Wanderlust with Cynthia Rosenfeld

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“One, two, three, four, five,” I count out loud, astonished by the sight of so many green and yellow slider turtles swimming all around me. Binoculars in my left hand, a cocktail in my right, I am at Rosewood Mayakoba (rosewoodmayakoba.com) in Mexico, indulging in my new favourite pastime; I like to call it ‘five-star bird watching/skinny dipping’.

Endowed with private pools strategically cantilevered over the thriving mangroves of the Riviera Maya, many of the incredibly indulgent villas at this sumptuous resort are sufficiently remote as to allow such nurturing communion with nature. As someone who regards a plunge pool as only worth sliding into if I can do so in my birthday suit, I am awed to find this unique opportunity to combine a longtime favourite vacation pleasure – skinny dipping – with another activity that I am just discovering. Through the powerful little lenses of Rosewood’s complimentary binoculars, I spy the school-bus-yellow chest of a boat-billed flycatcher, the red beaks of common moorhens cackling across the aquatic expanse, and the Batman-esque black wings of neotropic cormorants sunning themselves on the branches of the mangroves.

A dozen years ago, the venerable first general manager of Amanpuri, Anthony Lark, remarked to me that ‘privacy is the ultimate luxury’. Disrobing entirely and diving into my villa’s mini-swimming pool that night, I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing, soaking up the plunge pool experience while watching the rosy wings of Mayakoba’s only resident, the roseate spoonbill. 

With this first experience, I’m addicted to the marriage of naked and natural, and I think that privacy will only get more interesting as the world’s finest hotel brands sustainably plant their flags in increasingly unexpected destinations. In the meantime, my favourite hotel plunge pools allow anyone to feel safe banishing the bathing suit on vacation. 

High naxi tiled-walls encourage undressing inside the pool villas at the Banyan Tree Lijiang (banyantree.com). However, at around 2,400m above sea level, the temperatures from late September to June may cause more than a few goosebumps en route to these well-heated pools, elegantly positioned in the shadow of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. On the other hand, the infinity plunge pools in each of the 42 villas at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan (fourseasons.com/sayan), cossetted in cocoons of privacy, provide a cooling relief from the lush tropical Balinese jungle. 

Ultra-private pools are not limited to the Far East, as I blissfully discovered last year on the sunkissed Greek isle of Santorini. Throughout the day, I swam to the edge of our considerable and very blue pool outside the stunningwhitewashed suite at Perivolas (perivolas.com) to soak up captivating views of the sparkling Aegean Sea. 

Getting naked doesn’t always end perfectly, however. Back at Rosewood, snowy egrets alight on the quivering mangrove branches while slider turtles pop their yellow-streaked heads up in all directions from the brackish water, leaving me in utter awe – and unaware of Rosewood’s eco-tour boat as it floats past. Suffice it to say that the wildlife watchers on that vessel caught a different type of unexpected glimpse that afternoon.

Follow Cynthia on Twitter: @CynthiaRoams

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