When planning for their great Central Australian Outback adventure, particularly to Uluru, most people have this grand idea of roughing it up in the wilds and somehow think that it can easily be done. Others seem to be challenged by the thought that getting a guided tour is wimpy or for softies.
Let’s take a look at what the differences are and, ultimately, it will help you to decide which one works for you.
If you’re exploring the Central Australian Outback on your own, for this example to Uluru and Kings Canyon, you need to consider a lot of factors when it comes to cost:
- Campground fees
- Park fees
- Food & Drinks/Water
- Incidentals like wear & tear of your car
Below is a sample cost calculation that includes all of the above factors, for a trip for 2 adults for 3 days/2 nights spent in campgrounds that are as closely similar to what the guided tours provide, and using Uluru’s distance from Alice Springs as base with a 6 cyl sedan as mode of transportation:
- Fuel $ 300.00 (return)
- Fuel $ 90.00 (return to and from Kings Canyon)
- Campground Fees $ 98.00 (Ayers Rock -powered)
- Campground Fees $ 76.00 (Kings Canyon – powered)
- Park Fees $ 50.00 (both National Parks)
- Food & Drinks $ 178.00 (including water)
- Car Rental $ 300.00
- Camping Gear $ 100.00
Total $ 1,192.00
Our regular 3 Day Camping Tour costs $425 per person and includes the following:
- Sparkling wine & snacks at the Uluru sunset
- Accredited, experienced tour guides
- Private and permanent campsites with kitchens, toilets & hot showers
- 4 person Safari tents both nights
- Quality swags if you choose to sleep under the stars
- Air conditioned mini-bus, fitted with seat belts
- Quality healthy meals and drinking water
- Uluru park entrance fee ($25pp)
- Pick up from Alice Springs accommodation, Ayers Rock Airport or Ayers Rock Resort (Outback Pioneer)
So a self-driven tour for 2 adults costs approximately $1,192.00 while a guided regular 3-day camping tour costs $850.00. A saving of $342.00, yes! What we haven’t factored into this calculation is the actual touring – when you self-drive you don’t get the information, the culture of the local people and the Dreamtime stories that accredited guides will tell you. You also will not know which are the best walks to do and at what times and you will do all your own cooking. Also to be taken into consideration is the driver’s exhaustion, driving for 4 to 5 hours between locations can be dangerous; in the Outback there is no support or phone coverage.
Many tourists get off planes in Alice Springs and jump straight into hire cars with little to no understanding of outback road conditions or distances; they have this fire burning inside and think that It can’t be that difficult. It is not that difficult, true, but it is not that easy either.
Australia is such a huge country (the Outback is a big chunk of it) and people often underestimate the driving distances anywhere in this country. Road rules are different too – vehicles travel on the left-hand side of the road, seatbelts are compulsory, and speed limits apply to all roads. Also, conditions can vary from sealed roads to gravel and dirt roads, and can be affected by weather.
Below are some of the factors that need to be understood before you decide to have a self-driven tour and tick that item off your bucket list:
- Fatigue kills. It is a five and a half hour drive from Alice Springs to Uluru and for those not familiar with how straight and seemingly safe the Australian Outback roads are, they tend to NOT stop and rest every two hours. And I guess, being excited contributes to this factor too, not realizing how tiring it is. The temperature is tricky too and can contribute to the driver’s exhaustion.
- Animals kill. Camels, wild horses, and cattle roam freely on the Lasseter Hwy. If you do not have a full understanding of how dangerous this can be, you tend to be complacent and might fail to slow down when you see them. Hitting cattle at night is the most common cause of tourist fatalities on the Lasseter Highway.
- Speed kills. When people see the open road it is easy to get deceived by how harmless it all seem and fail to slow down. The speed limit is 110km/h for a reason.
- Dangerous to drive at night. Kangaroos, cattle, and camels are active at night, and a collision with one could be fatal.
- Overtake only when you have a long, clear straight. People who are not familiar with or used to seeing a road train, tend to underestimate its length and fail to leave three times extra space before overtaking a road train. These are very long and can measure up to 55 metres long.
Our guided tours are run by accredited guides who truly know their way around the Australian Outback – they are very familiar with the terrain and are invested in ensuring that safety comes first and foremost in all aspects.
It is true that the internet provides information about anything under the sun – if you need to find out the names and characteristics of any of the flora and fauna that you see in the Outback or any of the unique creatures that you encounter, you can certainly search these online and get the answers, but what happens when you don’t have internet? You see, the true Australian Outback is as outback as it can get. Meaning, you won’t get data or cellular signal, for that matter, for hundreds of kilometres. How can your outback adventure be completed without finding out and understanding what you’re seeing?
Our guides talk about the flora, fauna and unique creatures in the Outback during the drive because they truly know these and understand how they co-exist and survive in the harsh conditions. All you need to do is sit back and listen to the guides as they regale you with stories about these living things, creatures and the landmarks along the way too.
Safety and Security
So you’re all set for your great Central Australian Outback adventure and you’ve pretty much-prepared everything you think you’ll need. I’m sure this entailed a lot of reading and research, and extensive planning and preparation. The Australian Outback beckons and all seem well… but unexpected things can happen. A wrong turn. A sprained ankle. A snake bite.
Our guides are trained and certified First Aid providers and, most importantly, their familiarity with the terrain prevents any untoward incidents or accidents.
Cultural Sensitivity & Awareness
In the rush of excitement to visit the best sights, people sometimes forget to acknowledge their sanctity and this is very true in Central Australia where most of the top tourist sights are anchored in ancient Aboriginal cultures. You don’t need to brush up on all the complex politics of post-colonial Australia before you head Down Under, but you do need to try to understand how things work to be both sensitive and courteous, and ultimately, you will have a richer and more memorable experience of this ancient and spiritual country.
Our tour guides provide insights on the cultural significance of the sights all throughout the guided tours and will share simplified versions of the stories that the Aboriginal people have shared.
Then there’s the matter of being aware of privacy and its importance to Indigenous Australians as a basic ethical travel requirement, and understanding issues around privacy demonstrate respect for their culture.
Our tour guides are very well versed about which areas are considered private and will ensure that these are respected while providing information about the area and its significance.
Visiting the Central Australian Outback is on most people’s bucket list, and for good reason. The area is not simply a sight to see, it is an experience that will surely become part of who you are, and something that you will definitely reminisce about again and again. So think hard before visiting and plan extensively, weigh your options and make your decision according to not only what’s best for you but for what you can take away from the experience and not have regrets.
There you go. How much easier and more enjoyable will it be to have a guided tour where you can just sit back and see the sights, and experience its beauty and mystery, without having to worry about anything? Why endure the wheel when you can leave the tedious driving and navigating to certified and trusted professionals?