Taking a trip to the Red Centre, the red dusty spiritual heart of Australia and home to the mighty Uluru, is beyond amazing. Also known to tourists as Ayers Rock, it got this name when William Gosse, the first non-Aboriginal person to see it back in 1873 ‘named’ it after Sir Henry Ayers, who was Chief Secretary of South Australia at the time.
The climb is closed
As the sun set over Uluru the climb has now closed for the final time. Making the dangerous scramble to the top has sadly become something of a tourist sport over the years, and resulted in 37 deaths.
Climbing has always been a subject of great controversy and debate. And many tourists ignored the signs asking them not to climb and explaining the reasons why. I’ve been lucky enough to go there twice and have never climbed on either of my trips. Personally I’ve always felt it’s disrespectful to the Anangu people, who are the traditional landowners, and for whom Uluru holds great cultural significance.
It’s a truly amazing place to visit and there’s so many better ways to experience the wonder of Uluru so here’s my tips to get the most from your trip.
Plan your trip
If you’re only going to be there once, you don’t want to rock up and miss the sunset or find you’re fighting for camera space.
Lots of tour companies organise both sunset and sunrise trips but do your research before booking to find out where you’ll be dropped as some viewing areas can get crowded. This one’s beyond the National Park, but if you’re staying for a couple of nights, and want another view, it’s worth the short walk to Imalung Lookout for a sunset view and if you’re lucky you could be the only one there.
You can do the whole fancy coach thing, where you pay posh prices to jump aboard a big bus and get a glass of fizz at sunset, before being herded back on the bus the second the sun’s gone down.
Going solo and hiring a car or going on a small group tour is the way to go in my book. We went on a trip with the Rock Tour, and were still in the middle of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park long after sunset when everyone else had gone. Just eight of us, hanging out, cooking dinner from the back of our van and feeling we were the only people on the planet with Uluru for company.
Do the base walk
I don’t think you can take a trip to Uluru without seeing it close up. This is when the sheer size of it really hits you and you can see the caves, paintings and the Mutitjulu waterhole. The ‘base walk’ is ten kilometres all the way round and it’s an amazing experience as after leaving our guide, we didn’t see a soul for most of the walk. Do this in the early morning or early evening due to the heat! And take plenty of water!
The sky’s the limit
You can get a pretty good view of Uluru from the air if you’re taking an internal flight in, or out, of tiny Connellan airport, but for the ultimate experience hop in a helicopter.
Ok so it’s not cheap but I reckon it’s well worth every last Aussie dollar. Ayers Rock Helicopters do several trips from $150 AD.
So many tourists think of Uluru as the one sight to see, but don’t even think about leaving until you’ve taken a trip to Kata Tjuta, (the Olgas), where you can do the short Walpa Gorge walk or the longer more strenuous Valley of the Winds Walk.
And well worth making time for a detour if you’re heading north, as Kings Canyon is a must especially if you’re planning to head up the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs, which is a five hour road trip away.