Desert Dreamtime at Longitude 131°

Desert Dreamtime at Longitude 131

Kelly Jane Gabriel finds absolute luxury in the middle of the red centre.

My forehead was pressed against the air­plane window as I scanned the endless desert below for my first real glimpse of Uluru. Eve­ryone has seen photos of Uluru, but actually seeing it is seriously pretty exciting. From the left side of the plane I had a perfect view, and it took my breath away. It’s hard to believe how different the landscape is in the red centre, yet it’s just a three-hour flight from the busy city of Sydney.

I was headed for Longitude 131, the most luxurious re­sort in the area. Run by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia (who operate all of the hotels in the Ayers Rock Resort fam­ily), Longitude 131 is in a class of its own.

Arrival at Longitude is a breeze; it’s about a 15-minute drive from the tiny Ayers Rock airport, though if you prefer, you can be whisked by helicopter for a scenic trip and arrive at the resort’s heli pad. I was welcomed at the Dune House by the friendly and down to earth staff bearing an ice-cold fruit tea – much appreciated as the temperatures hov­ered around 42 degrees while I was there.

The 15 luxury tents all have huge floor to ceiling views of Uluru. They also come complete with an iPad that is loaded with music includ­ing some beautiful indigenous music that really sets the scene. There is a complimentary mini bar full of tasty snacks and drinks, and the staff are all too happy to bring you anything else you might need.

The guides at Longitude are incredibly knowledgeable on every aspect of the area. Our guide Liz would tell us the local stories on our drive out to the site we were visiting, which made it much more interesting when we got there. It was my first trip to Uluru and the Cultural Centre was a great first stop before I started exploring. Not only did I learn the spiritual meanings of Uluru and Kata Tjuta and how the local indigenous people live, I also came to understand how sacred these sites are to them and why they ask people not to climb. Besides being disrespectful and dangerous, there are much better ways to enjoy them.

The best view of Uluru I had was watching the sun rise while sitting high upon Big Pete, one of the beautiful camels from Uluru Camel Tours. Big Pete disproved all of the nasty camel rumours I had heard. All of the camels on the guided walk were very well behaved, no spitting or grumpy attitudes anywhere. The cameleers (sort of a camel cowboy) really love these big beasts and can somehow identify each one of them, though I couldn’t see any distin­guishing features. The one-hour trek was a high­light of the trip, as was the delicious warm beer damper and tea at the end.

The meals at Longitude were simply amazing. Seared scallops, wild mushroom soup with truf­fle cream, seared mulloway on cauliflower puree, and honey lavender pana cotta for dessert, all paired with beautiful wines. Longitude 131 also hosts an exclusive dining under the stars even­ing called Table 131. The evening started with a beautiful sunset and then I was transferred to the outdoor dining venue where I enjoyed yet anoth­er fantastic three-course meal, this time under the night sky.

Somehow I had always thought Uluru was one of those places that you did once and then ticked off your list, but after this experience I know I will be back again.

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