October 11, 2022
Image credit: Courtesy AAT Kings
From the Northern Territory’s blanket of glittering stars and red-rock monoliths to South Australia’s castaway Kangaroo Island and dazzling salt crust of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, our vast continent is a playground for the wild at heart.
If you’re looking for a space adventure of epic proportions, then outback Australia has a billion shimmering reasons to visit. And one of the best experiences to be had is at Earth Sanctuary, 15 minutes from Alice Springs. The award-winning outback venue was built 20 years ago by the Falzon family, who had a hankering for sharing their slice of Australia – which looks over the spectacular East MacDonnell Ranges – in the most environmentally friendly way.
“In the early 90s it became obvious to our family that we had to do something to both combat the cause of climate change and indeed mitigate its effects,” says Joey Falzon, the patriarch of the family. “In 1999 we put words into action and moved to Central Australia from Melbourne to develop a sanctuary that could build and present positive global solutions in sustainable living.
“Earth Sanctuary is proud to be one of Australia’s first 100 per cent carbon neutral venues and our vision is to become a world leader in education and sustainable tourism.”
So what do you do with AAT Kings at Earth Sanctuary?
Far and away the most lauded experiences revolve around astronomy. As the sun sets, enjoy billy tea cooked on the campfire enjoying a barbecue dinner as the stars appear enjoying a Dark Sky Night experience (with use of a deep sky telescope hosted by an operator and guide), which the astronomer host will wake guests to witness, including zodiac constellations, meteor showers and other cool astro events as they happen, all interwoven with stories about the significance of the stars in Aboriginal culture.
Once you’re done star bathing, there’s a host of other incredible natural wonders to explore in the nation’s red heart. Take in the majesty of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Nestled within its boundaries is, of course, the extraordinary monolith of Uluru. Towering 348m above the surrounding plane, Uluru is 3.6km long and 1.9km wide, and you can walk around its 9.4km base with an expert local AAT Kings guide who will share the important stories, which are embedded within Uluru. In 1987 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List for its unique geology – did you know Uluru extends another 2.5km underground? – and in 1997 the rock’s cultural significance to the Aboriginal people was also recognised. The Anangu people were recognised as the traditional owners in 1985.
Sprawling across 1326sq.km, the park is also home to Kata Tjuta, which means ‘many heads’ in the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal language. Located west of Uluru, the group of 36 large, domed rock formations span 21sq.km, the tallest rising 546m above the plain. The sandstone domes are thought to be over 500 million years old.
Kangaroo Island is an enticing mix of wild bays, dramatic cliffs, deserted beaches and fascinating locals – both native animal and human.
On KI there’s always a patch of bush or a beach somewhere. Its 540km of coastline remains one of the least altered in the temperate world. Even during busy holiday times locals and savvy AAT Kings visitors find a quiet stretch of shore. As with D’Estrees Bay, which carves a wide arc and spans more than 20km, much of what makes KI memorable is less about showy terrain than being in close company with nature unleashed.
Nowhere is this more vivid than in Flinders Chase National Park. The overland track to far-flung West Bay is a revealing way to grasp the breadth of the place. Framed by craggy headlands and lush coastal heath, the bay has an inviting beach with an edgy end-of-the-world aura. That’s doubly so when you gaze seaward to the horizon and are told the next landfall due west is Uruguay.
And then there’s the beautiful orange-lichen-clad Remarkable Rocks, which command your attention over the sparkling blue of the Southern Ocean. Here cormorants and crested terns whirl above the wave tops, while hooded plovers, sanderlings and ruddy turnstones fossick for morsels on the tidal flats.
Although barely 14km from the mainland, the island’s 4500sq.km often feels as remote as any stretch of the outback – you may well feel like a castaway here, surrounded by a rich cast of Australian native wildlife and the elemental power of the place.
Meanwhile, in outback South Australia, there’s another eerie to behold: the natural drama of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre. Australia’s largest inland lake is – most of the time – a shimmering saltpan covering hundreds of square kilometres, and is occasionally transformed by desert downpours into a thriving oasis. You’ll have the chance to glimpse it from the air on the South Australian Outback tour, your bird’s-eye view unfolding beneath you like a work of art. Speaking of art – your included scenic flight will also pass over the Anna Creek Painted Hills, a rocky outcrop that literally pops out of the flat desert, creating silhouettes resembling cartoon characters. Touch down to explore the otherworldly countryside before jetting on to your destination for the next two nights, Coober Pedy, brimming with compelling quirks.
When the lake is full, Ibis, egrets, herons and coots, black-winged stilts and red-necked avocets, ducks, budgerigars and galahs abound. It is a pulsing, splashing, skimming, flashing paradise of birds.
Flotillas of pelicans lift themselves into the air with great noisy thrusts of their wings, a wondrous spiralling symphony, and in the muted light of both dusk and dawn the poignant calls of dingoes create an other-worldly serenade.
Wild Australia is a dictionary full of superlatives. Delight all your senses on an epic adventure at home.
This article is brought to you by AAT Kings.
To book your next adventure call 1300 228 546 or visit www.aatkings.com/wild
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