Driving across the baking, endlessly flat volcanic plains, a tinge of orange simmers on the horizon. This sea of orange sand slowly grows in height while passing the odd stunted and lonely acacia tree; they are all that remains from what was once desert woodland. On the fringes where the plains meet the dunes, auberge after auberge begin to appear in a surprising show of civilization surviving in these harsh conditions. And beyond this is the shoreline for a mighty ocean of sand that continues as far as the eye can see; welcome to the Sahara.
The Simpson Desert National Park, now referred to by its traditional Aboriginal name Munga-Thirri National Park, is Queensland’s largest reserve at 1 million hectares. However, this park covers only one part of the greater Simpson Desert which crosses over the South Australian and Northern Territory borders to cover more than 17 million hectares of Central Australia.
The Birdsville Track is one of Australia’s most iconic outback tracks. Starting in Marree, South Australia, this 517km historic cattle route transverses the Tirari and Sturt Stony Deserts, ending in Birdsville, Queensland. Traveling along, the scenery seems to never change until you realise abruptly that it has; from stoney plains, to white, elongated dunes to yellow, sandy swales there is incredible diversity if you only just pay attention. This is some of the most arid terrain in the country where the landscape seems inhospitable to most, but surprisingly this region provides prime fodder for the organic beef industry. The rich abundance of mineral salts in the scrub vegetation gives cattle a complete diet without the need for supplements, so unfortunately even the driest of deserts isn’t spared the affects of cattle grazing!
The Northern Territory boasts a diverse and culturally rich landscape with two World Heritage Sites; Uluru-KataTjuta and Kakadu National Parks. The striking monolith Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock, has also become an iconic landmark for international visitors seeking a true outback experience. The best thing about the territory though is the places people can’t easily go. Arnhem Land, in particular, remains a truly remote experience with indigenous cultural practices still intact. For more information on the conservation values of this amazing place visit here.
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