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Questions on Tours for Uluru + Reef, Flights Within Australia

Questions on Tours for Uluru + Reef, Flights Within Australia

Dec 13th, 2006, 01:19 PM
  #1  
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Questions on Tours for Uluru + Reef, Flights Within Australia

Hi, I'm planning a trip to Australia for January. I'll fly to Sydney first and spend a few days there.

I'm going to a wedding in Adelaide and then returning to Sydney and plan to fly to Cairns. (I need to return to Sydney and can't fly straight from Adelaide.) Then I'll fly to Uluru. Then I fly to Sydney from Uluru and return home.

1. Is there some sort of discount pass for multiple flights within Australia? I called Qantas, and all they have is the airpass. Since I'm not flying Qantas to Australia, this is not an option. If I must buy point-to-point tickets, I will.

2. Do I need to prebook tours for Great Barrier Reef in Cairns? My hotel (Cairns Hotel) says no. Any ideas which tours are the best?

I've seen Reef Magic mentioned.

I'm not planning to snorkel.

Also, same questions re the Rain Forest?

3. The same questions for Uluru. Do I need to prebook? Here I've seen a few tours mentioned also -- AAT, Econotours (sp?), etc. I'm also a little confused about the site in general. To view must one join a tour? Or can I just head out on my own? I'm not planning to have a car.

I understand that accommodation at Uluru is by a single management. I'm booked at Outback Pioneer. I didn't really look more into it. Is this the cheapest option? I just need something comfortable with a/c. I was quoted a rate of 192 AUD for one night.

Thanks very much!

111op is offline  
Dec 14th, 2006, 03:24 AM
  #2  
 
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It's a very, very long walk from the accommodation at Yulara to the Rock!! But no, you don't have to join a tour as such - there are shuttle buses that go out to the rock if all you want to do is look at it, walk around it, climb it (!!??).

But something a bit more organised is probably better as you will learn more, and enjoy more, maybe, if you have a guide with local knowledge. Also it will, as you know, be hot in January, so let someone else take the strain of organising things!

You don't say how long you will be at Yulara but most people try and take in a visit to Kings Canyon and the Olgas (sorry can't spell the non-Anglo name) as well. And for that a tour is better than your own wheels I think, esp if there is just one of you - and again for the above-mentioned reason - will you spot that lizard, will you know what you are looking at without input from someone who lives there? Just a personal opinion, of course.

Cheapest accommo at Yulara is camping or Outback Pioneer Youth Hostel section. Outback Pioneer hotel section is next cheapest.

As far as pre-booking tours goes - at both Rock and Reef - if you're looking for a bog std tour (taken by most ordinary mortals) then the night before is usually sufficient. If you are looking for something more specialist or more exclusive then I would guess you'd need to get in touch with the operator beforehand.

Have the most amazing time - and don't forget - never go out for long without a water bottle, a hat, and suncream!!!!

Cheers.
fuzzylogic is offline  
Dec 14th, 2006, 07:25 AM
  #3  
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1. Check out www.webjet.com.au for what seem to be the best prices on internal Oz airfares. Also look at the specials offered on www.jetstar.com.au (a Qantas subsidiary), or www.virginblue.com.au

We did not have a lot of success trying to put together an internal air pass, ending up with an Air NZ pass that included international and other S Pacific travel.

2. You definitely do not need to pre-book a trip to the Reef, as there are dozens of different operators sending several trips per day. If you do not intend to snorkel (personally I think you should give it a shot), then you should probably go with one of the operators that go to an anchored platform. They usually have underwater viewing areas and/or some sort of semi-submersible vessel. Reef Magic has a platform, called, "Marine World". Another choice would be to go to the "Reefworld" platform with www.fantasea.com.au

You also do not need to book rainforest tours, as there are also a bunch of them. One thing to also consider is just to hop on the Skyrail, a ski-type gondola lift that will take you from Cairns over the forest canopy to Kuranda. There are two mid-stations along the way where you can stop and walk on trails through the forest.

3. As noted above, Outback Pioneer is the lowest-cost hotel options at Yular. Not luxury accomodations, but very comfortable. As you can imagine, they are going for a rustic ambience which sort of works. The 'grill your own steak' barbecue dinner was fun. Another alternative would be to rent a cabin (with A/C) in Yulara Campground. This worked out great for our family of four.

There are several tours you can take, but a multi-day shuttle pass (www.uluruexpress.com.au) may be enough for you to go out to Uluru and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). At the Cultural Centre, you can book walking tours around Uluru with a local guide. The shuttle to Kata Tjuta allows you to walk around there - we really enjoyed the Valley of the Winds hike, which can easily be done without any sort of a guide. One tour I'd highly recommend is to the Ayers Rock Observatory, where you can view the spectacular night sky with some small telescopes and listen to a guide point out constellations and talk about aboriginal astronomical legends.
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Dec 14th, 2006, 01:05 PM
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As to Uluru, you did not say how long you would be there. Most folks is two nights. That's what we did, and here is our schedule. we were there in Sept of 04.
Arrived early afternoon and stayed at Sails hotel, in the same large complex as your Outback Pioneer. There is a small grocery store and several shops and a shuttle that runs the circuit of hotels and shopping center. Also a post office. Couple of cafe's.
I had prebooked the Sound of Silence dinner for that night, but it was not necessary. Plenty of space. Excellent outback experience with a great buffet dinner (accompanied by numerous bugs the numbers and sizes of which are hard to explain). A brief astronomy class after night fall.
After checking in, we checked with the concierge of the hotel and told her what we wanted to see. She described the several available tours (as well as "how to" on your own) to Uluru and Olgas. We decided on the smaller tours (small vans, 8 people or so). We then got the local flora and fauna knowledge along with lots of other info along the way.
We booked at that time the am sunrise on Uluru and the sunset at Olgas; two separate tours.
The morning tour started before sunup and ended around noon. It included the sunrise on the rock, a guided walk in two different areas around the "rock," and a stop at the aboriginal cultural center. All quite interesting and very positive. We did not climb the rock.
Afternoon ate and napped. 4pm or so departure to the Olgas. Hiked into the valley a few kilometers. It was 43 centigrade, and fly nets were definately a plus. But it was an easy hike, and well worth it. In January might be hotter than that.
BTW, they stop letting people climb Uluru if the temp goes above a certain level, I think 38, but not sure about that.
We got back well after sundown. Next morning departed. A pretty fast moving 48 hours in the Outback. But we did what we wanted. The small van tours with a guide worked well for us.
BillJ is offline  
Dec 14th, 2006, 06:20 PM
  #5  
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Thanks very much for the helpful advice.

I'm only planning one day and one night in Uluru. It seems like it's not enough, but I guess I can just get a taste of it. My flight should get in around 9:25 am the first day. The flight leaves at 12:20 am the second day.

Given the time constraints, it seems like it's best to book the Kata Tjuta-Uluru sunset tour and the Uluru sunrise tour via AAT:

http://www.aatkings.com/us/index.php...ochure_id=2999

I'm not sure if we've time to do a hike or to learn more about the aboriginal cultures. Maybe next time?

Who organizes the Sound of Silence dinner and the observatory night tours? I don't seem to see them listed on AAT.

Re Great Barrier Reef, I've been taking swimming lessons, but I think that my skills are probably not up to par for snorkeling.

Thanks again.
111op is offline  
Dec 14th, 2006, 06:21 PM
  #6  
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Oh, I like the chairlift idea. My mom, with whom I'm traveling, is a fan of those. I'll look into that more. Thanks!
111op is offline  
Dec 14th, 2006, 07:01 PM
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For the Sound of Silence Dinner, you can google it or book through the hotel, which I did. Seemed more efficient that way. They pick you up at the hotel and make the circuit, picking folks up along the way.
You won't be able to do both a sunset tour AND Sound of Silence dinner. Both at the same time.
Please know that Uluru and Kata-Kjuta are some distance apart, and both are far from the hotels.
I suggest that when you get to your hotel, go immediately to their concierge or desk and inquire as to the best way to see what you want in the time allowed. I would definately plan to be around Ayers Rock for sunrise, but you may have to tweek a schedule to get you to the airport on time.
As to snorkeling, well, some may consider it easier than swimming. Most operators will provide you with a life vest if you like, along with flippers and mask, etc. or float to wear with a light wet suit, and you just float on the water. Some snorklers like to dive down, but you don't have to do that. I can't ever get very far down anyway.
Don't miss the opportunity to snorkel the GBR. It will be something you will remember for the rest of your life.
On our trip out, 2 ladies from New Zealand, well over 70, were snorkling, if ever so warily. But they were out there. Couldn't swim a stroke, but floated just fine. Our guides watched them quite closely. They had a ball.
You probably have already looked, but just in case you haven't and they may help in your planning, my Australia pictures are at
http://www.flickr.com/photos/calbill...7594225869587/.
Have fun!
BillJ is offline  
Dec 14th, 2006, 07:34 PM
  #8  
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Thanks for the pictures of the outback. They make the area seem so much more real. I've only seen the glossy pictures of Uluru in guidebooks. It just looks like a monolith but rather unimposing because the view is from a distance -- which I'm sure is not what it will look like in real life.

I thought that the Sound of Silence dinner happens after a sunset tour. I'll investigate more.
111op is offline  
Dec 15th, 2006, 12:12 PM
  #9  
ALF
 
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Here's a reference for the Ayers Rock Observatory tour:

http://www.ecotours.com.au/detail_ul...ode=AUDET0041X

You can also wait 'till you get there to book through a hotel.

The Sounds of Silence Dinner is great, but IMO, too costly for what it is. Particularly if you are there for a short time, you could do a sunset tour, have dinner, then go on the Observatory tour.
ALF is offline  
Dec 27th, 2006, 10:45 AM
  #10  
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I'm leaving tomorrow and reviewing the Uluru options again.

Re the Sounds of Silence dinner I found a website here:

http://soundsofsilence.voyages.com.au/experience/

How does this experience compare with viewing the sunset in a more "conventional" way? I mean, do you watch the sun set over Uluru also as you do over a lookout point? Or is there something unique and special about the experience (beyond the dinner)?

Thanks very much!
111op is offline  
Dec 27th, 2006, 10:49 AM
  #11  
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Re Great Barrier Reef, I checked the Reefworld website, but the departures don't seem to be from Cairns. Am I missing something?

Are there other good Cairns options apart from ReefMagic?

Thanks!
111op is offline  
Dec 27th, 2006, 02:56 PM
  #12  
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My mistake! ReefWorld is the pontoon off the Whitsundays - sorry about that.

As mentioned in another topic, Quicksilver is another, albeit a large-crowd choice.

ALF is offline  
Dec 27th, 2006, 05:19 PM
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Re: "more conventional way" I take that to mean somewhere out in an non-tour-organized way. We truly enjoyed the Sound of Silence experience. In addition to a great dinner, buffet style of Australian specialties, and at least in our case, excellent table company, we got a little pre dinner show of aboriginal music, and a post dinner lesson in star gazing. Was it worth it? To us, yes. Would everyone like it? I doubt it.
Oh, by the way. As evening falls, the most amazing collection of flying bugs and critters are attracted to whatever light is available. So, for instance, candles on a table become a landing beacon for flying objects the size and nature of which are difficult to describe. As I have warned others, they are not to be feared, but please consider covering up when choosing dinner/evening dress. Some fellows with shorts, and some ladies with arms and shoulders exposed, had some pretty exciting moments, much to the delight of the other assembled guests.
Enjoy your meal, where ever you choose to partake. YOu will love it.
BillJ is offline  
Dec 27th, 2006, 08:14 PM
  #14  
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Thanks Bill J. This is a silly question -- but do you get a view of Uluru during the Sounds of Silence dinner? Where in the desert is this exactly?

Thanks again!
111op is offline  
Dec 27th, 2006, 08:28 PM
  #15  
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I called Voyages regarding the Sounds of Silence dinner. Apparently the location varies. Somtimes it's in Uluru. Sometimes it's in Kata Tjuta. But you don't get to choose. You get picked up 1h before sunset.

This is sounding silly, but I'm thinking I should try to watch the sunset in Uluru. Any thoughts on that?

I haven't booked anything. Since I'm leaving tomorrow I probably have to finalize my plans when I'm in Australia.

Thanks again!
111op is offline  
Dec 28th, 2006, 05:39 PM
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111op, I'm afraid your geography is a little off. Uluru, Kata Kjuta and the hotels are all a bit far from each other. In the picture link I gave above, http://www.flickr.com/photos/calbill...7594225869587/, picture 22 entitled Outback Sunset is from the SOS dinner, where we had a view of far off Kata Kjuta. We could not see Uluru from the dinner site, which was a short bus ride from the hotels, on a dirt road into the desert.
I still think your best bet is to check in with your hotel personnel upon arrival and discuss with them what you want to do in the time you have. Good luck.
BillJ is offline  
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