The Kangaroo Sanctuary

One of the classic Australian activities to do is to visit a kangaroo sanctuary. The one here in Alice Springs is world famous, and that’s likely for two reasons. One is Roger, the infamously strong kangaroo, and the other is the BBC documentary about the sanctuary.

The Kangaroo Sanctuary offers sunset tours of the sanctuary, usually led by Brolga, the founder. You have to book in advance, and then you take a bus out to the sanctuary. On the bus there’s a video about the sanctuary, and it also goes over dos and don’ts.

Then when you arrive, Brolga greets you, and leads you on a tour of the sanctuary.


This is Brolga. He rescues baby kangaroos who have been orphaned (usually because a car kills their mom). He created an kangaroo sanctuary to house the orphaned kangaroos to prevent them from being sent to a zoo.


This little gal is about 3 months old. She still needs to be carried most of the time. The pillowcase creates a “pouch” for her, where she spends most of her days.


The males are kept in a separate enclosure. Most of the females are aunts and sisters to the males, and he wants to prevent inbreeding.


This guy is about two. Usually there is one alpha male who has multiple female kangaroos who he mates with. The alpha male stays with the females for about a year, constantly having to defend his “claim” to the females. After a year, he’s usually pretty beaten up, and another alpha takes over. The males (usually the young), eventually get chased off by the alpha, and they band together for protection. Dingoes are their primary adversary.


This is Roger. He was alpha for about 10 years. His son, Monte, recently battled with Roger, and won.


This is Monte.


Brolga has been “mom” to these kangaroos, and when they are still young, he’s able to pick them up and carry them around.


Outside of the male enclosure, the females can wander around. There will usually be a male who is allowed outside to mate.  In this case, she seems uninterested.


The females don’t fight and live peacefully together.


These two are apparently best buds. The one who is lying down is apparently slightly disabled (has trouble hopping), so the other kangaroo is often with her, just hanging out. Right now she’s up, alert and on duty b/c of all of the people (potential threats).





John Hayes Rockhole

Last November 2016, we decided to visit a new place – John Hayes Rockhole. We hadn’t been before because it requires a 4×4, and we didn’t have one.  BUT, we had friends who did – so we planned a trip out there!

It’s just a little more than an hour away from Alice Springs, so it’s a great day trip. There’s also a camp ground out there, so if you want to make a weekend of it, you can, and it’d probably be a lot of fun.

You head south out of Alice Springs, make the first left onto the Ross River Highway, and then you continue on until the turnoff for Trephina Gorge, another favorite of mine.

Then you proceed for about 4km down a bumpy road. The sign says it’s for high clearance vehicles only (although, if you go slow, most vehicles will be able to make it. It’s bumpy and a little rocky, but the rocks aren’t too high).

Once you park up, you have a couple of options. There’s a nice 90 minute walk that takes you up and over and then through the chain of ponds (the hike’s namesake). If you’re not up for the walk, you can do the short walk into the rockhole. As long as it hasn’t been too dry, there’s usually water in there. For the trekkers and campers, you can hike the Ridge Walk to Trephina Gorge, which the sign says takes 6.5 hours. Make sure you bring water – I don’t think there’s much shade!

We decided that we’d go to the rockhole first. There was indeed water in the rockhole, and after climbing around for a bit, we decided to climb the rocks up to the trail. This is not an endorsement of our climb, since there’s a marked trail that actually takes you up to the top, but it seemed like a fun option at the time.

Since we went backwards, we walked though the chain of ponds first.

And then you steadily climb to the top of the ridge. The views were great!


The view from the top, looking down into the valley from where we started

And, at the end of the walk we almost ran into a perentie!

What a fun day!

You can find more information about the park here, on the NT gov website:

Rainbow Valley

6 September 2017

At the beginning of November 2016, we went to Rainbow Valley. Rainbow Valley is just over 100km outside of Alice Springs. Most cars will be able to make the journey, but it’ll be a bumpy ride, taking about an hour and a half to get there. If it’s been raining, then you’ll want to check on road conditions before heading out there.


Rainbow Valley, which is inside the Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve, is known for its sandstone cliffs. It’s an absolutely beautiful spot, and well worth the drive. We camped, which I highly recommend. Although the drive back isn’t that long, it’s worth it to stay and see the sun set against the cliffs, to watch the sandstone turn different shades of orange and red. If you’re really into photography, you’ll get some amazing photos of the stars (and/or the moon) against the formation as well.

The drive out there is pretty interesting, because as soon as you turn off of the Stuart Highway, the dirt is bright red. And then, when you get those first glimpses of the sandstone, you’re instantly in awe of the place.

We arrived at the site just after 4pm. After setting up the tents, we started on dinner prep. The campsite itself is pretty basic. There are pit toilets, a picnic area with gas barbecues and even fire pits. Before you get to the reserve, you’ll want to gather your firewood. There’s plenty of dead trees, so we didn’t have any problems collecting wood for the night.


You can do a little walk around the claypan, which is the area around the sandstone. After it’s rained, the claypan fills with water, and the photos people have taken of the place are beautiful. The walk is short, about a kilometer long.

There’s also a sign posted that informs you of the fact that it is a weed free area (so check your shoes and tents for any errant seeds before you go out there). Because there are no weeds, there is different flora in the area than anywhere else in the Northern Territory.

For dinner, we brought vegetarian Indian food that is sealed in foil packages. You submerge them in water to heat up the food, and in a couple of minutes, you have a piping hot Indian meal. It’s pretty awesome.

I played with my camera settings that night, and tried to get some night sky shots. A friend who really knows his stuff was there, and he was helping me a bit.

The next morning we did the walk out to Mushroom Rock. It’s hot in November, but the walk is about a kilometer, so it won’t take you that long. And, the other rock formations are stunning. 

The wind carved out these rocks, giving them these unique shapes.

It was a fun weekend camping in a new spots with good friends!

If you want to know more about the reserve, this is a pretty good, informative website: Travel Outback Australia.

Palm Valley

14 August 2017

One of my favorite spots to camp is Palm Valley. I was just there again this past weekend, and my happy memories of the place were renewed. It takes about 2.5 hours to get there, although the times can vary widely, depending on the last 18 km. The first hour and a half of the trip is on Larapinta Dr, a paved road that will take you all the way to Hermannsburg, which is about 130 km west of Alice Springs. Hermannsburg is the last place to get fuel, so it’s worth filling up if you have a small fuel tank. The one gas station in Hermannsburg also has limited hours, so it’s best to fill up if you think you might need fuel.

Also, if you’re hoping to stretch your legs out a little, the town of Hermannsburg has a museum, a cafe and a gift store. It’s absolutely worth a visit. Here is some more information.

Back on the road, less than 2 km west of Hermannsburg is the turnoff for Palm Valley. It’s the second left, after the turn off for the dump. There will be a sign shortly after you turn off, warning you that the road is for 4WD vehicles only. From here, the path is fairly clear, but the terrain can vary. From the sand to the boulders, you’ll want to take your time. The first time we went was October 2016. It had been a while since it had rained, but throughout the winter and into spring, we’d had a bit of rainfall.

For the first approximately 15km, you’re able to collect firewood, but that ceases to be true once you enter into the Finke Gorge National Park. There’s plenty of dead wood to pick up along the way, so don’t feel like you need to stop at the first sight of wood.

The drive to the campsite is pretty fun, but then the campsite itself it what makes it all worth it. It’s beautiful and serene, and we got lucky – there was water in the river. There are a number of campsites available, and there are actual facilities at the campsite – fire pits, grills, toilets and even showers. Here’s the official website for the campsite.

That evening, we had a feast of veggie Indian meals, chips and salsa, fruit and veggies. All the food was cooked in the glow of the setting sun. And once the sun was down, we used our newly acquired wood to get a nice fire going in the fire pit. By then the birds has quieted down, but every once in a while we’d hear the howls of dingoes.

The next day we went to the Palm Valley hike. It’s 4 km away, but because of the rough terrain, the rangers say to allow 45 minutes to get there. For us, it took about 20 minutes.

Palm Valley is a place not to be missed because of the Red Cabbage Palm Trees. You don’t expect to see palm trees in the middle of the desert, and yet here they are. And they have been here for thousands of years.


The day started cloudy, which we were grateful for because we knew as soon as the sun emerged, it would be hot. Hiking in October can be risky! We started hiking just before 0900, but in a short period of time, the clouds would dissipate, and it would indeed get quite warm. The hike is about 2 hours, but once you climb through the valley, and up onto the ridge, there is no shade. Make sure you bring plenty of water and a hat!