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One of Australia's most luxurious resorts - Wolgan Valley


One of Australia's most luxurious resorts - Wolgan Valley

A brightly coloured bird no larger than a man's thumb has rendered our route impassable. Its striped head bobs defiantly, the black and white feathered flecks on its midriff ruffle and he dances from foot to foot like a flyweight boxer taunting a heavyweight. 

The heavyweight in this bout happens to be our nine-seater safari jeep. Its engine releases a throaty diesel growl, catching the gaze of a nearby mob of eastern grey kangaroos, but the black fronted dotterel bird remains unfazed. This is his patch; after all, he's just completed a mammoth flight from the chilly terrain of eastern Russia and isn't about to let a bunch of tourists interrupt his down time. 

Foolish as it seems though, the impossibly serene Wolgan Valley in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales isn't his final destination. No, the little chap is here only for a few days, resting up (as am I), before his next epic flight.

Much has been said and written about the luxurious nature of the resort but our brief dotterel encounter really encapsulates the essence of the undertaking here. 

In 2006 Emirates bought a 1620 hectare swathe of land not far from Lithgow. It spent a reported $125 million on developing what is Australia's most exclusive resort, building a property that covers only 2% of the entire landholding. The rest has been turned over to conservation and our little road block is just one positive outcome of this ongoing environmental project. Until last year these birds had never been seen in the valley, but now with the careful planting of more than 200,000 trees, creek purification strategies, wetland development and diligent pest control, the wildlife is beginning to flourish.

University researchers have used the reserve as a petri dish for environmental science. They have found cures for mange, a deadly parasite that can ravage wombat populations; gained unique insights into the effects of bush fires on certain types of vegetation; and have even discovered rare albino wallaroos. Prehistoric trees thought to have only remained in fossil form have been found and propagated, while historic structures dating back 180 years have been meticulously restored by archaeologists. Even Charles Darwin has been linked to the valley. 

This is much more than a swanky five-star resort with exquisite fine dining, private plunge pools and excellent service. This is place with some deeper substance that is inextricable connected to its landscape.

Later in the day - in fact in the sweltering heat of a summer's day - a dashing black steed named Bandit becomes my companion. We canter through open pastures, walk calmly up steep hillsides and trot along the shaded tree line that covers the lower edges of mountains.

In the shade of these brightly hued monolithic peaks that soar into the clear blue skies the temperature drops significantly and we can appreciate the quiet chatter of birds, the wind rustling in the canopy and the spectacular beauty of the land. Here lies the essence of country Australia. Huge, dramatic open spaces rivalled only by their isolation and grandeur.

In fact, the resort - normally front and centre of any luxury stay - sits firmly and inconspicuously in the background; a bespoke conduit from which to explore.

Towards the end of our ride a black snake - considered to be the sixth most poisonous in the world - slithers past Bandit's legs. But much like the hardy dotterel we had seen previously, Bandit too is unfazed by the heavyweight puncher in this arena. Instead we trot on down the bank, across Carne Creek (which is reputed to be one of New South Wales' most pure water sources) and back to the stables. The nine-seater safari jeep is ready and waiting, and without a dotterel bird impeding our progress we chunter over to the resort's Timeless Spa where I fall onto a bed for a signature Wattle Seed Renewal treatment. 

Life in the country certainly isn't quite as tough as it used to be.