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Glamping: 7 luxurious, sustainable camping sites
Solar-powered mod cons and bush butlers await in World Heritage sites around Australia
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a bit of opulence, but with more and more travelers concerned with their accommodation’s green credentials, a wave of eco-certified tented camps are covering Australia’s natural environment.
Luxury camping, or “glamping,” means you no longer have to rough it to enjoy the bush. These low impact tented camps go one step further.
They reduce ecological footprints, yet combine a wilderness experience with five-star comforts.
If you want to wake up to birdsong, enjoy a breakfast overlooking native bush land or a serene sunrise over the ocean, here are seven of Australia’s best natural safari camps.
1. Longitude 131°
Set within the spiritual heart of the Red Centre in the World Heritage-listed wilderness of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, this resort is unabashed, glamping luxury -- yet it’s one of the country’s best examples of social and environmental responsibility.
With their own private view of the sacred Aboriginal site, Uluru, the 15 luxury tents sit atop red-soil dunes and the flowing fabric ceilings creates the illusion of camping –- but having all the necessary mod cons like electrically operated curtains, Bose sound systems and soft, king-size beds.
Should they want to leave these dens of luxury, guests are spoilt for choice, with sunrise walks around the base of Uluru, nearby Kata Tjuta and Walpa Gorge and world-class dining under the stars.
Around 10 kilometers from the sacred Aboriginal site Uluru, Longitude 131° was only approved after extensive consultations with the Central Land Council and Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority.
Painstaking measures were undertaken to protect the unique environmental and cultural heritage of the area, including depth flora and fauna surveys to protect vulnerable species.
All profits are reinvested in the Indigenous Land Corporation's indigenous training and development across Australia and the entire property is designed so that it could be dismantled and relocated.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, +61 1300 134 044. Rates: From $1689/2070 single/double (includes all meals, selected beverages, tours, tickets to Uluru and transfers). Minimum two-night stay. www.longitude131.com.au
2. Sal Salis
With the nearby Ningaloo Reef and its 250 species of coral and 500 species of fish, the retreat offers memorable safe swimming and snorkeling encounters with the gargantuan, yet gentle, whale shark.
There are only nine tents set among the low lying dunes of the of the North West Cape, and each is only a lazy stroll to the water’s edge.
Though each tent is luxuriously appointed, guests can snuggle down on 500-thread count sheets with a clear conscience, knowing their impact on the World Heritage site is kept to a minimum. All power is solar-generated and the resort asks guests to respect the strict environmental and sustainability principles.
Water use is carefully monitored as is waste, meaning bathrooms are stocked with ecologically friendly shampoos and soaps along with a nature loo -- a state-of-the-art composting toilet.
There are no televisions and at night there’s precious little to do except star gaze, choose a book from the library or spot red kangaroos grazing in the dunes.
Sal Salis, Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, +61 2 9571 6399 or 1300 790 561. Rates: $730 per person, which includes all meals, drinks, tours and activities and transfers from Learmonth Airport. Minimum two-night stay, www.salsalis.com.au
3. Paperbark Camp
Inspired by an African safari, owners Irena and Jeremy Hutchings dreamed up their own version of an Australian bush safari experience with Paperbark Camp. It’s set on 40 hectres of unspoilt bush land at Jervis Bay, around two hours' drive south of Sydney.
While Gunyah (Aboriginal for meeting place) treetop restaurant regularly hosts weddings, the camp maintains its eco credentials by working in harmony with natural bush land surrounds.
There are no fences so as to maintain a wildlife corridor, the camp uses solar-powered lighting (12 volts), recycling and biodegradable products, and air-conditioning is eschewed for natural ventilation.
The luxury has a natural home. Perched among the canopies of swaying paperbark and gum trees, the six safari tents have wraparound timber balconies and sturdy canvas shelters.
Mod cons include fine linen, fluffy bathrobes and even a torch to spot mischievous nocturnal residents, like possums, kangaroos and sugar gliders. The four deluxe tents have an added pampering feature: free-standing bathtubs.
Paperbark Camp, 571 Woollamia Road, Woollamia, Huskisson, New Sout Wales ,+61 (2) 4441 6066. Rates: original safari tents from $325 per night, deluxe safari tents from $495 per night. Minimum two-night stay on weekends, www.paperbarkcamp.com.au
4. Spicers Canopy
This luxury tented camp is located on Spicers Peak Station, a working Australian cattle station adjacent to the World Heritage-listed Main Range National Park.
It’s in an area of southern Queensland known as the Scenic Rim, a semicircular chain of mountains, some of which were once active volcanoes.
The 10 canvas tents offer simple glamping luxury, each fitted with plump king-size beds, hardwood floors and flaps that open out to reveal beautiful views across the property towards Mount Mitchell, Spicers Peak and Mount Cordeaux.
Earning its advanced eco credentials, the camp uses solar power and has a worm farm to deal with waste.
After a night spent toasting marshmallows in the outdoor fire pit, guests can wake to a chorus of birdsong, wander over to the main lodge building with a stone fireplace and lounges and enjoy piping hot showers in the solar-powered bathrooms to the rear.
The real beauty is exploring the surrounding Australian bush on foot. Spicers can arrange guided walks by local ecology experts into the nature refuge, visiting bush swimming holes and bat caves.
Spicers Canopy, Gross Road, Queensland, +61 1300 286 295. Rates: nightly rates start from $990 per tent including all meals and drinks, www.spicersgroup.com.au
5. Kooljaman at Cape Leveque
One of the most isolated wilderness regions of Australia, Kooljaman is the Bardi Aboriginal name for Cape Leveque. At the tip of the Dampier Peninsular, around 220 kilometers north of Broome, it’s an area renowned for migrating humpback whales, deserted beaches and sunrises that beggar belief.
The camp has a number of conservation initiatives like tree planting, recycling and the construction of boardwalks to protect the sand dunes.
The Bardi Aboriginal communities of Djarindjin and One Arm Point own the camp. The long-term view is that the resort should everntually be wholly Aboriginal-run in order to funnel back profits into the community.
Currently, guests can take fishing, mud-crabbing and reef walking tours with Aboriginal guides.
The low-key accommodation at this rugged wilderness camp is designed to make the most of its natural coastal beauty, ranging from basic campsites and palm frond shelters to log cabins and raised African luxury, safari-style tents.
Each safari tent is equipped with a gourmet gas barbecue so guests can whip up their own meals but a Bush Butler is also on hand (a fancy term for room service), delivering gourmet meals to the tents.
Cape Leveque Via Broome, Western Australia, +61 (8) 9192 4970. Rates: $260 per night (twin share), $25 per additional adult, $10 per additional child (three-16 years). Minimum two-night stay, www.kooljaman.com.au
6. Karijini Eco Retreat
Owned by the Gumala Aboriginal Corporation, Karijini is one of the founding members of Ecolodges of Australia. A portion of the lodging rate goes towards the conservation of the surrounding Karijini National Park, with its cavernous gorges, sheer escarpments and naturally formed pools.
The ecologically sustainable principles in place include solar panels to generate power, rechargeable lanterns, a gray water treatment facility, recycled timber and toilet paper, natural products (soap is cut to size to minimize waste) and water provided by an installed bore.
Fitted with niceties like 100 percent cotton sheets, the eco tents are semi-permanent structures, meaning they can easily be erected and dismantled with barely any impact on the natural environment.
The tents aren’t air-conditioned but are naturally cooled with an eco tropical roof -- even in summer, when temperatures can reach 45 degrees.
Karijini Eco Retreat, near Weano Road in Karijini National Park, Western Australia, +61 (0)8 9425 5591, Rates: $269 per night (or stay three nights, pay for two), www.karijiniecoretreat.com.au
7. Bamurru Plains
Reconnecting with nature is easy at Bamurru Plains, near the Kakadu National Park. Guests can make the most of the pristine natural wetlands with airboat tours to spot birds, buffalos, crocodiles, riverboat cruises and fishing trips.
There are nine fabric tents built to blend in as seamlessly as possible with savanna fringing the Mary River floodplains, on raised, recycled timber platforms.
The resort is pleasingly free of technology, meaning no telephone, televisions or CD players and it’s a birdwatcher’s paradise: 236 species include whistling kites, egrets and blue-winged kookaburras erupting into noisy song right outside the tents.
The incredibly fragile habitat is preserved with the camp’s eco-conscientious principles from energy usage to waste disposal. The camp generates around 75 per cent of its power through solar panels, linen is organic cotton and all products used are free of chemicals.
Bamurra Plains, Northern Territory +61 2 9571 6399 or 1300 790 561. Rates: $930 per person including meals, drinks and activities. Minimum two-night stay, www.bamurruplains.com