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It is a new dawn at Voyages Ayers Rock Resort with the unveiling of the newly refurbished five-star Sails in the Desert and a number of new indigenous adventures families will love.

WORDS Hilary Doling

The children sit with their parents and grandparents around the table, heads bent intent on their artwork. They are learning the art of dot painting from the best. Lydia Angus from the local Anangu tribe and her granddaughter Beryl squat in the red dirt and share the secret of their art. Like the song lines, the art is all about personal stories; about journeys and precious moments set out in painted patterns. We are all asked to create a dot-story of our own and then share it.

This is the story of my painting and my journey to Australia’s heart.

Indigenous art is always painted as if from the air, so it is fitting that the first sight of Uluru from our plane window takes my breath away. My son once said that Uluru looks like a 'blob of melting chocolate ice cream on a giant plate'; I think it is more the colour of orange sorbet. In my room at the newly refurbished Sails in the Desert the carpet under my feet reminds me of that aerial view; called Parched Earth it is inspired by the work of one of Australia’s greatest landscape artists, Fred Williams, and is a representation of the desert from the air. The new hotel interiors have a real spirit of place, even the design of the cushion on my bed is based on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara

Yankunytjatjara (Seven Sisters). I step out onto my balcony and look down at the pool, a rare spot of azure in the red desert, and I swear I hear the haunting sound of a didgeridoo somewhere in the distance.

Main image: Uluru is spectacular, especially at sunset
Above: learning about rock art

"Seeing their own country's red heart should be on every Australian family's bucket list"

We stand on a private sand dune gazing at the ever changing colours of Uluru as it blazes bronze in the setting sun. In one hand I have a glass of champagne, in the other a delicate and delicious canapé - does life get any better than this? Tali Wiri is a very luxurious way to dine in the desert. The light fades and above the stars are a dot-painting in the sky as we are served an impressively gourmet four-course meal cooked on site by chefs using only headlamps to guide their hands and served with matching wines. After the meal, cognac and port accompany star-gazing and tales around the camp fire. The food and the setting are very definitely five star with only 20 guests per night, adults only. If you do want to take children the Sounds of Silence dinner is an alternative for those over 10. Tables are larger and there is buffet-style eating but the experience is still magical.

The ultimate stargazing experience for families is back at Ayers Rock Resort; the Family Astro Tour which departs from Town Square 30 minutes after sunset teaches children about the past, present and future of the universe. There's an opportunity to explore the sky with the help of iPads (always popular), binoculars and high-tech telescopes. Through the telescope's strong lens we journey to the edge of the solar system and beyond. As we lie back on the thoughtfully provided sun-loungers (which we re-christened 'moon-loungers') the night sky is spread out like an inky black blanket above us.



From above: Up-close and personal with the transport on the Camel Express.


They call it the Camel Express, but our mount, lazy little Trevor, is in no hurry. He's seen the stunning backdrop of Uluru and Kata Tjuta before and is unimpressed. Luckily he has magnificent Murphy bringing up the rear to help him long. Murphy has walked all the way from WA to Uluru so not even batting his very long camel eyelashes will save Trevor from a bit of hard work. Back at the farm, kids learn about the camel history of the outback and feed baby camel Kelly mouthfuls of straw. Seeing their own county's red heart should be on every Australian family's bucket list. For me the ancient, rounded rocks of Kata Tjuta, like giant bronze bee hives, are almost more impressive but Uluru gets most children's vote, particularly when seen astride a cud-chewing camel or from the back of a Harley Davidson.

Early one morning we head out with our guide Artie to learn how to fend for ourselves in the bush. Five minutes after we've left the van all of us (except Artie) are hopelessly disoriented, lost among the red dirt and acacia tree. It is clear we have much to learn. Under Artie's tutelage we discover how to avoid bull ants and find fat witchetty grubs, sweet honey ants, native bush toffee and what bush plums taste like. Kids will love the tasting session at the end of the walk and the fact that Artie teaches them how to throw a native spear.

Indigenous experiences are all around you at the new Voyages Ayers Rock Resort. There are carving demonstrations and weaving or art markets and best of all, in the circle of sand near the Town Square storytellers spin Aboriginal bush yarns daily. While kids will soon be persuaded to try out their own 'kangaroo' and 'emu' moves with the Wakagetti dancers who perform in the late afternoons.

At the end of our painting session Beryl and her grandmother have created artworks as rich and red as the desert. My creation is less impressive. I wander over to the open air Maruku art market and mistakenly leave my painting behind on the counter. Five hours later it is still sitting there. No takers for my creation apparently, but I guarantee my journey is something you will want to share.


Stay: ayers rock Resort 

 Uluru Camel Tours
 See it Outback Australia
 Uluruc Cycles

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