Travel information and tips on where to go and what to see in this amazing country.
Saturday, 27 August 2011
Uluru Kata Tjuta
Ask people who are about to head off to Central Australia what they expect the landscape to look like and most will describe the typical desert lots of sand, very little vegetation and hardly any life. Central Australia is far from like this, with several types of landscape and an abundance of flora and fauna, although not always visible.
Uluru NT Tourism
This is an ancient and spiritual place where around 550 million years ago the basin was involved in a major upheaval which formed a mountain range known as the Petermann Ranges Orogeny. With no plant life at this time bacteria and algae were able to break down the ranges along with normal erosion. As they eroded, the sediments were washed out to form alluvial fans and their remains now form Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
The inland sea disappeared around 300-400 million years ago and another upheaval, now known as the Alice Springs Orogeny, took place and raised the area above sea level. This is also when Uluru and Kata Tjuta were rotated to their present angle.
Kata Tjuta NT Tourism
No-one understands the landscape and its relationship with its surroundings like the traditional owners, the Anangu people. The Anangu identify with 6 different landcapes, each having its own unique habitats and diverse flora and fauna.
Karu is the creekbeds and gullies found around Kata Tjuta at Walpa Gorge and The Valley Of The Winds. Anangu collected grass seeds from native millett and naked woolybut along with wood for tools and firewood from trees such as bloodwood and river redgum.
Puti is the open woodland areas of the park and often have large stands of mulga and other trees such as bloodwood and blue mallee. Shrubs include witchetty bush, wattles, grevilleas and hakeas. Ground cover can be grasses and Spinifex. Honey ants nest after rain and witchety grubs were a favourite food of the Bilby when they inhabited the park. Red kangaroos can sometimes be seen feeding when food is available.
Puli are the rocky gorges and stoney slopes of Uluru and Kata Tjuta and many animals use these areas for shelter, but graze and breed in other habitats. Euro, echidnas and fat tailed antechinus call this type of habitat home along with many birds who come here for shelter and water.
Pila is the spinifex plains that lie between the many sand dunes. They are the home of the desert oak and are the most prolific habitat in the park. Along with spinifex and desert oak you will find bloodwoods, umbrella bushes and honey plants such as the honey grevillea. Spinifex hopping mice and striped and giant desert skinks can be found along with the woma python, blue tongue lizard, emu, bustard and feral animals such as the fox and cat.
Uluru NT Tourism
Tali is the sand dunes, and taking a walk across one in the early morning will reveal a network of tracks left by the nocturnal inhabitants of the region. Spinifex hopping mice and other inhabitants of the Pila also inhabit Tali and some animals such as small skinks and other reptiles live specifically here. The marsupial mole has adapted itself to living under the sand and is completely blind. It is rarely seen and the tracks it leaves just under the surface are extremely hard to spot.
The last habitat is Nyara,the areas left behind after fires. Fires can be caused by natural reasons such as storms, accidentally caused by people or deliberately lit to protect and regenerate areas. Some animals such as spinifex hopping mice like Nyara for foraging for food whilst others will stay away till Spinifex cover returns. Desert raisin, bush tomato and edible grass seeds are part of the regeneration growth that occurs.
Of the more than 400 species of plant life, one is considered to be a threatened species within the park and that is the desert quandong. It is also considered vulnerable within the Northern Territory due to the fact that it is a favourite food of the many wild camels that roam unhindered across the landscape. The Anangu would pick and eat the fruit, which was a great source of vitamins, straight from the bush. Oils from the kernals were used as a conditioner for their hair.
Most of the plants in the park have a use to the Anangu whether as a source of food, medicine or to be used for purposes such as tools, bowls or ceremonial use such as didgeridoos and clapsticks.
Bush medicine NT Tourism
Many of the rare and exotic plants exist around waterholes etc which are also the places frequented by tourists and this has to be considered when talking about looking after the park.
Fauna species within the park number nearly 300 with 28 types of mammal, over 70 reptiles, 180 birds, 4 frogs and 4 types of bats.
Birds range in size from the emu to tiny finches and wrens and they are the most common animals visitors to the park will notice. You may not see them at first but you will hear their sounds as you travel through the park. Remember to look up sometimes as you may see a wedge tailed eagle or other birds of prey circling the skies looking and waiting for their next meal.
Superb Fairy Wren
Reptiles include Kuniya (or woma python) and stimson python both of which are non-venomous. There are 8 types of Liru (poisonous snakes) including the western and king brown snakes. It is best to treat all snakes as venomous and avoid them.
Lizards can be seen as small as 300mm (pygmy goanna) and as large as the perentie which can grow to 2metres in length. A species of dragon that people love to see is the thorny devil and watching one move as they use a gentle rocking motion is incredible.
Red kangaroos are the largest marsupials in the park and they will graze in grassland where spinifex is not as common while the euro prefers rocky areas and might be seen around the slopes of Kata Tjuta. Some mammals such as the small mulgara (about the size of a small guinea pig) live in burrows beneath the sand.
The mala (rufous hare wallaby) was extinct in the park before being reintroduced within a feral animal proof enclosure. It is hoped in time to be able to release them into the general population of the park.
The mala and southern marsupial mole are both classed as endangered along with other animals such as the great desert skink, fawn hopping mice, brushtailed mulgara, princess parrot, emu and the Australian bustard. These animals are being monitored and management programs will be considered.
Visitors to the park have an important role to play in protecting the natural values of the park for without proper vigilance we can unknowingly bring in unwanted guests. Seeds and burrs love to travel with us, stuck to our clothes and vehicles and we should check both regularly to prevent this from happening.
When in the park we must stay on the pathways as this not only protects the native flora and fauna but also reduces the risk of spreading exotic plants etc. It can also help if we report sightings of feral animals to park staff so that if necessary they can take the appropriate control measures.
The Park is a fantastic asset to Australia and if we all work together to keep it that way it will be there for future generations to enjoy.