Located right in the middle of The Outback Loop is Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre — Australia’s biggest lake and the world’s thirteenth largest when full to the brim.The usually dry lake system is a stunning spectacle at the best of times, but recent flood waters have meant the lake and the surrounding desert areas have undergone a dramatic transformation.
Water from tropical cyclone Trevor combined with the wet season rains in outback Queensland is flowing through a network of rivers, creeks and streams that currently has the lake more than a third full with levels expected to reach a peak next month — the highest since 1974. It is one of those once-in-a-lifetime events that everyone should see.
The whole outback area just comes alive. The floodplain that has already received water is bursting with life and has sparked a rare, vibrant greening of the desert attracting thousands of birds including Australian pelicans, gulls, sandpipers, terns, and more to an area that’s usually among the driest, most inhospitable places on earth.
Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre has been identified by BirdLife International as an ‘Important Bird Area’ because it acts as a significant breeding ground for many bird populations. Incredibly, small fish and crustaceans are usually found in Lake Eyre too and provide an important food source for the migratory birds.
Swimming in the Outback
The Outback Loop is a fairly harsh place with not many opportunities to don the bathers and dip a toe…after all, it is a desert region. However, there are pockets where natural springs provide relief to dusty, weary travellers. One such place exists in Witjira National Park, on the western edge of the Simpson Desert.
Dalhousie Springs is 180 kilometres north east of Oodnadatta and about 430 kilometres west of Birdsville. This tree-lined spring is a real desert oasis except the waters are made for soaking away tired muscles rather than cooling off after a long, hot day driving across the desert. Nonetheless, the waters are welcome as is evident by the large crowds that flock to camp, relax and unwind there in the winter months. The springs are sacred to the Lower Southern Arrernte and Wangkangurru Aboriginal people. In Arrernte, the name of the springs is Irrwanyere.
Whether you’re coming from, or entering the Simpson, Dalhousie Springs is on your way. Just about every desert traveller stops and camp overnight. Just remember, you’ll need a 4WD to get there and a SA Desert Parks Pass to camp or visit. Swimming isn’t the only thing of interest at Dalhousie Springs. There are also some excellent walking trails worth exploring. Points of interest can be found at Abminga, Eringa, Purnie Bore, Perdirka, and if time permits, Charlotte Waters just over the NT border.
The stars come out to shine in Arkaroola
Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is perhaps best known for its location in the spectacularly rugged northern Flinders Ranges and a ridgetop tour that leaves visitors with goosebumps from its breathtaking views. But not many people realise that Arkaroola also provides visitors with an opportunity to take an incredible tour of a different kind…one with views that are literally out of this world. And that’s because Arkaroola is home to one of Australia’s largest privately-owned astronomical observatory complexes that promises the type of intergalactic experience normally reserved for professional astronomers and scientists.
Guests will be fascinated to discover the heavens filled with galaxies, solar systems, suns, planets, nebulas, and billions of stars light years away…from the inside of the impressive Dodwell, Sir Mark Oliphant, and Reginald Sprigg Observatories, all of which house specialist astronomical telescopes. The Reginald Sprigg Observatory, in particular, provides visitors with access to three Star Chairs, each of which is fitted with powerful 20×80 astronomical binoculars.
Find out more about the Outback Loop
Download The Outback Loop PDF to find out more about the Outback Loop, and what to expect.
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