The newest member of the Epic team, Leigh Squire, just returned from a 3 day/2 night journey to Longitude 131° in the Red Centre. Here are her impressions of the experience:
What I Remember Most – Leigh’s Top 5 Takeaways:
1. The sheer beauty, magic and solitude of Uluru. Seeing the rock for the first time and the amazing contrast of colours – the rich red of the earth, the striking cerulean sky, the patches of verdant green vegetation emerging in such a harsh and desolate environment. The desert oaks, bloodwood and twisted mulgas. The sound of the desert wind rustling through the spinifex grass. Dining beneath the stars at Table 131°. Waking up in the middle of the night, opening my eyes and seeing blanket of stars over the shadow of the rock – like diamonds scattered on a sheet of black velvet. Walking on the sacred ground of the Anangu people, and appreciating the hushed silence of respect.
2. The incredible staff at Longitude 131°. From the moment we stepped off the plane and were invited to our “home” for the weekend, we felt incredibly special. Service was refined yet relaxed. The genuinely enthusiastic staff were eager to share their knowledge about this special place and ensured that we enjoyed every moment of our stay. Each staff member personally introduced themselves to us and remembered our names our entire stay. Baillie Lodges has secured a team of passionate hospitality professionals and it is obvious that they love what they do. Very refreshing to see.
3. The cuisine. I was constantly asking myself, “How do they DO this out in the middle of nowhere?” From the perfectly presented sunset canapes to the gorgeous offerings of Australian meats, seafood and produce accented with indigenous flavours, the cuisine at Longitude 131° was world-class. Portion sizes were perfect, and the wine pairings were superb.
4. The exclusive touring. Rather than being sardined on a bus with hordes of tourists, the organized signature shared touring at Longitude 131° is small group based (approx. 12 guests), with the option to book private touring if you wish. Scheduled touring takes place at just after sunrise for a few hours, then returns you to the lodge for a gourmet lunch to avoid the midday heat. Just before sunset, touring continues. Signature touring experiences include sunset canapes at Uluru, a guided trek of Walpa Gorge including the natural history of Kata Tjuta, a walk through Kantju Gorge, Mutitjulu meander and visit to the Cultural Centre, and Yulara Town Centre. Although touring is arranged for you, it is not required. The staff at Longitude 131° is happy custom-tailor private touring or provide some down time to just relax and take in the scenery from your luxury tent.
5. The view from above. For a bird’s eye view of Kata Tjuta and Uluru, my husband and I opted to add a 30 minute scenic flight to our touring with Professional Helicopter Services. Two words: Must do. The staff at Longitude 131° will be happy to arrange this during your stay and the helicopter is based right on property. Make the added investment of $300 per person to do this. You will not be sorry. The view provides such a great scope on the vastness of the 311,000 acres of the National Park below, and you can see where the inspiration for Aboriginal dot paintings came from. If you are staying longer than 2 days, do the Kings Canyon Air Safari or Mt Conner experience for a different perspective.
Why should I include Longitude 131° on my trip to Australia?
To gain greater insight on the cultural heart of Australia. To learn about stories of ancient creation and to explore the stunning flora and fauna which lives in this splendidly isolated land. I would recommend a minimum of 2 nights here, and if you are heading to another destination from Uluru, don’t schedule early touring the next day as scheduled touring at Longitude 131° is at sunrise. It will take a while for you to absorb what you just experienced. It really is sensory overload.
Who should go?
Couples or small groups of family and friends with an adventurous spirit. Longitude 131° welcomes children over eight years of age, and we saw two very well behaved children during our visit. Because it is such a serene place to explore, this lodge is just not suitable for the little ones. Signature touring includes gentle walks – so no extreme fitness levels are required. It should also be noted that the signature touring is conducted in English, although the guides try their best to ensure all guests understand what is being discussed.
Who should not go/bad times to go?
Although Longitude 131° is open year round, the best time of the year to visit is in the Australian spring or autumn. During the summer months (Dec – Feb), the daytime heat can be extreme although tents do have air conditioning. Most of the wildlife is hiding to keep cool, and there is also the risk of being covered in pesky bush flies during your visit. I would not recommend Longitude 131° for anyone that has an aversion to heat or extreme allergies to dust or sand as it blows on occasion. I would also not recommend the lodge for anyone who is mobility impaired as there is a lot of walking involved on sometimes unstable ground and one must take steps up to access the luxury tented accommodation as well as the main Dune House. It should be mentioned that not-so-early risers may BECOME early risers because if you don’t get up early, you will miss the best part of the day. Longitude 131° is incredibly relaxing but it isn’t necessarily a place you want to visit just to lounge around and do nothing. Leave that for another destination.
What should I pack?
A sense of adventure and a desire to learn about a unique culture. Days are sunny and hot and nights can be crisp and cool. Most definitely pack comfortable walking shoes (runners or light hiking boots) which you don’t mind staining red (you wait and see!), closed toed shoes for the walk to sunset canapes and Table 131 (sand gets kicked up in sandals), a broad-brimmed hat for sun protection, sunscreen, clothing which you would use on safari (long sleeved shirt and lightweight pants), a swim suit/bathers for a dip in the pool and of course a camera. The lodge is very casual, so no coats and ties at dinner – resort casual is fine, which reflects the easy-going nature of the outback.
Chances are, you will get to the Red Centre ONCE in your life. I have had the pleasure of experiencing both Sails in the Desert and Longitude 131°. Both properties serve their own purpose. If you are in search of an exclusive unique property in an extraordinary location with phenomenal service and cuisine, book Longitude 131°. If you wish to experience Uluru in a more mainstream manner, go with Sails in the Desert. Whatever you choose, enjoy every moment of your visit to this living cultural landscape – it is simply magical.