Uluru, the popular sandstone rock in northern Australia, is closing to hikers this month due to the wishes of its indigenous owners. Before that happens, however, thousands of tourists are flocking to the site to hike the rock before it closes on October 26. In November 2017, the management board of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park voted to ban tourists from climbing Uluru, and since then people have been showing up in record numbers.
This really is nuts.
The #Uluru climb two days ago. It closes for good in October.
📷Glenn Minett/ABC Alice Springs pic.twitter.com/sAFdfvpKwz
— Rohan Barwick (@rohwick) July 10, 2019
According to a spokesperson for Parks Australia, “Just as we want people to look after the world heritage values of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, we also encourage people to respect the broader region and not to camp illegally or dump rubbish.”
Indeed, people have not only been climbing the rock, but trespassing, illegally camping, and dumping trash along the way. It’s no wonder Uluru’s traditional owners are in a hurry to disinvite tourists. The high number of deaths and injuries also played a role in the closure, as 37 people have died on Uluru since the 1950s, the most recent incident occurring last July.
This past year saw 395,338 visitors to the park, a 20 percent increase on the previous year. While Uluru’s imminent closure certainly played a role in boosting these numbers, new direct flights to Uluru from Darwin and Adelaide have made the area more accessible and contributed to a rise in tourism.