Uluru is an unexpected luxury and adventure holiday

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When you think of a luxurious dining experience, Italy or the South of France often spring to mind, but there is an unexpected place in Australia where dining experiences are of the highest quality.

For many Australians, Uluru is a place full of mysteries, but since the controversial climb was closed on October 28, 2019, the area has changed completely.

As part of their efforts to prevent Uluru from being climbed, the Anangu were encouraged to develop other sources of income in tourism, and several new attractions were created in the area, including Segway tours around the rock and the Wintjiri Wiru Sunset Dinner.

I was quite naive about what was about to unfold when I landed on Virgin Australia, which had recently announced flights from Melbourne and Brisbane starting on June 6 and 7.

It is entirely possible to visit the Red Centre on a budget, but if you are willing and able to spend some money, you will have some unforgettable experiences. One could even say, “a bucket list place”. What you might not expect is that Uluru is a tranquil place of luxury mixed with an adventure holiday.

Where to eat in Uluru

The trip was a whirlwind of good food – and as a celiac patient, I can’t always say that, as my options when it comes to food are usually very limited.

There are a handful of restaurants at Sails in the Desert, one of Voyages’ many Ayers Rock Resort properties, such as Walpa and Pira Pool Bar. However, if you’ve always wanted to treat yourself to a meal, I can highly recommend Tali Wiru Dinner Under Stars.

Yes, at $440 it’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny – and more, in my opinion.

Imagine this: the sun is setting behind Uluru, you are handed a glass of champagne and as you walk up a track you hear a man playing yidaki.

You’ll be offered a mix of canapés, such as mushroom caps stuffed with cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, or duck with emu pate or kangaroo with natural ingredients, all before sitting down to dine under the stars with just 19 other guests.

There is a four-course menu with wine pairing, with guests choosing between three starters, main courses and desserts. Apart from the dessert and one canapé, almost everything was gluten-free.

However, the chef immediately prepared other variations for me without much fuss.

I have eaten in Michelin star restaurants and I can say without a doubt that this evening was very special, it surpassed any dining experience I have ever had with some of the best food I have ever eaten.

The incredible atmosphere of someone playing traditional instruments and telling local stories about how the Anangu people used the stars was the highlight of the evening.

Another excellent dining experience is the Wintjiri Wiru Sunset Dinner, which is significantly cheaper than Tali Wiru at $295 for adults and $125 for children.

The three-hour experience includes cocktails made with Beachtree Gin, an indigenous distillery, and canapés with views of Kata Tjuta and Uluru at sunset. You will then be presented with a personalised hamper of seafood, cured kangaroo and emu, as well as dessert and wine. Again, my coeliac disease was no problem.

Afterwards, another beautiful experience awaits you – a sound, light and drone show that tells one of the local ancestral stories.

It’s a super fun way to teach kids a little more about the First Nations community. There is a risk, however, that the wind will keep the drones flying. But that doesn’t mean the night is over. The light and sound show is incredible even without it. In my experience, it only worked for half of the 20-minute show, but everyone got a partial refund since they didn’t get the full experience.

Where to sleep

There is one resort in the whole of Uluru – the Ayers Rock Resort – but it offers a range of accommodation options. There’s the campground, the Outback Hotel and Lodge, the Emu Walk Apartments, the Lost Camel Hotel, the Desert Gardens Hotel and Sails in the Desert. I stayed at Sailys in the Desert, which is the slightly more luxurious brand. I opened my balcony door and had a view of Uluru. How cool is that? There’s a pool with a cocktail bar, loads of restaurants, a day spa and a handful of shops not far away. There’s something for every budget.

What to do

I’m not a morning person, but trust me, you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t get up early to watch the sunrise over Kata Tjuta and Uluru. There are several ways to do this. My personal favorite was watching the sunrise while riding a camel named Curly, who had a penchant for biting people. Each camel’s personality is as unique as a puppy’s and I was absolutely into it.

A Segway ride around Uluru whilst listening to someone tell a bit about the history of the Anangu people was also a really fun and unique way to see the rock. The actual walk around Uluru is about 10km, so if you’re not used to walking a lot, this might be an easy option. But be warned, there are some obstacles on the journey. Seeing Kata Tjuta and Uluru from the air – a helicopter ride, that is – is also an unforgettable experience. It’s almost as if there’s still an ‘adventure element’ alive and well in the area despite the climb being cancelled – and rightly so. But I think it’s a brilliant way to keep that energy going.

The hike between two peaks of Kata Tjuta is also a highlight, especially with a guide who explains some of the artwork and the use of certain plants.

But for a truly authentic experience to learn about the Anangu people, I think Maruku Arts and Walkatjara Art is the best place. It’s a great place to learn about the meaning of certain images in indigenous art while also learning about local history. It’s truly one of the most meaningful moments of my life. It’s a moment of clarity when you hear someone share their culture with you, something no one should miss.

Maruka Arts has been owned by the Anangu people for more than 40 years and has grown to become one of Australia’s largest Aboriginal-led organisations, with 900 artists from 20 remote communities.

How to get there

There aren’t many ways to get to central Australia, with car or plane being the only two options. However, this has been made much easier as Virgin Australia has announced that from June 6th there will be four flights from Melbourne to Uluru each week, and four return flights. From June 7th there will also be three flights from Brisbane to Uluru each week, and three return flights.

This author travelled to Uluru as a guest of Virgin Australia

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