Every time I experience that first glimpse of Uluru, the goosebumps rise and my heart beats faster. While still far away, amongst the burnt orange dunes, it dominates the central desert landscape. Uluru is a striking landform, sacred to the local Indigenous people, and one of Australia’s biggest tourist attractions, it’s the spirituality that draws you in.
Surveyor William Gosse first sighted the large sandstone landmark in 1873, naming it Ayers Rock after an important fellow, Sir Henry Ayers of South Australia. It was renamed Uluru/Ayers Rock in 2002 out of respect for the traditional Aboriginal name.
Interesting fact: Did you know that while the monolith stands 348m high, with a perimeter of 9.4km, most of the rock is underground; some 2.5km underground, although no one knows how far.
Uluru was formed over 600 million years ago, beneath the ocean before being thrust out of the ground well after the ocean had receded. Uluru is of great cultural significance for the Anangu people, the Traditional Owners of the area and plays a big part in the local Dreamtime stories. With numerous sacred sites on Uluru, visitors are asked not to photograph these sensitive areas, signified with signposts, when circumnavigating the rock.
A walking trail has been created around Uluru with detours to significant areas along the way. You can complete the big lap on foot, hire a bike from the Cultural Centre or my favourite, on a Segway as it’s the best fun you can have with your pants on.
The team at Uluru Segway Tours will look after you and offer several tours to suit and I recommend the sunrise tour as it's spectacular watching the changing colours as the sun rises. Once you’ve put on all the protective gear and passed the introductory safety course and practice runs, it’s time to head off with your guide to circumnavigate the base of Uluru. During the tour, you’ll learn about the flora and fauna, the geology of the rock and hear some of the local Indigenous stories of how Uluru was formed.
You can also self-drive around the rock or hold tight on the back of a Harley and see it with the wind in your hair. If you are going to self-drive, grab a Uluru Audio Guide from the Yulara Visitors Centre as it will give you a running commentary of what you’re seeing plus some local stories. To see what Uluru looks like from a different angle, jump aboard a helicopter tour with Professional Helicopter Tours based at the Uluru Camel Farm. After checking it out from the air, hop on a camel and go and watch the sunset.
The Uluru Camel Cup
The biggest annual event at Yulara is the Uluru Camel Cup, run over two days during May. The festivities kick off on Friday night with live entertainment and the chance to bid on a favourite camel at the Camel Cup Calcutta.
Saturday is the big day, with hundreds of people coming to watch five qualifying races, Fashions on the Field, Reptile show and several food trucks. The racing concludes with three big events, the Quarter Mile Flyer, Plate Race and lastly, the Uluru Camel Cup. The event culminates with the Frock Up & Rock Up Gala Ball and I can attest, it is a fantastic day.
Not to be Forgotten, Kata Tjuta
From Uluru, it’s a 50km drive to the equally impressive Kata Tjuta. With numerous domes, Kata Tjuta is an extremely significant cultural site. Visitors are encouraged to explore this site on two spectacular walks, Walpa Gorge and Valley of the Winds, and are asked to stay on the marked tracks and only take photos where permitted.
WHERE: Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park is located in NT’s Red Centre, 447km from Alice Springs
PERMITS: An Uluru – Kata Tjuta Parks Pass is required to experience the natural wonders of the national park and can be purchased online (https://parksaustralia.gov.au/uluru/plan/passes/) or at the entry station, $38 for 3 days or $50 for an annual pass
FUEL: Unleaded and diesel fuel is available at Yulara
BEST TIME TO VISIT: From April to September as the weather is generally cooler and reduced chance of rain.