This week’s dream: A headlong plunge into Australia’s wild west
Even we Australians fail to fully appreciate the “vast, bizarrely beautiful” continent we call home, said David Prior in Condé Nast Traveler. I moved from Australia to the U.S. 10 years ago, and I didn’t often look back. Recently, though, I began working through a bucket list of postcard Australian locales, from the tropical islands of Queensland to the forests of Tasmania. My final destination would be the country’s most remote region, the “mythical” northwest. Because I was seeking “the purest evocation of Australia’s outsize landscape,” I put both the wild Kimberley Plateau and the Ningaloo Reef on my itinerary and after flying to the Kimberley from Perth, set off on the twohour drive to a guest ranch.
I wake before dawn on my first day at El Questro Homestead to meet my guide. A helicopter waits nearby, and it carries me away across the 700,000-acre wilderness until the pilot looks down on a lush gully between two cliffs and asks, “What about I drop you off there?” A short walk from “there” brings me to a 164-foot waterfall, and for the next hour I swim in silence in a palm-hemmed pool below the cascading water. Soon enough, I’m off again, by air, to fish for barramundi in an epic river gorge. My days at El Questro are filled with such adventures, the kind that “give the rare impression that you are the very first to have experienced them.”
At my next stop—a luxury tent camp set on dunes near the Indian Ocean— each morning is “like being in a psychedelic dreamscape.” Wallabies hop past, and the rising sun deepens the turquoise color of the Ningaloo Reef that lies just offshore. Minutes after waking, I’m snorkeling alone among green turtles and schools of parrotfish. The staff at Sal Salis has a breakfast barbecue waiting when I return, and later I join a marine biologist for a short excursion. I am calmly floating in the ocean when the crew waves to get my attention. A humpback whale and her calf are swimming just 50 feet from me, and as I watch them, “I can feel the force of their momentum as if I were standing too close to a passing bus on a busy street.” At Sal Salis (salsalis.com.au), double-occupancy tents start at $575 a person.