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Why Uluru is one of the best places in the world for stargazing

"Look, a shooting star!" says one of my dining companions. I'm hunkered over dessert in the desert, eyes down and spoon halfway through a pretty pink globe that tastes of rosella and lychee, but swivel quick-fast hoping to see the astral firework that I always seem to miss.

Why Uluru is one of the best places in the world for stargazing

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Guest post by Katrina Lobley

Astronomy Weekend 

“Look, a shooting star!” says one of my dining companions. I’m hunkered over dessert in the desert, eyes down and spoon halfway through a pretty pink globe that tastes of rosella and lychee, but swivel quick-fast hoping to see the astral firework that I always seem to miss. Damn, bad timing once again.

Luckily, there are less elusive objects to admire in the night sky after this haute four-course meal atop a remote dune near the Resort.  After finishing our dinner featuring native ingredients that is a highlight of the Tali Wiru experience, we file back to the fire pit and take a seat around the crackling flames to listen to a star talk from Tyler Baira, whose Torres Strait mob might be far away but share a similar view of these constellations and stars scattered like diamonds above our heads.

Baira, who welcomed us to this spot at sunset with an age-old symphony coaxed from a didgeridoo, now points out a formation that Westerners know as Orion’s belt. He tells us an alternate version – a Yolgnu story about three brothers who went fishing. They could only manage to hook kingfish, part of their totem and something they weren’t allowed to eat, but one brother was hungry and ate a fish. As punishment, a waterspout picked up their canoe, spinning them into the night sky.  For the Yolgnu those three bright stars up there are the unfortunate brothers sitting in their canoe.

“Every Aboriginal story has a lesson,” says Baira. “And the lesson of that story is don’t do wrong by your people, don’t do wrong by your tribe. If you do wrong by them, bad things will happen. Now I’m going to tell you a Creation story. I’ve saved the best for last …” And as we sip our nightcap (tawny port or a hot beverage), we follow his instructions to imagine the earth with no land, only ocean, allowing his poetic words to transport us to another universe. Stargazing talks like this are also incorporated into the Sounds of Silence dinner that this year celebrates its 25-year anniversary.

Visiting Uluru might be all about the sunset and sunrise for some but many people come away entranced by what unfolds between those two daily events. They’ve forgotten the brilliance of the night sky when it’s not obscured by pollution and artificial light, and rediscover a delight in the stars.

At Ayers Rock Resort, mini-astronomers can get an up-close peek at the planets via a telescope at the Outback Sky Journeys experience. This family-friendly tour takes place half an hour after sunset; a later (and slightly longer) tour unfolds two hours after sunset.

Amateur astronomers can also indulge in their favourite hobby at a weekend devoted to stargazing. The Uluru Astronomy Weekend (14-16 September, 2018) includes talks on the structure of the universe, dark matter, activities, demonstrations and a Stellar Starlit dinner. No doubt there will be buzz at this year’s event over news that the International Astronomical Union now recognises indigenous names for four stars, including the smallest one in the Southern Cross. 

About Katrina Lobley

Katrina Lobley is a Sydney-based travel writer who has visited Uluru on many occasions, you can read her work in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian.

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Uluru Bicycle Hire (Departure 1)

Take a morning ride around the base of Uluru by bicycle. The 15 kilometre self-guided journey is easily made within 3 hours and can be enjoyed by the whole family. Stop and explore the pure beauty of this spiritual and unique wonder of the world at your own pace. Once you have finished your ride, you are free to explore the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre. Includes return hotel transfers operated by Uluru Hop On & Hop Off. Children toddler seats and tag-a-longs available on request, subject to availability. Departure times: Return transfer from your accommodation by Uluru Hop ON Hop Off 7:15am December 7:45am February 8:30am March 9:30am October and November 10:00am September 10:15am 16-30 April and May 10:30am 1-15 April and June to August Duration approx. 4 hours

1 Day Hop On Hop Off Pass

This 1-day Hop On Hop Off pass gives you the freedom to explore Uluru at your own pace for one day. From sunrise to sunset, hop on and hop off as much as you like throughout the day. Additionally, this pass also entitles you to one bonus transfer to and from Kata Tjuta within the same day. Download timetable and map

15min Rock Blast (Daytime)

Launch off on a rock blasting adventure and take in the sights of Ayers Rock Resort and surrounding desert landscape as you make your way towards Uluru. Enjoy a panoramic view of the breathtaking scenery unique to the Red Centre.  Tour duration approx. 1 hour
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Longitude 131°

Located adjacent to Ayers Rock Resort, Longitude 131° offers an exclusive experience of the Australian Outback, rich in cultural heritage and history.

Emu Walk Apartments

Ayers Rock Resort's 4 star self-contained apartments: Only 20km from Uluru, the newly renovated 1 and 2 bedroom apartments are sheltered behind gardens of native trees. Lowest Price Guarantee.

Ayers Rock Campground

Ayers Rock campground is located only 15km from Uluru and offers cabin accommodation, unpowered and powered sites for caravans, campervans, motor homes and camper trailers. Campground offers modern camping facilities and a playground, pool, supermarket and petrol station.
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Guided Garden Walk

Desert Gardens Hotel is famous for it's magnificent gardens full of local flora. Meet your Indigenous guide at the hotel's reception for a guided tour of these authentic native gardens and an introduction to the many different plants which Anangu relied on for food and medicinal purposes. Tour duration approx. 1 hour.

Ecology & Museum Tour

Wintjiri museum provides an educational display highlighting local history, Aboriginal culture, geology, flora and fauna. On this interpretative tour of the museum your Aboriginal guide will introduce you to the region's unique ecology and classes of mammals and fauna types not found anywhere else in the world.  Gain insights into the Anangu land conservation and management practices as well as a brief historical overview; starting 30,000 years ago with the Aboriginal habitation to the early European explorers, and the development of tourism at Uluru. Tour duration approx. 45 minutes.

Mani Mani Indigenous Cultural Theatre

Mani-Mani Theatre Company’s unique sound, lighting, 3D effects and performance take you on a visually captivating experience transporting you to the ancient lands of Central Australia where the story of Walawuru, Kakalyalya & Kaanka unravels. The symbolic story of Walawuru, Kakalyalya & Kaanka is a tale of love, jealousy and greed. Expressed through ‘Mani-Mani’, the local art form of storytelling, this contemporary Indigenous performance brings to life the ancient ancestral beings Walawuru the Wedge-Tailed Eagle and his two wives; Kaanka the black crow and Kakalyalya the white cockatoo. Walawuru is happy with his two wives but little does he know Kaanka is evil and very jealous of the kind and caring Kakalyalya. The word ‘Mani-Mani’ comes from the Yankunytjatjara & Pitjantjatjara language of the Anangu people of Central Australia. Anangu people would often tell stories by drawing symbols in the sand using a stick taken from a branch of the Mani-Mani tree. The stories were often about ancestors, real events in history and the Tjukurpa creation time.
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3 Day Luxury Itinerary

Enjoy this 2 night Luxury Uluru getaway and experience the unforgettable Tali Wiru dinner under the Central Australian desert night sky. Watch the sun rise over Uluru as the desert awakens and join various Indigenous activities at Ayers Rock Resort. This itinerary is suited to couples or two singles wanting an indulgent Outback stay.

3 Day Best of Uluru Itinerary

Discover the best of Uluru and surrounds with once-in-a-lifetime tours and activities on this 2 night Best of Uluru itinerary. Witness the Field of Light art installation, watch as the sunrises over Uluru and Kata Tjuta and learn about Indigenous culture and traditions in Australia's spiritual heart.

3 Day Uluru Budget Itinerary

Explore Australia's Red Centre on a budget in 2 packed nights. Experience the magic of Uluru. Enjoy a dinner under the stars at the award-winning Sounds of Silence, walk through the Field of Light and discover various guest activities that will provide you with unforgettable memories. This itinerary is designed for those wanting a budget adventure.
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