We’ve been dreaming of getaways for far too long. It’s time to start planning those 2022 trips and we’ve got just the spot for you. Equal parts luxury and authentic Aussie experience, Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef is the stuff of holiday dreams. Here’s 5 things you need to know about one of Australia’s best campsites:
Far from the madding crowd
A two hour flight from Perth, a 90 minute drive from Exmouth, and a 5 minute golf buggy ride from a beachside car park and we’re arriving at Sal Salis’ front door. More accurately, our buggy stops next to an open air dining room, because there’s actually not a single ‘front door’ anywhere at Sal Salis. More on that later. Tucked into the sand dunes between Cape Range National Park and Ningaloo Reef, it’s safe to say Sal Salis is a long way from any of Australia’s big smoke, and yet, ten minutes into our stay, we’re sitting down to smashed avocado, poached eggs and housemade bread, with a cold-pressed juice. It turns out Sal Salis is far from the madding crowd, but you won’t miss home for one minute.
Wine and dine
There may be no wifi or phone reception, but there’s a full size kitchen at Sal Salis and they know how to dish up the goods. Breakfasts are for fuelling up for the day, so there’s buttermilk pancakes with poached berries and honeycomb ice cream, smoked salmon and crème Fraiche with scrambled eggs, or even an acai bowl to start your day. Lunches are two courses – fresh quinoa salads, lamb tacos, or even a baked brie that’s dotted with pistachios and drizzled in honey, followed by zesty lemon friands and fruit sorbets. After canapes and drinks at sunset, dinner is served at long wooden tables, dressed with shells, native plants and candles. We devour local snapper with lemon grass ginger broth, pan seared scallops with pea puree and Parmesan crisps, and lamb loin with artichoke and cauliflower, paired with Western Australian wines straight from the self serve open bar. It is all inclusive, and you are on holidays, so we ease into lunch with glasses of Hay Shed Hill sparkling wine from Margaret River, watch the sun dip below the Indian Ocean with Swan Valley gin and tonics, and settle into dinner with Castille Shiraz from Franklin River.
No front doors
Staying at Sal Salis means swapping front doors for fly screens. The beach camp has sixteen luxury safari tents, connected by boardwalks and sandy tracks tucked behind the dunes. There’s plenty of glamping tents out there these days, but Sal Salis is one of the exclusive Luxury Lodges of Australia, and has perfected the balancing act of feeling like you’re back to nature without losing your luxuries. With a hammock out the front, a freestanding bed, USB charging ports, and a hot shower, there’s definitely no lack of creature comforts, but unlike other glamps out there, there’s no overhead lamp or general power points, and there’s a nature loo in your ensuite. But it’s getting ready for bed by the light of a small lamp or even a torch (provided) that makes things exciting, and keeps the stars shining bright. We leave the tent flaps open one night and soak up the view because you can bet you can’t see that back home.
Forget tent poles and swags, when you’re packing for a trip to Sal Salis, all you need are your swimmers and your sense of adventure. The lodge provides snorkel gear and wet suits, so you’ll be kitted up and kicking your flippers out to the reef in no time. The reef runs the length of the coast, and sits just 30 metres from the sand. On dry land, we don joggers to go for guided hikes through the National Park, walking into Mandu Mandu Gorge for a short sunrise climb and spotting black-flanked rock wallabies on a mid morning stroll through Pilgonoman Gorge. This is all about laid-back luxury, so dressing up means changing out of your swimmers for dinner, or popping on a shawl as the evening’s cool breeze arrives. Sunny days give way to cool nights, so my lightweight puffa jacket gets more of a workout than the maxi dresses I packed.
A tick on the bucket list
The first time I see a whale shark underwater, my first thought is ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore’. A few days away from the world is certainly a good reason to go glamping, but it’s the whale sharks that put this part of the world on the map. Ningaloo Reef is one of the best places in the world to swim with these gentle giants, and each night the dinner conversation is filled with stories of the day’s swim. Questions like ‘How many times did you get in the water?’ ‘What was the biggest shark you saw?’ buzz around the table. Sal Salis makes a whale shark swim smooth sailing – guests are picked up by Live Ningaloo for a full day adventure that brings them back grinning ear to ear. We head out with their crew on a day that dawns dreary but turns into an absolute pearler. Calm, clear water, sunshine, six whale shark swims, even humpback whale sightings make this a day to remember. A spotter plane helps us get into position, and unlike other tour companies, there’s ten of us so every time we all get in the water. Other companies that twice that many, and groups have to split their time in the ocean.
Some might say this is the best place to shut the world out, but I say at Sal Salis, you can really let the world in. From the sand dunes to the sea, Sal Salis is a place to see the world in all its glory and soak up every inch of it.
Lisa was the guest of Luxury Lodges of Australia and Sal Salis Ningaloo