Sal Salis – Glamping at Ningaloo Reef
After some exciting and entertaining personal reports on photography and travel equipment, I am very happy to present a new article by guest author Audemar. Enjoy his first travel story about the Sal Salis Safari Camp at Ningaloo Reef:
After years of servitude, I finally made my way via the cellar and basement of writing to the ground floor of the travel blog and was now allowed to write my first travel post. My choice was easy and, therefore, quickly made.
In a long list of extraordinary places and hotels on this planet, the Sal Salis at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia stands out. Like a dented, sandy Land Rover Defender in the parking lot of the Burj Al Arab, surrounded by freshly polished Ferraris, Bentleys and such outstanding, yet equally ordinary and inexperienced vehicles. The Sal Salis is love at second sight, a life-long love that is not compromised by an imposed, impeccable 6 star plus one-night stand.
Destination Info Ningaloo Reef:
The Sal Salis is located near Exmouth – about 2 hours flight from Perth.
From Learmonth Airport we flew with a Cessna to the Yardi Creek Air Strip. There we had a bird’s eye view of the spectacular Ningaloo Reef on the Coral Coast and could even spot humpback whales.
Ningaloo Reef is the largest fringing reef in Australia. In contrast to the Great Barrier Reef it is still intact. In the surrounding marine reserve, the Ningaloo Marine Park, there are over 200 corals – and 500 species of fish.
Sal Salis Safari Camp Ningaloo Reef
The 15 tents of the Sal Salis are so perfectly integrated into the dune landscape at the Indian Ocean, that I first suspected Luke, our driver, not the farmer from the planet Tatooine, would have abandoned us in the wild instead of dropping us off at the camp. From the “drop-of-point” my fearless wife and I, her mirror image, walked along a sandy path for a few hundred meters until we spotted the first tent roofs in a sea of fine sand.
Despite maximum effort, I could not spot any snakes, spiders or other natural enemies of my peaceful existence at the so-called top of the food chain. By the way, this was to remain so during our whole stay, but I could not know that, let alone foresee it.
The tents are, well… tents. That means textile substitutions for what humans in general and I in particular would expect as a minimum safety precaution in the supposedly life-threatening nature of the red continent.
Until the very end I had hope that the tents of the Sal Salis were Teflon-coated high-tech materials, which, like a bulletproof vest, would protect my vital and extremely fragile body from the claws and teeth of what I felt were mostly highly poisonous creatures.
A hasty inspection followed. Maybe I could still catch Luke and convince him for an impressive sum of money to drive me back to the airport or better to fly; if needed, even without the woman who had lured me into this.
I calmed myself down reasonably and in time before the crying fit of hysteria. The tents seemed to be secured against knife attacks, moderate wind and weather and thus also against local animals. Provided that the extremely robust zippers of the various light and air openings were closed to the last link.
What I immediately did, as expected, was to deny access for any saltwater crocodiles.
But now comes the one and only criticism that I want to express in this article: which Cretin orders massive woven tents with indestructible zipper openings and then places these textile protective castles on a wooden platform, with gaps between the wooden planks that are so big that EVERY Australian spider (I don’t doubt that even the Huntsman spider, which can grow up to 30cm tall), especially the mean poisonous ones, can get through???
Consequently, my journey and this travelogue should end here. But it doesn’t, because in view of the wonderful location, the Indiana Jones like ambience, I decided that I didn’t want to die anywhere else in the world but here. If my existence was supposed to come to an end, then here, please, and after dinner.
Friends of logic riddles and quick thinkers among the readers correctly assume that I did not pass away. Let me ease the tension a little by revealing upfront that I did not see a single spider or even a mosquito in our tent. Or at our tent. Despite regular and intensive controls, which would make even the quality management of NASA space missions envious.
Eco-Resort Sal Salis
The Sal Salis is an eco-certified … Ahm, well, what exactly is it, anyway? Campsite would be mean, even if deserved because of the gaps in the floor and the careless handling of my life. Anyway, to get to the point. What kind of people are they who generate electricity mainly by solar energy, produce drinking water by reverse osmosis and save water altogether, e.g. by not washing bed linen every day but only after the departure of the guest?
Pippa Middleton has been in our tent before us. The bed linen was washed anyway.
What is the point of an Eco Credentials Document with dimensions beyond a Guest Compendium and a toilet that works neither with water nor chemicals, but with naturally occurring wind (from the ocean, not from the guest)? Especially if the latter, which is me in this case, is not actively or at least passively protected from accidentally passing toxic arachnids, for example at night during my own regular unconsciousness?
What is protected is the environment – always, everywhere, at all costs. Even at night (when else?) light pollution is taken care of, which is why the camp is quite dark after sunset, cow’s butt style, and a flashlight becomes the most important survival gear.
Fortunately, there are two of them in each tent. It’s always nice to have it twice or, as the prepper says: “One is none and two are one!” So, I have one and my wife is not supposed to roam around the tents at night without me anyway.
Tip: At night, take a camera to capture the spectacular starry sky for eternity and brag with it at home.
Water (probably for personal hygiene) is rationed with 40 litres per tent and day, alcoholic drinks however are not. Sounds right and it is. We had no problems taking showers twice a day (per person), brushing our teeth several times a day, drinking unlimited amounts of water and still had enough wine left over for dinner.
By the way, the “bathroom”, directly next to the tent, is covered and on three sides protected from view. Through the open side you have a spectacular view of the apparently untouched nature and the endless horizon of the Indian Ocean. The seclusion makes such experiences possible and in case camp neighbours accidentally cross the line of sight of the showering person, remarkable friendships may develop.
Digital-Detox und Open Bar
The tents and even the honeymoon tent we use, which is a little bigger, a little more secluded and a little more romantic than the others, have no minibar, hairdryer, sockets or internet connection. If you have stopped reading now at “no minibar” but have no problem living with deadly animals, you obviously have an addiction problem, but you probably won’t find out because this sentence is already not read anymore. The person will also not notice that the Sal Salis has an excellent open bar, which twentyfourseven looks as if someone has just refilled it without knowing or understanding the purchase prices, no matter how committed the guests are to taste the fine wines of all genres.
This magical miracle was extensively tested during our stay. Virtually in the “Double A/B Drunk and Blindtest procedure” with focus groups but without a placebo control group.
Result: The Open Bar at Sal Salis receives 10 out of 10 corks from the alcofluencers of the Fratuschi editorial team.
The tents have USB ports for charging a mobile phone and it is possible to charge camera batteries in the main tent. There is no internet connection and no telephone service!
(“Boss, how many characters can I…? …????… …I mean in total… What means including punctuation marks, spaces and everything? …What am I writing this for??????? Is this for Twitter or for the leading luxury travel blog?!? If nobody reads it, then I can do what I want! Yes, very well your majesty…As you command…: OneFingerHighSmiley:”)
A quick word about dinner since I work under pressure here: the dinner takes place in certain time slots and is a good opportunity to get to know the (few) other guests. The food itself is very good but not gourmet, rather regional, fresh and upscale cuisine. It fits perfectly into the surrounding, the taste is excellent and is more than sufficient. But the highlight is that you take it together with the other guests at a big table and thus get into conversation quickly. Another point that supports this wonderful safari/adventure/Indiana Jones atmosphere.
Tours and Experiences
Breakfast is not limited in time and you can have it alone or together at one of the many large tables. As long as you are ready when your tour starts – if you have registered for one. Due to the midday heat, the tours take place either in the early morning or in the late afternoon.
There are many tours but few guests. Therefore, the chance of being alone with your tour guide is not small. That happened to us on all our tours.
Mandu Mandu Gorge Hike
Mandu is the Aboriginal word for stones or many stones. Mandu Mandu, therefore, means many, many stones. Which still doesn’t quite fit. You walk over a hell of a lot of stones! Not for people who think flip-flops are outdoor gear just because you wear them at the pool. This “little” trip is stated as two hours for three kilometers and those who know Australia, already suspects that this is not exaggerated and only for the physically intact among us.
The Australians are quite funny people. What they call walk, we here in Europe would easily call a hike, what runs there under hike (see above) is quite a lot of climbing and what they call climbing, I don’t even want to know.
Accordingly, we climbed over many rocks, where the local snakes will certainly warm up in the midday sun. We didn’t see any of them, but we heard and read about them. The hiking, climbing and jumping was a lot of fun and is the ideal gear test for shoes and other equipment. But of course, you can also go barefoot. If you’re Australian. You will be rewarded with spectacular views and the good feeling of having been on an adventure playground that only nature can create over thousands of years.
Kayaking on the Yardie Creek
Alone – let’s forget about my wife and the tour guide for a moment, which is quite easy with a little practice – I felt in the canyons like the lonely explorer of a new world. The silence is breathtaking and here and there you discover kangaroos and all kinds of birds in the rocks.
Little tip: if you take the Mandu Mandu Gorge Hike in the morning and the kayak in the afternoon, you will fall asleep quite easily in the evening.
Swimming with whales
If I made one mistake during this trip to Australia, it was not to swim with whales. My wife had planned to do so, but in the end followed my argument that white sharks are mostly where there are young and old whales. The probability of becoming victim of a Carcharodon carcharias (quite a lot of power in these words!) is inversely proportional to the proximity of a whale. If the whale is old and maybe even already dead or at least close to death, the probability quickly becomes three-digit. Besides, if you would go out into the open sea in a small boat and there are waves and waves it would activate my wife’s seasickness and we probably don’t have enough Aperol Spritz on board to prevent a gushing emptying of the stomach. This, in turn, could attract sharks in no time because of the colour of red wine. The circle of life would then inevitably close. For me. And that would be a pity. Right? Don’t you think???
These arguments are all valid but not helpful. The daring ones who shot themselves into circulation-cutting wetsuits, category “tight is not tight enough”, or with lacking deep-sea swimming skills and, therefore, getting help by foam-like swimming accessories (“the Pool Noodle”), could tell of unforgettable, almost spiritual experiences. And they did so throughout the entire communal dinner: the boat did not wobble too much, swimming was totally easy, there were no sharks at all and the interactions with the giants were touching in the best sense of the word.
Note to self: next time when visiting Sal Salis – swim with whales. Several times. No noodle. If need be, without my wife.
From mid-March to July you can swim here while being well looked after in small groups with whale sharks – the largest fish in the world. From August to October with humpback whales. These guided tours must be booked in advance.
Snorkeling at Ningaloo Reef
This classic always works. Especially if you have one of the last healthy and 280km long coral reefs with UNESCO Heritage status right in front of your tent. And maybe you can even see the rare dugongs. What cute animals they are.
But you should not underestimate such snorkeling tour, because the current can easily carry you away. Add to this the heart and breath interruptions when you actually see an admittedly small but nevertheless impressive shark and a ray within reach.
Tip: Swimming and kitesurfing at Sandy Bay and snorkeling at Turquoise Bay.
Team Sal Salis
For snorkeling as well as for kayaking, our tour guide was “Nushy from the Bushy“, who has an exceptionally recommendable Insta Account and even cuts a fine figure in a wetsuit (see above).
The team at Sal Salis is young and makes you feel like you are on a school trip with close friends all the time. It’s never unprofessional or pushy, but liberating, uncomplicated and – what’s the word that so many hotels want to make their mark but already fail during check-in? Authentic. The Sal Salis Team is authentic Australian. It’s always beer o’clock and all that.
The perfect behaviour in a perfect environment. However, if you attach great importance to formal salutation or other attitudes and look for equipment as in the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea, you probably won’t be happy here anyway in view of the uncomplicated living together, the wind when showering and pooping, and all the sand everywhere. Just the walk to the mini-bar, which is not mini at all, the missing butler and no high speed Wi-Fi are then No Go’s.
I can’t imagine a more beautiful holiday, and, in my opinion, there is no more luxury for any money in the world.
I’ll be back. If it’s the last thing I do. A wonderful place to die and an even better place to live for more than three nights.
And one of these days I’m gonna see a spider. Or a snake. Or shark. Or a saltwater crocodile. Hopefully not while swimming with whales.
Cape Range National Park
But now, and last but not least, I’ll come to the area, in case this has not been sufficiently appreciated so far. There is a lot to see in the 500 sqkm Cape Range National Park. Also, above water. Less than 50 meters before our tent there were miles of lonely sandy beaches with blinding white powder sand. Crystal clear water in many shades of blue, breathtaking rock formations, canyons and a wildlife so extraordinary and seemingly intact that I often sat on the toilet longer than necessary just to watch grazing kangaroos at a few meters distance. Or maybe they watched me following the call of nature.
Every morning at breakfast we watched the humpback whales blowing, jumping and swimming a few hundred meters away, and in the evening the stars shining. At the same time, we enjoyed delicious food and drinks with our new friends and told each other about spectacular excursions.
Climate Info Ningaloo Reef:
From November to mid-March the Sal Salis closes and tents are taken down because it can get very hot and there is a risk of cyclones.
The rest of the year, the temperature is pleasantly warm, and it rarely rains.
Hotel Info Sal Salis:
Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef Safari Camp
Yardie Creek Rd
Cape Range National Park
WA 6707, Australia
Website Sal Salis
Costs: Depending on the season and the advance booking you have to calculate with at least 1,000 euros for two people per night in the Wilderness Tent. Food, open bar and the tours are included (fishing trips and whale diving are not included). Minimum stay is two nights.
The Sal Salis is a member of the Luxury Lodges of Australia.
I have stayed in several LLOA Lodges and have always been delighted.
For example, I also recommend a stay at Longitude 131 in the red heart of Australia.
All travel posts and tips for Down Under can be found under Sightseeing Australia.
Other articles on Fratuschi by this guest author:
- Hasselblad X1D: The First Mirrorless Medium-Format Camera
- Travel Photography in Style
- Leica M: The Essentials
- American Express Centurion: Personal Experience Report
- Centurion Card: Myth and Reality
About the author:
Audemar ended his modeling career far too early to take over as Chief Coordinator Writers Stuff. Or something like that… He is married to me but wants to remain anonymous and therefore writes under a pseudonym, which we won’t reveal…