Travel Blog

Uluru: the tips to make your visit unforgettable

Uluru, home to the iconic red mass that is Ayers Rock, is one of Australia’s most visited destinations. Many tourists and gap year students have designs to visit Uluru as part of their adventure travel plans, but how can you make sure that your trip is unforgettable? Here are some tips to help you get the best out of your visit.

 

When to go

Uluru is a premium tourist destination, which means that it’s almost always busy. The best times to go are dawn and dusk, when crowds have dispersed and you can soak up the peace and take in the wonderful views without flashlights and tours everywhere.

Sunset is a very popular time to arrive at Ayers Rock, so get there a little earlier. Most people want that prize-winning shot, so choose a spot and stay in it. Don’t leave as soon as the sun drops out of the sky. The best shots often come just after the sun has set and the sky becomes a magical mix of colours.

Most of us dream of seeing the splendour of Ayers Rock in clear blue skies, but don’t lose heart if it’s raining. Torrents of water cascading down the sides of the giant rock is one of the most dramatic sights you’ll see on your travels.

 

How to get the best views

Control of Ayers Rock was returned to the Anangu people around 30 years ago. It is considered sacred ground to them, and as such, they prefer visitors not to try and scale the rock. There’s no law against it, but it’s always advisable to respect cultural traditions and beliefs. If you want the picture postcard views, organise a camel trek around Uluru or enjoy a bird’s eye view from the skies with a helicopter ride.

 

Other things to do

Many of us head to Uluru with the sole aim of seeing Ayers Rock. However, it’s well worth spending the day there to enjoy some nearby sights. The Valley of the Wind walk, which should take around three hours, is an experience you’ll never forget. The Olgas (Katu Tjuta) are another natural wonder you won’t want to miss. Keep your eyes peeled for a series of 36 domes, which will make you feel like you’ve stepped into another world.

 

If you’re visiting Uluru, be wary of the conditions. It can get incredibly hot in the summer, so make sure you take plenty of water with you, head for the shade when you can, and wear sunscreen.

 

 

The Cage of Death and other animal encounters Down Under

Many of us immediately think of exotic creatures when we think about planning a holiday in Australia. If you’re travelling to Oz for an extended break or you’re working there on your gap year, take time to explore the wildlife, and enjoy some animal encounters. It’s not all about adventure travel and coming face to face with the world’s deadliest species. You can also enjoy some cuddly encounters too. Here are some of the best animal experiences on offer Down Under.

 

The Cage of Death

You’ve probably guessed by the name that this is no friendly snuggle with a koala. The Cage of Death is a unique experience offered by Darwin’s Crocosaurus Cove. This is the only place you can dive with crocodiles, and it’s a must for any reptile lover. The experience has been running since 2008 and it involves spending 15 minutes in the crocodile tank. Keepers feed the crocodiles during your visit to make them more active, and some are more than five metres long. You can watch them gliding in the water and, hopefully, catch a glimpse of their menacing teeth from the safety of the cage. While you’re in the tank, photographers will also snap away, and you can take souvenir photos away with you.

 

Cuddly koalas

Koalas are one of Australia’s most treasured species. For many tourists, the opportunity to cuddle a koala is top of their travel wish-list. It is still possible to handle koalas under supervision, but this is not permitted in all states. There are plenty of places you can see koalas hanging out on the tree branches. However, you can’t always touch them. Visit Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Billabong Sanctuary in Townsville or Kuranda’s Koala Gardens for the best hug you’ll probably ever have.

 

Walking a wombat

Australia Zoo is a fantastic place to spend the day. It’s not just home to hundreds of native and exotic species. It also offers incredible wildlife encounters, including the opportunity to feed red pandas and take a wombat for a walk. During your experience, you’ll be told everything you could ever wish to know about wombats, and you’ll get the chance to give them a stroke if they stay still for long enough.

 

Under the sea

Australia is famed for its vibrant sea life. The best way to discover incredible natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef is to book a scuba diving tour. If you’d rather stay afloat, a dolphin cruise comes highly recommended.

 

 

The best mountain biking in the OZ outdoors

There aren’t many countries in the world with a great outdoors as ‘great’ on the map as the one Down Under: the Australian terrain is absolutely vast, and that brings with it a stunning variety of landscapes to get out and explore on a bike.

 

There are a host of high quality trails all around the country that will give you a real rush, many of which came hand in hand with the 2006 Commonwealth games. The Lysterfield Park trail network is one example of this, with a spectacular 6.4km race circuit as its centrepiece.

 

Australia has a number of famous athletes in the biking world, including 2013 BMX World Champion Caroline Buchanan, and over recent years they’ve been aided in their road to success by the construction of some of the best dedicated mountain biking trails to be found. Here are three locally-renowned areas for you to go out and get biking!

 

Wombat State Forest

Just 50km west of Melbourne in Victoria, this area of woodland is the setting for the annual 100km endurance event, the Wombat 100. There is great mountain biking to be had here at easy reach from the city, as well the Lyonville Mineral Springs, Garden of St Erth and Yankee Mine to explore.

 

Mount Buller

Also found in the state of Victoria, Mount Buller is a wonderfully snowy alpine town that is just as popular with snowsports enthusiasts as it is with bikers. The slopes provide the perfect ground for a series of first class Cross Country and Downhill courses, and there are both chairlifts and trailer shuttles to take you back to the top. The resort’s popularity means there is a huge variety of accommodation options for when you’re tired out!

 

Queenstown

This is a truly world-class place to go mountain biking. There are loads of places to hire lots of different types of bikes if you don’t already have your own, and you can dart among the pine trees of the Ben Lomond Reserve on 27 different trails with varying terrains that are suitable for all abilities and ages. The longest run comes in at 6km of pure biking joy. And all are accessible via the Skyline gondola-assisted lift.

 

Whether you’re spending the day biking or making a week of it with a dedicated tour of the area, the only thing you need to remember is to pack that puncture repair kit!

 

New wilderness trail to create gateway to remote landscape

A new wilderness trail due to open this autumn will give hikers the chance to explore previously inaccessible areas of the rugged Kangaroo Island countryside.

 

The first part of the walk, the Rocky River hike, has already opened, and the next part of the trail is scheduled to start welcoming walkers worldwide in October.

 

A project in which the government has invested a total of $5 million, the 63km trail begins at the Flinders Chase Visitor Centre and is made up of five stages that vary between 7km and 19km long, with some welcome camping spots available for the weary-legged at the end of the first four.

 

The beauty of the trail is that it offers the chance to get out and explore areas where few have travelled at the same time as being accessible for all: while the track is expected to attract serious hikers from around the world, the terrain is mostly flat and is suitable for walkers of moderate fitness, who can do either day walks or the full five-day hike.

 

Robert Ellis, land and visitor manager with Natural Resources KI, said that the plan was to cater for both parties.

 

“It’s about the international hikers, about the serious hikers that go around the world… but at the same time we also really want to anchor it very clearly with families and people with moderate fitness that want to go and do a serious walk,” he said.

 

This new wilderness trail builds on the already eye-watering array of things to do on Australia’s third largest island: koala-spotting at nearby Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, seal-watching at Admiral’s Arch, a walk around Cape du Couedic Lighthouse and boulder-hopping at Remarkable Rocks to name just a few.

 

What’s more, plans to create an additional five to 10-day bicycle trail around the whole island are currently in the works.

Sydney Opera House to undergo record-breaking transformation

Tourists who have visited the magnificent Sydney Opera House would be forgiven for thinking it already looks pretty special, but it is soon set to look even more dazzling thanks to the announcement of a AU$202 million (US$155m) state-funded revamp.

 

Unveiled by Troy Grant, the state’s Deputy Premier and Minister of the Arts, the plans to transform the iconic venue that has become synonymous with the greatness of the city of Sydney represent the biggest facelift since the opera house opened for the first time in 1973.

 

The acoustics and accessibility of the main Concert Hall will both be upgraded, a welcome development for the thousands of musicians that play under its roof each year. In addition, an all-new ‘Creative Learning Centre’ for children and families, a ‘premium function centre’ and a new car-free entrance under the Monumental Steps will all be built.

 

Tony Grant pinpointed the need to maintain the landmark for future generations as the motivation behind such a big level of investment.

 

“The Sydney Opera House is the symbol of modern Australia. It is our responsibility as custodians of this extraordinary place to maintain and renew it for all Australians. That’s why we are investing more than AU$200 million in these wonderful projects, which represent the biggest upgrade to the Opera House since it opened 43 years ago,” he said.

 

As many as 8.2million visitors per year pass through the doors of the harbour attraction, designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon in such a fine example of expressionist style that it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. Future visitors will be able to enjoy the updated Sydney Harbour bridge from 2021, the expected completion date for the full range of works.

A spiritual journey through Aborigine ancestral lands

When you think of Australia, you probably conjure up images of barbeques on the beach, surfing, and driving through the outback for miles without a soul in sight. However, there’s much more to Oz than meets the eye. It’s not all about adventure travel and outdoor pursuits. Australia has an incredibly rich history, and no trip Down Under is complete without gaining an insight into the significance of Aboriginal culture. When you’re planning your gap year or an extended holiday in Oz, make time to discover the ancestral lands and learn more about how history has shaped this wonderful nation.

 

 

A spiritual journey through ancestral lands

 

Aboriginal culture dates back more than 50,000 years. Today, you still find thriving communities, and there are traditional influences running through modern-day Australian culture. Aborigines are very proud of their heritage, and they enjoy sharing their stories, tales, myths and legends through a variety of media. If you visit a cultural centre, you’ll find all kinds of examples, from dance and art, to sculpture and cookery.

 

The ancestral lands are the heartbeat of Australia. You’ll find traces of Aboriginal culture all over this vast country, but there are some very special and scared places. If you’re eager to learn more about the history and culture of Australia, here are some locations you should discover on your travels.

 

Uluru: Uluru is best known for the enormous red rock mass that is Ayer’s Rock. For decades, tourists have flocked to this site to marvel at its size and stature. For many more centuries, Uluru has played a significant role in Aboriginal culture. Creation myths suggest that the rock was created by ancestral spirits and it remains a very holy place. A guided tour complete with commentary will enhance your appreciation of this unique area.

 

Daintree Rainforest: home to sprawling forests beneath verdant canopies, Daintree Rainforest is one of the most active communities in Australia. Here, you can learn all about day to day life, and see how the traditions, habits and beliefs dating back centuries shape modern practices. Learn to fish, take a lesson in bush medicine or hone your boomerang-throwing skills.

 

Kimberley: the area surrounding Kimberley looks like something from a film. Be prepared for geographical features that will blow your mind combined with a soothing sense of serenity. Visit the caves and see the paintings adorning the walls or learn about the legendary tales of the Bungle Bungles and their infamous black and yellow domes.

 

 

 

Three top tips for thrill seekers Down Under

When it comes to the best locations for adventure travel, there are few countries that challenge Australia. If you’re a thrill seeker hoping to pack in as many activities and adrenaline-pumping pursuits as possible on your trip Down Under, here are some top tips to inspire you.

 

  1. Sydney Harbour Bridge climb

If you’re a tourist in Oz, there’s a good chance that you’ll be heading to the Harbour Bridge at some point. It’s a stunning feat of engineering to admire from afar, but nothing beats the experience of climbing the bridge and enjoying the views from the top. If you’re not afraid of heights and you love a challenge, this is for you! While you’re in the area, jet-boating is another great way to spend an afternoon.

 

  1. Tandem sky-diving, Cairns

You can skydive all over Australia, but Cairns is a fantastic option because it affords you incredible views of remote islands, sandy shores and dense rainforest. Skydiving is an exhilarating activity, which involves jumping from a plane from thousands of feet in the air. Once your instructor has taken control of your descent, you can enjoy the feeling of floating on air and the breathtaking views. You can buy souvenir DVDs if you fancy reliving the moment and reminiscing once you’re back on terra firma. While you’re in Cairns, take a boat trip out to one of the islands, such as Green Island, and discover the incredible Great Barrier Reef. Even if you’re not a scuba diver, you’ll still see some amazing sights with a snorkel and mask.

 

  1. Bungee jumping, Brisbane

A popular stop-off on the well-travelled East Coast tour, Brisbane is a great place to face your fears and attempt a bungee jump. In the heart of the city, you can take a leap of faith and enjoy the thrill of plunging towards the ground at lightning speed. Kingston Park Raceway provides the setting for this adventure, which is guaranteed to get your pulse racing. If you’re looking to rest and recover afterwards, head to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to cuddle a koala and bring that heart rate back down. Other city highlights include the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art and Story Bridge, which you can abseil down if you’re continuing the daredevil theme!

 

If you’re looking for adventures Down Under, look no further! Take these tips on board, and have a fantastic trip!

 

 

Australia from the Air

Australia is known around the world for its culture, exotic wildlife and one-of-a-kind tourist attractions. From the air, the country only gets better: from an expansive view of the vast outback to a breathtaking angle on the iconic Sydney Opera House, a birds-eye-view of Australia is one of the best ways to take it all in. It may not be the most wallet-friendly way of seeing the sights, but it is worth spending that extra bit as an aerial view of Oz is something you really can’t put a price on. Experience down under from above!

 

Scenic Flights

Sightseeing from a small plane or helicopter will give you the ultimate view of Australia in all its glory. Glimpse the Great Barrier Reef that holds all types of wondrous sea creatures. Witness the modern magnificence of Australia’s iconic performing-arts venue, the Sydney Opera House. Look down on the lively Sydney Harbour Bridge and wave to the tourists that climb its arch in your own private lookout. Flightseeing is immensely popular around the country because it gives you the chance to see Australia in the best possible light – night or day.

 

Hot Air Ballooning

Hot air ballooning is a peaceful way to sight-see. You have to rise early for a hot air balloon flight, but the experience is fully worth setting the alarm clock for. As you fly over a country still in slumber it gives you a fantastic sense of peace and relaxation. You’ll soar over the wildlife as the country slowly awakes, the landscape unfolding beneath you. The Australian sunrise is a wonderful thing to behold with a combination of bright and beautiful colours painting the sky a natural masterpiece. From the inflating of the balloon at the beginning of your adventure to the champagne breakfast that marks the end of your flight, hot air ballooning is a long-lasting thrill. There really are few places as spectacular as Australia to tick off this bucket-list adventure.

 

Skydiving

Skydiving in Australia is a popular activity for thrill-seekers. What better way to take in the amazing views than from thousands of feet above it all? There is nothing like skydiving for sheer heart-stopping adrenalin and adventure, and there is no place like Australia to do it. Skydiving is not for the faint of heart; but it is an unmissable experience and a fantastic way to take in everything Australia has to offer.

 

 

Australia on the move…literally!

If you’ve ever navigated your way to an Australian tourist attraction in the past few years, stared at your smartphone screen, then looked up and wondered why the attraction you’ve arrived at is on the other side of the street from its map location, new research has now revealed why!

 

Scientists have discovered that the entire continent has shifted five feet since 1994, so that Australia’s position is now further north on the map than it once was.

 

Drifting at a speed of seven centimeters each year, the change is all down to the continent’s location on top of the world’s fastest-moving tectonic plate, which experts think may have split from the Indo-Australian plate around three million years ago. The earthquakes sometimes felt in Australia are a result of the plate colliding with the Eurasian, Philippine and Pacific plates.

 

This change – the fact that Australia is now in an entirely different place to where it was only recently – is yet another example of just how endlessly intriguing the ever-changing landscape is Down Under.

 

Take Uluru: one of Australia’s most famous landmarks, ‘Ayers Rock’ is a spectacular sandstone formation, a glorious consequence of the little anomalies that mother nature likes to throw up.

 

There are few places on earth with as many of these as Australia, but what if your GPS is skewed by the tectonic activity when you’re trying to visit them? Thankfully, in an effort to set the maps straight, scientists are planning to update Australia’s coordinates before January. By plotting new points at a longitude and latitude scaled 5.9 feet to the north, the country’s mapped coordinates should align with the Earth’s by 2020.

Beautiful white humpback whale delights watchers off Byron Bay

A famous white humpback whale has been spotted He has been sighted off the coast of New South Wales state, including the resort town of Byron Bay, on his annual migration to Australia’s north coast.

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‘Migaloo’ is known for his distinctive colouring and is one of only four documented all-white humpback whales in the world.

 

The 14m-long mammal was spotted with a companion during his venture north but now appears to be travelling solo, and his journey up Australia’s east coast has attracted large numbers of whale enthusiasts.

 

A Twitter account run by the White Whale Research Centre provides real-time updates of the whale’s whereabouts.

 

Byron Bay local Alison Reid booked a whale watching boat trip in anticipation of spotting Migaloo, and was not disappointed when she saw a white whale. She took photographs of the whale about 10am on Tuesday and watched him frolic with another humpback for about two hours.

 

“I cried. I screamed ‘You gorgeous whale, thank you for being here for us today’,” Ms Reid said. “He’s amazing. It was just an incredible sight, it was so unreal.”

 

The white whale was also spotted from Iluka in northern New South Wales on Monday afternoon, and off the Gold Coast shortly after passing Byron Bay.

 

The White Whale Research Centre recorded the first white whale sighting of 2016 off Port Stephens on July 22.

 

The famous whale Migaloo was first photographed in June 1991 off Byron Bay, and at the time was the only documented all-white humpback whale in the world.

 

The annual southerly migration of humpback whales usually occurs between September and November. The whale is expected to gradually make his way as far north as Cooktown in the Australian tropics before the return trip to Antarctica later in the year.

 

Australia’s east coast humpback population has been brought back from the brink of extinction following the halting of whaling in the early 1960s.