We finally, after over 4 kilometers of walking along moonlit paths further enhanced by the glowsticks on our bodies, reached a peaceful waterhole in the middle of practically nowhere — or at least that’s how it felt. The dark water was clear, when we shined a flashlight on it, and the gentle sounds of a baby waterfall projected a sense of calm to the trekkers that had just arrived.
Most of us sat down on the rocks, pulling off shoes and socks before dipping only our toes in the cooling liquid, while a few stripped down to their bare essentials (a swimsuit or underwear) before going fully under, and one of those brave souls was our tour guide.
Andy Richards is energetic, jovial, knowledgeable, passionate — the exact qualities you want in a tour guide — and always the first one in the water (haha).
I was introduced to Andy towards the end of 2010 at a Sydney Travel Massive event and was instantly intrigued by his tour company, UDU, especially since I hadn’t yet made it down to the Royal National Park. And like clockwork, I was invited along on his day tour combo with an overnight at Garie Beach (in the Royal National Park), where I was thoroughly entertained and impressed — mostly by his love of the Australian outdoors, but also by the fact he turned this love into a profession.
At the same meeting, he talked highly of his special monthly tour, also in the RNP, called the Moonwalk, and while I wanted badly to be able to partake in one of these particular overnights, the timing didn’t work out until nearly a year later when I was invited along in order to cover the walk, ever so briefly, on the BBC travel blog.
Finally, I get to share this great tour experience in Sydney in finer detail.
Moonwalks happen maybe 2 or 3 times each month, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. Participants are picked up at certain points around Sydney city in a small bus in the evening, around 2 hours before dusk, and escorted the 45 minutes south to the Royal National Park. Along the way, the driver guides us into the past with historical facts that act as prep for the big night ahead.
It is then, on arrival, that the orchestration of events starts to unfold, many of which have been well-thought out and timed perfectly, and many that you wouldn’t really expect while out in the park.
As night fell, and the moon turned bright, we were taken on a short hike to an overpass perfect for our first night photography lesson by the accompanying professional photographers (night photography is a huge focal point of the evening — and of course I realized I had forgotten my tripod on the drive down).
The second big photography session happened down on Wattamolla beach, and this is where the real fun began with a little something called night painting. Using lights, like from flashlights, we drew our names in the air with a slow shutter speed in action, and painted the backgrounds so they would also become visible.
Supper was presented by candlelight under a canopy of trees. We followed a path of lights to our dining places, perfectly set, the table topped with bowls of delicious, hearty grub and bottles of beverage.
When dinner, and dessert, had finished, we were then presented with (probably my favorite part of the night) the table of all things that glow. I. was. in. heaven. At this table, you get to pick and choose from a number of glowing items, from flashing batons to glowstick earrings. I think every person, guys included, was having fun getting dressed up for our big hike.
Light rings, glowing necklaces… sure, I might not know how to get dressed up for a night of bar hopping… but damn can I ever rock a mean glowstick headband.
The night hike that you choose is up to you. You can either go for a leisurely 4 km hike, enjoy the midnight coffee break, and then head back to set up your sleeping space on the beach… Or you can go for the 8 km hike, which means you power on another 2 km further after the midnight coffee until you reach the waterhole (well worth it).
Don’t worry: The hiking is very moderate and can be done by most fitness levels.
Finally, when you return back to Wattamolla beach, you are able to set up your sleeping bag right there on the sand. If you place it perfectly, you can get both the sounds of the softly crashing waves and the sounds of the waterfall in Wattamolla Lagoon within earshot — and you’ll have a picture perfect view of the sunrise just hours away.
What. a. night.
While I did get invited on this tour as a member of the media, I will say that it is still one of the most unique and memorable tours I have ever been on. It is the type of tour that is great for both tourists and Sydney locals alike. Learn more about the Moonwalk.