Facts about Uluru / Ayers Rock

Uluru, the heart of the Australian outback! Are you searching for information about Uluru? Look no further, here you'll find all the information you need!

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Your first experience of Uluru will stay with you for a long, long time and affects you right to your core.

Uluru, once known as Ayers Rock, is now officially known as Uluru / Ayers Rock. It is situated in the Northern Territory in Australia’s red centre and is 450 Km by road from Alice Springs.

Uluru is within the same national park as Kata Tjuta (Kata Tjuta was previously known as Mt Olga or The Olgas).

Similarly, the park once known as Ayers Rock-Mt Olga National Park is now called Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.



1. Attractions at Uluru are the rock itself, Aboriginal rock art, unique fauna and flora, springs and water holes, sacred sites and to go on a tour guided by the traditional occupiers of the land.

2. The traditional inhabitants of this central region of Australia are the Anangu people and the Pitjantjatjara are one of the main groups of Anangu.

3. Uluru attracts over half a million visitors yearly. To accommodate this number a town called Yulara has been established just outside the park.

4. There is a $25 entry fee to the park. This is to cover running costs, maintenance and improvements. The fee covers 3 days in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

5. Camping is not permitted within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park but there are several established camping grounds nearby.

6. To view Uluru there are roads in place, walking tracks, guided tours, camel rides and helicopter flights.

7. Uluru has a circumference of nearly 10 km, it is 3.6 Km long and nearly 2 Km wide. It rises 348 m. above the surrounding plains.

8. In contrast, the Great Pyramid of Giza is a circumference of about 1 km and a height of 137. That means Uluru is almost 3 times as high, and about 10 times bigger in circumference. It truly is a huge thing of epic proportions.

9. Uluru is composed mostly of sandstone containing feldspar and iron. It is the oxidised iron on the rock’s surface which gives Uluru its magnificent colour.

10. Uluru can appear to change colour dramatically depending on the time of day, the season and the weather.

11. Anangu would prefer that visitors not climb Uluru out of respect for their spiritual beliefs. This is because the climbing path crosses over some sacred areas. However, climbing is not forbidden, but it can be dangerous.

12. Uluru is jointly managed by Anangu, (Pitjantjatjara) and Parks Australia.

13. In 1987 Uluru was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for both its geological and cultural attributes.

14. Uluru has one similarity to an iceberg - it is vastly bigger below the surface. It has been estimated to extend somewhere between 2 and 6 Km underground.

15. The surface of Uluru is a truly amazing array of cliffs, curves, crevices, crannies, caves, waves, turrets, tunnels, twists and hollows.

16. The Aboriginals have many dreamtime myths to explain the creation of this magnificent formation with its intricate and varied surface and its mighty presence.

17. The best time to visit Uluru is from April to October. Temperatures can range from -8 to +48 deg. C. and UV levels can be extreme. Visitors are advised to dress appropriately, wear a hat and carry sunscreen.

18. Uluru has an average annual rainfall of just 300 mm (12”) and is situated on the southern tip of the Great Sandy Desert.

19. Wildlife – around and about Uluru you might come across emus, kangaroos, dingos, a variety of birds and reptiles and even frogs.

20. The park has a diverse range of plant life too, some of which are extremely rare. Many were very important to the Aboriginals for their day to day needs and survival.

History


In 1873, an explorer named William Gosse was the first European to sight this magnificent rock which he named Ayers Rock in honour of South Australia’s then Chief Secretary, Sir Henry Ayers.

In the previous year another explorer, Ernest Giles, was in this same region. He sighted Kata Tjuta which he named Mt Olga (later becoming known as The Olgas) and is just 25 Km west of Uluru.

These two giant landmarks were brought together as the Ayers Rock-Mt Olga National Park in the 1950’s. To show respect for the importance of these sites to the original inhabitants, the Anangu people, the name was later changed to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

On 26th October 1985 the deeds to the park were handed over to the Pitjantjatjara people. This has become known as the “Hand Back” and is celebrated each year. Also at this point an agreement was drawn up between the Australian Government and the Pitjantjatjara. Part of this agreement was that the Government would lease back the land (for a period of 55 years, later extended to 99 years) and the park would be jointly managed between the original inhabitants and Parks Australia.

In 1993 Ayers Rock officially became Ayers Rock/Uluru. Then in 2002 the two names were switched to Uluru/Ayers Rock, quite appropriately.

Development

Graziers first arrived in the area in the late 1800’s. With them came fencing, sheep, feral animals and burning regimes quite different to the way Anangu had been doing it for so long. All these factors impacted enormously on the Anangu way of life, particularly with the depletion of the plant and animal life so vitally important for their survival. Needless to say, resentment and conflicts resulted.

During the 1930’s the first tourists began to arrive and in the 1940’s roads were opening up the land. Interest in ”Ayers Rock” was on the rise and in 1950 the first buses arrived. First camping facilities and then motels were appearing in close proximity to Uluru to accommodate the rising number of visitors as tourism in the red centre grew rapidly more popular.

The area was declared a National Park in the 1950’s and gradually it became apparent that things would have to change. Eventually, in a drive to minimise the impact of ever increasing tourist numbers, a town named Yulara was established in1983 just outside the park. All overnight accommodation and camping at the base of Uluru then ceased. The resort at Yulara was sold in 1992 at which point it became known as the Ayers Rock Resort.

All visitor needs are well catered for at Yulara. There is a shopping centre, hotels, restaurants, a variety of accommodation, including camping, (accommodation can be quite expensive) and an airport. Yulara is only a 16 Km drive to Uluru.

Site seeing at Uluru is well catered for. There are roads to take visitors to the best viewing points, especially for sunrise and sunset. There are also walking tracks at the base of Uluru to allow people to view close up the wonders of the rock and to experience some of the spiritual aspects of Uluru which is sacred to the Pitjantjatjara people.

Guided tours by local Aboriginals are available for a first hand explanation of their relationship with this very special land. Camel ride tours, motorbike tours and helicopter flights are available too.

Anangu have many dreamtime myths to explain the creation of Uluru with its wondrous and curious surface of waves and hollows. They also ask that people respect Anangu’s spiritual world by not climbing the rock, although it is not forbidden. Some of the steepest sections of the climb are provided with a chain line to hold as it can be regarded as dangerous.

In certain sacred areas photographs are not permitted. It would be very offensive to disregard this.

Geological Formation

The formation of Uluru began about 600 million years ago. A huge delta of sand deposits was formed and covered by ocean. Then 400 million years ago during geological movements and upheavals, the delta (by this time turned to rock) was thrust above the sea and tilted up 90 degrees. The sedimentary lines can be easily seen on Uluru today – running vertically.

Kata Tjuta, only 25 Km from Uluru, had a somewhat different formation process, it is made of conglomerate rock and actually rises higher than Uluru. Kata Tjuta rises 546 m above the plain and Uluru rises 348m.

Uluru seems to have the reputation of being the largest monolith in the world. This in fact is not true. Mt. Augustus in Western Australia holds that title, with Uluru coming in second.

Fauna and Flora

The fauna and flora of Uluru are quite numerous and diverse, some species existing nowhere else and many were of vital importance to the Anangu people for food, tools, medicines and fuel for cooking and warmth.

Animals around Uluru include kangaroos, emus, bush turkeys, dingos, birds, reptiles, bats and frogs. 21 different native mammals exist in the park which is only about half the number present when Europeans first arrived. There are 178 species of birds; 73 reptiles including lizards such as the most unusual thorny devil, monitors (goannas) and snakes; maybe 7 or more species of bats and 4 species of frogs.

There are over 400 plant species within the park. They include numerous grasses like spinifex, (more correctly, porcupine grass,) mulga (acacia or wattle,) desert oak (allocasuarina,) centralian bloodwood (eucalyptus species,) grevilleas, quandongs and even some rare ferns.

Anangu were totally reliant on what the land had to offer for their survival. What we have come to call “bush tucker” consisted of not only animals which could be speared or caught such as kangaroos, lizards, snakes, emus, bush turkeys, ants etc. but it is Anangu’s knowledge of, and dependence on plants of the desert that is so amazing and fascinating. Anangu were masters of being able to recognise and collect a vast array of edible vegetation like fruit, berries, nuts, roots, seeds and leaves. There are finger limes, quandongs, grevillea flowers to suck the nectar from, desert plums and some which required very special processing to extract toxins before they could be eaten.

At Uluru, you can learn much more about this fascinating topic direct from the Pitjantjatjara, the original and traditional occupiers of this very harsh land.

Conservation

Conservation at Uluru is vitally important and ongoing. When Europeans arrived they brought with them grazing, feral animals, weeds and a whole new burning regime. This resulted in severe depletion of many native plants and animals and consequently Anangu were suffering from depleted food sources.

Today, traditional Aboriginal knowledge and practices in combination with modern science and resources is proving to be the logical solution for achieving the best results.

The traditional practice of burning grasslands and bush in a mosaic or patchwork pattern has been successfully practiced by the Aboriginals for thousands of years. . The intention of this practice was to stimulate new growth in the grasses which meant that hunting grounds were being created where they were most wanted. This took some of the guess work out of hunting.

There is another aspect to conservation over and above protecting what is there or what is left, and that is replacing some of what has been lost (this is not always possible of course.)

To reintroduce native animals to an area where feral animals are a problem for reasons of predation or competition, is never easy. The Bilby was once present around Uluru and the Rufus hare-wallaby, locally known as Mala was once widely distributed throughout central Australia. Mala are quite small and made a perfect target for introduced predators like foxes and cats.

Mala are now extinct in the wild but a number have been bred up in captivity. Within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park a 170 hectare site has been fenced to eliminate predators of the Mala so the captive Mala have since been released into the compound. There are plans for reintroducing several other species back into the park so hopefully the trends of the past can be reversed. If significant gains in conservation can be achieved over the next decade or two then Uluru will be even more spectacular than it is today.

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