“It’s starting to change colour again!” an American tourist yells excitedly, shuffling between his iPhone and camera simultaneously in a panic to take the best shot of Uluru. It’s just after 6.30pm in the evening and still well over 40 degrees. The sun is starting to set behind us, hundreds of flies hanging on to the fading daylight to torment anyone without a fly net. But you know what? I don’t care in the slightest… Despite the soaring heat, experiencing a sunset in Uluru is like nothing else and something a photographer will never tire of. The golden hour unveils a kaleidoscope of colours which illuminates the rock and reveals all its crevices and contours until the sun melts into the horizon and Uluru is cast in shadow once again. But the magic doesn’t end here; try to stay in the national park until it closes well into the blue hour, and star gaze into the night sky.
Although a weekend is sufficient to see most of the national park, a few days are recommended to really make the most of your visit. You can book direct flights to Uluru with Jetstar Australia. Here’s a guide of how to make the most of your trip to Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park.
Hike around Uluru
Aboriginal traditional owners would prefer visitors not to climb Uluru. It’s of great spiritual significance to the local Anangu people and climbing it has also significant environmental impacts. As stated by the Indigenous people “That’s a really important thing you are climbing. You shouldn’t climb. It’s not the real thing about this place. The real thing is listening to everything. We are obliged by Tjukurpa (traditional law) to teach people what behaviour is appropriate.”
There are plenty of other hikes on offer including the free ranger guide Mala Walk and the Uluru Base Walk (10.6 km loop taking 3.5 hours). On the Mala Walk you will hear from an Indigenous park ranger about the history of the Mala people and Anangu life and culture including Tjukurpa (creation stories) of many rock formations. This walk ends at the spectacular Kantju Gorge – a dramatic, near-vertical wall that becomes a raging waterfall when it rains. The real beauty of Uluru is admiring it from afar not standing on top of it.
Watch world famous sunrises and sunsets
Uluru is world-famous for its spectacular sunrises and sunsets. The national park has five viewing areas dedicated to sunrise and sunsets. Some of the more popular spots like the ‘Car Sunset’ and ‘Talinguru Nyakunytjaku’ look outs for sunrise are beautifully positioned to enjoy the views, but since they are so popular they do become rather crowded. For sunset, head to the end of the carpark for largely unobstructed views or visit Talinguru Nyakunytjaku (most popular at sunrise) to avoid the crowds and see Uluru as a beautiful silhouette. There’s also some great spots in Kata Tjuta like the Kata Tjuta dune viewing platform where you can have a bird’s eye view of both Kata Tjuta and Uluru from a distance.
Dine Under the Stars
There’s no better way to experience Uluru than to dine under the stars. Try one of Uluru’s premium dining experiences including the Sounds of Silence, a Night at the Field of Light and Tali Wiru. At a Night at Field of Light, we started the evening at a beautifully remote desert location with majestic views over Uluru. Here we enjoyed a glass of sparkling and native inspired canapes while watching the sun melt into the horizon. For the main event we feasted on a delicious three course menu infused with bush tucker flavours like dukkah crusted kangaroo, braised crocodile and warrigal greens. The experience also includes a star talk which highlights the constellations and mythology of the southern night sky and entry to the Field of Light Installation. You can also pair this experience with a camel ride through the red sand dunes.
Field Of Light
Created by internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro, the Field of Light art installation illuminates the national park as darkness descends, with more than 50,000 slender stems crowned with frosted-glass spheres blooming with rhythms of coloured light. Walk along the pathways and get lost in the lights of the installation, an incredible experience with Uluru and the dramatic night sky as a backdrop. The installation will be in place until the 31st December 2020.
Learn about native foods at the Bush Food Experience
For centuries, the Indigenous people used the bush for food and most importantly to survive. In this 45 minute free tour you can learn all about Australian and local native bush foods and hear all about local seeds, fruits and plants followed by a cooking demonstration.
Experience the marvel of majestic Kata Tjuta
While visiting Uluru, don’t miss a visit to the lesser known Kata Tjuta (also known as The Olgas) which means ‘many heads’ in local language. It’s a sacred area, composed of 36 domed boulders spreading more than 20 kilometres.. In some ways it is equally if not more impressive than Uluru since it is taller and wider. Many of the walks at Kata Tjuta are stony, isolated and very exposed to the sun, so make sure you take plenty of water with you to avoid dehydration. In hot weather, many of the walks close by 11.00am so get up early before sunrise to make the most of your day.
Listen to Aboriginal stories at Bush Yarns
Listen to stories of Indigenous culture and tradition at a Bush Yarns, held at the Circle of Sand. Here you can hear all about the weapons used for hunting including boomerangs and spears, gathering and cooking techniques, the traditional diet of Aboriginal people and history of the land.
If you’re prepared to set your alarm super early before sunrise, Desert Awakenings is definitely an experience not to be missed. Experience the tranquility of the pre dawn land under a canopy of stars before watching the sunrise and desert awaken from your own private dune. In this experience, you can feast on traditional Aussie breakfast of egg and bacon rolls, tea and coffee and homemade damper before embarking on a guided tour at the Uluru with stops including Kuniya and the Mutitjulu waterhole.
Hike the Valley of the Winds and Walpa Gorge
The 7.6km Valley of the Winds circuit is the perfect way to explore the Kata Tjuta’s domes in all their glory. The walk can be challenging and is quite steep and rocky in places. In hot weather, this track closes at 11am so try to get here early to avoid the heat and the crowds. If you’re not feeling up to a long walk, the Walpa Gorge Walk is equally beautiful, taking you between the gorge’s two tallest domes along a rocky creek bed.
This article has been written in partnership with Jetstar Australia. To book your next flight visit www.jetstar.com.au
Words and photography by Lisa Holmen