2019 marks your last chance to summit Oz's mighty red rock, Uluru
A climbing ban will ensure an Australian tribe retains the sanctity of what they regard as a sacred place
If summiting Uluru is on your bucket list, then you'd best get planning your trip: climbing the iconic red rock in Australia's Outback will be banned as of October 2019.
It should be noted, however, that if you're a respectful sort of traveller, you really shouldn't be doing that - even before the ban comes into effect.
For the Anangu people, the grouping of local Aboriginal tribes that are Uluru's traditional owners, the rock has long been a sacred site and they would have preferred that no one ever climbed it.But the government only gave control of the monolith, formerly known as Ayers Rock, back to the tribes in 1985, before which climbing the rock had been a long-held tourist tradition.
An access road was built in 1948, and the Ayers Rock National Park established in 1950. Under the terms of the 1985 handover agreement, the Anangu people leased Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to the Australian Parks and Wildlife Service for 99 years, on condition that the public would have ongoing access. Since 75% of visitors at the time climbed Uluru, the Anangu worried that preventing people from doing so would see tourism - the main income source for the local indigenous communities - dry up.
They did try to discourage people from climbing it, with signs asking visitors to respect the Anangu's wishes.
There was also a great effort made to ensure there was - and still is - a lot more to do at Uluru than just climbing it. There's a 10.6km base walk, which offers a chance to see Uluru from other angles, and a host of activities, from motorbike, helicopter and camel tours to dining on sand dunes, Aboriginal dot-painting workshops, and stargazing nights. Recent data shows that just 16.2% of visitors today climb Uluru.But now, for the indigenous communities, even that is too much.
The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park board voted unanimously last month to impose the climbing ban.
National Park Board chairman and senior traditional owner Sammy Wilson said the closure had been a long time coming. "It is an extremely important place, not a playground or theme park like Disneyland."
The delayed closure of the climb is the final compromise, in part to give tour operators time to amend their itineraries.
An official for Parks Australia, Miranda Schooneveldt, said the chosen date for bringing in the ban was also significant since it was on October 26 1985 that the government handed back the indigenous people's lands.