Whilst it’s tempting to take in the beauty of Uluru and Kata Tjuta from the comfort of your luxury tent’s daybed or from the lounge chair by the lodge plunge pool – with a glass of wine or ‘outback margarita’ in hand – guests at Longitude 131° can get up close and personal with the World Heritage-listed icons on an itinerary of experiences which offer a more personal connection with the region’s natural attractions.
According to guests, these signature adventures offered at Longitude 131° give meaning and a new perspective to their experience of Australia’s Red Centre. Taking ‘the road less travelled’, with excursions timed to coincide with quieter visiting periods, days are spent in the style of a desert safari setting out in the cool early mornings and late afternoons to explore the living natural and cultural landscapes of Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
Longitude 131°’s knowledgeable resident guides lead each tour, making every outback adventure a memorable experience. Guides offer a fascinating commentary for guests, allowing a deeper understanding of the region and its history. It’s one thing to admire Uluru from a distance, but quite another to start to understand the local indigenous Anangu people and their creation stories, or to witness the first light against one of Kata Tjuta’s thirty-six mighty domes and learn of the cultural significance of the mystical rock formations.
Guides at Longitude 131° undergo extensive training before hosting the signature experiences. Many have acted as lodge guides before, like our Experiences Manager Caroline Haden-Smith. Callie – as she’s known to all – worked at luxury game reserve Singita in South Africa when she met Baillie Lodges Founder and Executive Chairman, James Baillie visiting with his two sons, Jude and Beau. Callie says, “Before James departed, he handed me his business card, and the rest is history!”
Here, Callie explains what is involved in becoming a guide at Longitude 131°.
“All guides must pass an extensive Charles Darwin University accreditation course before they are able to guide in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, and they also need to obtain various driving endorsements and licenses as well as their first aid training. Once accredited, the guides go on the four signature Longitude 131° tours and learn the procedures.”
Stories of the land’s traditional custodians, the Anangu, are shared with guests during each of the experiences. A visit to Kata Tjuta to walk among the domes in Walpa Gorge is accompanied by commentary explaining its living history, that it’s sacred men’s territory of Anangu people. On a sunset walk around the base of Uluru, cave paintings are pointed out and explained by guides as guests learn the various symbols for places, people, animals and spears.
According to Callie, guests are most taken aback by the cultural significance of Uluru and Kata Tjuta, “Many say they could feel something ‘spiritual’ at the sites, and that they can understand how sacred the area is for the Anangu.”
Callie learnt how to share the stories of the region’s indigenous Anangu people in the accreditation course, and she believes “as a custodian of the culture, it is my responsibility to share these stories and the traditional law or ‘Tjurkurpa’ correctly to all visitors of the National Park. The best part about being a guide is that the learning process never stops!”
Callie says that one of the most commonly asked questions by guests is ‘how was Uluru formed?’ “There have been a number of guests who believed Uluru was a meteor or even ‘left by aliens’ before we are able to correctly inform them of the geology.”
Living and working in the Red Centre would appear to be tough gig for many, but for Callie, she finds the climate “not too dissimilar to the African bush, however, I was never able to cook muffins in my car in Africa!” She finds the extreme heat “adds to the adventure of living in Central Australia”. Years of working in the bush has “ruined her for ‘city living’”, and she enjoys living remotely!
On her days off, Callie explores the many incredible walks and gorges around Alice Springs, a highlight being the West Macdonald Ranges.
Callie hopes guests at Longitude 131° take away from her guided experiences “a deeper understanding of the indigenous culture, particularly the Anangu people, and that Uluru is not just a rock, but a multi-faceted, unique and incredibly special place.”
From our guests’ feedback, Callie does exactly this and more. With a passion for sharing her encyclopedic knowledge of the world, a keen photographer’s eye and a beautiful smile, Callie is a natural-born guide and an invaluable part of the Longitude 131° team.
You can keep up to date with Callie’s adventures in the Red Centre by following her Instagram: @caroline.haden.smith