The Australian environment is unique.  From unspoilt beaches, tropical rainforest, rugged mountain ranges and vast tracks of desert, Australia is a country of contrast.  For more than 50,000 years, Australia’s Aboriginal people have lived and thrived in Australia’s unique and challenging natural environment.  Australia’s rich vegetation and native wildlife helped them establish their presence on the land.  Today it is believed the Aboriginals are the world’s oldest civilisation.  ‘Terra Australis’ was the last landmass to be discovered by European explorers.  Talk of this mystical land and the riches it held inspired explorers to sail into the unknown.  It wasn’t until Captain James Cook arrived in Botany Bay in 1770 that the great southern land was officially discovered by Europeans.

THE GREAT BARRIER REEF is undisputed as one of the world’s most important natural assets.  It is the largest natural feature on earth stretching more than 1,900 miles along the northeast coast of Australia.  During his epic voyage of 1770, Captain James Cook charted many of these reefs before running aground east of Cooktown in far north Queensland. The reef can be compared to a big city with its inhabitants going about their business during the day and others coming to life at night.  It is a complex ecosystem with many animals relying on each other for food and survival.  Virtually all major and minor groups of living things are abundantly represented in the reef.  Only tropical rainforests come close to rivalling the reef for richness of species. Marine animals on the Great Barrier Reef include:

359 of the world’s 400 types of hard coral, 5,000 to 8,000 molluscs and thousands of different sponges, worms and  crustaceans, 800 species of echinoderms (starfish, sea urchins), 1,500 species of fishes, 215 bird species, of which 29 are seabirds, more than 30 species of marine mammal, and 6 species of marine turtles, all listed as threatened.

UD trip highlights Australia’s icons and incredible offerings such as the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains, the world’s most beautiful harbour city, Sydney,the seventh wonder of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef, the incredible natural beauty of Lizard Island, the Red Centre and its ancient offerings, and the cultural capital of Australia, Melbourne.

THE RED CENTRE is the spiritual heartbeat of the Australian Outback.  It is here that iconic symbols like Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) rise from the endless red sand dunes to stand as monuments to geological time and indigenous spirituality.  These amazing formations were formed 300 million years ago by major upheavals and have been moulded by the desert winds ever since. Uluru is more than just a great snapshot.  It is the world’s largest monolith rising 1,000 feet above the desert floor with a circumference of 5 miles.  It extends down over three miles beneath the surface.  Approximately 500 million years ago it was part of the ocean floor at the centre of Australia.

Uluru is central to the Aboriginal people as being the energy source for their creation law (‘Tjukurp’, the dreaming).  The term Tjukurpa is also used to refer to the record of all activities of a particular ancestral being from the very beginning of his or her travels to their end.  ‘The Dreaming’ is not a creation myth, per se, but a myth of formation.  The world existed, but was featureless. Giant semi-human beings, resembling plants or animals, rose up from the plains where they had been slumbering for countless ages.

Kata Tjuta is the sister rock formation to Uluru. Kata Tjuta, meaning many heads to the Anangu, is a group of more than 30 rounded red conglomerate masses of rock rising out of the desert plain in the Northern Territory of Australia.  Some of the rocks are bunched close together with only narrow precipitous crevices between.  Others, rounded and polished by the wind, are more spaced apart. The highest is called Mount Olga (1,500 feet). The Aborigines identify Mount Olga as the home of the snake Wanambi who, during the rainy season, stays curled up in a waterhole on the summit.  During the dry season he moves down to the gorge below. He also uses the various caves on Mount Olga.  The hairs of his beard are the dark lines on the eastern side of the rock.  His breath is the wind which blows through the gorge; when he gets angry it can become a hurricane.




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