The 1,100-strong army of blinking drones takes the form of a snarling ‘Devil Dog’ in the sky during a spectacular retelling of an Aṉangu story. It’s the second time my breath catches today – the first being mere hours earlier when I’m whisked away to Wintjiri Wiṟu to witness my first ochre-red, shimmering, Uluṟu sunset.

Uluṟu may be an ‘exotic’ destination languishing on your travel wishlist, but there are plenty of reasons to bump it up and make Australia’s spiritual centre your next destination. Virgin Australia now also flies from Melbourne and Brisbane to Uluṟu, so it’s easier (and more affordable) than ever to venture to our country’s dusty, beating heart.

The starry skies gradually make way for the emerging sun at the Field of Light. Photo: Brandon Loo

Flying with Virgin Australia to Uluru

I’m more familiar with Virgin Australia’s Terminal 3 in Melbourne than I care to be, but today, I’m not on a typical shuttle run back to my home in Perth. My boarding pass is for ‘Yulara’, and the passengers at the gate are in far higher spirits than your typical domestic traveller.

The 150-minute journey passes quickly as the scenery below us gradually fades from verdant fields to iron reds. Even back in Row 20, there’s enough legroom to not feel cramped. I help myself to an artisan cheese and snack platter ($8) from the onboard menu, though there are also sandwiches and wraps to choose from.

For a touch more comfort, why not treat yourself to a seat upgrade? Economy X offers extra legroom at a cost (free for Velocity Platinum members), while Virgin Australia Business Class takes it up a notch with a tasty hot meal and free-flowing snacks and drinks, all included.

Economy sale fares start from $119 one-way for Economy Lite, or 9,400 Velocity Points + fees and taxes for a Tier 1 Economy Reward Seat.


A Business Class reward seat starts from 23,500 Velocity Points + fees and taxes, or upgrade from 7,400 Velocity Points on an Economy Flex fare or 17,500 Velocity Points on an Economy Choice fare.

Wintjiri Wiru: a feast for the senses

Voyages Ayers Rock Resort is where you’ll most likely stay as it’s the closest resort to the airport and Uluṟu. One of the ‘must-sees’ while you’re here is the Wintjiri Wiṟu dinner and drone experience.

We’re treated to our first proper look at Uluṟu as the dusky skies transform the monolith from a rich orange to a deep red hue. Meanwhile, staff make their rounds with canapés infused with native ingredients, such as gin cucumber with green ants and lemon myrtle crocodile curry pie. A perfect pairing.

Come nightfall, more than a thousand drones take to the sky and tell the Mala Story. I’m utterly entranced by Wintjiri Wiṟu, the world’s largest permanent drone show, as lasers, projections, and booming surround sound complete the experience.

Every word in the story, every scene in the sky and every technical component has been carefully considered. In summary, it’s a masterpiece.

Acknowledgement Statement

As custodians of the land, Anangu hold the Mala story from Kaltukatjara to Uluru. To share their story from Kaltukatjara to Uluru, RAMUS designed and produced an artistic platform using drones, light and sound to create an immersive storytelling experience.

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A shimmering ‘Field of Light’ sunrise

The early bird catches the worm, but on the next morning, we’re up before 5:30 am to catch something far more valuable – a view of the sunrise at Bruce Munro’s ‘Field of Light’ installation.

The vibrant colours couldn’t be more different from last night. Gone are the terracotta reds – my lens picks up royal oranges and purples as the sky reawakens and sweeps away the night. It’s only fair to describe it as a majestic backdrop to the 50,000 twinkling spindles of coloured lights that make up Tili Wiṟu Tjuṯa Nyakutjaku.

Mala Walk and Outback Cycling

Once the sun has firmly re-established its dominance, we head over to the base to see Uluṟu in all of its glory. The Mala Walk should be on every visitor’s itinerary. It’s a daily, free, ranger-guided tour from the carpark that takes you to the nearby caves previously used by the Mala (rufous hare-wallaby) people.

You have a few options for going around the rest of the Uluṟu aside from walking. For a spectacular aerial perspective, PHS offers helicopter tours starting from $195 per person. Or cruise around in style with a segway tour from $199.

As for me? I’m using good ol’ fashioned pedal power, thanks to Outback Cycling (from $70 per adult). We get three hours to ride around the whole of Uluṟu at a leisurely pace.

Kata Tjuta and Walpa Gorge

Could anything rival the sheer beauty of a sunrise at Uluṟu? As it turns out, Kata Tjuṯa certainly should be in the running. At a slightly later time of 6:00 am (yes, a whole 30-minute sleep-in!), our coach transports us to see Kata Tjuṯa, a group of large domes otherwise known as The Olgas.

The sun rises somewhere behind us, bathing each dome in a mellow glow. The pastel blues and yellows, contrasting against the fullness of the red sand, are a sight you need to see for yourself.

While Kata Tjuṯa may not look towering from a distance, you’ll quickly banish such thoughts the moment you set foot in Walpa Gorge, set between two of the domes. Cavernous? Cathedral-like? Those words aren’t enough to describe just how tiny you’ll feel walking in Walpa Gorge. These imposing rock faces have seen hundreds of millions of years.

Uluru awaits: are you coming?

I’m not a spiritual person by any means, but I feel something as I gaze upon my first sunset at Uluṟu. The area seems to resonate with the power and history of both this sacred monolith and also the Aṉangu who inhabit these lands.

When you live in a city, as most of us do, we might sometimes lose sight of just how much beauty exists in our own backyard. Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park is surely one of Australia’s best treasures. Luckily for many, it’s just a flight away.

A final glance at Uluru as we head back to Melbourne with Virgin Australia.

Also read: Virgin Australia Boeing 737 Business Class, Uluru-Melbourne →

Photography by Brandon Loo, who travelled as a guest of Virgin Australia, Tourism NT and Ayers Rock Resort. All opinions remain his own.

Why Uluru should be on the top of your ‘to-do’ list was last modified: June 25th, 2024 by Brandon Loo