Long post warning. Grab a wine or cuppa and enjoy.
My first trip to Uluru (Ayers Rock) was 20 years ago! How time flies. Back then the car parks were bumper to bumper with coaches full of local and international tourists all neck to neck vying for the best photo of the rock. But fast forward to October 2020 and there was hardly anyone out there – seriously eerie and fabulous in equal measure. Talk about a once in a lifetime opportunity. Myself and fellow travellers couldn’t believe our luck to be experience the serenity, the sounds, the beauty and all without the masses of people you would normally encounter.
Our flights were full but the flights in and out are limited and unless there are more flights scheduled, I forecast that it will be hard to find availability during the peak travel times in 2021 and 2022 – tip – book early.
On a side note about capacity for any kind of holiday in Australia for 2021 and 2022 – again, I recommend book now over school holidays (yes, book now for 2022) and small ship cruising, unique adventures, train travel and small group tours are all booking out fast so do not wait and see. Take advantage of our flexible booking terms and have a holiday to look forward to.
What I learnt during our travels this year (October 2020):
- Pre-book everything. Don’t book any airline tickets until you’ve got all your land arrangements sorted.
- At this stage, many tour operators have reduced tours on offer or none operating at all. Make sure what you want to do is running when you plan to travel.
- Book now for 2021 and 2022. There are limited hotel rooms, limited space on tours and trains and limited cabins on cruises and next year, we’ll all have cabin fever and will be excited to be out travelling in our own backyard. Book now, prices are still relatively good but I would expect to see a price rise when we all are confident travelling again.
It’s a daunting task putting together even a simple itinerary – there are so many moving parts to a holiday now and a huge checklist even before you make a booking. Good job you’ve found us @ Journey On Travel. We are here to help and have been out and about travelling so we understand all these new requirements of travel in a covid world. It can be done but boy does it help having someone with you to help along the way.
Wow, that was the worlds longest side note, if you’ve made it this far great. Let’s get back to it.
But back to Uluru and Yulara and Kata Tjuta.
Okay, so 20 years after my first experience out in the middle of Australia, I got to go back again. This time with my partner in crime Wendy and my parent’s Hilary and David.
I have to confess that after such amazing visits to Alice Springs and Kings Canyon I had thought Yulara (the township) and Uluru (the Rock and National Park) would be a little underwhelming but no, I admit it – I was wrong.
My list of must do’s whilst here:
- The Field of Lights
- Sounds of Silence for those who like mixing and mingling
- Tali Wiru Dinner for those who prefer intimate dining
- Guided tours of Uluru and Kata Tjuta
- Cave Hill Tour
- Longitude 131 for a special occasion or those who enjoy a glamping tent (they are seriously fabulous) – one of the most iconic and most wonderful experiences in Australia. Click here for more info about Longitude 131.
What did we do each day?
On our first morning we headed out to the Valley of the Winds hike at Kata Tjuta which I think is one of the most spectacular natural formations I’ve ever seen and it was pretty much empty. That is right. Unheard of, it is not lost on my how fortunate we were to experience this. Kata Tjuta’s Valley of the Winds hike was more challenging than we expected. The terrain is very uneven and for those without good balance – you’re going to find it challenging. We enjoyed a great tour of the Valley of the Winds with SEIT tours but if you want to take the hike down to a walk at a more leisurely pace, I’d do the walk on your own. We will provide all of our booked guests with an information pack about safety and other must knows before embarking on this trip by yourself. I’d recommend a tour because of the history and detail – you don’t get that from a book – but if you’d like to take the walk a little slower then I would recommend you do this at your own pace or do the Walpa Gorge. There is still some uneven terrain at the gorge but the 5 hour Valley of the Winds walk versus a 1 hour Walpa Gorge walk will be an easy decision for some I am sure. After a great morning walking through Kata Tjuta we headed back to our lodgings.
That same afternoon we took off with Uluru Motorcycles around Uluru on a 1 hour trike tour. What a blast! And can I say, driving up to the face of Uluru by motorcycle is breath-taking on the first approach, seeing this huge wall of red rising out of the ground was tremendous, I confess I did have a tear in my eye it was so beautiful.
After the huge morning walk and ride around Uluru we were all glad to have nothing planned that evening. We took ourselves out to a viewing platform for sunset views of Kata Tjuta as we had a hire car. The colours here are nothing like I’ve ever seen anywhere else. You really have to get yourself out there to see it for yourself. That was the end of our first full day in this area of the Red Centre and boy was it a great day.
Our second full day saw us walking around the base of Uluru – a 4 hour walk possibly 6 if you are a slow walker. An easy walk today which was a nice change after the terrain of the Valley of the Winds. We didn’t do a tour which I now regret. The walk was beautiful but we didn’t get that important Aboriginal history that I personally think makes this area so special. A word of warning, there is only one toilet at the main carpark. It is a long walk. You will drink a lot of water. Be warned! We then took ourselves off the Walpa Gorge for a quick look and then back to our apartments for some r’n’r. It’s tough all of this walking and we needed to recharge before the Sounds of Silence dinner experience scheduled for that evening.
The Sounds of Silence has been operating for as long as I’ve been in the travel industry and there have been a few changes to the format due to Covid-19 but it was a fun night despite a few changes to the format. The highlight really is the sunset of Uluru and we also saw Kata Tjuta from another perspective and this gave us different light and shadows than we saw the night before. But there really isn’t anything as remarkable as a Sunset at Uluru. The light changing in distinct bands is beautiful. The dinner was pleasant and the family at our table were fun and this made the night so much more enjoyable. Great company with Uluru sunset and stars. The astronomy was interesting but not as in-depth as I remember. All in all an enjoyable evening and if you’re there, why not take advantage of this experience as well?
Our last full day was a blast. A sunrise tour – oh yes, it may sound awful and at the time it is was but when you see that sunrise view you know you have made the right decision. Another visit to Uluru to do the Mala Walk and then back to drop our 4WD hire vehicle back to Jenny at Avis who visited ten years ago and hasn’t been back to her house in Brisbane since.
We ended our last night on the highest note – the Field of Lights. This light installation – the brainchild of British artist Bruce Munro – is a colour packed vision of amazement. I mean, who would have thought of this? A field of lights, in the Australian outback desert? Thank goodness Bruce did because it is wonderful and totally unexpected. The Field of Lights Uluru has been extended indefinitely and I am happy to say, when we are able to travel internationally, he will hopefully have lights in other countries in places of significance. I for one cannot wait to see the lights again and hope to be lucky enough to see them in other parts of Australia and the rest of the world.
That was our 4 night, 5 day journey of of Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Yulara which is the area that the Voyages Ayers Rock Resort is located in.
We chose the Emu Walk Apartments for our stay and we were not disappointed. Our apartments were well appointed and well maintained and I couldn’t fault them. We had daily servicing of the apartments and the furniture was in great condition and the kitchen had everything anyone could possibly need.
I have stayed at the Sails in the Desert before and did love the hotel as well. When staying at the Emu Walk Apartments you have access to the pool at Sails and we ate at the Ilkari Restaurant and Walpa Lobby Bar and the food was delicious – I would thoroughly recommend sampling the delights on the menu at both venues.
There are other restaurants and lodgings but we didn’t have a chance to see them on this trip but I do remember fondly The Lost Camel Hotel which is a more budget friendly offering – cozy rooms and an onsite pool. The Desert Gardens Hotel was closed during our stay but it is the only property at the Ayers Rock Resort with rooms with an Uluru view, the Outback Pioneer Hotel was closed at the time we visited.
The Voyages Ayers Rock Resort has a town square with an IGA, a bistro and a cafe and a few souvenir shops. The tourist information centre is here as well. There is also a lot on offer at the resort which means you don’t have to be out on a tour all the time, this is very useful for those who don’t have a car during their stay. There is a resort shuttle that will take you around the loop of the resort and out to the airport.
Hats off to Voyages, they have done a great job with the Ayers Rock Resort, it’s a great place to base.
For those who are celebrating a special occasion or who prefer a more intimate setting, Longitude 131 is without a doubt the premier lodging in the area. Individual luxury tents all with Uluru views and an all inclusive rate make this one of the most sought after experiences in Australia. Limited tents mean limited availability, especially from April to October. We have exclusive rates for this hotel should you want more information please call Sara or Wendy.
DEPARTING AYERS ROCK RESORT AND YULARA
At the time of writing this, Jetstar is only servicing the Ayers Rock Airport. I am normally a Qantas girl but the flight with Jetstar was great and the crew professional but also fun.
When to go
It’s very hot out here in summer so we recommend visiting from April to October.
Our top ways to travel:
Self Drive – contact Wendy and myself and we can tailor an itinerary to suit your timeframe, your wishlist and your budget. Even if you don’t know what your wishlist is, we can run through the must do’s.
Escorted Touring – we have a select group of tour operators we use within Australia.
Train & Tour or Train & Self Drive
The Ghan operates from Adelaide/Darwin via Alice Springs. Head to Uluru for at least 3 nights and 2 nights at Kings Canyon if you can then back to Alice to continue the journey on The Ghan or fly out of Ayers Rock home. May to September is an ideal time to experience The Ghan if you want to add on a Kimberley Coastal cruise or Kimberley Land tour.
We’ll have more tours on offer and loaded soon but in the meantime, if you want to look at 2021 now’s the time so call us and we can help guide you in the right direction and help with your travel bookings and travel management. Phone 1300 068 885
You can find us in b2blistings.org’s Management Consultants Directory