Inside one of the world’s most amazing and remote national parks Karijini is one of Australia’s genuine eco glamping stays. Steve Madgwick tries the Karijini Eco Retreat out for style, frogs and all.
Because it is in the middle of nowhere, your best two accommodation options in remote Karijini National Park, in Western Australia’s Pilbara, are camping and glamping.
Luckily, the locally-owned glamping option, Karijini Eco Retreat, is a very good one (it’s run by Gumala Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the Banyjima, Innawonga and Nyiyaparli people of the Pilbara).
The ‘semi-permanent’ deluxe eco tents are a good mix of ‘with the elements’ and homely touches, with fly nets on all four walls – you choose whether or not to block out the morning light.
Although, inevitably, you will want to wake up early in Karijini to explore the park’s seriously colourful gorges in the early-morning light, before the sometimes 40-plus-degree heat of the day takes over.
The fawn tents are charmingly tinged with the ‘Karijini tan’ (red dust that you just can’t hide from out this way) and are pretty well spaced from each other (unlike in some glamping resorts).
You can wave to your neighbours without hearing about the minutia of their day and their evening escapades (nudge nudge, wink wink).
The retreat has genuine eco-cred, with low voltage ‘mood’ lights, no noisy air-con (so you can acclimatise properly because it gets hot, hot, hot out here) and the bathrooms are stocked with non-toxic soaps and shampoos, which apparently have a minimal impact on the Pilbara’s environment.
Solar power takes care of most of the limited demand for power here, although diesel generators are used to “provide back-up power when required”. Naturally, there are compromises, mainly to do with the limited power supply, but that’s the price you pay for staying in a no-BS eco stay; sometimes you just can’t have it both ways.
The roofless but sheltered en suite is perhaps the best example. Inevitably, you will happen upon one (or more) little green frogs in and on your toilet. That’s all part of the environmentally-friendly wastewater treatment system, according to the retreat.
“It’s a sign of a healthy ecosystem,” it says. “They [the frogs] just like your bathroom water. Just flush them down the toilet [preferably before you go].”
Inside, the generous sized tents are functional with some subtle hoopla too. The king bed is the best for hundreds of kilometres around, the manchester understated yet indulgent to the touch, while the minimal fixtures exude a pared-back, modern campaign furniture vibe.
The eco resort’s restaurant does a fine job of giving guests a wide choice of cuisine; but it is strange eating tiger prawns out in the outback and, as you can imagine, the salad isn’t exactly picked from a kitchen garden. Food prices are a shade over par, with mains starting in the high twenties, but that’s the cost of remote-area logistics for you.
While a standard night’s accommodation here is $315 (per person, per night), there are often special package deals if you book ahead that include breakfast, packed lunch and dinner credits (plus a bottle of West Australian wine) for not much more than that.
The young and enthusiastic staff bring an energy to this place which makes the Eco Retreat a great base for exploring the park’s gorges (and maybe a spot of canyoning in them with West Oz Active). You can start with Joffre Gorge, which is just like a backyard pool to the retreat, a 10-minute walk away.
The Karijini Eco Retreat is certainly worth a couple of nights’ splash-out when you make it out to one of Australia’s best national parks.
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