Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park

About the Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park Tour with Emu Run Experience

With a length of over 16 hours, Emu Run Experience’s day tour from Alice Springs to Uluru/Kata Tjuta is one of the longest tours offered anywhere in the world. The tour began with a 6:00 am pickup from the Doubletree Hotel in Alice Springs. Knowing that it would take close to six hours to reach Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park, I chose to upgrade to a Big Front Seat. In addition to the cost of the tour, AUD 299 ($187), the Big Front Seat cost an additional AUD 25 and provided extra legroom. I was lucky that no one had purchased the seat next to me, so I had an entire row to myself.

Due to the extreme length of this trip, we had two guides. Gavin was our initial guide and transported us from Alice Springs to Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park. Just outside the entrance, Gavin departed for a few hours of rest, and Michael boarded the bus. Following our tours of Kata Tjuta and Uluru, Gavin rejoined us and drove us back to Alice Springs.

Gavin and Michael were great guides and extremely knowledgeable. I appreciated their continuous commentary, and stories, which not only made the bus rides go quicker but also provided much insight into how the Australian Aborigines were able to live in the harsh terrain of the Red Centre.

Included in the cost of Emu Run Experience’s Uluru/Kata Tjuta Tour were three meals, numerous snacks, and the entrance fee to the national park. The bus was comfortable and fully equipped including, as Gavin, our guide, described, “the world’s smallest toilet.” Throughout the drive, there were numerous restroom breaks, and we never were on the bus for more than two hours at a time.

Emu Run Experience suggests bringing the following items on the tour: a water bottle (they have jugs full of water under the bus), strong non-slip walking shoes, a wide-brimmed hat, a fly net, sunglasses, a camera, a USB charger (there are charging ports on the bus), and a travel pillow.

Out of all the above-mentioned items, the fly net is the absolute most important. In the pictures below, you can see why a fly net is so important. Our guide, Michael, told us that the flies were “not that bad” during our visit to Uluru. Despite being “not that bad,” it was not uncommon to have 20-30 flies on my clothing at any given time.

Buzz's Backpack Sitting in the Big Front Seat of the Emu Run Experience Bus
Buzz's Backpack Sitting in the Big Front Seat
The Emu Run Bus near the Mount Conner Lookout
The Emu Run Bus near the Mount Conner Lookout
Buzz Wearing his Fly Net in Front of Uluru
Buzz Wearing his Fly Net in Front of Uluru
This is why you Need a Fly Net at Uluru
This is why you Need a Fly Net at Uluru

I am 99% sure that this package below is my exact tour. As an affiliate partner with Viator, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. If you are interested in this tour, I’d appreciate you booking through this link. If you prefer to book directly, you may also book directly with Emu Run.

The price of this tour is accurate as of April 2023.

Uluru Kata Tjuta Tour from Alice SpringsAyers Rock Day Trip from Alice Springs Including Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Sunset BBQ Dinner - $219.99

Journey into the heart of Central Australia with two expert guides to experience the wonders of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta National Park, sacred sites of the local Aboriginal people. Explore the spectacular scenery around Uluru, Kata-Tjuta, enjoy the Mutitjulu Waterhole and Mala guided walks and visit the Cultural Centre to learn about Aboriginal traditions and history. This all-inclusive tour includes buffet breakfast at Erlanda Roadhouse and lunch, an Aussie barbecue during the sunset at Uluru and snacks throughout the day.

Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park Tour with Emu Run - Table of Contents

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Erldunda - Emu Run's Breakfast Stop on Their Uluru/Kata Tjuta Tour

Two hours into our drive to Uluru, we made our first stop at Erldunda for breakfast. Hailed as “The Home of the Emu,” Erldundra is no more than a hotel, gas station, and restaurant. The town gets its name due to the Emu Farm, located next to the restaurant.

The full breakfast included: eggs, sausage, bacon, and toast, and was delicious and filling. Following breakfast, we had a few minutes to shop at the gas station market, use the restrooms, and look at the Emus.

It is important to note that Erldundra is the last place to purchase a fly net if you do not have one. Following our breakfast, we set off on another two-hour drive to the Mount Conner Lookout. It was on this portion of the trip that I decided to catch up on some sleep.

Breakfast Buffet - Emu Run Uluru/Kata Tjuta Tour
Breakfast Buffet - Emu Run Uluru/Kata Tjuta Tour
The Emu Farm
The Emu Farm

Mount Conner Lookout - A Quick Stop to Break Up the Six Hour Drive to Uluru

The drive to our next stop, the Mount Conner Lookout, was about two hours and I slept for at least half of that drive. Mount Conner is sometimes mistaken for Uluru as it is similar in appearance. While we did not get very close to Mount Conner, the lookout allowed everyone a chance to take a few pictures and stretch their legs.

One additional place of interest is the salt lake that is located just across the street from the Mount Conner Lookout. To view the salt lake, cross the street, and follow the red-sand path for about three to five minutes.

While the salt lake itself was beautiful, I found the surrounding terrain, especially the red sand, to be even more stunning. After a short walk back to the tour bus, we were back on the road with Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park as our next stop.

Mount Conner from the Lookout
Mount Conner from the Lookout
The Salt Lake and the Red Sand Near Mt. Conner
The Salt Lake and the Red Sand Near Mt. Conner

Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park - Our Tour of the Park with Emu Run Experience Begins

About two hours later, we arrived at the gates of Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park. Since our tour included the cost of the park entrance fee, entry was quick, as Michael took care of our tickets.

In addition to making multiple stops at Uluru and Kata Tjuta, we would also be visiting the Aboriginal Culture Centre. In 1985, ownership of Uluru (called Ayers Rock at the time) was officially transferred back to the Australian Aborigines. As a guest on their land, everyone must visit the culture centre to learn more about their culture.

Just before entering the park, we ate our lunch which consisted of a chicken salad wrap. During the 15-minute ride to the base of Kata Tjuta, I was surprised by the lack of traffic and visitors inside the park on this beautiful day.

Entrance to Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park
Entrance to Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park

First Stop - Kata Tjuta's Walpu Gorge

Kata Tjuta is also known as Olgas and consists of 36 domed rocks with a top height of 3,497 feet (Mt. Olga) Kata Tjuta is not only taller than Uluru but also has a much different appearance.

We would only make one stop at Kata Tjuta, which was at Walpu Gorge. Access to the gorge is via a 2.5-kilometer trail. My goal was to make it to the end of the trail and back. Knowing that we only had 45 minutes total, I set a timer on my phone for 20 minutes. When the timer went off, I knew I would have to turn around and start walking back towards the bus. I was impressed that I was able to get to the end of the trail before my timer went off.

Entrance to Walpu Gorge
Entrance to Walpu Gorge
The Walpu Gorge Trail Looking Towards the Entrance
The Walpu Gorge Trail Looking Towards the Entrance

The Walpu Gorge Trail was rocky and slightly inclined, but I did not find it overly difficult to explore. As I walked into Walpu Gorge, I was struck by the colors of the rocks. I knew this area of the Northern Territory was known as the “Red Centre,” but the reddish colors were much more magnificent than I had ever imagined.

Walpu Gorge Trail with the Red Walls to the Left
Walpu Gorge Trail with the Red Walls to the Left
A Bridge on the Walpu Gorge Trail
A Bridge on the Walpu Gorge Trail

One of my favorite pictures is directly below. There was an area that had a trail of grass that beautifully contrasted against the red rocks. This area must receive run-off when it rains as there is very little vegetation.

Grassy Area Contrasting with the Red Rocks at Walpu Gorge
Grassy Area Contrasting with the Red Rocks

One of my favorite parts of Kata Tjuta was all of the holes in the walls of Walpu Gorge. Although these holes were caused by 300 million years of weathering, the Aboriginals have many different stories to explain the strange holes, cuts, and gashes in the walls of Kata Tjuta. Some of the stories involve a giant snake, a blue-tongued lizard, or a giant wallaby. Throughout our trip, our guide, Michael, told us some of the legends about these creatures. Not only was it extremely interesting, but it also helped pass the time spent driving.

Holes in the Sides of Kata Tjuta
Holes in the Sides of Kata Tjuta
Holes in the Sides of Kata Tjuta
Another Hole

Following our time at Kata Tjuta, we set off for the next stop on our tour of Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park, the Aboriginal Culture Centre.

Emu Run Uluru/Kata Tjuta Tour - Stop Two - Aboriginal Culture Centre

Our next stop was at the Aboriginal Culture Centre. Due to photos not being allowed inside the Cultural Centre, I do not have pictures to share. The only photo I took was from outside the fence.

The Aboriginal Culture Centre was constructed from locally made mud bricks. Throughout the centre, there are various exhibits that are informational and interactive. The exhibits explain the history and culture of the local Anangu people.

One of the highlights of the Cultural Centre is a chance to purchase Aboriginal Art from two different galleries. I bought a wood carving of a lizard as well as a woodblock painting.

After spending about 45 minutes at the Cultural Centre, we set off to our final two stops, which would both be walking tours of Uluru.

Aboriginal Culture Centre at Uluru
Aboriginal Culture Centre

Stop 3 - Uluru – Mutitjulu Waterhole

Our first stop at Uluru was at the Mutitjulu Waterhole.  This area is one of the only permanent water sources near Uluru.  Our guide, Michael, joined us for this tour and took us to two different places. 

The first stop was to view some Aboriginal Rock Art.  Our second stop was at the actual waterhole itself.  In addition to the two stops, the walk offered some impressive photo opportunities of Uluru.

Below, I will go into more detail about each of the two stops.  If I remember correctly, we spent about an hour at the Mutitjulu Waterhole.  Much of that time was spent listening to Michael share his knowledge of ancient Aboriginal life in the Uluru area.

Walking Path Leading to Mutitjulu Waterhole at Uluru
Walking Path Leading to Mutitjulu Waterhole

After getting off the bus, Michael led us to an area where there was a giant crack in the rock.  At the time, I thought the crack was going to be the highlight of this particular stop.  As we got closer, I noticed that there was Aboriginal Rock Art inside the cave created by the crack.

A Large Crack in Uluru
A Large Crack in Uluru

Much of the rock art was difficult to see, but it was still possible to decipher some of the images. Michael told a sad story that the guides used to wet the rocks with water to make the pictures more visible. After years of this practice, some of the art was ruined, and other parts were extremely faded. Below are some of the best pictures I was able to capture.

To paint the rocks, the Aboriginals used a mineral called ochre. During my previous day’s tour of the MacDonnell Ranges, we stopped by the Ochre Pits, where ancient Aboriginals mined the ochre. It is impossible to carbon date the paintings, but the art could be as old as 30,000 years. It has been proven that Australian Aboriginals have lived in this area for at least this long.

Aboriginal Rock Art at Uluru
Aboriginal Rock Art
Aboriginal Rock Art at Uluru
A "Spirit" Drawn in Red
Aboriginal Rock Art at Uluru
Another "Spirit"

The second stop on our guided walk was the actual waterhole. For many years, this waterhole has provided the water necessary for the local Aboriginals. It was difficult to get a good picture of the waterhole, as the sun was shining directly through an opening in the rock. Below is the best picture I was able to take of the Mutitjulu Waterhole.

Mutitjulu Waterhole at Uluru
Mutitjulu Waterhole

As I walked back towards the bus, I took a few pictures of some interesting rock formations. The formation pictured below on the left looked like a heart, and the one on the right had some interesting marks caused by water dripping down the rock.

Shortly after capturing these pictures, my camera notified me that my SD Card was full. I would not be able to take any additional pictures until I got back to the bus, as I would need to upload pictures to my computer or switch to my spare card.

Our final sightseeing stop of the tour would be a second guided walking tour on the other side of Uluru. It took less than 10 minutes to drive from the Mutitjulu Waterhole to our last stop.

A Heart Shape Indentation on Uluru
A Heart Shape Indentation on Uluru
Interesting Stripes on Uluru
Interesting Stripes

Emu Run Uluru/Kata Tjuta Tour - Stop 4 - Uluru – Mala Walk

Our final stop at Uluru was the Mala Walk. The Mala walk begins at the Mala Car Park and ends at Kantu Gorge. The walk is named after the Mala, a group of Australian Aboriginals that settled the area around Uluru. Due to the extreme importance of this area to the Mala People, there are parts of the Mala Walk that are sacred and off-limits to photography. Due to these restrictions, I was unable to get photographs of certain areas.

The first stop on the Mala walking tour was the “woman’s cave,” where the Mala people prepared their meals. The cave is filled with art that includes many pictures of animals and tracks that the Mala people used as food. Michael spent about 10 minutes telling us the story of the Mala people and their experiences upon arriving in Uluru.

After leaving the women’s cave, we had around 45 minutes to explore the rest of the Mala Walk on our own. It was the most picturesque of all of the stops, which made it the perfect finale.

Our Group Exploring the Woman's Cave at Uluru
Our Group Exploring the Woman's Cave
Inside the Woman's Cave at Uluru
Inside the Woman's Cave

One of my favorite stories that Michael told was about a Devil Dog that was sent by the Wintalka to harm the Malas. I will try my best to recall the story as it was told. The Devil Dog legend explains the reason for the giant footprint that is indented in the rock of the woman’s cave. The footprint resembles that of a dog.

When the Mala people originally came to the area that surrounds Uluru, they saw the rock (Uluru) from a distance and thought it would be a great place to live. Before this land became their new home, the Mala wanted to have a ceremony called an Inma. An Imna officially starts once a ceremonial flag pole, called a Ngaltawata, has been raised. To prepare for the Imna, everyone had a role. The women gathered food while the men hunted.

As the preparations continued, two men from the Wintalka People approached the Mala and asked them to stop their Inma. The men wanted them to join the Wintalka in a similar celebration. The Mala explained that since their flag pole had already been erected, they were unable to stop their ceremony. The men from the Wintalka People left disappointed, returning home to explain that the Mala had rejected their invitation.

Upon returning home, the Wintalka were furious that their invite had been declined. To retaliate, a Devil Dog named Kurpany was created to destroy the Mala. According to Michael, the Devil Dog can take other forms, such as a spirit or a ghost. As the Devil Dog headed towards Uluru, a woman spotted Kurpany and warned the Mala people. The Mala ignored her warning, and Kurpany attacked and killed many of the Mala. The legend of Kurpany explains how the footprints were imprinted into the cave.
The moral of this story is to always finish what you begin and to listen to and take seriously the warnings of dangers.

Kurpany's Footprint at Uluru
Kurpany's Footprint
Buzz's Hand Inside Kurpany's Footprint
Buzz's Hand Inside Kurpany's Footprint

The remainder of the time I spent exploring on my own. Despite many of the areas being closed to photography, I was able to get some great pictures of Uluru and the nearby rocks.

The Mala Walk takes about 30 minutes to complete. When accounting for stopping to take pictures, the walk took me closer to 50 minutes. As a result, I was slightly late getting back to the bus. Thankfully, I was not the last one to arrive at the bus.

Holes in a Rock that had Fallen from Uluru
Holes in a Rock that had Fallen from Uluru
The Mala Walk Path at Uluru
The Mala Walk Path
Uluru with a Tiny Full Moon Above
Uluru with a Tiny Full Moon Above

As our sightseeing was now complete, we boarded the bus and set off for a sunset barbecue picnic. The location would provide a beautiful view of Uluru, allowing us to see the changing colors as the sun began to set.

Emu Run's Uluru/Kata Tjuta - Final Stop - Sunset BBQ

The final stop of the 16-hour marathon tour was a sunset barbeque dinner. It took about ten minutes to drive to the viewing area, where we would eat while watching Uluru change colors as the sun set. As our bus arrived, Gavin was already there working on our barbeque dinner.

Dinner consisted of hot dogs and steak sandwiches, with a variety of dinner salads and finger foods. While the meal wasn’t anything particularly special, it was quite filling and appreciated after a long day of touring.

The highlight of this stop was the backdrop for our dinner, which was an open area that provided great views of Uluru as the sun began to set. As sundown approached, the tint of Uluru’s colors changed from light red to dark red to purple.

Uluru - Northern Territory, Australia
The View of Uluru from Our Dinner Location

As dinner was cooking, I set up my tripod and took a time-lapse video of Uluru. While I was recording, two children came up and asked to see what I was doing. They were from the West Coast of the United States, near Seattle, Washington. Since they were so interested in the time-lapse, I gave them my business card with the URL of my website. This page was not fully created until about a month after my visit.

The time-lapse takes 75 minutes of video and speeds it up so it can be viewed in just over 30 seconds.

At the Beginning of Dinner
Uluru - Northern Territory, Australia
As the Sun Began to Set
Uluru Turning Purple as the Sun Sets
Towards the End of Sundown

As the sun set, we took a few final pictures and then boarded the bus for the long ride back to Alice Springs. The ride would take close to six hours, making a stop halfway back at the location where we ate breakfast. The bus dropped me off at my hotel at 11:45 pm, and I fell asleep within minutes of getting to my hotel room.

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Conclusions - Is the Uluru/Kata Tjuta Tour with Emu Run Worth the Time and Money?

I thoroughly enjoyed Emu Run’s Day Tour of Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park. The tour lasted over 16 hours, and when I returned to Alice Springs, I was exhausted. Thankfully, I would have some time to sleep in before my flight to Melbourne the following afternoon. Knowing that this is one of the longest day tours offered anywhere in Australia, Emu run does everything in their power to provide a comfortable experience. Some examples of this include: three meals, multiple snacks, coolers of water, a comfortable and climate-controlled motor coach, two tour guides, and restroom stops every two hours.

What I mention below has nothing to do with Emu Run Experience, but I feel like it needs to be said. I found people to be so disrespectful of the requests from the Anangu. The Anangu are the Australian Aboriginal Group that owns and is in charge of the land. Their request is extremely clear. It is disrespectful to climb Uluru. Despite this request, thousands of people climb Uluru every week, including some members of our tour group. I find it appalling and very disrespectful that people cannot follow their simple request. We are guests in their home and have the duty to follow the wishes of the land’s traditional owners.

The Sign Requesting that Visitors Do Not Climb Uluru
The Sign Requesting that Visitors Do Not Climb Uluru
Climbers Climbing Uluru
Climbers Climbing Uluru
Climbers Zoomed In
The Starting Point of the Uluru Climb - This is Literally Within View of the "Please Do Not Climb" Sign
The Starting Point of the Climb - This is Literally Within View of the "Please Do Not Climb" Sign

My final issue was with one member of our tour who constantly wondered off the paths. The Anangu clearly states that this area is sacred to them, and many areas are off-limits to hiking. They ask that everyone who visits stays on the paths in the designated tourist areas. Despite these requests, one woman from our group felt that she was entitled to walk anywhere she wanted. I really wish I had said something to her, but I did not want to cause a scene.

Please, if you visit this beautiful place, be respectful of the wishes of the Anangu. They are the custodians and owners of Uluru, and their requests should be followed.

A Disrespectful Member of Our Group at Uluru
A Disrespectful Member of Our Group

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