesting ants run towards poisonous gases, when these ants were clearly already inside the tipee in the dry wood, and simply fell when they died.
After continuing on this line he finished shortly with, "Well, there's nothing I can do about it." After pressing him for any help or suggestions he stopped us with the same statement. With everything I mentioned, including the spider on my leg, he kept adding little remarks such as, "That's the outdoor experience!" and "You shouldn't have used the spray."
When I suggested we leave, he gave a rueful grin and said that's what we'll have to do, and then said he was off to bed, to "try and get back to those crazy dreams!"
Not a single apology for the lack of pest control, nor a single offer to assist us getting our things or packing up at midnight, and not one offer to have our money back for the night, was heard. As we made our way back to the tipee I got quite upset about having to leave under such circumstances. I had thoroughly enjoyed my stay until this point.
As we were about to enter the tipee to gather our belongings and shake off the dead ants as much as we could, another hand-sized tarantula crawled out from inside the open door and along the outside corrugated iron. When we went inside we could still see the original big one's legs sticking out near the top of the tipee logs, very much alive.
Luckily we are locals and slowly drove back home to Hobart, however I imagined
what it would feel like to be a tourist with a child, having to drive the steep dirt track down the hill twenty minutes to Huonville at half-past twelve at night, and find alternative accommodation for them all. As we fell into bed at 1:30, I was still shocked and disappointed with the hospitality and service we'd expected as guests, but not received.
We have taken extensive photos of all the insects we have encountered to remind us to camp instead if we visit again.
We'd also been surprised with vague advertising on behalf of two separate booking websites - WotIf and Huon Valley Escape - that led us to assume your tipees have a barbecue and fridge. That your tipees have no amenities save for a wood-heater should be very clearly stated on all booking websites that take money for your accommodation.
Another couple we spoke to stayed in a cabin, and reported the only amenities they had were a bath and woodheater, and yet were under the impression they would have a fridge and gas cooking, as it states on WotIf. They mentioned they have informed you of this themselves already.
The biggest disappointment we encountered was the dilemma of NO refrigeration available to guests at all, even in the shared kitchen, and having nothing advertising this on the booking websites whatsoever, along with no clear signage on your own website. I find it hard to believe you are unaware that your most successful online advertisements for your establishment are misleading and false, and that you are not checking them and reviewing them regularly.
I feel I am obligated into sharing a public review with my concerns regarding this incident.
My partner, who, as mentioned in the previous email I've sent, was bitten by what we suspect to be a bush ant or spider (the species found dropping on our heads inside our accommodation), and has developed all symptoms of some kind of venom in the previous 48 hours. He works for a corporate company and directs meetings and gives presentations involving large amounts of people all day. Today he came home early from work because he was experiencing extensive perspiration, nausea, headaches, an inability to concentrate due to low blood pressure, lethargy, heat experienced primarily in the face and head, and swelling and throbbing of the affected area, which is his eyebrow. I can personally vouch that the symptoms of nausea, perspiration, lethargy and swelling of the bitten spot has been increasing since Sunday.
I also mentioned previously that he has allergies to a range of different insect venom. He says that because the bite is hot, itchy and aching, it has spread to develop a headache, dizziness, and the fatigue from his heart-rate levels.
I, myself, have small sustained oddly-shaped bites grouped together in a half-circle on my lower stomach, which are not mosquito bites as I was bitten by a mosquito on my leg, and the much smaller series of bites on my stomach burn like fire when itched. I did not have these bites until Saturday evening, and they started itching at their worst when we both woke in our own bed in Hobart on Sunday morning.
I have photos of these injuries.
I am passing this information on to you and your coworkers to inform you of the damage inflicted on guests when you mislead or fail to inform them of crucial information that is potentially directly harmful to their comfort, and most importantly, their health.
The potential for far more grievous harm that allergies can cause should prompt serious concern. Considering your lack of awareness of the risks you open both yourselves and guests to, and the lack of concern for our well-being both when we were paying residents and after we left, I am seriously concerned for future guests residing at Huon Valley Retreats.