Things to do at Uluru now that the climb is closed include everything from the wonderful walk around the base of Uluru and a couple of Kata Tjuta walks to sunrise and sunset experiences, helicopter rides, scenic flights and Harley Davidson tours.
Australia’s indigenous Aboriginal peoples, especially the Anangu, the traditional owners of Uluru, must have breathed a collective sigh of relief today and celebrated the end of the Uluru climb, which was closed permanently at 4pm today by Parks Australia.
The cessation of climbing Uluru – formerly know as Ayers Rock – came far too late, 34 years too late, three and a half decades after the Federal Government officially returned Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to its traditional owners.
We’ve long recommended that visitors to Uluru don’t climb ‘the rock’ due the 348-metre high monolith’s spiritual significance to the Anangu people and were terribly saddened to see so many tourists from Australia and abroad race to the Red Centre to do the climb before today’s closure.
Guardian Australia has reported that thousands of Australian and international visitors had rushed to climb ‘the rock’ ahead of its permanent closure and had been queuing to scale Uluru in recent weeks, including hundreds to waited today, despite the sacred site being closed in the morning due to strong winds which made the climb dangerous.
The Guardian reported today that 28-year-old Uluru-Kata Tjuta national park ranger, Tjiangu Thomas, said it had been easier waking up today – compared to recent weeks – kowing that the climb would be closing for good.
“This is really important for me and for Anangu and for the region,” he told The Guardian reporters. “It’s a strong example of Anangu making decisions for their land. At the end of the day, respect is a choice. Obviously it’s disappointing but compared to the school holidays this [crowd] isn’t too much.”
Human beings can be so horribly selfish and disrespectful – we see it all the time here in Siem Reap at Angkor Wat and the other temples – but it obviously affects us more when it occurs on our home soil, Australia, and especially when that abysmal behaviour is committed by other Australians.
We breathed sighs of relief too today, because there’s really no need to ‘climb the rock’ as we’ve seen tourists around the world urge others to do in recent weeks. There are so many wonderful things to do at Uluru and these are just a few of our suggestions.
Things to Do at Uluru Now the Climb Is Closed – From Walks to Watching the Sunset
Visit the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park Cultural Centre
One of the first things to do at Uluru is visit the innovative cultural centre which should be your departure point for exploring Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park. Make this your first stop so you can learn about the indigenous way of life, customs and traditions, get the extensive park notes to make the most of your visit, as well as find out about the myriad do’s and don’ts of the park. This is a sacred site after all. Plus, Australia, for all its easygoing “she’ll be right, mate” spirit, loves a good set of rules and regulations. There is also a café, arts and craft galleries, and a souvenir shop here.
Walk Around the Base of Uluru
Easily one of the best things to do at Uluru as far as we are concerned is a walk around the base of Uluru. We have long advised travellers to walk around Uluru rather than climb the rock, simply for the fact that the Anangu haven’t wanted visitors climbing it. They’re the traditional landowners and that should have been reason enough for people not to climb Uluru.
There are several wonderful walks around the base of Uluru or part of the base of Uluru. The full Uluru base walk is around 10 kms and takes around 3–4 hours. The walk should not be attempted in the middle of the day outside winter due to the heat, which means morning or afternoon is best. Some people find the Uluru walk a disappointment due to the often-distant vistas of the Uluru in some places because the path takes a wide berth near spiritually sensitive sites, but we absolutely loved it.
Walk the Valley of the Winds
A collection of 36 monumental rocks, Kata Tjuta is quite different to Uluru’s single colossal mass and a Kata Tjuta walk through the valley of the winds is easily one of the best things to do at Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park. Your first stop will be the Kata Tjuta Dune Viewing Area, which offers exactly what it says on the label, with the bonus of stunning views back to Uluru.
Because of past indiscretions by tourists, as well as the fact that ‘secret men’s business’ goes on here, there are only two walks open to the public at Kata Tjuta itself. The Olga Gorge Walk is an easy one-kilometre walk into a huge chasm flanking Mount Olga, the highest point in the massif (1070m). The second walk is the Valley of the Winds Walk, a far more substantial seven-kilometre loop trail, taking about three hours, and leading you through some spectacular stone country.
Get A Bird’s Eye View of Uluru on a Scenic Flight
We’re big fans of helicopter rides, although we appreciate they’re not for everyone. But if your sense of scale is freaked out by the sheer enormity of Uluru and Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, put it into perspective with a scenic flight or helicopter ride over Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park which is easily one of the most exciting things to do at Uluru.
Start Your Day with a Blast – or a Beast
Catching the sunrise at Uluru is just as satisfying as savouring the sunset but instead of just hanging out with the crowd why not blast through the morning air on a Harley Davidson sunrise ride complete with a very un-biker-like breakfast of muffins and tea or coffee. For a much slower pace you could do a tour atop the beautiful long-lashed beast of burden on a sunrise camel ride. There are also sunset camel rides. Either way, whether it’s starting your day with a blast or atop a beast, these are easily two of the most enjoyable things to do at Uluru.
Savour Sunset with a Glass of Something in Hand
If you have your own transport, head to the Uluru sunset viewing areas about an hour before sunset and settle in with your brew of choice as the rock does its daily colour transformation. If you don’t have transport there are plenty of sunset tours and a shuttle bus available. However, you do it, taking in sunset is easily one of the most sublime things to do at Uluru. Note that the bus parking area is separate from the car parking area but both offer breathtaking views.
Appreciate the Sound of Silence Under A Starry Night
Snacking on sunset canapés and sipping on sparkling wine under a starry sky is one of the best things to do at Uluru. The Sound of Silence experience sees you toasting to breathtaking views of Uluru and the domes of Kata Tjuta accompanied by some excellent didgeridoo playing. This is followed by a BBQ that offered few of the native Australian fauna and culinary favours promised when we visited, however, it redeemed itself with some brilliant stargazing that was almost as awe-inspiring as the unique rock formations you’ve come all this way to see.
Also see our guide to where to stay at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. In future posts in this series we’ll cover how to get to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park from Alice Springs, where to eat and drink at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, and the rest of the Red Centre, Darwin and Top End of the Northern Territory, our most favourite part of Australia.