From October 26th this year, visitors will no longer be able to climb Uluṟu, one of Australia’s most recognisable landmarks. The historic ban may have been agreed upon nearly two years ago, but it seems like tourists have only just cottoned on to the fact that now might be their last chance to climb the big rock.
Whether you agree with the decision or not, the impending ban has caused a frenzy among tourists, causing an increase in visitors to the culturally significant site. The ban, possibly combined with the July school holidays, has seen a massive rise in visitor numbers, putting a strain on the area’s resources, and leaving many arrivals unable to find accommodation.
Disappointingly, these visitors have resorted to illegal camping, often on private and protected land. Camping in these spots is potentially dangerous to the visitors and to the environment, not to mention being culturally insensitive.
Parks Australia has long supported the Traditional Owners in encouraging visitors not to climb Uluṟu, but this softly softly approach hasn’t deterred everyone.
‘The Traditional Owners of Uluru ask you to respect our law and culture by not climbing Uluṟu.’ – Parks Australia
Last Chance Tourism
In their recent Helpful or Harmful report, Kathmandu highlighted ‘last chance tourism’ as one of the problems caused by the tourism industry today. Last chance tourist destinations, like the Great Barrier Reef, are destinations that are threatened by closure, destruction or extinction.
In many regards, it’s simply human nature to want to see, or do, something before the chance passes forever, but is this an excuse for ignoring your environmental or cultural impact?
I was recently listening to an adventure podcast where the adventurer Al Humphreys was being interviewed. He touched on last chance tourism in relation to visiting the polar ice caps. On the one hand, he thought it was ironic for environmentalists and eco-warriors to fly significant distances to visit the ice caps, creating a large carbon footprint while doing so. But he also recognised his own flaws and admitted that, given the opportunity, he would probably do the same.
How Can We Cause Less Harm When Travelling?
Like Humphreys and the ice caps, I can see the painful irony that this article might cause even more people to flock to Uluṟu with the intention of completing the climb. But if you are one of those people, I urge you to do your research first, consider your intentions and educate yourself about why it might not be such a good idea.
Kathmandu makes several recommendations throughout the Helpful or Harmful report, and many of these are relevant to visiting Uluṟu. Some key suggestions for being a more helpful traveller include:
- Consider travel during off-peak periods for the ‘bucket-list’ destinations so the ‘strain’ and impact on places is lessened
- Research basic customs and cultural practices of the country you’re visiting
- Choose local, ethical operators for tours, accommodation, activities and souvenirs to positively impact the local economy
Feature image by Adrian Mascenon
Explore the Northern Territory the right way