Sails In The Desert: At One With The Outback

13 September 2015

The road to Sails in the Desert from Ayers Rock Airport showcases the barren expanse of Australia's Red Centre. The earth is carpeted in red soil, spotted with spindly shrubs and there's the occasional flash of indistinguishable wildlife.

In the distance is the impressive mass of Uluru and beyond this, at the horizon's edge, another recognisable rock formation, Kata Tjuta.

This might be why, upon reaching the 4-star hotel, many guests are floored by the modern luxury within the sliding-glass front doors.

The alarming contrast of sumptuous lodgings soon becomes one half of the outback experience, the perfect complement to Uluru's rugged nature.

 Outback ambience at Sails in the Desert (Image: Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia)

At One With The Environment

Some might protest and claim that staying in such a place distracts from the culture and wild feel of the Outback. This is not the case.

Upon arrival we walk past Mulgara Gallery, full of local Indigenous art including paintings, glassware and leatherwork. Each piece of interior furnishing also connects with the world outside in a way that emphasises our arrival into the Red Centre.

After a welcome drink of refreshing lemon myrtle, sourced directly from the leaves of a local tree, we head to our rooms.

The Terrace Room is a spacious and welcoming abode with two queen-sized beds (guests can opt for a king instead) and a sunny terrace overlooking the hotel's pool and gum tree-lined courtyard.

It's the little things, such as the cushioned sun loungers on the terrace or the soft carpet with Indigenous art, which grant better appreciation of the room and surrounding environment.

The view is tranquil, but it can't compare to the one from the lookout tower that rises above the top floor. From here the vista stretches to the horizon, capturing the distant Kata Tjuta – truly memorable at sunset.

 Opt for a Terrace Room for a place to relax in the sun (Image: Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia)

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Interactive Feast

Buffets are outdated. The new dining experience is one of an interactive marketplace with fresh ingredients and chefs on hand to customise meals. This is the focal point of Ilkari Restaurant, Sails in the Desert's main dining establishment.

Breakfast is a collection of international dishes spread across various stations including pastries, fruit and hearty meat. There's also an egg and pancake station where I can tailor said food to suit my style.

Dinner brings forth a three-course menu of antipasto, cured meat, soup and seafood, along with made-to-order dishes including roasted meat, Asian cuisine and more. Leave room for dessert, as there's a rich selection of sweets and healthy choices.

 The Ilkari Restaurant uses local ingredients to serve up a sensational feast (Image: Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia)

The Community's Centre

Connecting multiple hotels, apartments and the Ayers Rock Campground, Town Square offers a range of shops and services, while providing a serene environment for relaxation.

Sails in the Desert is a five-minute walk from Town Square, so guests can enjoy convenient access to the Tours & Information Centre, clothing and souvenir stores, a well-stocked supermarket, hair and beauty salon and post office.

Far from a simple convenience centre, Town Square is also where regular Indigenous dance and music performances are held, along with dot painting workshops led by members of the local community.

 Our attempts at dot painting - each one tells a story (Image: Ben Stower)

Unbridled Luxury

The Red Ochre Spa, located within Sails in the Desert, is a sanctuary for pampering and indulgence. Treatments include facials, full-body massages and hand and foot therapies, all accompanied by a tranquil setting.

For many guests at Sails in the Desert the final night is a magical affair of Outback scenery and local food during the Sounds of Silence dinner.

This unique four-hour experience begins with canapes and sparkling wine, complemented with didgeridoo music and uninterrupted views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

Dinner is a buffet of Outback cuisine including crocodile, barramundi and kangaroo, accompanied by quality Australian wines and beer. Everything is included in the one price.

After dinner the group is given a moment of silence to better appreciate the sounds of the Red Centre, followed by stargazing for constellations led by one of the resident staff.

It's a truly immersive Outback experience.

 One of the only times you could call a dinner setting truly unique (Image: Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia)

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Ben Stower

I love the kind of travelling that is one part strategic planning and two parts spontaneous adventure. Whether I'm exploring my local city or a small town in the middle of nowhere, I'm always hoping to find something no one else has discovered.