Uluru, a.k.a Ayers Rock, is full of mystery and magic. The spiritual heart of Australia, this undeniably impressive rock in the middle of the country was a sacred site in Aboriginal culture long before settlers stepped ashore in 1788. Mysterious rituals are still to this day performed in the rock’s caves and its surface bears curious markings dating back centuries. But the modern day mystery seems to be the question: is it worth seeing in person?
Opinion is divided. In one camp there’s those who rave about the experience, “there’s just something magical about the place”, while others say, “why bother? It’s just a big rock’.
Well, this year the debate was finally put to rest when Prince William and Kate concluded their tour of Australia with a visit to Uluru. It appears there are many reasons to visit Australia’s most famous icon; in addition to beautifully rugged landscapes and the expansive Southern sky, there’s the Ayers Rock accommodation Longitude 131°, a collection of 15 luxurious tents elevated upon a red sand dune. This is where the royal couple spent their stay. Well, if this luxury escape is good enough for royalty, it’s good enough for me.
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect place for a prince than Longitude 131°. As the only true high-end hotel in one of the remotest places on earth, Longitude 131° allows couples uninterrupted privacy — one of the few luxuries in short supply for the royal couple. The resort is strictly 18+ to ensure nothing disturbs the peace and serenity of the desert. With baby Prince George in the care of a nanny in Canberra, the couple could truly indulge in the romance.
As the closest hotel to Uluru, Longitude 131 boasts unbeatable views of the rock. The accommodation can be called “tents” only at a stretch. This is glamping at its most extravagant. Your tent comes with windows, walls and titled floors. In fact, the only part of this deluxe accommodation that resembles your standard camping equipment is the flowing fabric draped from the centre to form the roof.
The interior is as stylish as any 5-star hotel. You can sip your morning coffee from your king-sized bed, while enjoying uninterrupted views of the rock through wall-length windows. In the bathroom, which comes with oversized rain shower, the vanity mirror slides back to allow you to gaze at the majestic rock while you brush you teeth.
Although recently voted among the top 10 hotels in the world by The Robb Report, Longitude 131° provides its guests the ultimate in luxury without stuffy service. The emphasis is on relaxation and comfort where there’s no pressure to dress for dinner; practical clothing is more appropriate attire for starlit dining in the desert. This ambiance must have been perfect for the royal couple, who are reportedly down-to-earth people.
On a vacation to Uluru the sensual experience extends beyond the accommodation however; the great monolith remains the star of the show.
Tourists are discouraged from climbing the 1,142-foot rock at the request of its aboriginal owners and the Australian government. This message is duplicated in the signs found at the rock’s base, which explain the potential damage climbing can cause the natural wonder. Although many climb the rock regardless, I preferred to follow the royal lead and opted for a guided tour around the base and along the Kuniya Walk.
While watching the sun set over Uluru is one of those bucket-list experiences, Longitude 131° takes the experience to new heights.
Table 131° lets you dine out under the stars with Uluru close by. While we indulged in canapés and cocktails, the sun made its descent, flooding the desert in hues of gold and red. For a few sublime minutes the sinking sun silhouetted the majestic bulk of the rock and the evening came alive with the rhythmic hum of a didgeridoo. As night finally fell, the waiters sprang into action, serving the first of a four-course, gourmet meal.
For me, there’s no question as to whether Uluru is worth the trip. In the empty desert, the rock radiates a spiritual power that moves even the most cynical of visitors. But rock or no rock, dining out under the stars of the Southern sky is a truly magical experience.