You’ll have seen the image before you come to Uluru. You know the one – of that red monolith, taller than the Eiffel Tower and larger than the city of Monaco, rising above the earth against the backdrop of an electric-blue sky. You’ll probably have seen it hundreds of times. You could look at it again just seconds before you’re standing in front of the real thing and still not be prepared for what comes next.
Uluru draws you in. Not just once but every time you gaze at it. This pre-ice-age formation may have stood in the Red Centre for millennia but the show it puts on changes almost by the hour. Be there at the break of day and see a mass of embers blazing in the sun; return at last light and find a deep-purple hulk sleeping under a clear night sky.
It pulls at you in other, deeper ways, too. Since 1994, this land has been recognised by UNESCO as a cultural landscape with powerful religious and artistic ties. The Anangu people, traditional custodians of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, hope that while here visitors “learn about Tjukurpa (our traditional law, stories and spirituality), our ancestors and culture, and how important the park is.” On Uluru-Kata Tjuta’s website, they ask guests to listen carefully. “Let the knowledge you hear come through your ears, into your mind and settle in your heart.”
A private sunrise walking tour with SEIT Outback Australia is one way to gain a deeper understanding of Indigenous culture. After a picnic breakfast you’ll hear the story of ancestral beings Liru and Kuniya and their connection to the Mutitjulu Waterhole. Later, just before dusk, claim your place at the Uluru sunset-viewing area to make that textbook shot of the glowing monolith a 3D reality (or come here at dawn when the crowds are gathering over at popular sunrise-viewing spot Talinguru Nyakunytjaku and you might have it to yourself). Or you could take in this icon from a daybed at your lodge, Longitude 131°.
A collection of 16 “tents” – complete with ensuites, floor-to-ceiling windows and private decks – Longitude 131° is a luxurious outlier in the spiritual centre of Australia. Within the lodge is the Dune House, where – under soaring ceilings and with wideangle views – chef Tom Saliba expertly pairs contemporary ingredients with native bush tucker. Menus are invented daily to best showcase the freshest produce so you could have wattleseed and cocoa-cured kangaroo carpaccio for lunch one day and saltbush gnocchi with speck for dinner another. Of course, at Uluru, it’s not just about what’s in front of you but above you, too. So once the blue sky gives way to shimmering constellations, make your way to a remote dune near the lodge to savour a multicourse menu by candlelight and starlight.
And when you wake the next day, Uluru will be ready to put on a whole new show.