Where can one go to experience the Australian Outback and swim amongst the amazing marine life, view immaculate and pristine coral reef all in the one place? The new luxury eco lodge Sal Salis located within the Cape Range National Park in the north western part of Australia – the outback – and the world famous Ningaloo Reef are all on it’s doorstep. This is all part of Australia’s Coral Coast.
It makes for a quick getaway if you are needing to down tools for a few days. This is what my husband and I recently did. We flew into Learmonth Airport (Exmouth) and waiting for us there was current Sal Salis manager Nick. He was kind enough to give us a brief tour of the townsite, explaining a little about the town history and the American naval base. The base was operational from when the town was born in the early 60’s until the US Navy was withdrawn in 1992, all part of the ANZUS Treaty. Then a brief stop at the highest point in Exmouth, the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse. The total road trip to Sal Salis from the airport is approximately 1.5 hours.
Upon arrival at the carpark, your electric operated golf like buggy awaits you to take you for a quick drive through the sand dune track and once over and down the hill you are delivered directly to the open air reception area! It is also the large communal area where you get to sit for your delectable chef prepared breakfast, lunches and three course dinners every day.
Your arrival from the airport is just in time for lunch whereby you can choose from a selection of any of the three dishes of the day. Each dish is simply divine and we quickly learnt to order all three dishes and share it between the two of us. How about smashed peas and pickled artichokes on bruschetta or barramundi on a special salad bed with a tasty sauce? So nice was the food that I actually forgot to:
You have access to the open bar which caters for all drinking tastes – alcoholic and non-alcoholic – with the bucket of ice always topped up during the day. Whilst you are savouring the five star meals and premium wines, your luggage is taken to your hut.
Once lunch is over, we are allocated a team member who will accompany us to our designated hut. You undertake an induction covering from brushing your feet out on the deck before entering
your hut to how to switch on the hot water system to the turn down service at night whilst you are having your evening meal. Remember Sal Salis is an eco-lodge which means:
and to give you that little bit of Australian Outback, the classic dropbox! Now don’t go screwing up your nose at the thought of possible smells, I can vouch that as far as toilet drop boxes go, this is the very first one I have ever come across that does not smell at all!!
With your induction over, all that is left to do is to change into your swimming gear and head down to the beach always following the specially marked tracks. There are complimentary use of beach towels available in your huts that you can use on the beach. Guests can also make use of the onsite beach chairs, lounge and mini cabanas for two. Maybe if you are lucky, spot a passing whale just beyond the breakwater.
Canapes are served every day at 6pm which are a delight on the taste buds. With an abundant choice of alcoholic (and non) beverages to pair with the feast, what a magical way to watch the sun set over the horizon. Word of warning: don’t go overboard with the canapes because at 7pm you are served the three course fit for a queen and king meal. Every evening you are presented with a different menu which embraces the seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables combined to perfection with either beef or fish. Of course, chef is able to prepare a menu specific to those who have dietary needs. The vegetarian and pescatarian dishes served to other guests during our stay were equally appetising to look and I am told very good.
Included in your stay at Sal Salis are daily organised activities, dependent on weather, tides and even guest requests. The daily activities are lead by one of the crew members who may have undertaken your induction or served your meal the night before. The activities are not mandatory for you to attend.
During our stay at Sal Salis, we had the opportunity to go snorkelling at Lakeside. A sheltered calm beach which allow you to explore the beautiful marine life just steps from the beach. If you are not a strong or confident swimmer, the guides will assist you the whole time you are in the water allowing you to experience the colourful reef life even in the shallow waters. Snorkelling masks, flippers and wetsuits are available from the eco lodge for the duration of your stay.
Other activities were the early morning sunrise from atop of Mandu Mandu Gorge which is a three kilometre loop walk taking you through a rocky creek bed and then up to the rim. The walk has some slightly difficult sections of the climb and descent from the gorge rim. If you have troublesome knees or hips or even fear of heights, you may want to reconsider participating in the walk. Having said this, one lady in our group was near on having an anxiety attack due to her fear of heights. Thanks to our awesome guide Cam, he was so good at reassuring her throughout the peak of the walk that the lady calmed down enough to still enjoy the scenery.
Just a short five minute drive from Sal Salis, we were taken to Pilgonoman Gorge within the Cape Range National Park. You will have the opportunity to see up close the
endangered black flanked rock wallabies. There are just over 250 wallabies left and are endemic to the area. Their colourings are amazing so much so that they blend into the rock walls of the gorge. Until our guide pointed them out, we would have walked right by them totally unawares. They are also a curious animal, a bit like the quokkas on Rottnest Island. If you are still long enough, they may come close to you and check out what you have in your hand. Remember, we are in their territory so respect the area where you walk and leave how you found it.
For a bit of fun, you cannot go the Ningaloo Reef without kayaking at Yardie Creek. Even complete newbies, like my husband and I, we eventually found our rhythm and paddled in a relatively straight line. This in not before we checked out either side of the creek or ended up getting stuck in the reeds on the creek bank whilst trying to take photos of the bats. Glad we gave the group some laughs along the way!!
Before you know it your stay at Sal Salis is over, you are packing your bags and heading back to Learmonth Airport, your flight taking you back to reality. You will take with you some wonderful new memories, maybe even made some new friends. You may have a greater appreciation of what we have in Australia’s Coral Coast , where the outback meets the reef.
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(Main image used with permission courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/camthomaas/)