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Lonely Planet Award Sal Salis 4th Best in the World!

Wow are we Happy Campers!

The team at Lonely Planet have published their Best in Travel 2017 lists and Sal Salis has scored the number four (yes that’s right # 4) place in the world to stay!!   You can imagine how thrilled we are with that accolade and it is all thanks to our great team in camp and the amazing location in which we are privileged to operate!   To be honest, we have to share this accolade with the guys at the Department of Parks & Wildlife, with the Cape Range National Park and the Ningaloo Marine Park – as without them, there is no us!

As Lonely Planet rightly point out, Ningaloo is Australia’s ‘other’ dramatic reef …. Less well known than the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo offers miles and miles of white sand beaches (260 kms to be precise) and scarcely a soul in sight.  For great stretches, the coral reef and colourful fish are literally 2 x flaps of your flippers from the sand …. and that’s on a high tide!

Back to Lonely Planet’s lists! Online you can find some information, click here for the following

  • Top 10 Countries
  • Top 10 Cities
  • Top 10 Regions (congratulations to South Australia, number 5, a state we all know well and love!)
  • Top 10 Value

But there is lots more in the book including the other 9 best places in the world to stay and it is an eclectic line up!   A House in Essex in the UK, a Tree Hotel in Sweden,  the world’s first hotel staffed by robots (in Japan, no surprise there), Scotland Yard turned five star hotel and  a prison converted to a hostel in Russia. There are lists of micro-distilleries, bike-packing ideas and sustainable travel tips (congratulations Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, another place we admire enormously).

Any lover of travel is going to love this book, it’s perfect as a Christmas gift or to inspire you to save those travel dollars & start planning …. one things for sure, there are some seriously AMAZING experiences  out there in the world!

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Winter Wildlife Bonanza

It is the middle of winter in Western Australia and we have had more rain than usual in the Cape Range National Park.  No doubt the farmers of the Pilbara are pleased with the ‘greening’ of the countryside, but for us, life on the coast and under canvas can be pretty challenging.   Yet, every cloud has a silver lining and ours is the wildlife activity –  July is a busy time both in the Park and in the water off-shore.  Here is a sneak preview of what you might see at Sal Salis.

echidna

Camp Manager, Paul Bester, took this photo of an echidna – it looks more like a crown of thorns, or some strange cactus but look carefully and you will see his little nose poking out the front.  Echidnas are incredibly special animals as they are monotremes or egg-laying mammals of which there are only two types, the other being the platypus of eastern Australian, we don’t have them in the west.  Our echidnas are Short-beaked echidnas and over the last month we have been seeing them quite a lot as they are out searching for mates.

Smaller dingo

Sal Salis team member, Amy Beck saw her first dingo recently and managed to get some great photos.   The ancestry of Australia’s wild dog is still debated and recent studies indicate that they may have originated in southern China, travelling to Australia anywhere between 4600 and 18,300 years ago.  Dingos need a good supply of fresh water so we see them more often when there has been plenty of rain.

Perenties Lizard

We know this animal is not everybody’s favourite but he really is lovely and very well behaved around the camp.   This is a Perentie, the largest of the monitor lizards that are native to Australia, and the fourth largest lizard species in the world.   This photo was taken by our guest Natalia Leal and she did well as Perenties are quite shy and are not commonly seen.  Historically they were a favoured food item among desert Aboriginal tribes, and the fat was used for medicinal and ceremonial purposes.

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The guys on board Live Ningaloo’s boat Wave Rider have been seeing good numbers of Manta Rays and this photo is fabulous!   Like whale sharks, mantas are filter feeders and eat large quantities of zooplankton, which they swallow with their open mouths as they swim.  Gestation lasts over a year, producing live pups. Mantas may visit cleaning stations for the removal of parasites and, like whales, they breach … for reasons we don’t understand.

Lastly – thanks to guest Nanda Haensel, who visited us from Singapore, she took our background photo while out on a walk in the Cape Range National Park.

Amy & Julian Love Life at Sal Salis

Amy is with us for a second season, returning this year as Lodge Supervisor. Having grown up in the UK, she studied Art and Photography at school and then University. Since moving to Ningaloo, her art practise has reflected and been inspired by the unique natural landscape of the area. Wildlife has always been one of her greatest loves and provides inspiration for her travels, including to Latin America, where she fell in love with diving and had her first shark, dolphin and croc encounters! She has also had very memorable trips to the USA, Asia and of course Australia.

The beauty of the reef and the stunning marine environment of Ningaloo are what keeps her happy living so far away from home.

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Amy shares her life with Sal Salis Head Guide, Julian. Also born in the UK, Julian is just mad about the great outdoors and being on the water.

Growing up in the Great British countryside he spent his free time exploring the fields and wildlife that surrounded his house and he fished for pike and perch in the rivers of Norfolk. Being half Italian, every summer he went to visit family in Naples where his uncle took him fishing for for giant Bluefin tuna, XOS tailor and dorado with his uncle.

He’s managed to combine his love of fishing with his love of travel, which has taken him to Central and South America, fishing the murky depths of the Amazon, the supersize tarpon of Nicaragua, the crystal clear flats of Belize right through to jigging for amberjack and wahoo in Mexico. On the Central America trip alongside Amy, he also discovered a love of diving, so the Great Barrier Reef and eventually Ningaloo seemed obvious destinations to explore!

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It appears we have him well & truly hooked!   Working as a guide for the last year, Julian spends his days-off  snorkelling, diving and of course fishing both from boats and from his kayak, where he has had some serious adventures – being bumped by feisty bronze whaler sharks, encounters with minke and humpback whales and being stalked by a large tiger shark, to name a few. Kayak captures have included the biggest Spanish mackerel caught from a kayak in Australia in 2015 and most notably, the first and only Billfish to have been kayak caught on the West coast of Australia.

As with most of our local sports fishermen, Julian’s love of all things marine means most fishing is  ‘catch & release’  but occasionally he brings something home to enjoy with Amy and his Exmouth mates.

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Above image of Amy by L-A Shibish, background image of dingo by Amy.

Kinky Whale Shark Spotted

Sal Salis guests have been heading to sea in search of whale sharks since 01 April and on the 2nd they spotted the whale shark known as Kinky!!

Each day begins with a transfer to Tantabiddi Boat Ramp, a snorkel test, kitting out in wetsuit & snorkel gear followed by morning coffee as you cruise out into the Indian Ocean.  The spotter plane will be out ahead and looking for the whale sharks.

When they are found our photographer/guide and guests leap into the water ahead of its path and wait as this huge and wonderful giant appears from the shadows.  Sometimes the water is so deep you cannot see the bottom (and you try not to think about what might be down there) but recently we have been lucky and found the whale sharks in quite shallow water.

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So far this month the spotter planes have been seeing up to 20 whale sharks in one day which means the boats are finding 4 or 5 to swim with.

Wave Rider’s skipper Murray was pleased to see that KINKY was spotted on Day 2 of the season.   Researchers give the whale sharks names to identify them and this fellow below really deserves his name.   Murray speculates that this young male (perhaps 15 years old and 5 metres long) was injured when young and he has managed to adapt to his kinky body shape.  Like all sharks, whale sharks have an amazing ability to heel themselves.   Science does not yet have all the answers but it is thought that these gentle giants might live to over 100 years.

Kinky Whale Shark

 

 

Paul & Candice – at Home at Sal Salis

Welcome to Paul & Candice 

As we count down to the opening of the 2016 season, now less than a month away, we welcome Paul & Candice as our Lodge Managers …. this dynamic duo has a ton of talent from brilliant photography to up-cylcling & cooking!

Paul first came to Sal Salis as a guide in 2014.  We loved his expert guiding style, his ability to share his deep understanding of nature with interested guests and his calm assured manner.  We also loved his passion and impressive skill for photography.   Paul grew up on a tobacco farm in Zimbabwe and after studying in Cape Town,  spent time as a Ranger at a private reserve adjoining the world famous Kruger National Park.  His love of photography started as a way to connect with guests – helping them operate their, often very new, cameras.  Paul spent 2015 as a walking guide at Arkaba in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges.   Whilst he loved being immersed in a different Australian habitat, the lure of the ocean is strong!  Paul is happy to return to the turquoise water, white sand beaches & red rock of the ranges at Sal Salis.

Paul is joined by another of his great loves – Candice.   Like Paul, Candice grew up in Africa and has a deep rooted love for wildlife and nature.  Childhood holidays were spent with family in the Timbavati, an area of land adjacent to Kruger where she raised all manner of creatures by hand,  from king-fishers to bush babies.  Later holidays were spent scuba diving and swimming  with whale sharks, dolphins and manta rays in Mozambique. Candice carried her passion for the outdoors into her career by studying horticulture. She ran and owned a landscaping and up-cycling pallet business for nine years before eventually giving in to love and leaving South Africa to join Paul.    Candice swears that Paul is not the only attraction at Sal Salis – “It is the perfect balance of ocean & outback and one of the best places on earth to call home!”

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Turtle Egg Laying Time

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Sal Salis is currently closed for the season  so our Camp Managers Paul and Candice are finding time to enjoy themselves.  They had been out for an early morning paddle on the kayaks yesterday when they noticed turtle  tracks across the damp sand.  Following them they found this gorgeous girl who had just finished laying her eggs and was busy covering her nest.   She was exhausted and went at a VERY slow pace, eventually she trundled back down to the water and swam off.   Candice says the beach is covered in nests at the moment.

Three of the world’s seven marine turtle species nest on the mainland beaches and islands of Ningaloo Reef during the summer months.

  1. Green turtles (Chelonia mydas)
  2. Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta)
  3. Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Incubation is then around 60 days so through March and into April turtle hatchings on the beach are a very special experience for some of our lucky guests.   It is hard to describe how emotional you feel watching the tiny turtles – perfect and beautiful, strive for life.

Photos by Camp Manager – Paul Bester

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Meet Paul Bester

Our guides at Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef not only have a passion for the environment and creating lasting memories for our guests, some of them have some pretty impressive talents. Guide Paul Bester has been making all of us here in the office jealous with his weekly Sal Salis photo updates!Let’s get to know a little more about our field guide Paul (aka photographer extraordinaire) …

Paul is a South African native who grew up on a tobacco farm and spent his afternoons looking for bird eggs and trying to outsmart the local antelope. At boarding school he met our very own lodge manager Tristan, where they both joined the falconary club and spent huge amounts of time out of the classroom and in the sticks. After studying in Cape Town, Paul joined a lodging group in South Africa and learned all the tricks of the trade – from fine dining to identifying animal tracks. From there he became a game ranger in Kruger for three years and grew his love of photography – a great way to relate to guests on a personal level by teaching them how to operate their cameras to get the best shots of leopards, cheetahs, elephants, lion, antelope… the list goes on and on!

After a busy season showing guests around the Ningaloo Coast, Paul says.. “And here I am. Still got the camera, Still living the dream!”With so many to choose from it has been a struggle to pick just 10 of Paul’s shots, but we’ve managed and here are some of our favourites,

cape range
Top of the Cape Range
“I loved the way the clouds formed the natural leading lines. Including a little foreground gives a feel of just how beautiful this place is…”
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Night Sky
“Using the guest tent as my focal point puts the vastness of the night sky into perspective”
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Thunderstorm
“This image was captured from the Sal Salis whale watching deck. The wind had picked up to a steady gail with a huge storm brewing over the ocean. I love the way the clouds draw the viewer into the picture with a bit of lighting up the footpath drawing you into the tents. That day we were all bracing for something big, fortunately it all blew over”
breath taking beaches
Breath Taking Beaches
“I took this picture just north of the lodge, then cropped it to give the viewer a feel for the open spaces along the Ningaloo Coast”
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Stars Above the Lodge
“I love this photo of the main lodge with a full star trail behind. Having almost zero light pollution makes for amazing star gazing. I left the shutter open for half an hour which created the circle effect”
senic flight
Scenic Flight
“Hop onto a light aircraft and see the reef from above, a place where desert meets ocean. I captured this image at the airstrip, the red dust creates a whirlwind effect”
wild skies yardie creek
Wild Skies Over Yardie Creek
“This image was taken on one of our Yardie Creek Gorge Walks. The wind brings in the moisture over the ocean, making for a dramatic contrast between sky and land”
dingo exmouth 2014
Dingo
“Getting up before the crack of dawn does have it’s perks! Spotted this canine a little way up the road from the lodge. Having seen tracks on most gorge walks, actually seeing one in the wild is a bucket list tick for me! “
mandu cave 2014
Mandu Cave
“I’ve had my eye on this cave for a while and have tried many different ways to photograph it. Having my brother up, I made him lie on his back in a classic ‘outback Aussie’ position, waiting out the heat of the day”
main lodge 2014
Main Lodge
“Now this is wow!!”

Sal Salis Takes Out ‘The Eco Award’ at Smith Hotel Awards 2014

The results are in… Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef has won ‘The Eco Award’ in the Smith Hotel Awards 2014!Over 20,000 members of the public voted for their favourite properties all over the world, listed on boutique hotel specialist website Mr & Mrs Smith. We are thrilled to have then been chosen by a panel of specialist judges, including Holy Tuppen, editor of Green Hotelier, Livia Firth, founder of Eco Age and Chris Goreel Barnes, co-founder of the Blue Marine Foundation, as the winner in the Eco Category. “This is an incredible achievement for Wild Bush Luxury and for Sal Salis, and is a testament to the focus and importance we put on operating our wilderness camps in an environmental and sustainable way.” said Wild Bush Luxury CEO Charles Carlow.

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The Eco Award looks to champion those hotels that are able to combine luxury and eco-tourism – not the easiest feat! – with Sal Salis being recognised for its commitment to conserving and protecting not only Ningaloo Reef and the Cape Range National Park, but the environment in general, and promoting these ideals to guests all while keeping to a luxury standard.

Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef operates under a license agreement with the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) in Western Australia, in what is a role model partnership between National Parks and private sector tourism with the ultimate aim of conserving the region’s natural environment through educational and environmentally sound tourism operations. In addition to the park entrance fees, 5% of the business’s turnover goes to DPaW and their conservation work across Western Australia. The rooms, main lodge and boardwalks are raised off the ground to protect flora and fauna and prevent unnecessary erosion, 100% of the camp’s power is solar generated, all water is carried in and all waste is transported out and recycled where possible. The colour of the tents and lodge ensures that the camp blends in naturally with the surrounding landscape. Beachside safari for real… check it out!

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We are very proud to be recognised among the list of other Australian hotels, resorts and lodges that have dominated the Smith Awards this year with Sydney’s 1888 winning ‘Best Budget Boutique’, Emirates Wolgan Valley winning the ‘Best for Families’ category and Southern Ocean Lodge winning the ‘Above and Beyond’ award. Click here to see the entire list of winners for the Smith Awards 2014 and thank you to all who voted.

Turtles, Turtles, Turtles!

November is one of our favourite times at Sal Salis, when the green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles we have snorkelled alongside all year begin to mate offshore and then haul themselves up onto the beach to lay their eggs. About six weeks later, the smallest turtles you ever did see dig their way out of the sand and race for the protection of the water – quite a spectacle for some of our lucky guests staking out the nests under moonlight after dinner.

Digging Snorkel1
Hawksbill Nesting

In honour of this exciting time at Ningaloo, we thought we’d share 10 incredible facts about some of our favourite snorkelling buddies!

1

There are seven species of marine turtles in the world – all of them are threatened – three of which are known to nest on the beaches and islands adjacent the Ningaloo Reef – green, hawskbill and loggerhead.

2

Green turtles get their name from the green colour of their body fat! This colouring comes from the seaweed, algae and other ‘sea-greens’ they feed on.

3

In Western Australia, there is only one genetic stock of green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles resulting in a larger risk to the species as low genetic diversity contributes to reduced resilience to threats such as disease and population decline.

4

Marine turtles can be identified by the tracks they leave behind in the sand.

5

Only 1 in 1000 marine turtles survive to sexual maturity as hatchlings and juveniles are a favourite food for many marine predators such as sharks, sea birds and larger fish. Unfortunately humans pose the biggest threat to survival through accidental catches in fishing lines, boat strikes and pollution being ingested.

6

Marine turtles have a ‘magnetic foot’ which means they return to the very same beach they were hatched to lay their eggs, it’s still a mystery how they manage to navigate thousands of kilometres from their feeding groups back to their nesting beaches.

7

The time it takes for all turtles to hatch depends on the temperature of the sand in which they were laid. Eggs will hatch faster if the temperature of the sand is warmer. Temperature also affects the gender of hatchlings, with cooler sand generating more males, and warmer sand more females.

8

Marine turtles can live into their 80s!

9

Hatchlings emerging from their nests are drawn to light, usually moonlight, which guides them to the sea. Due to increased coastal development, some hatchlings are drawn by the lights of the towns, away from the sea.

10

After dinner in November, guests at Sal Salis might be lucky enough to head down to the beach with our lodge manager Tristan – trained in turtle tracking – and watch for green, hawksbill or loggerhead hatchlings make their dash for the ocean!

Did Someone Say Whales?

The ‘Ningaloo Super Highway’ is back in action, turning the waters off Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef into whale soup !The humpback whales have arrived early this year, sharing the waters with Ningaloo’s most famous resident – the whale shark. Normally the humpbacks reach Ningaloo at the end of July, on the way to their over-wintering (and birthing) grounds in the Kimberley. Following the humpbacks are pods of killer whales, looking for a humpback calf sized meal.

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The wildlife calander along the Ningaloo Coast is on non-stop rotation, moving from sea turtles, to whale sharks, humpback whales, killer whales, and back to turtles – of course not forgetting the fish, reef sharks and manta rays that call Ningaloo home year round. From July, our guests will often see humpback whales breaching from right out the front of their Wilderness Tents, making it one of the most popular times to visit, as the infamous whale sharks are also still in the area welcoming snorkellers to get a closer look. Did you know the spots covering the sharks are individual to each one? Just like a human’s fingerprint they are used by scientists to identify individual animals and some sharks have been photographed 17 years after first being sighted!

Some recent guests at Sal Salis were lucky enough to swim with 5 different whale sharks, spot a pod of killer whales AND two humpback whales in one day last week – we weren’t lying when we said whale soup!