There isn’t long left to climb Uluru which lies a few hours drive from the popular tourist town of Alice Springs. For many, that’s a good thing. The iconic Australian landmark, otherwise known as Ayers Rock, is to ban tourists from walking up its steep ascent after a long campaign to protect land sacred to the indigenous Aṉangu people. A popular place for visitors from around the world to see, climbing the gargantuan sandstone formation has also become a favourite “bucket list” endeavour for many.
But it isn’t an easy feat as has been highlighted by incidents and even deaths associated with people suffering from exhaustion and the effects of extreme heat. Recently a 64-year-old man had a heart attack halfway up. He was lucky to survive as emergency services reached him in time. Certainly, safety has been used to deter people away from the feat which, while not requiring experienced mountaineering skills, still requires a good level of fitness, preparation to ensure hydration, and stamina.
Yet, perhaps the most important reason for the ban is to protect the mythological home of creator spirits, the Tjukurpa, who are an important part of indigenous culture. The site fell into state hands in 1873 when it was named Ayers Rock after Sir Henry Ayers, the Chief Secretary of South Australia. The Aborigines reacquired ownership in 1985, sharing management with the National Parks and Wildlife Agency. Since 2012, the name Uluru is the mountain’s preferred name.
The ban comes into effect in October which has prompted an influx to Alice Springs, the closest major town in Australia’s Northern Territory. About 300,000 tourists visit Uluru every year, half of which are from overseas. Some choose to make the five-hour drive from town, while others choose to take the short flight from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock Airport. However you choose to make the trip, the well-known Northern Territory town has become a pivotal home base of Uluru’s visitors thanks to its array of attractions, activities, historical landmarks and restaurants.
For example, on the outskirts of town is the magnificent Desert Park, featuring both a wildlife sanctuary and botanic garden. In wonderfully recreated desert habitats, you’ll get to see lots of wildlife including kangaroos, birds and snakes. Meanwhile, the Hanuman Thai-Indian influenced restaurant comes highly recommended by Lonely Planet as does the Royal Flying Doctor Service museum which celebrates the history of the airborne health service which provides 24/7 emergency care to the region.
With tourist numbers additionally spiking thanks to the low Australian dollar, the town also offers visitors the chance to see pythons, goannas and crocodiles at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre. You can try go-kart racing at the Dirt Kart Club, go Outback Cycling with bike hire, and visit a sanctuary for baby Kangaroos.
There’s also the very popular Lasseters which features four restaurants, four bars, swimming, a poolside café, night club and health club all in one huge complex. There’s even a large casino. For those who have been practising their slots game thanks to the abundance of offers such as free spins and bonuses via sites such as free-spins.org/en-nz/, you’ll get the chance to try a host of games ranging from traditional favourites to brand new ones. Afterwards, you can relax at the day spa, catch some Aussie rules football at Stadium 93 sports bar, and eat steak at Juicy Rump.
With time running out to ascend Uluru, Alice Springs will continue to enjoy visitors from around the world sampling both the delights in town and the wonderful landmarks and historical sites outside it.