Authorities in Australia have confirmed that climbing Uluru will be banned from October 2019.
The decision was voted upon unanimously by the board of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, in respect of indigenous sensitivities.
Uluru, formerly known as Ayer’s Rock, is an enormous monolith at the heart of Australia’s red centre, and one of the most popular visitor attractions of the country’s Northern Territory region.
For many years visitors have been asked not to climb Uluru due to the traditional law of the Anangu Aboriginal people, custodians of the land to whom the rock is sacred. However it was not expressly forbidden.
Sammy Wilson, chairman of the national park’s board and Anangu man, said his people had felt pressure to continue allowing people to climb the rock as it was so popular. But no more.
“It is an extremely important place, not a playground or theme park like Disneyland,” said Wilson. “If I travel to another country and there is a sacred site, an area of restricted access, I don’t enter it or climb it, I respect it.”
The vote was taken of eight traditional owners and four government officials. The ban will come into effect on October 26, 2019.
Although only 16% of visitors chose to make the climb between 2011 and 2015, with some 250,000 visitors a year that still represents a large number.
The ban is also the result of safety concerns about the climb, as at least 35 people have died on the rock since the 1950s.
While some who have climbed the rock in the past have expressed disappointment that future travellers will not have the opportunity, there remains plenty of other ways to experience it. Visitors can walk around the base of the rock – a spectacular 6-mile track – as well as taking cycling, Segway, or camel-riding tours. It’s also possible to see it from the air by skydiving in the area.
The best way to visit Uluru is to take a tour from Alice Springs, though longer tours are also available from Darwin, the NT’s capital. If you’re short on time, you can fly to Alice Springs or Uluru in a couple of hours from most other Australian cities.