Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Travel Guide Oceania Australia Northern Territory Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

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Introduction

Ukuru

Ukuru

© magdabis

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is the home of Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock), one of Australia's most iconic attractions. The park was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987 as a natural property, and in 1993 it was listed as a cultural landscape, making it one of the few places in the world recognised for both its natural and cultural significance.

The park is located just north of the South Australia - Northern Territory border, approximately 440 kilometres southwest of Alice Springs and 1,431 kilometres south of Darwin by road. The total land area of the national park is approximately 1326km². The traditional aboriginal land owners of the park are the Aṉangu people.

Visitors should understand that there are three locations that need to be familiar with when visiting. Firstly, the airport - that is known as Ayers Rock airport. Secondly, the National Park - that contains both the Rock (Uluru/Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta/The Olgas. The park closes at night has few services and no accommodation or camping. Thirdly, Yulara that is the resort town that contains all the services for the area. The three locations are all distinct, and you need to consider how you will travel between them.

Uluru and Kata Tjuta are considered sacred places by the Aboriginies. The land is owned by the Anangu, leased by the government and jointly managed by the Anangu and the Australian parks and management services and visitors will notice efforts throughout the area to include and encourage respect for the Anangu perspective on the land. Much of Kata Tjuta is off-limits, for example, and climbing Uluru is strongly discouraged by sign-posts. A few areas around the base of Uluru are also off-limits for photography, although there is no problem with it throughout most of the park. In practice, however, the daily management of the parks is handled by members of the Australian parks department.

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History

The Anangu people have connected to the area for thousands of years. Some records suggest they may have been there for more than 10,000 years. On an expedition in 1872, the explorer Ernest Giles saw the rock formation from a considerable distance, although he did not reach the base. Giles described it as "the remarkable pebble". In 1873, the surveyor William Gosse followed his footsteps and reached the rock. He chose to name it in honor of the Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers. Giles himself chose to name the domes nearby for Olga, the Queen of Württemberg.

The names Uluru and Kata Tjuta come from the local Anangu people and respectively mean "Earth Mother" and "Many Heads". In the Anangu language they are written as Uluru and Kata Tjuta, the letters with underscores indicating that they are pronounced with the tongue curled upwards and touching the upper part of the palate instead of the front part or the teeth.

Eventually, the Australian government moved to a dual-naming policy - initially "Ayers Rock / Uluru", and then "Uluru / Ayers Rock". Both names are still in frequent use. Although most official materials use the Anangu names.

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Sights and Activities

  • Uluru, an image synonymous with the Australian outback, is a sandstone monolith standing 348 metres, although the bulk of the rock actually sits under the ground. It has a total circumference of 9.4 kilometres. Walking around it is much more enjoyable (and respectful!) compared to climbing it. It takes about 2 hours, though more if you include breaks and photo stops. Uluru has a dual name, with Ulura being the traditional Aboriginal name, and Ayers Rock the English name. The colour of the rock changes with different times of the day and year, and looks silvery-grey on the rare occurences when it rains, with water running off the rock through channels.
  • The Olgas, or Kata Tjuta, are another rock formation located around 25 kilometres east of Uluru. Kata Tjuta, their Pitjantjajara name, means 'many heads', referring to the more than 30 rounded red conglomerate domes. Mt Olga is the highest, at around 546 metres high. The road to The Olgas is entirely paved.
  • The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Cultural Centre can be found inside the park on the main road to Uluru. Visitors can learn about Tjukurpa (law, knowledge, religion, philosophy), Anangu art and way of life, as well as information on subjects such as the wildlife and management of the park. Entry to the centre is free, with opening hours from 7am to 6pm. The information desk operates from 8am - 12pm, and then from 1pm - 5pm.

Climbing Uluru will be no longer allowed from October 2019. Until then visitors will have to make a decision to climb or not to climb.

Uluru is sacred to the Anangu people of the area, who ask that visitors do not climb it. They say that the climb follows the track that the ancestoral Mala men took to get to the top for ceremony. They say that when you climb, you are on their tracks. As a result, climbing Uluru will be banned from October 2019.

In addition, there are some safety and environmental concerns - at least 35 people have died while climbing Uluru - albeit most accidents occur when leaving the marked trail. There are no toilet facilities on the track or on top of Uluru. The erosion caused by visitors climbing Uluru has also damaged it.

The climb is also closed for various reasons; From 8AM in Summer months (December, January and February), Heat (if the temperature reaches 36 °C), Rain (greater than 20% chance of rain/5% chance of thunderstorms in 3 hours), Wind (Speed at summit reaches 25 knots), Wet (if 20% of surface is wet after rain), Cloud (if there is cloud below the summit), Rescue (if there is a rescue from the rock), or Culture (if the traditional owners request closure, for example during mourning periods).

Less than a fifth of visitors to Uluru now attempt to climb it. Until October 2019 the decision to climb when it is open is yours. Visit the Cultural Centre first to learn more about the park and what makes Uluru so significant to the Anangu people.

Landscape and Weather

Uluru is one of Australia's best known natural features, the long domed rock having achieved iconic status as one of the symbols of the continent. The rock is a so-called monolith, i.e. a single piece of rock or a giant boulder, extending about 5 km beneath the desert plain and measuring 3.6 by 2.4 km at the surface. It rises 348 metres above the plain (862.5 metres above sea level) and has a circumference of 9.4 km. Some say that Uluru is the biggest of its kind, others say that Mount Augustus in Western Australia is bigger. Whatever the case may be, standing in front of Uluru and seeing its massive bulk rise above the flat plain surrounding it, it is nothing less than impressive. The rock undergoes dramatic colour changes with its normally terracotta hue gradually changing to blue or violet at sunset to flaming red in the mornings as the sunrises behind it.

But the rock also extends some 2.4 km (1.5 mi) underground. The Anangu Aborigines believe this space is actually hollow but it contains an energy source and marks the spot where their 'dreamtime' began. They also believe that the area around Uluru is the home of their ancestors and is inhabited by many ancestral 'beings'.

Kata Tjuta is a collection of 36 variously-sized rock domes 36 km to the west of Uluru. Some geologists believe that it once may have been a monolith far surpassing Uluru in size, but that it eroded to several separate bulks of rock.

In December and January, the temperature can be blistering hot with temperatures exceeding 45 °Celsius, and occasionally tipping over 50, and some areas may be closed for travellers' safety. July and August can see minimum overnight temperatures drop to as low as minus 10 Celsius, with day time maximums occasionally only reaching as high as 15 degrees Celsius. April and September offer a more temperate climate, although still warm enough to work up a sweat at mid-day.

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Opening Hours

Sunset at Kata Tjuta

Sunset at Kata Tjuta

© Sander

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is generally open all year round, closing at night and for occasional brief periods for cultural reasons.

Opening hours during the year are usually as follows: [1]

  • 5am - 9pm during December, January, February
  • 5.30am - 8.30pm during March
  • 5.30am - 8pm during April
  • 6am - 7.30pm during May
  • 6.30am - 7.30pm during June, July
  • 6 am - 7.30 pm during August
  • 5.30am - 7.30pm during September
  • 5am - 8pm during October
  • 5am - 8.30pm during November

The cultural centre is open from 7am till 6pm daily.

The Uluru Climb is open from half an hour before sunrise till half an hour after sunset, depending on weather conditions.

Do take note that Uluru's Traditional Owners, the Anangu people, prefer that visitors do not climb Uluru[2], as it is a sacred site. They believe that when the world was being formed, the Uluru climb was the traditional route taken by Mala Men when they arrived at the rock.

Als note that every year at least one person dies because of health problems or even a fall! The Australian Government has plans to forbid climbing Uluru. These plans have been anounced in 2009, but could take a while to be implemented.

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Cost

Visitors to the National Park over the age of 16 are required to pay a park usage fee.

At the time of writing, the following prices apply.[3]

  • Standard 3 Day Pass - $25.00 (note that the pass must be used on 3 consecutive days)
  • Annual Individual Ticket - $32.50
  • Annual Vehicle Pass - $65.00 (NT Residents only)

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Getting There

Middle of Nowhere...

Middle of Nowhere...

© BlondePhiloSoph

By Plane

Ayers Rock Airport (AYQ) is serviced by daily flights from Sydney, Perth, Cairns and Alice Springs. Those coming from Darwin, Brisbane, Melbourne or Adelaide can connect via Alice Springs. The flight from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock takes approximately fifty minutes. All flights are operated by Qantas.

By Train

There is no direct train service to the park, but The Ghan train service operates to Alice Springs from Adelaide and Darwin.

By Car

The park is located along the Lasseter Highway, which runs from the Stuart Highway through the park up to Tjukaruru Road, which continues on towards Leonora in Western Australia.

From Alice Springs, drive south along the Stuart Highway and turn off at Ernest Giles Road. Follow this along as it turns into Luritja Road, which ends at the Lasseter Highway. Travel west along the Lasseter. For the first part, a 4wd vehicle certainly is recommended.

Alternatively, if you're coming from South Australia, drive north along the Stuart Highway and turn left at the Lasseter Highway turn-off.

By Bus

Greyhound Australia offers a number of bus trips from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock.

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Getting Around

The big rocks are actually a little distance from Yulara, where the accommodation and facilities are. If you are not with a tour, or didn't bring your car, you will need to decide how best to get to these locations. Hire cars can be expensive, and have limited kilometres; however shuttles to and from the rock are also expensive, so do the maths and see what works best for you.

Cars can be rented nearby at Ayers Rock/Connellan Airport or at Yulara. The roads around Uluru and Kata Tjuta are all sealed, paved and well-maintained so you don't require a 4WD. Vehicles drive on the left, but there isn't much in the way of traffic in the area - people accustomed to driving on the right can probably manage it. Be aware of additional charges that may apply Including premium location or one way surcharge. Also ensure you book early so you are not disappointed.

AAT Kings, ☎ +61 3 9915 1500, fax: +61 3 9820 4088, ✉ enquiries@aatkings.com.au. AAT Kings operate bus sightseeing tours of the park, including sunrise over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Tours range from $40 to $150.
Ayers Rock Tours. Many of the longer tours of the Ayers Rock Region depart and return to Alice Springs. Some will pick up at Ayers Rock but do not drop back at Ayers Rock. If you are wanting to do a 3-day or 5-day tour and experience the entire region it is best to start and finish in Alice Springs.
Uluru Express offers unlimited access to the Park from your choice of hotel at Yulara for 2-days or 3-days at a cost of $155 or $170, respectively. This cost does not include admission to the park. This is a great deal for those who wish to see all the attractions in the park at their own pace. Other trips are available.

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Safety

Note: Do not enter the Mutitjulu Community or any sacred sites without permission. All the information you ever want on culture is available at the cultural centre and it's well worth the visit. Also, don't take photos of sacred sites (they are well signposted), and don't take photographs of people without their permission.

Unless you're well-equipped with an appropriate vehicle, supplies and maps, stay on the sealed roads. Keep an eye on your fuel supply before you set off anywhere.

Keep plenty of water with you at all times while you're hiking. Whether or not you're thirsty, stop for a drink at least once an hour. The temperatures can be extreme during the summer (particularly December to January). Wear a hat and don't be shy with the sunscreen. Expect to be annoyed by flies, particularly on some stretches of the Valley of the Winds walk.

Wear comfortable walking or hiking shoes. Some of the terrain you may be traversing will be steep and covered with loose stones. Thongs, flip-flops, boat-shoes, and loafers are not recommended for the Uluru Climb, the Valley of the Winds walk, nor the Gorge walk. Runners (sneakers) are acceptable.

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Eat

The Cultural Centre near Uluru offers surprisingly good - and often vegetarian-friendly - fast food for reasonable prices.

The Sounds of Silence Dinner is an extremely popular - albeit expensive ($159 per adult) - night under the stars. Advance bookings (e.g. 3–4 days) are essential even in low seasons. Coaches take diners from Yulara to one of a few dining areas out in the desert. Champagne (or beer, upon request) are served while the sun goes down over Uluru and the inevitable didgeridoo plays. The clean, elegant dining area is lit by table lamps. The food is served buffet-style, but it's cooked with the attention of a gourmet chef (considering the circumstances). Between the main course and dessert, a star talker guides you through the stars that are out that night, and telescopes are available afterward. There is also a camp fire in the winter. Reservations can be made at travel agents or the various tour offices around Yulara. Ostensibly, reservations can be made over the internet as well, but it's a good idea to follow-up by phone, as coordination between the resort offices and the tour company is spotty at best.

Desert Awakenings, occasionally available, is a breakfast version of the aforementioned Sounds of Silence. It includes a guided tour around the base of Uluru and ends at the Cultural Centre.

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Drink

Water! And lots of it. No alcohol is sold outside of Yulara, and tribal elders have asked visitors not to sell or give alcohol to local Aborigines.

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Sleep

Ayers Rock Resort is located in the township of Yulara, 8 kilometres from the entrance to the National Park, and 18 kilometres from Uluru itself. The Resort offers a variety of different accommodation styles, from the luxury Sails in the Desert Hotel to the more budget dormitories in the Outback Pioneer Hotel and Lodge. There is also a campground - camping is not permitted within the park itself.

For those wanting an upmarket, luxurious wilderness experience, Longitude 131 has 15 luxury tents with views over Uluru (not your typical family holiday camping tents!). Children under 12 are not welcome, and the resort comes with a suitably luxurious price tag to match its accommodation standards.

About an hour short of Yulara (coming from Alice Springs) is Curtin Springs Station, which offers free unpowered camping, and $25 per night for powered sites. They charge $2.50 for a shower. You can "bush camp", but it's not recommended.

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This is version 35. Last edited at 13:41 on May 29, 19 by Utrecht. 10 articles link to this page.

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