If you’re heading to the Red Centre and looking forward to climbing Uluru, you might like to think again. The Aboriginal owners ask visitors not to climb the rock, which they regard as a sacred site. Fortunately, there are plenty of other activities to keep you busy. Try some of these on for size.
The striking beehive domes of Kata Tjuta, about 30 kilometres from Uluru, draw plenty of visitors. Few of them, however, take the time to discover what lies between the domes. Those who do walk the 7.4km full-circuit Valley of the Winds trail discover a hidden landscape of grasslands and ancient mulga trees, where finches and budgerigars flit between bushes and shy wallabies hop along rocky outcrops. It’s best to come early in the morning or late in the afternoon, as temperatures can get hot in the valley. Remember to bring plenty of water.
Beautiful but deadly is an apt description for Central Australia’s salt lakes. There is no denying that they look lovely, glowing pink in the dawn light or glittering silver beneath the moon. The waters of these mysterious lakes are twice as salty as the ocean, and the largest of them, the 180km-long Lake Amadeus, is estimated to contain a staggering 600 million tonnes of salt. As the salt lakes are located on private land, the only way to visit them is on a walking tour (one or two days) with Curtin Springs Wayside Inn.
Shielded by the 100-metre walls of Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon) is one of the most remarkable sights in the Red Centre: the
verdant oasis known as the Garden of Eden. To really get to know this remarkable canyon, be sure to explore it from both above and below. The 6km Rim Walk offers panoramic views into the canyon’s eye-catching interior; allow about three hours, and avoid the middle of the day. Follow that with a walk along the canyon floor, where a profusion of lush plants provides a home for a variety of wildlife.
It’s an all-day trip from Uluru to Cave Hill, but this stunning rock art site – one of the most important in Central Australia – is well worth the journey. This sacred site can only be visited on an organised tour, with an Anangu guide who will explain the role that Cave Hill plays in one of Australia’s best-known Dreamtime stories, the adventures of the Seven Sisters, who flee across the country while pursued by wicked Wati Nyiru. The highlight of the trip is the rare opportunity to admire the extraordinarily colourful rock paintings, which depict events from the story.
City slickers are often dazzled by the night-time desert skies, where vast swathes of the Milky Way blaze as brightly as neon. Although there is plenty to see with the naked eye, signing up with an astronomy tour gives you close-up views of some of the more spectacular stars and planets, as seen through a powerful telescope. Even more fascinating is the introduction to constellations as seen by Indigenous people. Once someone has shown you the giant emu in the sky, you’ll wonder why you never saw it before.