You have to see it for yourself. Don’t take anyone’s word for it, not even from me. Uluru, Australia is absolutely stunning. Even I could not believe my eyes when I was there in May this year when the Autumn weather was perfect. However, it can get up to 47 degrees Celsius in summer, which I would avoid.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987, recognising its geological formations, rare plants and animals. In 1994, it became the second in the world to be acclaimed for its cultural landscape. Uluru is 348m above the plain with a circumference of 9.4km and is over 860m above sea level.
I was there for the launch of Bush Tucker Journeys at Ayers Rock Resort which promises to offer native flavour experiences celebrating food and culture in Australia as well as Voyages 2017 Tali Wiru Bush Tucker Inspired Menu launch and the second season of Field of Lights.
Uluru is located in the heart of Northern Territory’s “Red Centre”. Alice Springs is the nearest major town. And that is 450km or four hours 30 minutes away by car from Uluru. Non-stop flights to Alice Springs and Cairns are operated by Qantas while Jetstar operates non-stop flights to Melbourne and Sydney and Virgin Australia operates non-stop flights to Sydney. Flying into Uluru from Singapore means a stopover at Melbourne or Sydney. We flew on Scoot from Changi Airport to Sydney and spent a night there before flying on Jetstar to Ayers Rock the next morning.
Over 250,000 people visit the park every year. Even my own parents have been there, without me.
Don’t take any rocks, sand, pebbles, twigs or plants home as a souvenir. Taking rocks or sand come with fines of up to A$8,500. We really shouldn’t be taking anything except memories and great photos.
Field of Lights Uluru 2017
Watch the field light up with 50,000 slender stems crowned with radiant frosted glass spheres created by internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro. The rhythmed coloured lights remind me of tulip fields. This installation has been named Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaka which means looking at lots of beautiful lights in local Pitjantjatjara. It will be on display till 31 March 2018.
Bruce Munro employs light to evoke an emotional response through his installations. His passion for light as a medium began in Australia when he visited Uluru in 1992.
The Field of Light Star Pass offers you around 2 hours 30 minutes experience inclusive of transfers. The coach picks you up 30 minutes prior to sunset and brings you to the Field of Light exhibition. Enjoy a 45-minute self-guided walk through the Field of Light, outback style canapés, Australian sparkling wine and beers or non-alcoholic drinks and a panoramic view of the Field of Light art installation from the dune top viewing area. The Field of Light Star Pass costs AS$85 per adult or AS$56 per child aged 5 to 15 years of age.
Other options are also available. If you prefer to just go for a self-guided walk after dark with return coach transfers, there are three departures per evening that depart after sunset. The Field of Light Pass is priced at A$39 per adult as well as S$28 per child aged 2 to 15 years.
You can also enjoy the view on a 45-minute camel tour. The Star Pass by Camel is priced at A$189 per adult and A$119 per child aged 5 to 15 years old. This package comes with return transfers from all hotels, entry to the camel farm, the 45-minute camel tour to Field of Light and Field of Light Star Pass experience.
Enjoy a three-course bush tucker inspired buffet menu with Australian wine and beers, non-alcoholic drinks, tea, coffee and port after outback canapés with chilled sparkling wine-drinks with A Night at Field of Light. For A$245 per adult and A$122.50 per child aged 10 to 15 years, you also get entrance to Field of Light exhibition, an engaging star talk, self-guided walk through the illuminated Field of Light, sweet treats and hot chocolate, panoramic view of Field of Light atop the dune and return transfers from all hotels. The camel option is priced at A$374 per adult and A$205 per child aged 10 to 15 years.
Tali Wiru with Bush Tucker Inspired Menu
Enjoy open-air fine dining at a southern desert sand dune where the views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta are spectacular. Tali Wiru is an intimate dining experience for no more than 20 guests. In the cooler months, bring along a jacket to keep warm as it can get windy at night and be sure to wear comfortable closed walking shoes.
At sunset, enjoy Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut and canapés to the sounds of the didgeridoo, a wind instrument of the indigenous Australian people. Watch the sunset against Uluru and observe the shadows set against the rock. Absolutely stunning.
Here’s your chance to be adventurous with food. Have a smoked kangaroo and kujera crostini or a crocodile and desert lime salad or the Pan seared Scallop with Gulgulk Buerre Noisette.
Move over to the dining area at twilight and enjoy dishes that celebrate the ancient flavours of Indigineous Australia.
The four-course table d’hote menu is matched with wines. For the entrées, you have a choice of Pressed Wallaby with Fermented Quangdong; Moreton Bay Bug (a species of the Slipper Lobster) with pickled muntries; or Beetroot and Illawarra Plum Mousse with crisp kale, bunya nut shards, Persian feta and finger lime caviar.
There are three choices for mains. The Wagyu Beef Fillet is prepared with salt baked celeriac, paperbark smoked onion soubise, king brown mushroom and smoked bacon jus and paired with Amelia Park, Reserve Shiraz from Frankland River.
The Pan Roasted Toothfish is served with carrot and ginger puree, baby heirloom carrots, sea greens, spiced activated lentils and candied lemon aspen pared with Henscheke Green’s Hill Riesling from Adelaide.
The Winter Cauliflower is served with glazed asparagus, fennel, bush tomato cured egg yolk, roasted hazelnuts, charred leek and raisin puree and is paired with Penny’s Hill “The Minimalist” Chardonnay from Piccadilly Valley.
For desserts, you have a choice of Textures of Chocolate, Rosella and Lychee Petit Gateaux and Australian Cheese Selection.
On a cloudless night, the sky turns into a canvas of sparkling stars. Look closely and you can actually see the milky way. Walk away from the dining area and find a spot. Bring along a tripod and put your camera on long exposure to photograph the stars or even the milky way. That peace and quiet and occasional breeze can be hauntingly beautiful.
End the experience at the campfire with some port or hot chocolate while your host shares stories of the land with you. By now he would have also shared stories of the stars.
Tali Wiru is available daily till 15 October 2017. The 4 hours 15-minute experience is priced at A$345 per person and includes the Field of Light pass as a bonus. And if you like a bird’s eye view of Uluru and Kata Tjuta from the air, you can enjoy Tali Wiru by Heli at A$765 per person. You can the same experience as Tali Wiru and a 30-minute helicopter tour.
Bookings are required. Contact your hotel reception or the Town Square’s Tour and Information Centre or online.
If you are into waking up early, Voyages Desert Awakenings is the experience you won’t want to miss. the duration of the experience is six hours and your transfer picks you up from your hotel approximately 1 hour 20 minutes prior to sunrise each day. Yes! That is early. You are brought to the same dune top as the Tali Wiru experience where you can enjoy sunrise viewing with light breakfast of bacon and egg rolls with coffee, tea and homemade damper with Golden Syrup.
It was cold in May but the view of the sun rising was equally memorable. I did not regret waking up early for this view.
Contrast the view of Ayers Rock during sunrise and sunset and appreciate the calmness of the desert. Perfect location for a quick meditation or some yoga stretches.
The guided tour brings you to the base of Uluru where the first stop is the Mutitjulu Waterhole which is beautiful. Admire the surfaces and texture of the rock and sky’s reflection on the water. You also get a feel of how large the rock is in close proximity. The tour ends at the Cultural Centre located with Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Desert Awakenings is priced at A$175 per adult and A$135 per child (5 to 15 years). This fee excludes Park Entry tickets which can be purchased at the National Park Gate.
Uluru Camel Tours
Enjoy a 45-minute camel ride through the beautiful sand dune country with Uluru and Kata Tjuta as a backdrop. Your guide even helps take a photo of you and your camel. The slow ride through the terrain includes an explanation of the landscape. Mounting the camel was much easier than dismounting.
It’s called a camel train for a reason. The camels walk in a straight line and daintily parade. Most of us were trying to stay on the camel while trying to take photos.
After the ride, explore the camel museum and learn about the importance of camels to the history of the Red Centre.
Bush Tucker Journeys
Lemon Myrtle, Rivermint, Sea Parsley, Kutjera -Desert Raisin, Tanami Apples, Passionberry, Wattleseed, Desert Lime, Muntrie Berries, Quangdong and Saltbush. These are some of the bushfood we discovered while we were at Uluru. These ingredients are native to Australia and used as food by the Aboriginal Australians.
Part of this education is through Voyages Bush Tucker Journeys’ Uluru Feastival which are available on 3 to 5 November 2017, 9 to 11 March 2018 and 22 to 24 June 2018. This quarterly culinary event celebrates Australia’s native flavours as part of Bush Tucker Journeys.
Sounds of Silence
Sounds of Silence is another dining under the stars experience. Lasting approximately four hours, A$199 per adult or A$100 per child aged 10 to 15 years offers outback style canapés, a three course bush tucker inspired buffet, beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks, tea, coffee and port, a guided tour of the night sky by the resident star talker and return transfers from your hotel.
The intimate experience is set for only 10 guests.
The buffet spread incorporates native bush ingredients such as crocodile, kangaroo, barramundi and quangdong. After dinner, the resident star talker decodes the southern night sky and guides you as you locate the Southern Cross, the signs of the zodiac, the Milky Way and planets and galaxies.
Stay at the Sails In The Desert, A Member of Pullman Hotels
The recently renovated Sails in the Desert Hotel. a member of Pullman Hotels is part of the Ayers Rock Resort, managed by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia. Ayers Rock Resort sister hotels in the area include the 218-room Desert Gardens Hotel which completed refurbishment in April this year complementing the desert surroundings and indigenous culture. Other related properties include Emu Walk Apartments, Outback Pioneer Hotel and Lodge and Ayers Rock Campground.
Rooms here are spacious and comfortable. The beds are just amazing. Slept like a baby when I was here. And bathrooms are spacious featuring two separate sinks so you and your travel companion can brush teeth or wash face together. The bath tub comes handy on those cold nights.
There is enough space for your luggage in the room so that you can freely roam around.
I like it that the toiletries supplied are also using native ingredients. These WIRU Indigenous Skincare products use extracts of Quandong (wild peach) and wattleseed. WIRU is the local Anangu word for beautiful. Wattleseed is nourishing while Qandong is anti-oxidant rich.
So you know you don’t have to bring your own facial cleanser and body balm as well as body wash, shampoo and conditioner.
Rooms come with a balcony where you can sit and enjoy the desert scenery and hot sun during the day or the night breeze. That’s the way to come enjoy Uluru with your family and friends.
This trip was made possible by Accorhotels, Scoot and Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia