The Natural and Cultural Wonder of the Devils Marbles

If you’re driving from Darwin and Alice Springs, you’re likely to stumble across a geographical wonder.

Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles are one of the most eye-popping sights in the area. These huge granite boulders jut upwards from the dusty red landscape. They pepper the Devils Marble Conservation Reserve, which sprawls out for 100 kilometres to the south of Tennant Creek. Each formation is unique in its own way, with their sizes ranging from 50cm to 6m tall.

The most awe-inspiring thing about the boulders is the way they are precariously balanced on top of each other, seemingly defying gravity. Over time, water has eroded at the sandstone, smoothing and curving their surface to create these fascinating formations. They are an example of the ever-changing landscape the Northern Territory is known for.

Cultural Significance

The Marbles are on the traditional land of the Warumungu, Kaytetye, Alyawarra, and Warlpiri peoples. The Indigenous name for the boulders is Karlu Karlu. The rough translation of the name is ‘round boulders.’

Karlu Karlu are of great importance to the Aboriginal people in the area and are a Registered Sacred Site. There are many Dreaming stories that elders share with new generations about Karlu Karlu. However, they are sacred and not appropriate to share with the uninitiated.

Local elders choose to share the story of the ancestral being Arrange with the public. He was a Devil Man who travelled through the area. He made a hair-strong belt as he walked, but as he twisted hairs into strings, he dropped some to the ground. Today the boulders at Karlu Karlu are the remnants of the hairballs.

Walks at the Devils Marbles

Though there are no significant walking trails in the area, there are plenty of crisscrossing trails you can meander along to catch a glimpse of the Marbles. As you wander the network of tracks will take you through the eastern side of the reserve. Here you can learn more about the culture and history of Karlu Karlu. While you walk, try to spot native flora and fauna. Many of the animal and plant species are part of local Indigenous culture and beliefs.

During May and October, the reserve opens itself up to live events which form part of the Territory Parks Alive Program. At this time, visitors can experience locally run performances, art shows, dances, and music concerts. The Marbles provide a beautiful background for these performances, where you are encouraged to learn more about Aboriginal culture.

The area is perfect for getting to know about these unusual rock formations and the desert landscape in Australia. Discover more about the rich cultural heritage that’s imbued in the region.

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