Lands contain spectacular coastal scenery with large dunes, fringing
reefs and few obvious signs of human presence.
Yalata Aboriginal Lands (The Lands) are recognised by the National
Wilderness Inventory as an area of important biodiversity. This
is due to the naturalness of the area and indications that little
damage and development has occurred over this 458,000 hectare area.
Evidence has shown that natural ecological processes are continuing
to occur on this land. The soils on which much of this system stands
are fragile and lie in shallow layers therefore some areas have
been zoned as no access areas and are maintained as environment
conservation zones. The high quality of this wilderness area is
of national significance. This is complimented by the fact that
The Lands are bordered on soil and sea by neighbouring areas under
state legislative protection.
by E.Alfred Delisser after the Latin term meaning "no tree" but
this is not the case. The Lands are part of a significant expanse
of 3,000,000 hectares of mallee vegetation from Eyre Peninsula across
to Western Australia. With a strong history of clearing in South
Australia this is now the largest and least modified area of mallee
vegetation in the state. Its significance stems from its ability
to meet the specialised habitat requirements for many species of
birds, insects and other wildlife and its role as an important seed
bank for future planting.
Nullarbor Plain stretches for approximately 72 km from South Australia
to Western Australia, extending inland from the Great Australian
Bight for approximately 400km. Rain falls of 250-300mm annually
fall on the plain, this and any other water that travels onto this
almost flat surface, seeps through the Nullarbor Limestone, influencing
the famous tunnel and cave systems below.
at the edge of the Australian continent, west of the Head of the
Bight, rise the majestic Bunda Cliffs. These ancient cliffs extending
for 200km to Wilson Bluff, range in height from 40-70 metres above
sea level. Millions of years ago the combination of changing sea
levels and the uplift of the Nullarbor Plain culminated in the creation
of these cliffs. The cliff front also stretches to the east of the
Bight but now lies deep under the sand of the present dune system.
far west coast exhibits a series of the most beautiful, wind shaped dune fields in Australia.
as white streaks on the horizon, these coastal dunes occur through
the dynamic processes of nature. The dune sand is derived from shell
and rock material broken down over millions of years. This material
is washed up on the shire where it dries before being carried on
the wind to the waiting dunes. The height and expanse of these dune
fields is largely due to the stabilising effect of the existing
vegetation. These plants have the specialised role of colonising
the dunes and securing the drifting sand, they have the mechanisms
to tolerate salt spray, head and the limited nutrients available
in this environment. Damage to dune vegetation influences and interrupts
the physical nature of the system.
winds, waves and currents that feed the dunes vary in strength with
the season. Just as beaches change in shape and depth from summer
to winter, so does the dune surface. Beaches and sand bars protect
the dunes and in turn the dunes shelter the land beyond, together
they create a series of buffers against the impact of this coasts
high energy waves.
complexity of the system is apparent when you stand a the Head of
the Bight and look from east to west. The design of a coastline
depends largely on the types of waves and currents which are present.
Here there are different systems at work, to the west cliffs are
slowly eroding, while to the east a network of dunes is being constructed.
Head of Bight
recent years the cliff top whale watching opportunities at the Head
of Bight and within The Lands have become recognised as the best
and most reliable such opportunities in Australia. During the whale
watching season which occurs from June to October, over 15,000 visitors
experience the unique environment of the Great Australian Bight
The Head of Bight whale watching site along with the Bunda Cliffs,
which tune to The Lands western boundary, are separated from the
public beach area to the SE by Yalata swamp and dune system. The
area is of cultural significance to Anangu and Wirangu people and
other Aboriginal communities. It contains the traditional waterhole
and meeting place called Illcumba. The area of significance to Anangu
people runs north and NE from the swamp, up to and beyond The Lands'
relics of pastoral history of the areas occur within The Lands today.
Such relics include, White Well Tank and White Well Homestead ruins,
many stock watering points, remains of the old mills and some interesting
old crude stock yards and huts.
Well Tank is the base for all activities related to the Head of
Bight enterprise and provides Rangers with accommodation and amenities
whilst they are absent from the Yalata Community.
Nullarbor Plain, or treeless plain as described by the local Aboriginals,may
be a desert but below ground is another world.
Nullarbor Plain forms part of a limestone plateau, known as the
Bunda Plateau which slopes gently south, terminating abruptly as
wave-cut limestone cliffs along the Great Australian Bight. Many
vast dry and wet cave systems are to be found in the limestone karst
regions below the Nullarbor and they are popular with local and
international divers as well as tourists.
caves like Cocklebiddy, Warbla and Weebubbie feature beautiful lakes
of blue water and
huge passages running under the Nullarbor Plain.
floral emblem of South Australia is Sturt's Desert Pea (Swainsona
Formosa or Clianthus formosus) named after the early explorer, Charles
Sturt. This striking flower is one of the best known Australian
majority of The Lands is covered by mallee open scrublands which
tend towards a woodland formation in many places. The dominant vegetation
includes red mallee (Eucalyptus socialis), and or white mallee (E.
gracilis) with boree (Melaleuca pauperiflora) as a sub-dominant
rather special tree of dry districts of South Australia is the Native
Apricot or Pittosporum phylliraeoides. It is not a common tree though
in favoured areas can be plentiful. The trees can be laden with
their woody 'fruits' which stand out like beacons against the other
Stars Shooting Stars
southern skies above the Nullarbor Plain provide an enchanting evening
display and the opportunity to study the skies without the interference
of city lights. As the earth moves around the sun on its yearly
journey the night sky slowly changes. Using star charts and a pair
of binoculars search for the myriad of constellations above.
a clear night, the Milky Way spans the sky as a band of light through
the darkness. Made up of billions of stars, the band is crossed
by dim lanes "Dark Nebulae", where the light is blocked by vast
clouds of dust hanging in space. Other patches known as "Bright
Nebuale", form wisps of glowing light which are often called 'star
nurseries', as they glow from the energy of new born stars.
Stars' 'Shooting Stars' are usually meteor showers which occur
most frequently in the early hours of the morning. As comets orbit
the sun they leave trails of dust and fragments. When the earth
passes through this trail the debris is swept up by gravity and
is burnt up in the earths atmosphere, appearing as great streaks
of light across the sky.
November - April
- May - October
region experiences warm to hot summers and mild to warm winters.
The hot summers are somewhat modified by the coastal breezes from
weather recording stations exist within The Lands and the climate
profile is derived from records at Eucla, Ceduna and along the trans-Australian
railway. Temperatures appear to follow a similar variation north
to south but generally The Lands have a mean summer maximum in the
low 30s degrees Centigrade (cooler at the coast) and a winter mean
maximum of approximately 20 degrees Centigrade.