Quick Facts About Ayers Rock
Facts About Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
This page of Ayers Rock facts provides an overview and summary.
You can find more detailed information on all topics on the respective pages which are linked from here.
Ayers Rock Facts - Names
- Ayers Rock is the most commonly used name, especially outside Australia.
- Uluru is the Aboriginal and official name.
- Uluru does not mean "waterhole", as you might have read. It is simply an Aboriginal place name, referring to both the rock itself and the waterhole on top of the rock.
- Kata Tjuta (the other rock formation in the national park) does have a translation. It literally means "many heads".
- The commonly used English name for Kata Tjuta is "the Olgas" or "Mt. Olga".
- The Aboriginal owners of Uluru call themselves Anangu, and ask you to do so, too. They are often referred to as the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people, Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara are actually the two languages spoken by the Anangu.
- Yulara is the name of the Ayers Rock Resort just outside the park. The name means "crying", "weeping". (Nasty tongues say because that's what visitors do when they see their bill...)
- Ayers Rock is located in the middle of Australia, in fact very close to the actual geographical centre.
- Geographical coordinates: 25°20'41" S, 131°01'57" E.
- Ayers Rock is not the world's largest monolith. This title belongs to Mt Augustus in Western Australia.
- Uluru is
- 862.5 metres above sea level,
- 348 metres (1141 feet) high,
- 3.6 km long (2.2 miles),
- 1.9 km wide (1.2 miles),
- 9.4 km or 5.8 miles around the base (that's walking),
- covers 3.33 km2 (1.29 miles2),
- extends about several km/miles into the ground, it is not exactly known how far (despite the numbers you might have read).
- The climbing track (which trespasses an important Aboriginal sacred site) is 1.6 km (one mile) long.
- The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is 1326 km2 in size (132,567 hectares, or 512 miles2).
- Ayers Rock Resort is 443 km (275 miles) from Alice Springs by road, or 45 minutes by air. (From the resort it's another 8 km to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park entrance, and a further 10 km to Ayers Rock.)
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park has a desert climate.
- The area receives a surprising amount of rainfall for a desert (like most Australian deserts do), about 200 - 250 mm a year.
- Like all deserts the area experiences extremes in temperature. Winter nights can be as cold as -8°C, and summer days as hot as 48°C.
- During the middle of summer (December to March) the daily maximum averages 38°C.
- Both Uluru and Kata Tjuta are left overs of a huge sediment that has formed hundreds of millions of years ago:
- Sand was laid down in a basin which formed about 900 million years ago. Material continued to collect at the bottom of this ancient sea bed until about 300 million years ago.
- 550 million years ago the area was lifted and folded and mountain ranges formed. These ranges eroded in the following millions of years, leaving huge sediments at the bottom.
- About 300 million years ago the seas disappeared. The remaining sediment folded and fractured again. In this major process the sediment layers that now form Uluru were tilted, so that today they are at a 85° angle. Kata Tjuta was tilted some 20°. The whole region was lifted up above sea level in the process.
- This means Uluru and Kata Tjuta are the only visible tips of a massive underground rock slab.
- You could even argue that the description of Uluru as a monolith is inaccurate, as it is actually part of this huge underground rock formation that also includes Kata Tjuta.
- The intriguing sculpted shapes, valleys and ridges, caves, potholes and plunge pools are the result of the last few hundreds of millions of years of erosion. The flaky surface is due to chemical decomposition.
- Uluru is made of arkose sandstone (a sandstone rich in feldspar), whereas Kata Tjuta is a conglomerate of gravel and boulders, cemented together by mud and sand.
- Uluru is naturally grey, but the iron content of the rock is "rusting" at the surface, resulting in the distinctive red iron oxide coating.
This section covers the history from the European point of view. (The Aboriginal history of Ayers Rock deserves its own page.)
- Research suggests that Aborigines have lived in the area for at least 10,000 years.
- The first white person to see Ayers Rock, at least from a distance, was the explorer Ernest Giles in October 1872.
- The first European to actually visit the rock was surveyor William Gosse on the 19th of July, 1873. He named it Ayers Rock after Sir Henry Ayers, the Chief Secretary of South Australia at the time. (Back then the area was part of South Australia.)
- William Gosse was also the first European to climb Ayers Rock.
- In 1950 Ayers Rock was made a national park.
- According to some sources in 1983 Bob Hawke, then Prime Minister of Australia, promised that climbing Uluru would be prohibited.
- He broke his promise in 1985. Title to the lands was handed back to the traditional owners, the Anangu, on the 26th of October, with the condition that they lease the park back to the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service for 99 years, that it would be jointly managed, and with the condition that Uluru remains open to climbers.
- Other sources give the impression that the Anangu could and one day may close the climb. So far I haven't been able to definitely verify either claim.
- In 1995 the park name was changed from "Ayers Rock - Mount Olga National Park" to "Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park", reflecting the traditional ownership and the Anangu's close relationship with their land.
- Today the parks Board of Management consists mainly of traditional owners, and many local Aborigines work in the park. The Anangu ask visitors to respect their culture and law and to not climb the rock.
Ayers Rock Facts - Kata Tjuta/The Olgas
- Kata Tjuta is located north west of Uluru and is made up of 36 smaller monoliths.
- The highest monolith, Mount Olga, stands 546 metres tall.
- The Olgas cover about 35 km2 (13.5 miles2), and the circumference is about 22 km or 13.7 miles.
- The distance to Uluru is about 30 km (20 miles) as the crow flies, and it is a 50 km (30 miles) drive.
- 400,000 to half a million people a year visit Ayers Rock.
- Flights to Ayers Rock depart daily from every major airport in Australia.
- From Alice Springs you can drive the 443 km yourself, catch the bus or join one of the many tours.
- The average tourist stays at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park for 1.6 days.
- About one in ten visitors climb Ayers Rock.
- A significant number of people have died as a result, mostly from heart failure, but some slip and fall.
- The Cultural Centre and the Anangu guided walks around Uluru and Kata Tjuta will give you a much better understanding and more meaningful experience than a climb.
- The only accommodation near Uluru is the Yulara Resort just outside the park. Yulara offers different levels of accommodation, from luxury to budget, as well as a caravan park.
- To enter the park you have to purchase a pass. Cost is A$25 per person over 16 years, and the pass is valid for three days.
- Update: alcohol is now banned from all Aboriginal lands in the Northern Territory. This of course includes Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The only exception are registered tour operators. So, if you want to enjoy a glass of wine or champagne with your Ayers Rock sunset, you have to join the masses.
- Another update: the authorities have backed down to massive pressure from the tourism industry. The four parking areas overlooking Uluru are now exempted from the ban.