Geology

The Anangu people know how Uluru and Kata Tjuta were formed. Geologists have their own explanation. Here’s a brief scientific description of how both Uluru and Kata Tjuta were formed.

Geology


The making of Uluru and Kata-Tjuta

The Anangu people know how Uluru and Kata Tjuta were formed. This knowledge comes from the Tjukurpa, the stories and lore that explain and govern Anangu life. But much of it, particularly about Kata Tjuta, is sacred and cannot be presented here.

Geologists have their own explanation. Below is a brief scientific description of how both Uluru and Kata Tjuta were formed.

Creating the fans

550 million years ago the Peterman Ranges to the west of Kata Tjuta were taller than they are now. Rainwater flowing down the mountains eroded sand and rock and dropped it in big fan shapes on the surrounding plain.

One fan had mainly water-smoothed rocks. The other fan was mainly sand. Both fans became kilometres thick.

Pressing the fans

Later, 500 millions years ago, the whole area became covered in sea. Sand and mud fell to the bottom of the sea and covered the seabed, including the fans. The weight of the new seabed turned both it and the fans beneath into rock.

The rocky fan became conglomerate rock. The sand fan turned into sandstone.

Folding and tilting

About 400 million years ago, the sea had disappeared and the whole of Central Australia began to be subjected to massive forces. Some rocks folded and tilted. The rocky fan tilted slightly. The sand fan tilted 90 degrees so the layers of sandstone almost stood on end.

Wearing away

Over the last 300 million years, the softer rocks have eroded away, leaving the parts of the old fans exposed. Kata Tjuta is a hard part of the old rocky fan. Uluru is part of the sand fan, with its beds of sandstone nearly vertical.

The area around Uluru and Kata Tjuta was covered in windblown sand plains and dunes 30,000 years ago.

Uluru, like Kata Tjuta, is the tip of a huge slab of rock that continues below the ground for possibly five to six kilometres.

The shaping of Uluru and Kata-Tjuta

From a distance, Uluru looks smooth and featureless. But up close its face is weather-beaten - pitted with holes and gashes, ribs, valleys and caves. To Anangu, these features are related to the journeys and actions of ancestral beings across the landscape. On your tours and at the Cultural Centre in the Park, you may hear about some of the Uluru creation stories. These stories, known as Tjukurpa, tell about the travels and actions of Kuniya (Woma python), Liru (poisonous snake), Mala (rufous hare-wallaby) and Lungkata (Centralian blue-tongue lizard). You may learn to see the evidence of their activities in the features of Uluru.

Geologists have different explanations about how these features formed.

The Ribs

Uluru red

Some layers of akrose, the rock that makes up Uluru, are softer than others, and wear away more quickly. This leaves Uluru's characteristic parallel ribs or ridges.

Flaky red skin

Uluru surface

Close up, much of the surface of Uluru is flaky red with grey patches. The flakes are bits of rock that are left after water and oxygen in the air have decayed minerals in the rest of the rock. The red is the rusting of the iron in the arkose. The grey is the original colour of the arkose. You can see the unrusted grey rock inside the caves.

The Caves

Uluru rock

There are many types of caves at Uluru - those that look like honeycombs, high up on the walls, and wave-shaped caves at ground level. Perhaps they were formed by uneven flaky weathering. Small pits became bigger dimples, then hollows, then caves. Or they may have been chemically eaten away by water when the land's surface was higher; then exposed as the land was eroded away.

Carved out by water


Uluru waterfalls

Water has shaped the valleys, potholes and pools of Uluru. Rainstorm after rainstorm over millions of years has sent water plummeting down the hard rock, wearing it away to form grooves, and chains of potholes and plunge pools.

The Domes

Kata Tjuta distant

When the huge slab of rock that is Kata Tjuta was being folded and faulted, vertical joints or fractures cracked through the rock. Water seeped down the cracks and over millions of years the rock eroded away - grain by grain, pebble by pebble, to form valleys and gorges that split the rock slab into blocks. Curved cracks called topographic joints formed on the surface of the blocks. Weathering and erosion wore away the rocks above the cracks to produce the rounded domes we see today. Kata Tjuta, the Anangu name for the collection of domes, means "many heads".

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15min Rock Blast (Daytime)

Launch off on a Rock Blasting adventure, taking in the sights of Ayers Rock Resort and surrounding deserts on the way to Uluru; a panorama of breathtaking scenery unique to the Red Centre.  Tour duration is approx. 1 hour.

15min Rock Only (Daytime)

For those on a budget or if your time is limited, this is the quickest way to see Uluru. A 15 minute scenic flight takes you past Voyages Ayers Rock Resort and onto Uluru. It is also possible to see Kata Tjuta in the distance.  Tour duration is approx. 1 hour.

2 day Uluru and Kata Tjuta Transfer Pass

This pass enables you to explore Uluṟu & Kata Tjuṯa from sunrise to sunset, as many times as you wish for the 2 days of the pass.
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Ayers Rock Campground

Located within the Ayers Rock Resort, the well-equipped campground is an ideal base from which to experience the beauty of the living cultural landscape in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

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Voyages Desert Gardens Hotel is centrally located to all resort and touring facilities and offers a range of accommodation, from shaded poolside rooms to deluxe rooms overlooking the desert.

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Bush Yarn at the Circle of Sand

Welcome to the Circle of Sand, the Indigenous heart of Ayers Rock Resort. You will quickly become captivated by the yarns told by an Indigenous storyteller about Aboriginal history, culture and traditional techniques used on the land. Dependant on the season, learn about traditional bushtucker or an Indigenous man’s “survival kit” including weapons such as katjii (hunting spears), tjutinpa (clubs), kali (boomerangs) and miru (spear thrower). Tour duration approx 30 minutes.

Garden Walk - Desert Gardens Hotel

Desert Gardens Hotel is famous for it's magnificent gardens full of local flora, this is an opportunity to learn about the intricacies of an outback garden with an Indigenous guide. Learn how Indigenous people traditionally lived by using the bush for food and medicinal purposes. Alternatively, collect a free Garden Walk Pocket Guide from your hotel reception for a self-guided tour. Tour duration approx. 1 hour.

Interactive Didgeridoo Playing

Listen to the enchanting sounds of the didgeridoo while enjoying lunch at the Resort Town Square. Male guests have the opportunity to try it for themselves. You may like to purchase a didgeridoo at the nearby Craftworks and learn with your own instrument. Tour duration approx. 30 minutes. Note: Culturally, the didgeridoo is only played by males. We request your understanding and respect for Indigenous culture during this activity.
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2 Night Weekend Escape

Your 2 night Weekend Escape offers the perfect solution to escape and ensure you are left with a lifetime of memories. Includes the award-winning Sounds of Silence dinner under the stars, a Kata Tjuta and Uluru sunset tour as well as a camels ride to witness a sunrise that will take your breath away. There is also a host of free Indigenous activities.

3 day Tjungu Itinerary

Staying in a newly refurbished 1 bedroom apartment at Emu Walk Apartments, celebrate the best of Australian Indigenous culture in three majestic days during this lively Indigenous festival. With three signature events included - the ‘Tastes of Tjungu’, a commemorative Indigenous Australians at War Lunch and an elevated view of the Tjungu Fashion Parade and Final Night Concert, as well as a Desert Awakenings sunrise tour that will take you up close to Uluru, you will be well and truly immersed in the magic of this living cultural landscape. This itinerary is suited for adults and children aged 10 and over.

3 day Tjungu Itinerary

Celebrate the best of Australian Indigenous culture in three majestic days during this lively Indigenous festival. With three signature events included - the ‘Tastes of Tjungu’, a commemorative Indigenous Australians at War Lunch and an elevated view of the Tjungu Fashion Parade and Final Night Concert, as well as a Desert Awakenings sunrise tour that will take you up close to Uluru, you will be well and truly immersed in the magic of this living cultural landscape. This itinerary is suited for families with children aged 10 and over.
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