Uluru and Kata Tjuta are two of the most impressive sights in central Australia with the monolith of Uluru towering 348 meters above the red sands of this ancient land. The domes of Kata Tjuta and Mount Olga are even higher at 546 metres. Seeing these sights from up close on the ground is awe inspiring but adding an aerial view gives you an entirely new perspective. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park covers 1,326 square kilometres in size and is a unique multi awarded UNESCO World Heritage area that not only includes Uluru and Kata Tjuta but the surrounding desert dunes, fauna and flora. It’s the perspective from the air that gives you an appreciation of the sheer scale and size of these ancient rocks plus the vivid contrast of the red sandy dessert.
Professional Helicopter Services offer multiple flight and tour options for viewing Uluru and Kata Tjuta which range from a 15-minute short flight to hour plus journeys which cover some other interesting sights in the Red Centre such as Kings Canyon. Which flight you do comes down to cost and flight availability depending on which trips are going and when. The Uluru and Kata Tjuta flight is the most popular and, in our opinion, the best choice.
I was hoping to do a longer flight to Mt Conner which is also known as ‘Foolaru’. If you are a first time visitor to the Red Centre, it is easy to mistake Mt Conner for Uluru from afar due to its similar height and shape. Sadly, due to reduced operations caused by COVID we were unable to do the flight to Mt Conner and opted for the 30-minute Uluru & Kata Tjuta Helicopter Experience instead. It turned out to be a great choice.
The flight experience began with a pickup at designated spots around the Ayers Rock Resort in a minibus. Our driver chatted about the flight experience and weather conditions while we made our way to the helipad located a short drive from the Ayers Rock Resort. Arriving at the small hut we sat down to watch a brief video about helicopter flight safety and boarding procedures. The most important things to note with regard to safety is to keep well away from the back rotor and follow the instructions you are given. Easy!
Now is the time to discuss the possibility of being seated up front with the pilot for the best view with the staff member who showed you the video. A quiet word now can help you avoid a game of paper, rock, scissors with fellow passengers for the best seating positions. The prime front seat is only available to one passenger bur fear not, all the seats in the helicopter offer great views. Except one: the middle seat in the back which doesn’t offer the same great window view and also has slightly less headroom. It’s worth requesting a window seat to hopefully avoid the middle seat if the flight is busy.
Professional Helicopter Services use several aircraft types like a Bell Jet Ranger/Long Ranger or a Eurocopter AS350 Squirrel. Most of the aircraft offer forward facing seats apart from the Bell Long Ranger which also has 2 rear facing seats. If you are like my wife and get motion sick ‘going backwards’ on buses and trains, request a forward facing seat for a better flight. Not surprisingly, everyone was happy for my wife to face forwards!
The flight operation at Uluru is, as their company name says, professional. The helicopter lands and the pilot keeps the rotors turning as arriving and departing passengers are coordinated to a fine art. When the helicopter returned from its previous flight, the staff escorted the passengers from the helicopter and then assembled our passenger group to board in groups of two and three.
Taking off from Yulara had us heading towards Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) first. One thing that makes a big first impression is the vastness and colours of central Australia. Open plains stretch to the horizon with a colour palette of bright reds and mottled greens with the red domes of Kata Tjuta dominating the scene. From the air, the true size of both Kata Tjuta and Uluru make their presence felt. Both are breathtaking.
Kata Tjuta is actually higher than Uluru at 546 meters and comprised of 36 domes made up of conglomerate gravel consisting of pebbles and boulders cemented by sand and mud. It’s the rusting of the iron minerals in this mix which gives give Kata Tjuta its glowing red colours at sunrise and sunset. Flying above Kata Tjuta, you can see the vast distances between some of the domes and all the valleys and trails like the Walpa Gorge Walk and Valley of the Winds Walk that lead though this amazing formation. Our pilot is enthusiastic, despite the fact he must have done this trip many times before, and gives us a running commentary throughout the flight and includes an overview about the area, history and geology.
Turning towards Uluru, our pilot points out the Petermann and MacDonnell Ranges located on the horizon and talks about the topography of this amazing landscape. Our flight mostly faces the western side of Uluru and due to flight restrictions does not take us over the top or around Uluru. When you’re in the air, Uluru’s size makes on a new impact. With a circumference of nearly 10kms, an estimated weight of 1,425,000,000 tonnes and an estimated depth of 2.5 km, its certainly impressive.
On the flight back to Yulara, you also notice how small the resort area is compared to the vastness of the country surrounding it and the distances involved with exploring central Australia. On landing, we are met again by our ground crew and ushered back to the awaiting minivan to be dropped back to the Ayers Rock Resort. An Uluru helicopter trip definitely worth the money and an amazing experience. On my next visit, I’ll try again for Mt Conner.
Disclosure: The writer paid for his helicopter flight and highly recommends this experience.
Want to know more about visiting Uluru? We’ve put together an Ultimate Guide to Uluru if you would like to find out more before your visit. Before you jet off on your next travel adventure, check out our tips for coping with early morning flights, saving money at the airport, keeping your luggage safe, and surviving a low cost airline.