Exploring Kata Tjuta in Australia

In my previous post, I described my day exploring Uluru in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. I spent my last day in the Australia Outback exploring Kata Tjuta.

The Plan

My time in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was a series of cancellations and rebookings. During my last full day in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, I was scheduled to go on full day Cave Hill tour. The tour was going to be an Indigenous cultural experience in which we would travel into the desert of the Pitjantjatjara Lands of Central Australia and meet with an Anangu host. The Anangu are the traditional owners of Cave Hill, which is the site of the Seven Sisters Tjukurpa.

I was awake and getting ready for the tour when I got the call that it was cancelled. They didn’t give a reason but I figured it had to do with the weather from the previous night. Since it was still really early (6am), I went back to bed for a while before heading out to breakfast. Along the way, I checked in with the folks at the lobby to see what options I had for the day. Most tours are full day so I had limited options. In the end, I decided to join a tour doing a hike of Kata Tjuta. I say “decided” but it was the only option unless I wanted to hang out at the resort all day, which I didn’t.

Exploring Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas, is a group of large, domed rock formations or bornhardts located in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. 36 domes make up Kata Tjuta and cover an area of more than eight square miles. The highest dome, Mount Olga, is approximately 3,500 feet above sea level, or approximately 1,800 ft above the surrounding plain. It is 650 feet taller than Uluru.

In summary, it is tall and can be seen from many miles away.

We spent a few hours exploring the area. Some of the hike was spend on well trodden paths. Other parts were rougher with uneven terrain. I enjoyed all parts of the hike and really liked getting up close to see the amazing domes.

There are many legends associated with Kata Tjuta and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. A number of legends surround the great snake king, Wanambi. Wanambi is said to live on the summit of Kata Tju?a. He only comes down during the dry season. His breath was said to be able to transform a breeze into a hurricane in order to punish those who did evil deeds.

Most of the mythology surrounding the site is not disclosed to outsiders, and in particular, women. As is the custom, should women become privy to the “men’s business”, they are susceptible to violent attacks, even death.

The Field of Lights

After spending a few hours hiking around Kata Tjuta, we headed back to the hotel. I quickly showered and got ready for the evening’s activity,  the Field of Lights. The Field of Lights was an art installation inside the national park. I was excited to experience the installation and also watch the last sun rays hit Uluru as the sun set behind it.

When I got to the hotel lobby after getting ready, I knew I was not going to be greeted with good news. There were a lot of people in the lobby and none of them looked pleased.

All of the evening’s events had been cancelled due to potential storms.

Again. Ugh!

I knew this meant my chance to see a sunset over Uluru was over. It was really frustrating.

When I travel solo (and even when I travel with people), I always do a lot of research and usually have an Option B, C and even D so I can quickly adjust and make decisions when things don’t go according to plan. In this case, I had no other real options. I did not have a car and we were in the middle of no where so there was no place I could walk to without leaving the resort, which I knew was not a good idea to do by myself in the dark (mostly because I was afraid of wildlife, not other humans). A taxi or Uber were also out of the question.

Salvaging the Evening

As I was standing outside consoling myself, I looked over and a guy who I was on the hike around Kata Tjuta earlier in the day was standing there. I walked over and said “hi.” We started talking and I found out he and his friend were also supposed to go to the Field of Lights that evening. Like me, they were trying to figure out a plan for the night. They were from Germany so the language barrier was a bit of an issue but one of them could speak just enough English for us to get by.

There was a lookout point within walking distance of the resort so we decided to head up there to check it out. There were a lot of people at the lookout point when we got up there although it was still pretty calm and we could walk around and view the area from all sides. We ended up spending a lot of time on the lookout point because the views were pretty spectacular that night.

There was a storm off in the distance and the cloud formations it caused (see below) were something I had never seen before. None of the colors in the photos below were altered. Amazing, right?

When it finally got too dark to see the crazy clouds, we headed down the hill. We decided to stop at one of the casual cafes at our resort to get some dinner. I had pizza, they had burgers. It was nothing special but it was food and I did not have to eat alone. I always consider that a win when I am traveling solo.

And the it Finally Started to Rain

On the walk back to the lobby from dinner, it finally started to storm over our resort. There was a lot of thunder and lightning. As my family can attest, I have a crazy irrational fear of lightning that comes from when I was younger and lived on the farm in Iowa.

Our dairy barn was struck by lightning one evening while my dad was milking cows and we were all in the barn. No one was hurt but the cracking sound of the lightning hitting the barn is a sound I will never forget. It still gives me the chills.

I have “fond” memories of trying to chop hay with my brother in the summers after the lightning incident where we were rushing to get it done before a storm hit. It would be lightning and I would screech, cover my head and duck every time it would lightning. My brother used to get so mad at me. Inevitably, we would be trying to unplug a plugged chopper and I would be ducking instead of helping. How many times did he yell “do you really think that is going to help?!?” at me back in those days?

Anyway, I totally digressed back to the screech, cover and duck behavior as we were walking back from the restaurant to the hotel lobby. I am pretty sure the Germans thought I was insane.

Oh well! It was still a fun night and we all needed the laugh by then anyway.

Once back at the lobby, we parted ways and I headed back to my room. I was disappointed that I missed my last chance at an Uluru sunset but excited that I was leaving the Red Centre the next day.

Looking Back

I have thought about my decision to go to Uluru National Park a lot since I traveled there. If I had to remake the decision, would I do it again?

I don’t think I would, at least without a car. Without one, I probably would have gone to Melbourne for a few days instead.

If you are comfortable driving in Australia, then I would say exploring Kata Tjuta, Uluru and the Red Centre is a good plan. Having a car increases the amount of flexibility you have when things like rain cancellations happen.

It rained that night we were supposed to go to the Field of Lights but not until much later in the evening. I know we could have seen the installation and returned back to the resort before the rain started. BUT…hindsight is always 20/20 and the people managing the tour could not have known for sure that it would work out. So I understand why they cancelled it.

In the end, it was still a good night spent with new friends from a different part of the world.

One Last Thing

Just for kicks, before I published this post, I looked up how much rain the Uluru area of Australia gets annually. The answer made me laugh:

“Uluru-Kata Tjuta averages 12 inches of rain each year. It typically has 5 days a month all year round when it is cloudy (not necessarily raining). You would have to be lucky to actually be there when it rains.” 

Ha! Isn’t that just my luck? Only I would have exploring Kata Tjuta and Uluru partially ruined due to constant rain!

Interested in reading more about my trip to Australia? Check out my posts about my time in Sydney here and here.

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Exploring Kata Tjuta

Hiking to Kata Tjuta in Australia
Hiking up to Kata Tjuta
The domes of Kata Tjuta
The domes of Kata Tjuta
The walls of Kata Tjuta
The walls of Kata Tjuta

Exploring Kata Tjuta

The beautiful cloud formations in the Red Centre of Australia
The beautiful cloud formations in the Red Centre of Australia

A selfie with Uluru in the background.

Exploring Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

The one debate I had with my travel agent when booking my trip to Australia was whether to go to Melbourne or Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Due to time constraints, it was not possible for me to do both. After a lot of back and forth, I decided to go to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and skip Melbourne. Melbourne is a lot like other cities I have been to. The park is very unique so exploring Uluru-Kata-Tjuta National Park seemed like the better choice.

Traveling to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

When they say Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is in the red center, they are not kidding. It really is in the middle of the country and in the middle of no where. Alice Springs, the nearest town, is 280 miles away. I really admire the people who live and work there. I wouldn’t be able to do it. After three days in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park area, I was more than ready to get back to the more urban areas of the country.

Because Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is so far away from the cities, I flew into the area from Sydney. At the airport, we loaded coach buses that took us to the resorts in the area. I stayed at the Voyages Desert Gardens Hotel. It was a big resort with a pool and clean rooms. The one negative thing about the resort from my perspective is that it was very dark around the grounds at night. I assume is an intentional way to cut down on light pollution in the area. However, at times, it made me nervous when walking to my room at the back of the resort by myself after sunset (I did not encounter any issues).

The Voyages Desert Gardens Hotel was where I finally encountered some of the big bugs I read about when researching Australia. I could not bring myself to kill or squish something so big though. I was imaging the crunching sound and the resulting mess so I chose to let them co-exist with me. They didn’t bother me so I didn’t bother them.


The main attraction in this area of Australia is Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. Uluru is a massive sandstone hill? mountain? rock? in the heart of the Red Center. Uluru is sacred to indigenous Australians and is thought to have started forming around 550 million years ago. It’s within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which also includes the 36 red-rock domes of the Kata Tjuta formation.

After checking into the hotel and enjoying a quick lunch, I joined a group of people for a walking tour and sunset viewing of Uluru. Uluru is known for appearing to change color at different times of the day and year, most notably during sunrise and sunset, when it appears to glow. I was excited to experience the changing colors during a sunset for myself.

Exploring Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

We spent a couple of hours walking around the rock, hearing stories about the indigenous Australians and seeing the caves in which they lived, learned or prayed. There were lots of carvings and drawing in the caves and crevasses that had various meanings. Many times, these areas were considered sacred and taking photos of them was discouraged.

Another activity that is discouraged at Uluru is climbing the rock. As we were walking around the base of the rock, we could see a visible path along with a rope that people use to climb it. The unfortunate part is that many people do not respect the rock along the way or at the top, leaving food and trash and damage to the rock in their wake. Climbing the rock is also dangerous because it gets very, very, hot in this area of Australia, making it common for people to get overheated during the climb. Rescue efforts are hard due to Uluru’s location.

I wasn’t interested in climbing the rock out of respect for the indigenous Australians but even if I was, the path to the top was closed due to the high temperatures that day. In late 2017, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board announced that tourists will be banned from climbing Uluru altogether starting in 2019.

Rain Clouds Began to Form

As we were walking around Uluru, we could see that clouds were beginning to form in the area. It became obvious that storms were brewing in the distance. To keep everyone dry, our tour headed to a shelter area a few miles from the rock. We hung out under the shelter and enjoyed some snacks and champagne until the rain passed.

Unfortunately, the clouds and rain prevented us from experiencing an amazing sunset. I was very disappointed to miss it but I knew I would have another chance to catch it the next night. I was schedule to go to the Field of Lights exhibit inside the park.

Dinner at the Resort

After returning to the resort, I ended the day by having dinner at one of the restaurants within the resort. I did not have high expectations so I was pleasantly surprised when the food was actually very good. My favorite of the things I ate that evening was kangaroo carpaccio. If you don’t know what carpaccio is, it is a dish of meat or fish (often raw) that is thinly sliced or pounded thin. It is usually served as an appetizer. The kangaroo carpaccio was served with radishes and a sauce and it was delicious!

After dinner, I went back to my room to get ready for day two of exploring Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

Find other posts from my trip to Australia here and here.

My first glimpse of Uluru
Exploring Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Me and Uluru
Exploring Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Beautiful Uluru
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
The beautiful patterns on the walls of Uluru

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Exploring Ululu-Kata Tjuta National Park