Uluru National Park
Uluru National Park, 126,132ha and established in 1958, is one of Australia's most widely famed tourist attractions and in 1987 was included in UNESCO's World Heritage List. The park was returned to the local Aborigines in 1985 and is managed jointly by them and the ANPWS in Canberra.The climate is continental, with hot summers and cold winters. The average annual rainfall is only 200 mm, only a tenth of the rate of evaporation.The great desert-like sandy plain bears only a scanty vegetation of spinifex grass with occasional bushes and trees (desert oaks), but in the sheltered areas at the foot of the rocks, where rainwater gathers, there are trees, river gums and bloodwood trees. When, usually in summer, there is an unexpected shower of rain the desert is covered with a carpet of flowers, including Sturt's desert rose, the heraldic flower of the Northern Territory. Most of the animals, particularly birds, are seen early in the morning or in the late afternoon. The play of color on Ayers Rock and the Olgas is seen at its finest at sunset, and sunset viewing areas are signposted to the west of the rocks.
This huge rock rising to a height of 348m above the surrounding plain, with a circumference of almost 9 km, consists of sandstone and conglomerate strata steeply tilted by earth movements. Weathering as a result of extreme variations in temperature and by water and wind erosion produced the gullies and scars, and the oxidation ('rusting') of iron in the rock gave it its red coloring.The play of color on Ayers Rock is fascinating, varying according to the position of the sun. It is at its most striking at sunset and sunrise (Sunset Viewing Point). Occasionally it may be shrouded in rain clouds or may take on a black metallic sheen under rain, when it is almost equally impressive.Ayers Rock plays an important part in Aboriginal myth and ritual. The Aborigines call it Uluru which means the 'shadowy place'. After the area was returned to the Aborigines in 1985 they at once leased back to the government the National Park which had been established in 1958 round Ayers Rock and the Olgas. It is now administered jointly by the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service (ANPWS) and the Aborigines.Climbing Ayers RockThe distance to the top is 1.6 km, but it is a steep ascent at some points; the climb takes about 2 hours there and back. A chain to the top helps climbers and shows the way. You should attempt the climb only if you are sufficiently fit: there are occasional deaths on the rock, from a heart attack or a fall. And you should be sure to take enough water with you.Circuit of Ayers RockA walk round the rock is less strenuous, but is still a memorable experience (3-4 hours). Designated Aboriginal sacred sites must be respected.A good way of seeing the park is on one of the guided tours led by Aboriginal guides and rangers.