EVERYONE is guilty of researching international hotspots to visit during their next block of holidays. But breathtaking landscapes and stunning flora and fauna is just a stone throw away in our own backyard.
Last December I travelled to the red centre (from Melbourne) for the weekend and it was the perfect place to visit when you’re short on time.
Imagine your typical outback Australian airport (secluded tin shed surrounded by nothing but vibrant red sand) – it’s called Ayers Rock Airport. Located 15 minutes away from the cluster of seven accommodation options part of the Ayers Rock Resort in the town centre. A free shuttle is also provided to every hotel from the airport.
I stayed at the Sails in the Dessert Resort (in a superior double room pictured below). It was a great hotel with clean and spacious rooms and had a large pool area.
After spending time in the pool to get respite from the soaring heat (which isn’t as bad as you may think) there are various daily activities on offer at the town square. From the Wakagetti cultural dancers (pictured below) to guided garden walks and indigenous art markets.
Each activity educates visitors about aboriginal culture without costing an arm and a leg. While the town square isn’t large, it’s sufficient for everything you could possibly need. A supermarket, two restaurants and a strip of retail stores are housed under the town centre sails.
During our stay we also enjoyed the Sounds of Silence dinner, which was breathtaking to say the least. It was one of the best tours I have ever done and worth every cent, so it’s no surprise when I discovered it’s in the Australian Tourism Hall of Fame.
The experience begins with canapés and chilled sparkling wine served on a viewing platform overlooking the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. As the sun sets a didgeridoo is played before you’re whisked off to your table for an unforgettable dining experience.
Beer and wine is constantly served with a bush tucker inspired buffet that incorporates native bush ingredients such as crocodile, kangaroo and barramundi. A resident star talker then explains the southern night sky – such as the Southern Cross, the zodiac signs as well as planets and galaxies.
The following day we had booked into the Camel Express Tour. We didn’t want to be rushed so we opted for the 45-minute ride through Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
It was a 35-degree day and we trotted through the park in the brunt of the heat – make sure you lather up on sunscreen! The cameleer instructor was open to questions and said camels can live up to 45 years old. It was a fun experience and an alternative way to see Uluru.
We then freshened up in our hotel room before we began our dot painting workshop. An elder from the Anangu tribe sat down beside a timber box filled with red sand. She explained what each aboriginal symbol meant before we were asked to create our own story, on a blank canvas, with the available colours. The pressure was on to create a masterpiece that told a ripping story. The entire group explained the meaning behind their print before taking it home.
It was an enjoyable experience but compared with other tours, I don’t think it’s good value for money and I’d probably give it a miss next time I visited the red centre.
When I first mentioned to my mum about travelling to Ayers Rock for the weekend she eagerly agreed. We then ordered our travel insurance and she said, “you know, I was thinking, really we’re paying all this money to see a rock”. After snapping, I thought, well, she’s kind of right. Oh how we were both totally wrong.
After chatting with the lovely staff at reception – who presented various tour options – we decided to book the 3-hour SEIT Uluru sunrise experience. It’s not until you see Ayres Rock’s colour change that you truly appreciate her natural beauty.
We were driven into the national park at 5.30am followed by a group of tourist buses. It was pitch black and while everyone turned right, we continued on the windy road towards Uluru. About a kilometre down the road, we pulled over, in prime position to watch the sunrise over Ayres Rock (see above).
I have been living in Australia my entire life and it took me more than 20 years to admire the beauty, and heart, of Australia. I’d encourage you to do the same – you won’t regret it.
Brittany Shanahan travelled at her own expense.