What gives Uluru its red colour?

What gives Uluru its red colour?

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 05/13/2019

Reading time: 3 mins

For over 30,000 years the sacred site of Uluru and its surroundings have been populated by Indigenous Australians.

The Anangu people are direct descendants from their ancestral beings who they believe created the Earth in the beginning. They dedicate themselves to conserving Uluru and protecting the land.

History of Uluru

In 1873, European settlers venture into the area, and Sir William Gosse comes across the large rock formation which he then named Ayers Rock. In 1950 the area gained its National Park status. Then, in 1987, UNESCO added Uluru to its World Heritage List. Nowadays, the Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park is jointly managed by the traditional owners of the land; the Anangu people and the Parks Australia.

Its bright red colour

Uluru wasn’t always red; in fact its original colouring was grey. Over 550 million years ago, the rocks began to form and the erosion gave birth to the giant red monolith we see today. However, if you take a journey inside the many caves, you’ll find that the inside of the surface still retains its natural colouring. For thousands of years Ulurus surface has been exposed to the water and oxygen in the air. This exposure has slowly decayed the minerals in the rock, causing them to oxidise. The result of this has been that the iron minerals found inside the arkose surface is rusting which ultimately led to its red colour.

You may have heard that Uluru changes colours through the day. While this does happen, it has nothing to do with the mineral makeup of the rock. As the sun moves through the sky, its rays reflect onto the rock from changing angles. The rays bounce up from the ground and onto the rock, giving the illusion it is changing colour.

Why is it sacred?

The Uluru- Kata Tjuta national park is extremely significant to the Anangu people. In the park alone, there are over 40 sacred Indigenous sites. Some of these sites are not open for visitors, or cannot be photographed. Please follow signpost directions.

The sacredness of Uluru and surrounds are also in part because of the powerful ancestral spirits which the Anangu people believe reside here. For all those who do choose to visit the Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park, you can sit down with the traditional owners of the land and listen to their stories, which are an integral part of the history and culture of Australia.

How to get there

From many cities in Australia you can fly directly into Yulara by way of the Ayers Rock Airport. The best way to see Uluru is by driving. The scenery is breathtakingly dramatic. Rental cars can be expensive, so booking onto a multiday tour is a popular choice. Plus, this means you can sit back and enjoy all the beautiful passing scenery.

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.