Know before you go: Simpson Desert

Know before you go: Simpson Desert

The Simp­son is one of the few real out­back 4WD expe­ri­ences left in Aus­tralia – but make sure you’re prepared.

The Simp­son Desert is often called the Holy Grail of four-wheel dri­ving in South Australia.

More than 1200 kilo­me­tres from Ade­laide, it lies at the bor­der of SA, the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry and Queens­land, and cov­ers more than 170,000 square kilometres.

In SA it is locat­ed with­in Munga-Thirri – Simp­son Desert Nation­al Park and the east­ern sec­tion of Witji­ra Nation­al Park.

With its mas­sive par­al­lel dunes that can stretch for up to 200 km, daz­zling salt pans, huge open spaces and a clear view of the Milky Way when the sun goes down, the desert is stun­ning by day and night.

It also has a rich Abo­rig­i­nal her­itage and is home to the Wangkan­gur­ru people.

Despite its dry appear­ance, the Simp­son has a sur­pris­ing array of wildlife, includ­ing rep­tiles such as the sand goan­na and cen­tral beard­ed drag­on, mam­mals like the fat-tailed dun­nart and ampur­ta, and even din­goes. There are also fer­al pests such as camels and foxes.

After rain, it becomes a birdwatcher’s par­adise, with 195 species of birds record­ed there, from zebra finch­es to wedge-tailed eagles. Even water birds can con­gre­gate around sea­son­al water­holes and the tem­po­rary lakes that appear on the salt pans.

A good down­pour also means that the desert can be swift­ly cov­ered in wild­flow­ers such as poached egg daisies and fleshy ground­sel, which has a vibrant yel­low daisy-like bloom.

The con­ser­va­tion park is also home to a series of frag­ile gyp­sum out­crops known as the Approdin­na Atto­ra Knolls. They are of great spir­i­tu­al sig­nif­i­cance to the local Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple, as well as being geo­log­i­cal­ly important.

The ide­al time to vis­it the Simp­son is from May to Octo­ber, when tem­per­a­tures are low­er. For safe­ty rea­sons, both the con­ser­va­tion park and region­al reserve are closed from 1 Decem­ber to 15 March, when tem­per­a­tures can soar past 50 degrees Celsius.

Access to the Simp­son and Witji­ra is only per­mit­ted by pur­chas­ing a year­ly Desert Parks Pass per vehi­cle, which includes entry and camp­ing, as well as maps, park infor­ma­tion and a safe­ty handbook.

Tracks are only suit­able for high-clear­ance four-wheel dri­ve vehi­cles, and it is prefer­able to go with at least one oth­er car and car­ry a CB radio set to Chan­nel 10, plus a satel­lite phone or high-fre­quen­cy (HR) radio and an Emer­gency Posi­tion Indi­cat­ing Radio Bea­con (EPIRB) in case of emergency.

All vehi­cles enter­ing the park must also attach 2.9 metre flu­o­res­cent sand flags to improve visibility.

If you would rather have an expert guide on your desert odyssey, a num­ber of com­mer­cial oper­a­tors run Simp­son tours, from chauf­feured safaris to tag-along tours that allow you to dri­ve yourself.

Get up-to-date infor­ma­tion and check theNation­al Parks South Aus­tralia web­sitebefore you go.

This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living