Here’s how your holiday photos could help save endangered species


Kasim Rafiq, Liverpool John Moores University

Animal populations have declined on average by 60% since 1970, and it’s predicted that around a million species are at risk of extinction. As more of the Earth’s biodiversity disappears and the human population grows, protected landscapes that are set aside to conserve biodiversity are increasingly important. Sadly, many are underfunded – some of Africa’s most treasured wildlife reserves operate in funding deficits of hundreds of millions of dollars.

In unfenced wilderness, scientists rarely have an inventory on the exact numbers of species in an area at a particular time. Instead they make inferences using one of many different survey approaches, including camera traps, track surveys, and drones. These methods can estimate how much and what kind of wildlife is present, but often require large amounts of effort, time and money.

Camera traps are placed in remote locations and activated by movement. They can collect vast quantities of data by taking photographs and videos of passing animals. But this can cost tens of thousands of dollars to run and once in the wild, cameras are at the mercy of curious wildlife.

Track surveys rely on specialist trackers, who aren’t always available and drones, while promising, have restricted access to many tourism areas in Africa. All of this makes wildlife monitoring difficult to carry out and repeat over large areas. Without knowing what’s out there, making conservation decisions based on evidence becomes almost impossible.

Citizen science on Safari

Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world – 42m people visited sub-Saharan Africa in 2018 alone. Many come for the unique wildlife and unknowingly collect valuable conservation data with their phones and cameras. Photographs on social media are already being used to help track the illegal wildlife trade and how often areas of wilderness are visited by tourists.

Despite this, tourists and their guides are still an overlooked source of information. Could your holidays snaps help monitor endangered wildlife? In a recent study, we tested exactly this.

Partnering with a tour operator in Botswana, we approached all guests passing through a safari lodge over three months in the Okavango Delta and asked them if they were interested in contributing their photographs to help with conservation. We provided those interested with a small GPS logger – the type commonly used for tracking pet cats – so that we could see where the images were being taken.

We then collected, processed, and passed the images through computer models to estimate the densities of five large African carnivore species – lions, spotted hyaenas, leopards, African wild dogs and cheetahs. We compared these densities to those from three of the most popular carnivore survey approaches in Africa – camera trapping, track surveys, and call-in stations, which play sounds through a loudspeaker to attract wildlife so they can be counted.

The tourist photographs provided similar estimates to the other approaches and were, in total, cheaper to collect and process. Relying on tourists to help survey wildlife saved up to US$840 per survey season. Even better, it was the only method to detect cheetahs in the area – though so few were sighted that their total density couldn’t be confirmed.

Thousands of wildlife photographs are taken every day, and the study showed that we can use statistical models to cut through the noise and get valuable data for conservation. Still, relying on researchers to visit tourist groups and coordinate their photograph collection would be difficult to replicate across many areas. Luckily, that’s where wildlife tour operators could come in.

Tour operators could help collect tourist images to share with researchers. If the efforts of tourists were paired with AI that could process millions of images quickly, conservationists could have a simple and low-cost method for monitoring wildlife.

Tourist photographs are best suited for monitoring large species that live in areas often visited by tourists – species that tend to have high economic and ecological value. While this method perhaps isn’t as well suited to smaller species, it can still indirectly support their conservation by helping protect the landscapes they live in.

The line between true wilderness and landscapes modified by humans is becoming increasingly blurred, and more people are visiting wildlife in their natural habitats. This isn’t always a good thing, but maybe conservationists can use these travels to their advantage and help conserve some of the most iconic species on our planet.The Conversation

Kasim Rafiq, Postdoctoral Researcher in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Liverpool John Moores University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Stowaway mozzies enter Australia from Asian holiday spots – and they’re resistant to insecticides

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We might not be able to use common insecticides to kill mosquitoes that arrive from other countries.

Tom Schmidt, University of Melbourne; Andrew Weeks, University of Melbourne, and Ary Hoffmann, University of Melbourne

Planning a trip to the tropics? You might end up bringing home more than just a tan and a towel.

Our latest research looked at mosquitoes that travel as secret stowaways on flights returning to Australia and New Zealand from popular holiday destinations.

We found mosquito stowaways mostly enter Australia from Southeast Asia, and enter New Zealand from the Pacific Islands. Worse still, most of these stowaways are resistant to a wide range of insecticides, and could spread disease and be difficult to control in their new homes.

Read more:
Why naming all our mozzies is important for fighting disease

Secret stowaways

Undetected insects and other small creatures are transported by accident when people travel, and can cause enormous damage when they invade new locations.

Of all stowaway species, few have been as destructive as mosquitoes. Over the past 500 years, mosquitoes such as the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) have spread throughout the world’s tropical and subtropical regions.

Dengue spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes now affects tens to hundreds of millions of people every year.

Read more:
Explainer: what is dengue fever?

Mosquitoes first travelled onboard wooden sailing ships, and now move atop container ships and within aircraft.

Adults in your luggage

You probably won’t see Aedes mosquitoes buzzing about the cabin on your next inbound flight from the tropics. They are usually transported with cargo, either as adults or occasionally as eggs (that can hatch once in contact with water).

It only takes a few Aedes stowaways to start a new invasion. In Australia, they’ve been caught at international airports and seaports, and in recent years there has been a large increase in detections.

Aedes aegypti mosquito detections per year at Australian international terminals – passenger airline terminals in white; seaports or freight terminals in black.
Tom Schmidt, Author provided

Read more:
Curious Kids: When we get bitten by a mosquito, why does it itch so much?

In our new paper, we set out to determine where stowaway Aedes aegypti collected in Australia and New Zealand were coming from. This hasn’t previously been possible.

Usually, mosquitoes are only collected after they have “disembarked” from their boat or plane. Government authorities monitor these stowaways by setting traps around airports or seaports that can capture adult mosquitoes. Using this method alone, they’re not able to tell which plane they came on.

But our approach added another layer: we looked at the DNA of collected mosquitoes. We knew from our previous work that the DNA from any two mosquitoes from the same location (such as Vietnam, for example) would be more similar than the DNA from two mosquitoes from different locations (such as Vietnam and Brazil).

So we built a DNA reference databank of Aedes aegypti collected from around the world, and compared the DNA of the Aedes aegypti stowaways to this reference databank. We could then work out whether a stowaway mosquito came from a particular location.

We identified the country of origin of most of the Aedes aegypti stowaways. The majority of these mosquitoes detected in Australia are likely to have come from flights originating in Bali.

Here’s where the Aedes aegypti mozzies come into Australia and New Zealand from.
Tom Schmidt, Author provided

Now we can work with these countries to build smarter systems for stopping the movement of stowaways.

As the project continues, we will keep adding new collections of Aedes aegypti to our reference databank. This will make it easier to identify the origin of future stowaways.

New mosquitoes are a problem

As Aedes aegypti has existed in Australia since the 19th century, the value of this research may seem hard to grasp. Why worry about invasions by a species that’s already here? There are two key reasons.

Currently, Aedes aegypti is only found in northern Australia. It is not found in any of Australia’s capital cities where the majority of Australians live. If Aedes aegypti established a population in a capital city, such as Brisbane, there would be more chance of the dengue virus being spread in Australia.

The other key reason is because of insecticide resistance. In places where people use lots of insecticide to control Aedes aegypti, the mosquitoes develop resistance to these chemicals. This resistance generally comes from one or more DNA mutations, which are passed from parents to their offspring.

Read more:
The battle against bugs: it’s time to end chemical warfare

Importantly, none of these mutations are currently found in Australian Aedes aegpyti. The danger is that mosquitoes from overseas could introduce these resistance mutations into Australian Aedes aegpyti populations. This would make it harder to control them with insecticides if there is a dengue outbreak in the future.

In our study, we found that every Aedes aegpyti stowaway that had come from overseas had at least one insecticide resistance mutation. Most mosquitoes had multiple mutations, which should make them resistant to multiple types of insecticides. Ironically, these include the same types of insecticides used on planes to stop the movement of stowaways.

Other species to watch

We can now start tracking other stowaway species using the same methods. The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) hasn’t been found on mainland Australia, but has invaded the Torres Strait Islands and may reach the Cape York Peninsula soon.

Worse still, it is even better than Aedes aegypti at stowing away, as Aedes albopictus eggs can handle a wider range of temperatures.

A future invasion of Aedes albopictus could take place through an airport or seaport in any major Australian city. Although it is not as effective as Aedes aegypti at spreading dengue, this mosquito is aggressive and has a painful bite. This has given it the nickname “the barbecue stopper”.

Beyond mosquitoes, our DNA-based approach can also be applied to other pests. This should be particularly important for protecting Australia’s A$45 billion dollar agricultural export market as international movement of people and goods continues to increase.

Read more:
Explainer: what is Murray Valley encephalitis virus?

The Conversation

Tom Schmidt, Research fellow, University of Melbourne; Andrew Weeks, Senior Research Fellow, University of Melbourne, and Ary Hoffmann, Professor, School of BioSciences and Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Dangar Falls 360

The Peripatetic Ponderings of a Passing Person

During my break from Blogging I was able to get away for some time out. I headed off to one of my favourite spots, relatively close to here (about 3.5 to 4 hours drive, which is fairly close for Australia), Dorrigo. Dorrigo National Park is near Dorrigo – in fact it is just 2km out of town. It’s a great place and I’ll be posting some photos (and possibly video also) from the visit over the next week or so. During my visit I stayed at Dorrigo Mountain Resortjust out of Dorrigo and close by the national park. I stayed in a fairly basic cabin for two nights, which though it wouldn’t meet the standards set by most people (and I wouldn’t blame them or judge them for that) for a place to stay, I did view it as just somewhere to stay and sleep, choosing to spend…

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Planning and Organising a Holiday Using Evernote

The link below is to an article that looks at planning and organising a holiday by using Evernote.

For more visit:

Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 11 – Watarrka National Park, Northern Territory

It was a fairly easy day for my last day at Watarrka National Park. All I had left to do was walk the very short Kathleen Springs Walk, which only took about 1 hour to complete. It was a reasonably short drive to this section of Watarrka National Park and the walk itself was also very easy. Still, it was an early start considering just how little I had to do.

ABOVE: View from the Beginning of the Walk

ABOVE: Old Cattle Yards   BELOW: Wildflowers

ABOVE: Waterhole at the End of the Gorge   BELOW: Old Cattle Yards

Having returned to camp following the walk, I once again had a very early main meal for the day while the campsite was quiet and found that again there was no water for a lengthy period, and once again no communication from site management that the water was being turned off. Eventually I was able to clean up my gear and settle down for a lazy afternoon reading and chatting. I also made sure I had ready everything I could for the big move to Alice Springs the next day, which was going to start very early the following morning.

ABOVE & BELOW: Wildflowers

The distance travelled on this day was 52 km – giving me a total of 3516 km for the whole trip to this point.

ABOVE: Camp Site at Kings Canyon Resort

When it got dark, once again, it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, and without the Internet, getting the photos ready to upload.

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Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 10 – Watarrka National Park, Northern Territory

It was a fairly straight-forward type of day today. It was an early, short drive to Watarrka National Park from Kings Canyon Resort, where I did the Kings Canyon Rim Walk. The Kings Canyon Rim Walk is a spectacular exploration of the the area above the gorge and also descends into the gorge to an area known as ‘The Garden of Eden.’ It is a 6km return walk, with some moderate to difficult sections, especially at the beginning with the climb to the gorge rim. Surprisingly the walk was completed in about 3 hours, even allowing for a bit of sightseeing along the way.

ABOVE & BELOW: Scenery from the Kings Canyon Rim Walk

ABOVE & BELOW: Scenes from the Kings Canyon Rim Walk

Having completed the walk and once again not being able to use the free wifi point at Watarrka National Park I travelled back to Kings Canyon Resort for a very early main meal (while the resort was fairly quiet) and to spend a relaxing afternoon chatting with other campers and reading. A couple of guys I had met at Uluru turned up for a couple of days, so it was good to chat with them a bit also.

ABOVE & BELOW: The Garden of Eden

The distance travelled on this day was 19 km – giving me a total of 3464 km for the whole trip to this point.

When it got dark, once again, it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, and without the Internet, getting the photos ready to upload.

ABOVE: Scene from the Kings Canyon Rim Walk

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Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at:

Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 9 – Yulara to Watarrka National Park, Northern Territory

It was an early start as I headed of for Watarrka National Park, for a morning that was going to be spent driving and then hopefullly setting up my campsite, before heading off for a quick walk at Watarrka National Park. My first stop was at Curtain Springs for a quick top up of the fuel, knowing that fuel was going to be expensive at Kings Canyon Resort. So after that stop it was basically nothing but driving straight to Watarrka National Park and the Kings Canyon Resort.

ABOVE: Mount Conner as Seen Along the Way to Watarrka National Park

When I arrived there were no powered campsites available as the place was pretty busy and booked out. It turned out that the Variety Bash was in the area and staying at the resort that night. It was a very crowded scene and somewhat chaotic. I managed to grab a campsite without power, set up and decided to escape to the national park for a while.

At Watarrka National Park I noticed that there was a free wifi hot spot at a shelter at the beginning of the walks. This seemed like a good thing, given that I had no Internet access at the resort. However, this proved to be near useless as nothing was able to load. It was pretty bad when more than one person was trying to access it, let alone a whole group of people. It barely worked for one! So that proved to be of no real benefit to me.

ABOVE & BELOW: Wildflowers were a feature of Kings Creek Walk

ABOVE: Wildflowers were a feature of Kings Creek Walk   BELOW: Kings Creek Walk

I decided I didn’t really have the time to do the rim walk and actually enjoy it at the same time, so I decided to start on that one early the next morning. Instead I chose to do the Kings Creek Walk, which was a comfortable 2 km return walk following Kings Creek into the canyon. It proved to be a far better walk than I had anticipated, so given I had a bit of time to play with I took my time and really enjoyed it. There wasn’t a lot of water around, but it was still a great experience and I did find a waterhole just beyond the end of the walk.

ABOVE: View From the Kings Creek Walk

ABOVE & BELOW: Kings Creek

ABOVE: Budgerigars Nesting Along Kings Creek

With the completion of the walk I returned to the resort to find I was unable to get a park next to my tent, which to be honest, really annoyed me. The resort has very poor parking facilities for campers – in fact, there was a lot about the resort that I found disappointing. The camp kitchen was terrible and the equipment poorly maintained, as was the case in both the laundry and ammenities block. Indeed, for a couple of days during my stay there was no water available across the site for hours at a time and no communication provided for visitors as to what was happening. I guess when you have a monopoly on services you can get away with pathetic service and conditions. Then of course there were the prices in the shop and the fuel price ($2.02 a litre for ULP). When I surveyed the shop my mouth dropped at the prices. It was $6.50 or $7.50 for a 1.25 litre bottle of coke and around $8.00 for a packet of Tim Tams. Everything was priced highly. It became a bit of a talking point around the tents each evening, with various plans for opening pop-up shops at the entrance of the park to sell various items at reduced prices.

I booked in and paid for 3 nights when I arrived and soon realised that I had made a mistake. Two nights would have been more than sufficient to do all that I had planned at Watarrka National Park – Kings Creek Walk, Kings Canyon Rim Walk and Kathleen Springs. So I planned to do one each day and then do some reading each afternoon. I also got to know a few people around camp which helped to pass the time also, which helped as I do like to get on with things and sitting around while travelling seems to be such a waste of time, especially when it took me so long to get to the Territory. I like to get to see as much as I can in the time I have available, so that extra night proved a very frustrating thing to me.

The distance travelled on this day was 320 km – giving me a total of 3445 km for the whole trip to this point.

When it got dark, once again, it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, and without the Internet, getting the photos ready to upload. Then it was off to bed for an early start the next morning, with the Kings Canyon Rim Walk before me.

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Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at:

Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 8 – Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory

It was a much later start today, with just some short walks to knock over before a fairly relaxing afternoon. Before I started the walks I stopped at the Uluru Sunset Viewing Area to collect a couple of shots of Uluru.

ABOVE: Uluru in the Early Morning

The first of the two walks for this morning was the Liru Walk. The Liru Walk connects Uluru with the Cultural Centre and can be walked from either location. I started at Uluru because it would also be the starting point for the Mala Walk, the second walk I would be doing this morning. The Liru Walk is a 4 km return walk which is flat and easy, making its way through the low woodland and wildflower covered region between the Rock and the Cultural Centre. It was a visual feast of wildflowers during my visit.

ABOVE & BELOW: Wildflowers of the Liru Walk

With the Liru Walk completed, I headed off to repeat the Mala Walk, which I had completed as part of the Uluru Base Walk 2 days before. I wanted to do the walk again because it was very crowded on the previous occasion and Uluru seemed much quieter at the moment and it indeed proved so. Still, there were some ‘yahoos’ about and I did mention something to someone about how all that spoiled the experience of the place. Little did I know at the time that the woman I mentioned that to was the mother of the teenagers carrying on like idiots and they were soon told to quieten down. I think all present were pleased with the result. I suspect the Mala Walk is probably the best part of the area around Uluru itself, with its natural beauty and its cultural importance also, it being an important location for the Aboriginal people.

ABOVE: Scenery from the Mala Walk   BELOW: Rock Art on the Mala Walk

ABOVE & BELOW: Kantju Gorge – Part of the Mala Walk

The distance travelled on this day was 43 km – giving me a total of 3125 km for the whole trip to this point.

When it got dark, once again, it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, checking in on social media, and editing and uploading photos. Then it was off to bed for an early start the next morning, with the trip over to Watarrka National Park and the Kings Canyon Resort.

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Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at:

Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 7 – Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory

ABOVE: Sunrise at Uluru

It was an early morning yet again as I prepared for a sunrise viewing of Uluru. This morning I was heading off to Talinguru Nyakunytjaku to catch the Uluru sunrise at either the Minymaku platform or the Watiku platform. When I arrived I was a little surprised by the number of people that turned up (not that I should have been really) and both platforms were soon packed like sardine cans. However, I soon found what I thought was a much better spot anyway, on the edge of one of the trails below the Watiku platform. Then I discovered that I had forgotten to put the battery for my camera in the camera after I had recharged my camera overnight. Thankfully the batteries were in my car so I was able to quickly correct the problem and return prior to sunrise. It wasn’t long though before other people decided I knew a thing or two about location and decided to relocate to my general position. Before long it was a case of people trying to push their way in front of me and generally bustle me – not that they got too far with that approach as I refused to give ground to them. It was actually beginning to become ‘unpleasant’ between some leading protagonists. In the end most of us got the shots we were after without the need to resort to overt rudeness.

ABOVE: Sunrise at Uluru   BELOW: Wildflowers at Walpa Gorge

With sunrise done, it was off for the drive to Kata Tjuta, or as they are also known, the Olgas. It’s about 50 to 60km from Talinguru Nyakunytjaku, but well worth the journey. Indeed, in my opinion Kata Tjuta is a far better experience than Uluru. But as I have said before, every location has something different to offer and I enjoyed every one I went to over my holiday.

ABOVE: Early Morning at Walpa Gorge

First stop at Kata Tjuta was Walpa Gorge, which is a fairly short walk overall and quickly completed. It is a 2.6 km return walk, in and out of Walpa Gorge as the name probably suggests. It was still quite cold when I arrived and still early in the morning. There were very dark shadows being cast over the gorge by the massive domes that are Kata Tjuta. On the walk however, the heat that was being radiated from the domes was quite noticeable, having obviously retained heat from the previous day. A beautiful spot and well worth the visit – though I was keen to get onto the next walk, which is my favourite at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The Valley of the Winds is truly a magnificent experience and walk. It is a 7.4 km challenging circuit walk that takes about 3 hours to complete. There are two lookouts along the trail – the Karu Lookout (after 1.1km) and the Karingana Lookout (after 2.7km). Both provide incredible views, yet it could be argued that the entire walk is one great vista. I enjoy almost every bushwalk I embark on, but there are some that really rank highly in my estimation. There is the Grand High Tops Walk in Warrumbungle National Park, especially if you are able to tie Bluff mountain and Mount Exmouth into it as well. Actually, the more I think about it the more walks I want to include in my ‘highly estimated’ walks, but the Valley of the Winds has to be up there as well. I would have to include Kings Canyon Rim Walk and Ormiston Gorge among those walks also now I guess. Those brilliant walks were yet to come on this holiday.

ABOVE: View from Karingana Lookout – Valley of the Winds

As breath-taking as the Valley of the Winds is, it would probably be a terrible place to be in the height of summer. It was late winter and already very hot. I did see a couple of people not really coping with the walk. I can just imagine how many people come to grief to some degree in the hotter months. I found the walk to be a very pleasant and comfortable one in itself, let alone with all that there was to experience while on it around about me.

ABOVE: Valley of the Winds Walk   BELOW: View from the Kata Tjuta Dune Viewing Area

After the Valley of the Winds it was a short drive to the Kata Tjuta Dune Viewing Area, which provides some spectacular views of Kata Tjuta and of Uluru in the distance. There is a short 600m walk up to the viewing platform – all very easy. A visit to Kata Tjuta should always include a visit here.

The day’s activities were all over fairly early in the afternoon for me, so it was back to camp to enjoy some quiet time and relaxation, get a bit of washing done and generally rest, read and the like.

The distance travelled on this day was 150 km – giving me a total of 3082 km for the whole trip to this point.

When it got dark, once again, it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, checking in on social media, and editing and uploading photos. Then it was off to bed for a later start the next morning, with just the Liru and Mala Walks on the agenda.

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Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at:

Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 6 – Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory

It was once again an early start, but this time it wasn’t because I had a lot of driving to do. In fact, it was a short drive from Yulara to Uluru this morning. So I was up at 6am and off quite ealy to get the day’s main activity under way – The Uluru Base Walk.

Once I arrived at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, it was a case of paying my $25.00 for a park pass, which gave me three days of consecutive entrance to the park. There is a ticket station there and when you have a pass, you can enter fairly quickly via the boom gate entrance while the ticket remains valid.

The Uluru Base Walk is a 10.6 km circuit walk that is generally started at the Mala Walk Carpark (which is also the starting point for the Uluru climb and Mala Walk). The walk is said to take 3.5 hours, which may or may not be close to the money as it really depends on your interest level in the walk. It can take less or a lot more, depending on your enthusiam for what you’re doing. It is really quite an easy walk as it is all flat. I imagine it would be more difficult if there were higher temperatures, like in the middle of summer for instance.

The Base Walk covers the same territory as several other walks that are interested in particular features around Uluru, incorporating the Mala Walk (which I returned to do as a separate walk on day 8) which heads into Kantju Gorge, the Lungkata Walk and the Kuniya Walk, which heads to Mutitjulu Waterhole.

ABOVE: Aboriginal Rock Art at Mutitjulu Cave   BELOW: Mutitjulu Waterhole

One of the things that really annoyed me early on were the tourists. Early on there probably weren’t that many, but as the morning went on more and more arrived. It wasn’t the number of tourists (though the Rock obviously draws a lot of people from not only Australia, but from around the world) it was the volume of the tourists. By volume, I mean the noise many of them created. They just couldn’t help themselves but had to be ‘yahooing’ all of the time, making as much noise as it seemed un-humanly possible to create, doing who knows what in order to create it.

ABOVE: A View of Uluru   BELOW: Wildflowers

ABOVE & BELOW: Wildflowers at Uluru

ABOVE & BELOW Wildflowers at Uluru

ABOVE: A View of Uluru

I was also amazed at how many people would walk great distances around the Rock without even looking at what they were walking around, seemingly only interested in talking with one another, completing the walk to move on to their next ‘accomplishment’ and the like. Right under their noses was a world of delight, with great open wild spaces of wildflowers and wildlife of all manner of varied descriptions to behold and be amazed at. The odd person (and perhaps we were odd) shared my fascination and joy at being in such a place. One woman described to me how she was brought nearly to tears by what she was able to see and experience in this place. But I fear we were the odd exception to this mass of disinterested humanity wandering about the place.

So there I was, wandering about the place enjoying my every experience and imbibing everything that I could with the little time that I would be there. Still, as great a place as this was and is, I knew that in my own opinion Kuta Tjuta always impressed me more and that was yet to come, plus new experiences in places I had never been before at Watarrka National Park and in the West Macdonnell National Park. Still, this was a very special place and for me, every wilderness location is impressive, having its own reason for being there and its own reason for being impressive. There is always some wonder to be had at whichever place you are currently visiting, if you only take the time to listen, to smell, to see, to touch (umm… maybe not taste).

ABOVE: Always Something to Experience in the Wild

I think I was out on this walk for at least 4 hours and possibly a little longer than that. It all went by fairly quickly and every bend of the walk brought something new. The highlights of the walk were of course Uluru itself, the wildflowers, Mutitjulu Waterhole and Kantju Gorge. However, there are plenty of other sites and objects to maintain one’s interest on the walk. There are various insects, birds and sometimes other forms of wildlife, some ‘minor’ landform associated with the Rock, some feature away from the Rock – a glimpse of Kata Tjuta even. It is just an amazing place that you feel priviliged for being able to be there, let alone being able to enjoy it on more than one occasion.

ABOVE: Kantju Gorge

The distance travelled on this day was 60 km – giving me a total of 2932 km for the whole trip to this point.

Once again it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, checking in on social media, and editing and uploading photos. Then it was off to bed for an early start the next morning, with the goal of Kata Tjuta set for the next day.

ABOVE: The Mala Walk

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