The Ningaloo eco retreat fit for royalty

Tom ZaunmayrPilbara News
VideoNewlyweds Pippa Middleton and James Matthews are bound for an idyllic WA spot.

Few places in Australia could get away with defining themselves as luxury despite having composting toilets, limited showers and no air-conditioning, but then again, few places in Australia are quite like this.

Sal Salis Ningaloo eco retreat is a small glamping-style resort hidden away in the sand dunes between Cape Range National Park and the Ningaloo Reef.

Guests can be chaperoned from the airport or call the lodge while in Exmouth to notify of their arrival ahead of time if driving.

One of the tents under a starry sky.
Camera IconOne of the tents under a starry sky. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


Upon arriving in the carpark at Mandu South, you are still none-the-wiser as to where exactly this mystery resort is — there is nothing here except the beach, sand dunes and a creek bed.

It is only after a solar-powered golf buggy picks up your bags and you are guided along a short walk by one of the resident employees that you finally see the hideaway.

The resort is intimate.

Consisting of only a handful of tents, a large deck acting as the communal area and a beach, Sal Salis’ charm is in its isolation and it has gone to great lengths to offer comfort without taking away from its setting.

The Sal Salis 'Wild Bush Luxury' nestled behind the first row of sandunes south of Exmouth.
Camera IconThe Sal Salis 'Wild Bush Luxury' nestled behind the first row of sandunes south of Exmouth. Credit: Greg Burke The West Australian April 14 2009 out.

Co-owner Stewart Cranswick is no stranger to the concept, having opened many safari-style ventures in his native Africa before moving to WA.

“The discerning market now is very conscious of eco aspects and I think we’re doing that well, ” he said.

“It’s about service of a high level, that’s critical, then you have the givens — you have to have a comfortable bed and good food.

“It’s pretty new to a lot of people.

“The isolation really takes a lot of people by storm — they love that.

“Australians want to see Australia in style, and this is a fantastic opportunity where you feel a bit closer to nature instead of having chrome and glass and air-con.”

A tour group from Sal Salis on the lookout for rockw allabies in Mandu Mandu Gorge.
Camera IconA tour group from Sal Salis on the lookout for rockw allabies in Mandu Mandu Gorge. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr

The balance between providing creature comforts without affecting the surroundings is evident everywhere you look.

Raised boardwalks make for ease of access across the dunes without having to clear a path through the scrub.

The minimal lighting is all solar powered and provides just enough light to find your way in the dark without spoiling the starry skies.

Even the tents have a low profile so as to blend in to their surroundings.

One of the more interesting features of the resort is the inclusiveness in everything you do.

Rather than being split apart to go about your own business, all guests sit together at a long table for dinner, and all are invited on the daily snorkelling and walking tours.

The food is prepared by guest chefs, with seafood being a mainstay given the local produce right on the doorstep.

Being in a national park, the resort has struck up a partnership with the Department of Parks and Wildlife, something Mr Cranswick believes is a perfect advertisement for both parties.

One of many benefits of Sal Salis’ isolation is the wild nature of the area.

Kangaroos sitting in front of your tent are a regular sight and the beach teems with marine life.

Further offshore are whale sharks and humpack whales.

The beach in front of the resort is ideal for drift snorkelling, with reef just metres from the shore.

Perhaps the biggest benefit, however, is the lack of phone reception, something Mr Cranswick said was “hugely important”.

Putting the phone down is a near-impossible feat for many these days, so it is refreshing to have no option but to do so.

After a day without your phone in this truly isolated location, you begin to remember you don’t have to worry about the outside world to lead a good life.

There are few places in Australia where the balance between luxury and the environment is so finely tuned, but then again, there are few places in Australia quite like Sal Salis.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails