At this luxury property, guests can get up close and personal with Australia's most misunderstood marsupial.
The world's largest carnivorous marsupial has sharp fangs, screeches like it's possessed, and devours food with a ferocity unmatched in the Australian wild. But the Tasmanian Devil is not as tough as it seems.
This unusual creature is growing increasingly scarce as an incurable disease attacks the native population. Already confined to the tiny island of Tasmania off Australia's south-east coast, the devil is now being afflicted with a contagious cancer that causes facial tumors and, eventually, death.
Spotting devils in the wild has become rare, but a recent initiative to safeguard the species is providing visitors with opportunities to witness them up close.
At Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania's most luxurious accommodation, experts tend to a group of devils as part of the government-instigated Save The Tasmanian Devil program, which is growing the number of healthy devils in captivity and conducting research into the facial cancer. Saffire, which is located deep within the dramatic Freycinet National Park, is the only lodge in Australia with devils on site.
The property, which has 20 suites plus a restaurant and spa, offers several distinctly Tasmanian experiences, including champagne-soaked tours of an oyster farm in nearby wetlands. But the devil enclosure, which is just meters from Saffire's main building, is arguably the lodge's most memorable attraction.
At dusk, guides accompany guests to the enclosure, where they summon and then feed the devils, usually with a wallaby carcass. Although not domesticated, Saffire's devils do enjoy human attention, and photo opportunities are plentiful. The guides can provide further information about the devil-preservation project, and there's even a devil-sponsorship program for those who grow attached.
The devil program is just one of Saffire's points of difference. The cooler Tasmanian climate makes the resort an ideal base for those seeking an atypical Australian holiday—instead of sand and surf, leisure activities here revolve around bush exploration and scenic tours by boat or light plane. The lodge's out-of-the-way location and panoramic views create a hushed, contemplative mood at the property. Even the food and wine are distinctive (a significant portion is locally sourced from Tasmania's lauded growing regions). There's plenty to enjoy at Saffire, but it's the humble devils and their charismatic keepers that are likely to stick longest in the mind.
Dan F. Stapleton covers Australia for Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Instagram.