Since transportation options are limited around Uluru, one would think that the best way to get around is via the organized tours. So we booked two guided tours via Discovery Ecotours - one was the afternoon Kata Tjuta Encounter and the other was the Uluru Walk (at sunrise).
The guides were extremely friendly for both tours, but I expected more for the price. Kata Tjuta was something we could have done on our own had we just taken the Uluru Express shuttle, which is simply a shuttle bus that runs to all the points of interest from every hotel in Yulara. The guide didn't offer us any information at Kata Tjuta that we wouldn't have obtained from a brochure.
The Uluru Walk almost turned into a disaster. There were logistical problems where all the guests weren't picked up and some confusion involved with coordinating the two buses, to the point where we almost missed the sunrise at Uluru. Once at Uluru, things calmed down a little, but I still felt that the guided experience was overrated. There was nothing that we were told that we couldn't have read about from the brochures available at the Cultural Center. We were provided a snack, but that is also something we could have packed ourselves.
Bottom line is that the tours around Uluru are expensive - I don't want to pick on Discovery, but that is just the tour operator that we booked, and it was a little disappointing. You will be better off taking the Uluru Express shuttle everywhere (and you will save money).
Sadly, with the accommodation close to the rock limited to Yularu (see separate tip), we are sitting ducks re organised tours, unless you hire a car.
There are trips between A$80-350 on offer, with the most basic being a sunrise or sunset trip. Its essentially a 3-4 hour trip, collected at hotel by coach and driven the 20 kms to the designated 'sunrise' or 'sunset' spot. Stand by the roadside (sunrise) or the carpark (sunset) for an hour or so, get a cup of coffee and then drive back to the resort (with stopover at the cultural centre).
Unique Suggestions: Walk away from the main crowds. Sunrise spot has a distinct marke off area - bumps in the road showing this is the 'official' area. Walk 20 metres away and you will probably be alone, away from the chatting and constant flash of cameras!
Fun Alternatives: The best VFM is to hire a car - this way you can (onc eyou have purchased the three day entrance ticket) see as much (or as little) as you want.
Funny thing. Australia is facing runaway inflation right here in the Red Centre. Everything's bloated, everything's obscene. Price that is. The only thing that is not bloated and obscene, is unfortunately your wallet. So come prepared to bleed.
Unique Suggestions: Come prepared to bleed! It's a monopoly here!
This fabulously priced resort is the embodiment of a tourist trap. It is frequented by tourists only so there is no doubt that they are trapped. Once there you have to eat in the company’s restaurants, sleep in their lodging and shop in their stores. Everything belongs to the same company and it is a white owned business despite the fact that they are trying to sell themselves as an aboriginal-inclusive enterprise. The cheapest double with bath is 220AUS$ and the dormitory 50AUS$ pp. The food is priced accordingly and the bottled water goes for 4$.
Fun Alternatives: The alternative is Curtin Springs, 85km from the resort and 100km from the Rock. A double goes for 60AUS$ and the steak main costs about 20AUS$. It has a pet emu and lots of exotic birds. It is worth the trip.
I have never written tips about the same place but in two diferent categories before, while the resort is quite nice it IS a tourist trap, simply because there is no alternative.
Unless you are lucky or book very early you will have to pay an enormous amount of money to stay here, the food available is only average and the shops are expensive
Unique Suggestions: book early ! a bed in the 20 berth dorms at the Outback Pioneer Lodge costs A$32, a cabin on the campsite costs A$145
these prices are PER NIGHT ! and are the cheapest accomodation, they get booked up fast
Fun Alternatives: you can camp out at the campground, we did consider it, but the thought of creepy crawly things made us cough up over A$700 for our two night stay at the Lost Camel
Uluru is one of the touristic hotspots of australia and it is far away from everywhere and the tourist industry over here knows that.
The lodges and hotels over here are very expensive.
Fun Alternatives: The only alternative is a roadstop about 200 k from ayers rock resort. I don't know their prices.
I guess the best thing to do is not stay too many nights there.
It has to be seen and i don't regret going. In fact, i'll go back and see some of the things i missed out on.
BUT------------its a big tourist trap. Firstly, You're stuck with accomodation at the Voyages resort.In fairness they do offer different categories and rates . But, theres no justification for $180 -$200 per person per night for a motel room.(Desert Gardens)
And how can a dinner for two cost $300. They call it the sounds of silence...thats the sound you hear when everyone gets their bill.....shock, then silence.
You have to pick the tours and food plans that make sense for you and your wallet. And you have to just accept the fact that you're getting ripped.
If you get away from there with your shirt on.........you're doing good.
Unique Suggestions: The only way to make the accomodation price bearable is to run outside at night with a thin t-shirt on. Its cold, so figure if you had to sleep under a tree or bush ...or pay through the nose for a bed, what would you do.
And for the food, well some of it is ok, some of it is pretty horrid. Again to make it bearable, grab a stick , sharpen it then and go into the bush and try to find something to hunt. Pretty soon you'll be back and be paying and eating patty shaped sawdust smothered in sauces.Oh, hang on, there is no McDonalds there. Anyway, any food is good food if you're hungry so just accept it.
Fun Alternatives: There is none. So just sit back, relax, enjoy the experience.
We booked the 2 night "Just the Centre" Adventure Tours excursion. Had been really looking forward to it. But unfortunately from the start it was disastrous. First of all when we confirmed our places 24hours in advance, we were told incorrect meeting times which caused delays to the trip. Secondly, when we arrived at the campsite at Kings Canyon it had been double-booked. But our guide managed to get us on to a different part of the site. Thirdly, the bus wouldn't start the next morning, and despite a different guide taking us on the walk at King's Canyon, once we had completed the walk we were left abandoned for around 3 hours. There was no communication and no food. Luckily there was drinking water as i think otherwise we would have all dehydrated in the heat. Eventually we were informed that we probably wouldn't make it in time for sunset at Uluru. This was extremely distressing. Especially as by this point the company had had around eight hours to sort someting out for us (e.g. a replacement bus). Instead we discovered that there were no contingency plans in place for breakdowns. Furthermore, we learned that not all the tour buses have a radio on-board! We were extremely concerned by this fact, as this is potentially dangerous in the event of being stranded in the desert. In the end, we managed to get onto a different company's bus and we did make it in time for sunset at Uluru - no thanks to Adventure Tours - i suspect it was mainly due to all of us pressuring them to get this problem sorted. In order to get to Uluru in time for sunset we had to sacrifice our visit to the Olgas. We didn't receive any compensation.
The final insult came at the end of the trip where the guide had the nerve to demand more money from us (fuel levy and national park entry fees)! We felt this was totally unsympathetic to us, the customers, considering all the distress caused by their inefficencies. We were not even offered any apology. We found the attitude of some of the staff to be disgraceful, and even one of the staff's response was "*** happens". Our experience at the Red Centre was completely ruined. We understand that the company is not at fault for mechanical failures, however, we strongly feel that there should be contingency systems in place for any such occurrences, so that there is minimal disruption and stress caused in this event.
Unique Suggestions: Uluru is superb - but if we were to do it again, we would hire a car and do it ourselves. I don't think you need a tour bus, it's very expensive and you don't learn anymore than if you were to go it alone. We felt ripped off, and the bad attitude of the staff left a sour taste in our mouths.
Fun Alternatives: As above, you are probably better off doing the tour yourself, it's cheaper.