The day we arrived it was raining so we did a drive around Uluru. The following day the sun was shining and our proper exploring began.
Some Uluru experiences are fully accessible. Others require some level of mobility to transfer. We know from your feedback that the people reading our blogs have varying levels of ability so we hope that there is something for everyone here. Central Australia has many opportunities for wheelchair users to explore and enjoy.
ULURU BASE WALK
It was raining on the day we arrived. A helpful guide told us to check out the waterfalls – only one per cent of Uluru visitors get to see them.
Uluru’s spectacular waterfalls tumble down the crevices in the rock, spiling over lips and soaking into pools a the base. I recommend making the effort to visit if you get a wet day. Uluru is so large you can easily see the waterfalls from the car.
The rain did leave us with large puddles to negotiate but it didn’t take long for those to disappear.
We were happy to wake up to sunshine and blue skies the following morning. It was my birthday and I was excited to celebrate it with my family in the heart of Australia.
SUNRISE AT ULURU
As BJ was still unwell, we didn’t push too hard to make sunrise. We visited the sunrise viewing platform during the day. The accessible platform is a wonderful vantage point to appreciate the size and grand nature of Uluru. It’s definitely worth popping this on your itinerary as a photo opportunity stop.
The path from the disabled parking area to the lovely timber ramped platform area has a gentle incline. Visitors will find spacious stand-alone disabled toilet facilities near the car park.
SUNSET AT ULURU
Sunset at Uluru is a must-do. Grab supplies for a picnic from the IGA in the town square at the Voyages Resort. Make sure you get to the sunset viewing area early. This is one of the most popular things to do at Uluru.
Tourists, families and visitors from all around the world gather at sunset and chat about what they’ve seen and what they hope to do the next day. It’s a fabulous way to swap ideas and experiences. Fellow travellers are always a valuable resource.
You will find disabled parking close to the accessible viewing platform. Just get your position early.
Fun fact – we didn’t notice for a few days that our hire car had a label stating that no sitting on the car bonnet was allowed. Clearly, lots of people do this for viewing the sunset, not naming any names.
I always like to book an activity that will be a thrill for BJ when we travel. Uluru has trike tours. I had to book one for him. The tours aren’t cheap, so I booked a quick spin for the family which would take them into the park and allow for a photo with Uluru in the distance.
The driver met us at the resort. Hubby, BJ and AJ popped on the supplied leather jackets and helmets and took off for the National Park. BJ craned his neck to look back. All I could see was a massive grin through the shield of his helmet. He was clearly in his element.
At 863m tall, Uluru is so large it’s visible from quite a distance. The kids and hubby could see it for the majority of the ride. They stopped at one of the viewing areas and their guide took lots of photos of them on the trike with Uluru in the background.
Uluru Motorcycles offers a variety of tours to Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Check their website here for details.
Accessibility – You will need to transfer from a wheelchair to the trike. We find that if a trike has a footplate (not all do, some just have a small peg) that BJ can sit quite comfortably. The trike at Uluru did have a footplate so BJ was a happy camper. We usually sit BJ in the middle for safety but this does require some flexibility. You must wear a helmet. BJ doesn’t like it, but he loves doing trike rides so much he’s learnt to do it.
Booking – The tours book out early, especially in the school holidays. I booked a week in advance. The company squeezed in our ride. You should lock in a tour before you get to the resort.
Tip – You need to carry your National Park’s permit with you for entry into the National Park while on the tour.
AJ and I headed out on our own early one morning to do a camel tour. I was desperate to do this tour. AJ not so much. I believe riding a camel at sunrise with Uluru and Kata Tjuta in the distance is once in a lifetime stuff, so I coaxed her (that means nagged, used methods around guilt and other mother techniques) until she reluctantly agreed. She isn’t keen on heights so riding on a camel was not particularly appealing to her but we had a great time.
It was still dark when we were picked up from the hotel by mini-bus. It was freezing cold despite our many layers, warm jackets, scarves, beanies, gloves and thick socks. When we arrived at the camel farm, we could see the camels sitting on the ground, lined up ready to ride.
The Camel Tour runs like a well-oiled machine. After a quick introduction, the guides told us how to approach and climb onto our camel, one group at a time. I’ve ridden camels before but I’d forgotten how steep it is sitting atop a camel as it rises into a standing position. This is something to keep in mind if riding with someone with a disability.
Once everyone was loaded we took off in two groups. Each group had a guide riding the camel at the front and someone walking beside the group. We were given a brief history of camels in Central Australia and the important role they played in exploration and transportation in Australia. We learnt how the wild camel population became so large when the camels were no longer needed and their owners released them into the wild rather than kill them. There is a large feral camel population in Australia now. I was disappointed not to see any wild camels around Uluru despite all the warning signs along the roadside. We finally saw one on the road to Alice Springs. Much to my delight he, or she, raced alongside us for a while.
From the back our camel we watched the sunrise and on our return, we could see Kata Tjuta in the distance.
I had high expectations for this tour and I’m happy to say it delivered, giving us an experience we’ll never forget.
On our return to the camel farm, there was hot chocolate, tea and fresh warm damper waiting to help us thaw out.
You can read more about Uluru Camel Tours here.
Accessibility – The camel tour is an activity we could have managed with BJ when he was younger but I think he’d find the ride difficult now. I asked at the Camel farm if they had assisted anyone who is a wheelchair user before and they said they had. If you are a wheelchair user and you think this is something you could manage I’d call ahead and discuss it with the tour operator.
Tip – if you are planning to do the sunrise camel tour with young children, give them something to eat before setting off. Pack a banana or something to keep them energised. The little girls on the camel behind us were asking how long till breakfast for the majority of the second half of the tour. Once kids are awake they tend to be hungry and find it hard to wait until they get back to the camel farm or hotel. Happy kids equal happy parents so go prepared.
FIELD OF LIGHT
There has been so much publicity around the art installation Field of Light at Uluru, I was determined we should see it. We were told that it wasn’t wheelchair accessible but after some research, we felt that with BJ’s off-road tyres it was worth giving it a go.
Bruce Munro is the acclaimed artist who designed the Field of Light after being inspired by Uluru. The Field of Light is created by 50,000 slender stems crowned with frosted-glass spheres which are ‘planted’ in Australia’s spiritual heartland. The installation, aptly named Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku by the local community, means ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’ in local Pitjantjatjara. The Field of Light will be in place for a full year, closing 31 March 2017.
We booked an accessible mini-bus transfer to the Field of Light (included in the cost of the tour) which collected us from the resort. The installation is set in the desert so the pathways are sand. However, we found the sand was compacted and easy to get through. Keep in mind we had BJ’s off-road tyres on his chair which no doubt assisted the process. It isn’t far to get around the installation or you can appreciate it from the outer edge of the path.
We had read that tripods weren’t allowed at the site so Hubby left his behind, making capturing good images difficult. We were later told that monopods are allowed. If you are a keen photographer I recommend you take one.
You can read more about Field of Light here.
DINNER UNDER THE STARS
Hubby and I escaped for a romantic dinner for two. On our previous visit to Uluru, Hubby and I did the Sounds of Silence dinner. We loved it and this time around we wanted to do something different while keeping Uluru as the focus. A fellow blogger, Aleney from BoyEatsWorld, had recently done the Tali Wiru dinner at Uluru and after reading her story I was keen to try it. The dinner is a premium experience and the price tag matches. I had won, as part of my award last year, a $500 Flight Centre voucher. I decided that my birthday was the perfect reason to indulge by using the voucher towards the decadent dining under the stars experience.
We were whisked away by mini-bus to a location in the desert. We were greeted by our hosts and led to the top of a sand dune where champagne, canapés and a stunning view of Uluru greeted us. The sound of a didgeridoo and our fellow diners is all that broke the peaceful silence that surrounded us. The absolute quiet of the desert is far removed from the environment of city life and something I happily embraced.
The staff were extremely attentive and the minute the level of our champagne dropped, it was topped up. After we took in the view and enjoyed our canapes it was time to take our seats for dinner.
Dining in winter, in the desert, on top of a sand dune is a chilly experience but we were soon warmed by the gas heaters, nanna blankets for our legs and the drinks that were paired with each course.
There are no more than 20 people at the Tali Wiru dinner which makes it feel like an intimate outdoor restaurant. Aside from the divine four course meal, we loved being on a table of two – just Hubby and I. When we did the Sounds of Silence dinner we were on a table with other people. While I enjoyed getting to know our fellow guests, dinner out for us is now rare so we enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of chatting to each other and catching up on all those unfinished conversations.
I can’t speak highly enough of the sophisticated food with a bush tucker twist and the wait staff made us feel like we were guests in their home. They were attentive and friendly but they’d discreetly slip away so we could savour every mouthful in peace.
After our main course, it was time for storytelling and star gazing with an Indigenous storyteller. By then I was so relaxed (many champagnes and wines under my belt, combined with quality couple time) I was happy to just focus on the bright sky above. I listened to every word but I was simply in awe of the brightness and the number of stars lighting up the night sky. The light show in the outback is something you should experience at least once.
Dessert was served and then it was time to sit around the fire with our fellow diners for hot chocolate. I didn’t want to leave but all good things must come to an end and it was time to return to the resort and the kids.
This experience is not wheelchair accessible as the dining area is at the top of a sand dune. However, guests can do the Sounds of Silence dinner which is also wonderful and mobility restrictions can be catered to. This dinner is also under the stars but caters to a larger number of guests. There is star gazing and as I mentioned earlier, Hubby and I did this on our first visit to Uluru and loved it. When I enquired about access I was advised that guests with mobility restrictions can be catered for at one of the locations (there is such a demand there is more than one location for the dinners). I suggest contacting the reservations department in advance to make enquiries and ensure your needs can be met.
You can read about the many dining options here.
If you would like to know about accommodation at Uluru check out the blog I wrote about that here.
GENERAL ULURU TIPS
Book tours in advance, particularly if you are travelling in the school holidays.
Central Australia is cold in winter (we were amazed at how many people were under the impression that it would be hot, even in winter). The days were mild but the nights and mornings were extremely cold. If you are doing a sunrise, sunset tour or one of the outdoor dinners, pack gloves, beanies, thick jackets and plenty of layers. I had tights under my jeans for the nights.
Allow ample time to do the activities you want to book. The day of rain on our arrival meant that our camel tour and dinner under the stars needed to be rescheduled. We were grateful we had room in our itinerary to reschedule them both and didn’t miss out.
There is an IGA Supermarket in the Town Square within the resort. Although more expensive than our regular supermarket, I thought the prices were fair considering transportation costs to the area.
The IGA has tasty pre-made sandwiches which are reasonably priced and great for day trips. My favourite was the turkey salad sandwich.
There is no pharmacy at the resort so take anything you may need with you. We were looking for Nurofen liquid for BJ and couldn’t get it.
The medical centre at Yulara is excellent, but busy. Book early if needed. For Australians, treatment is covered by Medicare. This included the medication we received.
Restaurants in the resort get heavily booked so eat early or book ahead. I’d suggest even booking before you arrive.
Lastly, I’d like to encourage you to respect the requests of the local Indigenous people. The traditional owners of the land request that visitors do not climb Uluru (I know that may be a strange thing to mention on a page about access but travelling companions may consider it.) and I think this should be respected. It made me incredibly sad when someone told me that the marking that’s been made by people climbing Uluru is seen as a scar on the rock by the local Indigenous people. There are so many ways to enjoy and appreciate Uluru without climbing it. From watching people do it, I’d say it’s down right dangerous. It’s so steep that many tourists we saw were coming down the side on their bottoms.