WOLGAN VALLEY RESORT & SPA IS A NATURAL SANCTUARY FOR THE INDIGENOUS WILDLIFE AND GUESTS ALIKE. TOTALLING A STAGGERING 4,000 ACRES, HRH SHEIKH AHMED BIN SAEED AL-MAKTOOM, CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF EMIRATES AIRLINE & GROUP, AND HIS TEAM AT EMIRATES HAVE BEAUTIFULLY AND MINDFULLY RESTORED A PART OF OUR MAGNIFICENT AUSTRALIAN LAND TO ONE OF THE MOST BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL SPACES THAT I HAVE EVER VISITED. THE RESORT ITSELF OCCUPIES JUST TWO PERCENT OF THE 4,000 ACRES OF THE RESERVE WITHIN WHICH IT IS SET AND IS A PART OF THE GREATER BLUE MOUNTAINS WORLD HERITAGE AREA.
WORDS BY SAMANTHA SARGENT, BE NATURALLYOU
One of the things that I LOVE about Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa is that there is no mobile phone reception. What a joy to be detached from the outside world. To be in the position of fully enjoying the present moment. To have four treasured days with my husband with no other contact with the “world”. Crazy to think that this is a rare occasion.
Not sure how it happened, but the reality I find myself in these days is very much linked with that little [iPhone] device that fits so snugly in the palm of my hand, and the one that my fingers are typing away on right now [macbook pro]. Naturally I love to spend as much of my time out and about in nature with the sunshine, fresh air and preferably a surf beach within sight. But my business is pretty much centered around connecting with the those former two devices. And as much as I love what I do, we all need to take a little holiday every now and then.
So, at the end of the year when I close my business for 10 days, I do exactly that … I switch off, completely, in a very beautiful part of the world where I can completely and utterly relax. No emails. No Facebook. No Twitter. No Instagram. No work whatsoever. These are the very ingredients for what it takes me to recharge my batteries.
Last year my husband and I split the “end of year” holidays between The Great Barrier Reef and The Blue Mountains. Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa was the obvious choice for the latter part of our time off. Words and pictures can not come anywhere near to the reality of how utterly beautiful the experience of a stay at Wolgan is. But I will do my best to share with you just a few snippets of my favourite memories that are forever etched in my mind.
WORKING IN HARMONY WITH THE LAND
Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa is a place to surrender to the beauty that surrounds. What started as an ambitious project of combining natural history, Aboriginal heritage and resort luxury has gone on to become a spectacular reality where the experience is unforgettable at every level. It brings tears of joy to my eyes when I see projects like this that work in harmony and respect for the land. Especially when it is the land I am so intimately connected to – Australia. Every effort has been made to create a sustainable resort with minimal footprint on the Earth. By using natural energy sources, as well as growing their own produce and extensively replanting the area after mindful cleansing, protecting the native flora and fauna, and community consultation, Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa sets a new benchmark in sustainable tourism.
UNFORGETTABLE “WOW” MOMENTS
It is clear to see why the area is considered so important in terms of conservation. Staggering natural rock formations and vast Eucalyptus forests at every turn, I don’t think I’ve ever had so many moments in one location that have truly taken my breath away.
Each morning we head out for a bicycle ride along the tracks to get out and about with nature, and say hello to our little kangaroo friends. There really is nothing quite like the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere. The only time I’ve felt a similar feeling was when I went on a roadtrip through the Mojave Desert all on my lonesome. Probably not the brightest thing to do in hindsight, but nevertheless, an experience that I will never forget. To be surrounded by such expansive, raw, rugged, natural beauty without a single sole in sight touches the soul on so many levels.
The bath! Oh my goodness, the bath! I could have spent hours in that bath. Not to mention the entire guest suite. Although you can’t really call it a “suite”. It’s a house. Correction, it’s better than a house. Every little detail has been thought of, and more so. We loved it so much that one of the days after a bicycle ride, breakfast and back-to-back spa treatments we couldn’t bear to leave our Heritage Suite. Between dips in the private plunge pool, lazing about on the comfy couches reading magazines and retreating to our ginormous four poster bed that also deserves a “wow” award for unrivaled comfort, it was the bath that won my heart. I LOVE baths. I love taking the time to add an essential oil blend to the warm water, and then lay back, relax and wash away stress. But what I got to experience at Wolgan was a bath experience taken to a whole new level – I could have sworn I was in a scene from Out of Africa. The romance was and still is unforgettable. To bathe with an open bath-to-ceiling window, a fresh gentle breeze, a giant sized bath for the two of us and uninterrupted view over the huge expanse of grassy plains and deep lush valleys is what captivated every cell in my body. But to get a surprise visit from skippy hopping through the nearby grass was the cherry on top.
Champagne sunsets was another “wow” moment. Sitting back, relaxing on the lounge chairs with a glass of bubbly each evening as the sun set behind the rocks and the sky filled with a canvas of burnt oranges, reds, corals and pinks is quite an arresting way to relax and make the transition from day to night.
Timeless Spa at Wolgan is without a doubt one of my favourite spas in the world. Most hotels and resorts have a spa, and most hotels and resorts get them terribly “wrong”. But please don’t think this is a whinge about hotel spas. I can imagine it to be incredibly challenging to get “right”. The lighting, the sound, the decor, the treatments, the staff, the products, the ongoing training, the location, the privacy … so many things to think about and so many ways in which one little aspect can let down the entire experience. And then there’s the fact that we’re all different and what may be awful for one person might be an amazing experience for another. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I love ducking in to a street market for a 30-minute reflexology or back-neck-and shoulder rub. What I love most about this type of treatment is the honesty and simplicity – I don’t expect soft music and gentleness and am almost always pleasantly surprised by how fabulous the treatment is. But there is nothing worse when you’re expecting a relaxing and indulgent hour or two at a luxury spa and receive nothing more than a half-assed attempt at a body treatment with quasi-natural products and a therapist who is clearly not enjoying her reality of being at work. Oh and then be stiffed for a few hundred dollars. Well, I am delighted to share with you that Timeless Spa at Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa is everything it claims to be, everything you would hope it to be and more so. The ambience is idealic, with soft, soothing sounds and an interior that takes full advantage of the beauty of the natural surrounds, whilst also mindfully maintaining privacy.
We are greeted by a friendly and peaceful spa manager who guides us to the lounge/chill out room so we can wait for our therapists. I could happily spend a good chunk of the day here slowly sipping herbal teas and curling up on the couch with a good book. But we are pleasantly invited to the treatment rooms for our pampering session. I’m booked in for an Essential Grooming – Spa Foot Therapy (translation: awesome foot and leg scrub and massage + perfect pedicure + lick of nail polish on my tootsies) followed by a Mountain Hot Stone Therapy (translation: a heavenly full body massage incorporating warm stones strategically placed on the body and incorporated in to the massage). Not only did I want to kidnap the therapist as she was and still is one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing, but man oh man did I completely drift off to another dimension. Relaxation does not do it justice. But what I also loved about the treatment was the “little personalized things”. I have a particular fondness for Sodashi and after mentioning this to the therapist, she happily incorporated a number of the products in to the treatment. If you haven’t yet experienced a Sodashi spa experience I strongly encourage you to do so. I’ve visited a number of spas that incorporate this luxurious Australian brand in their treatments, and they have all been outstanding. Whatever the formula is that Megan Larson (founder of Sodashi) implements in to the training of her spa partners is brilliant, perfect, and in a league of its own. I will forever be inspired by the passion, enthusiasm and brilliance of women like Megan. Anyway, back at Wolgan, after our two and a half hours of indulgence, my husband and I float on a cloud of bliss back to our Heritage Suite. As you can expect, he was equally as impressed with his therapist and treatments as I was. The only words that we can utter are those of joy, peace, love and “we must come back here again”.
What a joy it was to read that wherever possible, fruits, vegetables, nuts and herbs are plucked straight from their own organic kitchen garden; and to compliment this, Wolgan aims to source the remaining of their organic fare from nearby farms and private growers from a radius of no more than 180 kilometers, so as to hark back to the old Aboriginal method of reducing the impact of our needs on the environment and living off the land in which we live. But what more of a joy it was to taste and savor every mouthful. Hearing the words “we’re vegan” was no problem at all for the delightful staff at Wolgan, and as much as I love to cook myself, I’m certainly no chef. I love to enjoy the creations of outstanding chefs, like Dwane Goodman – Executive Chef at Wolgan Valley Resort – who create delicious unfussy food that you can’t help but take inspiration from. Every meal was outstanding.
NOCTURNAL WILDLIFE SPOTTING
AND STAR GAZING
At Wolgan you are invited to explore the nocturnal world of the Australian bush, where the wildlife is at its most active. After dinner we are driven out into the reserve in a luxury four-wheel drive vehicle. It’s a little hard not to think I’m on safari in Africa, once again. But instead of wild lions and elephants our torchlights reveal possums, wombats, kangaroos, wallaroos and wallabies. Oh so cute and iconic Australian animals that one could never tire of. We even get to spot a couple of wallaroos on a date 🙂 so we are told by our guide. So as not to interrupt the romance between our furry little friends any longer we’re then taken to a quiet, remote part of the Valley for some star gazing. If there is one thing in this world that I wish that I could do EVERY night it would be star gazing. I absolutely love it. The ancients believe that when we star gaze it inspires our creativity. I wholeheartedly agree with this, and whenever the chance arises I’m out there in the night sky with my head tilted upwards. But to experience the star gazing at Wolgan Valley is something rather special. Most star gazes are interrupted with light pollution from our big ciites. But not here in Wolgan. Captivating. Mesmorising. Breathtakingly beautiful.
Yes, I will definitely be returning to Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa. Not only to enjoy everything again, but also to experience a couple of activities that we didn’t get around to: a refreshing dip in the secluded Carne Creek “swimming hole” surrounded by the sights and sounds of wildlife; and a horse ride through the rugged terrain to intimately experience the Valley and its surrounds.
Lastly, there is an ancient Aboriginal quote within the Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa Book that I love. It captures the very essence of this utterly beautiful Resort.
“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love … and then we return home.”