A visit to Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef on Australia’s west coast last spring with my then seven year old daughter and husband left with me a potent reminder of the value of the guides hosting guests in remote places, and especially at luxe lodges or camps where many of the experiences and guiding is included in the rate (an important item to consider when researching experiential holidays).
Ok, so Sal Salis is about as far west as you can go on the Australian continent. Fly to Exmouth via Perth. A one hour drive takes you into the Cape Range National park. A walk of 800m from the carpark brings you to the camp, completely hidden among the dunes. It is a privilege to simply be at Sal Salis, a nine suite ‘tented’ camp operating by special license in the Cape Range National Park. It is well worth the distance traveled.
Each tent has, frankly, the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in, and an ensuite. And yes, there is a daily water allowance, (as required by the Department of Environment). But it is more than adequate for those into barefoot luxury. The tent canopy shields for privacy but is open to the sights and sounds of the bush around. The main lodge tent is the hub for dining, sundowners and simply absorbing views of the reef and horizon.
This is where the outback meets the reef – virtually kisses it. Ningaloo Reef, some 267km in length comes closest to the Australian mainland at this point. Guests at Sal Salis can walk a few meters from their tent to the beach, where it is literally a few meters until they are snorkeling over pristine coral reef.
Swimming with the whale sharks (April-July) is the ‘must-do’ life changing experience that draws many to this part of the world. However, nature throws up wondrous happenings at most times of the year. In spring, when we were there, the humpback whales were in the area with their newborn calves. “Whale soup out there’ is how the rental car rep described it. He was right.
Later, the turtles nest and in late December-January, the eggs hatch, and another of nature’s moving sights can be seen as the hatch-lings find their way to the sea.
So, back to the camp. From the moment we arrived, my daughter bonded tightly with the guides. She snorkeled for the first time without fear, she hiked for miles through Mandu Mandu Gorge. She raced back to the lodge to look up reference guides to learn more about the marine and wildlife she had seen.
Other guests, including several couples, a family with teenagers, and a trio of thirty-something friends, discovered a companionable camaraderie around the lodge dining table, and during the walks and activities. Hosting a maximum of 18 guests, this dynamic is all part of the appeal of the lodge experience.
As the time came to leave, my daughter pleaded to stay. But as reality dawned, she pulled herself together and declared, quite seriously, “This has changed my life.” She left wiser, exhilarated, stronger and inspired, thanks to the place, nature, the experience, and especially thanks to the guides, who played a vital role in making it come alive, not just for her, but for all of us. A beautiful and potent reminder for experience seekers, that this is really what travel is all about.
Luxury Lodges of Australia