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Happy family snap at the base of Uluru

Uluru is an impressive sight but it’s not until you get up close to this natural marvel that you truly appreciate its size and also its deep spiritual beauty. The circumference of Uluru is 9.4km but for those planning to walk, ride or in my case do an Uluru Segway tour around it, the distance is approximately 12km. Now, I can speak from experience that walking around Uluru can take a while and it can also feel like a VERY long way if you are not super fit. Add in the heat, flies and lack of shade and rest areas and it can be pretty unpleasant, especially near the end of the walk. Heat stroke, dehydration and fatigue can also be a problem if you aren’t carrying enough water.

The circumference of Uluru is 9.4km and 12 km to walk ,cycle or Segway
It is a 12km walk ,cycle or Segway around the base of Uluru

Don’t get me wrong, walking around Uluru is worth doing.  But I wasn’t keen to do it again, especially not with a teenager whose definition of exercise is walking from his bedroom to the fridge. Our family’s solution for getting around the rock in an easy and insightful way was a guided Segway tour. There are a range of Segway tours that include everything from a sunrise and sunset experience to a ‘quarter way around’ tour and a private one-on-one option. We didn’t have a hire car and wanted to see the sunrise, so we opted for the Sunrise Tour which combined a sunrise viewing experience and breakfast with the Segway tour. 

The sunrise tour included pickup at our Yulara hotel with a breakfast of pastries, muffins and coffee at the sunrise viewing area at Uluru. Travelling in winter was a great option as it meant we had mild temperatures, no flies and we didn’t have to get up too early to see the sunrise. Pick up for our Segway Sunrise Tour in late July was at a respectable 6am but be warned if you are late for the tour, the bus and the sun won’t wait. One other important note is to pre-purchase your National Park Pass in advance as you will need to show this before you get on the bus.

Uluru Sunrise
Uluru sunrise

In preparation for the tour, we had water bottles with at least one litre of water each, sunscreen, hats, and clothing we could layer. Uluru Segway Tours gave us a courtesy call the day before our tour to remind us of the pick up time and to tell us to bring enough water as there is nowhere to refill your bottle along the tour. We decided to wear long pants to avoid the sunburn that we got from walking around Uluru many years ago which was a good choice. Even though it was winter, the backs of our legs would have still got burnt in shorts. One thing we luckily didn’t need this time was the fly net that is an essential in the summer months and believe me you do need one then. There are so many flies!

We arrived at the almost empty Uluru carpark at predawn and enjoyed an uninterrupted view overlooking Uluru while our guide, Nick, a highly experienced outback and Segway guide, prepared our breakfast so we could enjoy it while we watched the amazing sunrise. After the surnise, we were encouraged to use the toilet facilities at the car park before arriving at the Segway base camp as they only have one toilet. Our Segway group consisted of nine riders and ranged in age from adventurous retirees to our 17-year-old son who was still waking up from such an early start.

Sunrise and Breakfast at Uluru
Sunrise and breakfast at Uluru

At the Segway base, we were fitted out with safety gear that included a helmet and knee and elbow pads. Next up was a training session on the practice track set up alongside the base camp trailer. This consists of different types of terrain and obstacles that you come across on the tour around the base of Uluru. We all passed our training session and were told to park our Segways and wait for our guide but one of the retirees did a bit of showing off for his wife first before falling off. No injures apart from a bruised ego and a red dirt backside but he was lucky.

Segway Uluru guide Nick getting ready for our tour
Segway Uluru guide Nick getting ready for our tour

Nick took this as a good opportunity to talk about the safety lessons learned at the training track once again and go over the best ways to avoid the most common mistakes which lead to Segway falls:

– Remember the Segway is wider than you are so leave room for the wheels.

– Look down at where your wheels are going if you are approaching or negotiating an obstacle like a bridge. 

– Don’t get near anyone beside you as their Segway is closer than you think.

– Stay separated and a few meters apart from the person in front of you.

– Don’t try to force the Segway to go faster as they are speed limited. 

– Stay with the group and don’t try to pass people … and don’t show off!

Happy family snap at the base of Uluru
Our family at the base of Uluru

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We set off on our tour on a spectacular Uluru morning. As we made our way around Uluru, we passed many people who were walking and cycling and looked at us with envious eyes. We heard one kid practically begging his parents to book a Segway tour so they didn’t have to do any more “stupid walking”. Our guide Nick kept us all rolling and we had regular stops so he could point out the features of Uluru and share some of the First Nations creation stories about the rock. There are lots of opportunities for photos and to stretch your legs as they do tighten up along the way. Wearing thick socks is a good idea as it stops you getting sore feet and keeps them warm for the sunrise part of the tour.

Uluru guide nick talks about the indigenous creation stores and geology of Uluru
Uluru guide Nick talks about the First Nations creation stores and geology of Uluru

We stopped at the old climbing point and the only toilet spot on the tour for a break. Nick told us some tales about climbing the rock and the reasons for its closure, including a few humorous ones. Then we set off again for the final phase of the tour around the base of Uluru which takes about 2.5 hours all up. Including the sunrise and breakfast at Uluru and the Segway training session, the tour takes around 6 hours. We thought this tour was fantastic value for a solid half day of fun.

Circumnavigating the rock
Circumnavigating the rock

We arrived back at the Segway base camp for the final part of the tour which is on foot and takes in some different flora with large Eucalyptus trees and a sacred waterhole plus a cave with paintings which were used to teach important lessons to First Nations children hundreds of years ago. Nick shared one of the creation stories of the traditional custodians of Uluru and the significance of the highly important waterhole for hunting and survival in this unforgiving environment that has been home to the Anangu for thousands of years.

The sacred waterhole at Uluru
The sacred waterhole at Uluru

Our family loved this highly enjoyable and informative tour with a great guide. It was well worth the money and also fantastic for anyone who is not up for a long walk or cycle around the base of Uluru. As long as you follow the suggestions for Segway safety – and aren’t tempted to show off – you should have a fantastic time on this tour from start to finish.

Disclosure: The writer paid for his Segway tour and thought it was way better and much more fun than than walking around the base of Uluru.

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.

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Trevor Templeman is a photographer and writer who travels the world capturing the essence of locations through their landscape, architecture and people. His words and photographs are published in magazines, newspapers and online around the world.