— I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land, the Pitjantjatjara people, and pay respect to their Elders, past and present.
Believe it or not, in my almost 22 years of life here in Australia, I’ve never visited Uluru. Crazy I know ⏤ but finally, after an extensive period of longing to visit the most well-known part of my home country, I finally made it!
My journey into the Red Centre to Uluru-Kata Tjuṯa National Park was to see exactly what the name suggests ⏤ Uluru and Kata Tjuṯa. I was lucky enough to experience these two incredible natural monuments with the lovely team at SEIT Outback Australia.
Both of my tours to Uluru and Kata Tjuṯa began in the early hours of the morning when the sun had not yet risen. The first of the two tours was to the massive sandstone monolith, and the most well-known of all attractions in the National Park… Uluru!
The morning began with a 5.45 AM pick up from the front of the hotel reception. Being a somewhat early riser, the early wake-up call wasn’t all that difficult for me. But what I was very surprised to see in the darkness of the outback, was the vast amount of tourists that were up just as early as me!
Hundreds of people filled the huge coaches ready for their trips to various locations around the National Park. Although, for those on the tour with SEIT, the group size was no larger than 10 people. The size was small, intimate, and allowed the group to really interact with each other unlike those on the larger coaches.
After picking up the guests, the amazing tour guide Wally took us straight to the gate of the National Park. For those who have never visited, it’s important to note that there is a fee of $25 to enter for 3 days. You certainly don’t want to get to the gate and have forgotten your wallet, that’s for sure!
From the entrance, we headed to a private sunrise location on the side of a quiet road to witness the magic happen. Those that went on a larger tour group were taken to the designated sunrise platform.
Unfortunately, this location becomes very overcrowded by hundreds of eager people as soon as the sun begins to rise. For us on the SEIT tour though, we were joined by nothing else but the tranquillity of the surroundings, the sound of tweeting birds and the incredibly vibrant pink sunrise.
This is without a doubt one of the top things to do in Uluru and something that you simply cannot miss!
We were extremely close to Uluru and had a distant view of Kata Tjuṯa over the open, rugged outback.
Here, we were treated to a basic but delicious breakfast that consisted of banana bread, cereal and a selection of hot and cold beverages. Nothing’s better than an incredible morning sky and a good piece of banana bread, right?
After spending a lot of time capturing the surroundings, chatting to the other travellers and admiring the charm of Uluru, it was finally time to see the beauty up close.
In the Uluru Highlights Tour, the guide escorts the group to the Mutijulu Waterhole via the Kuniya Walk. It’s here that we were told of the creation stories and rich spirituality from hundreds of years ago.
Along the way, we were taught about the surrounding vegetation, the importance of Uluru to the Indigenous people and its great significance to their history.
Once at the very sacred location of the waterhole, the instant feeling was very overwhelming. This extreme monolith that has existed for over 600 million years, is one of the most influential natural landmarks I’ve ever come to contact with.
The smooth rock face, beautiful waterfall carvings and creation time (aka. Dreamtime) stories left most of the travellers feeling completely astounded and in awe of our beautiful earth. Although many people (including myself) once saw Uluru as nothing more than a huge rock, when you visit you instantly realise that it’s so much more than that…
The atmosphere is unlike anything I’ve ever felt. This feeling really hit me when walking slightly under the rock face to see ancient Indigenous paintings on the walls of Uluru. Wally explained how these paintings are now interpreted and what the symbols could potentially signify. Although to this day, the true meaning of the art is somewhat unknown ⏤ and that is pretty special.
From here, the walk was complete after having the final opportunity to touch the rock face for the first and only time. Many on the tour found this a very heartfelt experience and spent a lot of time connecting with the beauty that beholds Uluru.
At the completion of the walk, the group boarded the mini-bus to head back to the resort. But before it was over, Wally drove the group around the entire perimeter of Uluru.
He told many stories of the Anangu people as he drove around the base. He spoke of the Mutijulu community, the old camping site, and the importance of respecting the local people. At various stages of the drive, he warned us of the sacred areas in which photography is not recommended. He told many historic stories, whilst also pulling over for photo opportunities when they were out of sacred areas, and when they were best needed.
Here are some incredible facts that I learnt during my time with SEIT to Uluru:
— Depending on the person you ask, Uluru is estimated to be between 2-6 kilometres under the earth. The most common estimate is around 2.5 km.
— Climbing the rock is not recommended due to the spiritual values of Uluru, the environmental impact and out of respect to the land of the Anangu people.
— 38 people have died climbing the rock since the climb was opened. Deaths range from health risks to unfortunate accidents and falls.
— There are many areas of the rock that are sacred to specific genders. Throughout different times in history, only those specific genders were allowed in those areas of Uluru.
— When punishment was needed, the Anangu people would punish with spears. Although out of respect, they were then forced to care for the person they punished until they reached full health.
Pretty amazing huh?
After driving around Uluru and really feeling the magic, we were then dropped at our specific hotels in time for a second breakfast.
After reflecting on my experience, I realised just how much I learnt with SEIT that I never would have if I were to of explored Uluru on my own. The duration of the tour was around 3 hours, which was the perfect amount of time to experience an incredible part of Australia’s culture.
For those that are interested, you can see the tours here!
After one day of sleeping in and adventuring on my own, I was ready to see Kata Tjuṯa!
Another 5.45 AM start with a huge amount of eager tourists saw myself ready for the day ahead and another glorious sunrise. Out of sheer coincidence, I found myself with the fantastic Wally once again! He tried to tell me it was because I paid extra for the best tour guide, so I suppose we’ll just let him think that 😉
For this tour to Kata Tjuṯa, the group size was small and compact, with only 5 people! I was the youngest by quite a long way, but the wonderful group I was with made the tour as comfortable as ever.
Just like on the tour to Uluru, we headed to the gate of Uluru-Kata Tjuṯa National Park, but this time we headed in the opposite direction towards what is most commonly recognised as ‘The Olgas’.
Instead of having a private location for sunrise, we were instead situated on a crowded platform to watch the magic happen. The view was beautiful ⏤ from this location, you had the opportunity to see the sunrise behind a very distant and backlit Uluru before the sky lit up to reveal the bold domes of the Kata Tjuṯa.
Before this experience, Kata Tjuṯa was a part of the Red Centre that I didn’t know too much about. It was incredible to see the beauty up close on a monument that I was completely and utterly oblivious to.
After watching the sunrise above the outback, we drove towards the rusted domes and into Walpa Gorge. The first comparison that I instantly noticed – other than the shape of the rocks of course – was the drastic difference in colour and the large quantity of vegetation on the surface in comparison to Uluru.
As we got closer and closer to the huge rock face, it became evident just how different this monolith really is.
Kata Tjuṯa is made up of 36 domes, and unlike Uluru, these domes are made up of a variety of different rock types that are somewhat cemented by sandstone. The rock face is much more rugged, and the surroundings of the gorge are filled with a lot of plant life.
Although very different from Uluru, Kata Tjuṯa was even more beautiful than I had imagined.
Before our walk into the gorge, we had the option to have our breakfast before venturing into the cold. The group decided to take the walk first in the hopes of being in the magic with a little peace and quiet. This decision allowed us to be the very first group up the windy gorge, meaning that we had the opportunity to spot some beautiful Australian wildlife. Luckily for us, we spotted a mother Wallaroo (Kangaroo X Wallaby) and her mature joey enjoying a morning feed.
Much to my surprise, spotting wildlife in the park is not as much of a regular occurrence as many think; so if you have the option to potentially experience it, make sure you take up the offer!
Once in the heart of the gorge, rather than learning about the creation stories of this landmark, we instead spoke about the environment and how the monoliths have evolved over many years. Due to the entirety of Kata Tjuṯa being a sacred men’s area, there aren’t any stories to be told of its creation.
After learning so much about the geology of the Red Centre, it was clear that the history in the heart of Australia was something I was completely ignorant to.
Here are some interesting facts about Kata Tjuṯa:
— Kata Tjuṯa was once under the ocean and now stands over 1000 metres above the ground.
— Mount Olga (the highest dome of Kata Tjuta) is almost 200 metres taller than Uluru.
— From a distance, you are unable to take a photo of fewer than 3 domes at once.
— Kata Tjuṯa translates to “Many Heads”.
— The domes form a rounded edge due to the drastic wind conditions that flow through the gorges. After all, there is a walk called “The Valley of the Winds”
— Unlike Uluru that is one piece of sandstone, the Kata Tjuta rock formations are conglomerates.
After exploring the extremely sacred location of Kata Tjuṯa, we returned to a beautiful picnic spot for a picturesque outback breakfast with a view to die for. I mean really, does it get any better than that?
Once completing our traditional Aussie breakfast of raisin toast, cereal and fruit, we drove back through the National Park, learnt more about the outback and headed back to our hotels.
This tour was 5 hours in duration, but at no point throughout the journey did I feel as though it was too long. I was intrigued at every turn and Wally did a fantastic job at keeping the group entertained.
After 8 hours of travelling with SEIT, I wholeheartedly could not recommend them more. The intimate group size, knowledgeable guides and breathtaking surroundings of the Red Centre left me with an experience I will surely never forget.
Thanks to the SEIT team, my first time in the heart of Australia was by far the most memorable travel experience I’ve had in this beautiful country. Thanks to them, my heart is now solidly planted here in Aus.
Both of my Kata Tjuta and Uluru tours were kindly gifted by SEIT Outback Australia. But as always, all opinions are my own. After all, who could possibly be disappointed with an experience like that?
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