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Explore the Great Barrier Reef and Ayers Rock during my semester in Australia

My name is Elena. I decided to stay for one semester at UTS at the beautiful east coast of Australia and skip the cold and uncomfortable weather back in Germany.

And as weather is getting warmer here, I decided to travel a bit through Australia. Although Sydney is a beautiful and fast-living city, I wanted to get to know additional parts of Australian culture and nature. Therefore, I travelled to the Great Barrier Reef and to Uluru during the study vacation week and the weekend after.


These two destinations are probably the first things everyone is going to think about when imagining travelling to Australia. And as this is my first time on this continent, this was also the same for me.


Although my initial plan was to travel by train or car, I soon figured out that due to the limited time that I had and given the huge geographical area of Australia, plane will be the best option for me. Being first a bit sad about this – train would have definitely provided me with a beautiful landscape and a lot to see- I was comforted when flying over the awesome vast red desert of the Uluru area.


Great Barrier Reef and Ayers Rock


Comparing the Ayers Rock and Cairns (the gate to the Barrier Reef), the first thing to notice upon arrival is probably the difference of the airports. While Cairns has a bigger airport with different shops and cafes, the Ayers Rock airport is much smaller but offers a beautiful view across the desert area of the Northern Territory. And this impression will accompany you most likely throughout your whole stay. While Cairns is a more touristic city, the Ayers rock provides you with endless-seeming views of the desert.


While getting off the airplane at Cairns, I quickly noticed the tropical warm air and humidity. Although, temperature at the Ayers rock was also quite warm, due to the geographical location, weather is not as humid as in Queensland.


My experience of the Barrier Reef


I started my trip to the Barrier Reef with experiencing Cairns – the gate to the Barrier Reef. With the sea so close by this was a great experience and featured great food and nice cafes at the nearby Cairns Esplanade. I would definitely recommend going there


Although the Reef was the main reason why I travelled to this area, I also visited a lot of great destinations at and near Cairns. Some of my highlights were the walk through the world’s oldest rainforest: the Daintree Rainforest. This was a outstanding experience as I was able to see many animals and to be honest: I have never seen such large trees before!


Arriving at the Reef, I was able to do a snorkelling tour as well as visiting Green Island. As this island is located within the Green Island National Park, it was incredibly green and we saw a lot of animals as well on the land as also in the water (for example rays, reef sharks and turtles).


My activities at the Ayers Rock


In case you decide to visit the Ayers Rock, I first of all wish you a great time. It was a great experience for me, and I hope it will also be one for you!


During my short stay at the Ayers Rock, I did two walks through parts of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. At the first walk, we went to the Ayers Rock and learned about parts of the Dreamtime story. This was an awesome experience for me as it allowed me to see the Ayers Rock from close during sunset and to learn about the importance of this place. During the tour we also visited the Cultural Centre of the National Park and learned a bit more about parts of the culture and stories of the Aborigines. As I did not take the courses at UTS that teach you about the Aboriginal culture in Australia, I was really interested in getting to know different parts of their believes and traditions. At the place where I stayed near the Ayers Rock there was also the opportunity to take part in a dot painting workshop. An aboriginal woman taught us some traditional symbols which we used in the paintings later.


On the next day I did my second walk at Kata Tjuta. This walk started with a great sunrise view of Uluru. After that we did a one-hour walk through the rocky landscape of the national park. For me, these walks were a perfect opportunity to experience the national park.

Before you go to the Ayers Rock, I have one important advice for you: bring a fly net. This will be a huge help when you visit the area, especially in the middle of the day and the afternoon.


Travelling in Australia


While the Reef and the Ayers Rock are two famous examples of destinations within Australia, these are by far not the only locations that you can visit here. Sydney provides you with great opportunities to visit different beaches, parks, restaurants and so on. In my opinion, and as Australia is such a huge continent, it offers something interesting for everyone.


I hope that you will have a great time in Australia and visit a lot of exciting destinations


Elena Kristin Sell

Spring 2023 Study Abroad student from Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, Germany

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