Mesmerizing Moonrise at Mungo
About the place
Mungo National Park is credited for being one of the places in the world outside of Africa where some of the oldest modern human (Homo Sapiens) activities have been discovered, dating back to at least 45,000 years.
This is the home of Mungo Lady and Mungo Man whose remains show 42,000 year old ritual burials. In particular, Mungo Lady represents the oldest known cremation in the world.
World Heritage listed Mungo National Park has some interesting geological features, significant archaeological findings and photographic Marscapes.
The major attraction here is the Walls of China, which can be seen from several kilometres away, shining white in the sun light.
Where is Mungo?
Mungo National Park is located in outback New South Wales (NSW), Australia, about 1,000 km to the west of Sydney, from which it takes about 10.5 hours to get to by car.
But it is geographically closer to the neighboring state capitals. It is about 580 km north west of Melbourne (6.5 hours by car) and about 520 km north east of Adelaide (6 hours by car).
How to get there?
You definitely need a car. If you travel from Sydney, you can stay over night at the half way mark and break up your journey into two day trip. In our case, we traveled from Sydney and stopped over night at a small country city named Wagga Wagga.
When you do finally arrive in the area, you will find the local unsealed dirt road to Mungo NP passing through the dry lakes. During rain and the wet season, the road gets closed as the lakes are filled with water, so you should check the road condition on the National Park website or by calling the Mungo NP directly before venturing out.
Things to do
Guided tours to the Walls of China, especially sunset tours and full moon tours, are highly recommended. In fact, a guided tour is the only way to actually walk on the Walls of China as unaccompanied access to the Walls is not permitted in order to protect important geological and archaeological sites.
Unlike man-made Great Wall of China, the Walls of China in Mungo NP are a huge nature-built lunette formed over time by sand and clay, water and the prevailing westerly wind.
There are viewing platforms, from which you can see at a distance the geological sculptures carved out by the natural elements. But if you want to walk on the Walls and fully appreciate the aboriginal history and the wonderful geological features, it is best to join in a guided tour.
Almost all the spectacular Mars-like landscape photos you see online are taken on these guided tours. It is worth going up the top of the Walls for awesome sunset and full moon-rise watching and fantastic photo opportunities.
If you want to explore the National Park at your own pace, you can take a self-guided tour either by car or bicycle. A map for this is available from the visitor center. The track for the self-guided tour is a 70 km flat dirt road, on which you are required to travel one way only in an anti-clockwise direction.
It is a fairly long track with no short cuts and no turning back so I don’t really recommend a tour by bicycle, especially in summer. But if you do, there is no danger of getting lost as the track is clearly marked. One day is enough for the self-guided tour by car and two days would be required by bicycle.
About two-thirds of the way along the track, at a place called Vigars Well, there are wonderful sand dunes and earth formations. As an alternative to the Walls of China, this is a nice place for watching spectacular sunsets and moon-rises and for wonderful photos.
There are couple of options available if you want to stay over night within the Mungo NP: checking into a basic accommodation called Mungo Shearers Quarters or camping.
Mungo Shearers Quarters are located inside the National Park right next to the visitor center. As the name suggests, it used to be a shearers’ accommodation but now turned into a visitors’ accommodation with five bunker rooms and the communal kitchen/dining room. There are communal showers, flush toilets and hot water. An advanced booking is required and a small fee is payable. At the time of our trip in the first week of July 2020, the Mungo Shearers Quarters were temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
You should take food and water with you as there is not a single cafe, restaurant or grocery store within 100 km of the accommodation.
If camping is your cup of tea, there are a couple of camp sites within the national park with camping fees payable.
Other than that, you can base yourself in one of the nearby towns, such as Balranald or Mildura, where there are more accommodation options available. At the time of our trip, we were not permitted to cross the Victorian state border to go to Mildura due to COVID-19 so we stayed in Balranald, NSW and drove about 2 hours to Mungo NP.
Our personal experience
Initially, Adam and I were underwhelmed because everything was a rather smaller scale than what we expected. Besides, we didn’t book a guided tour due to the weather forecast for rain on the day.
In the end, the weather turned out fine when we arrived at the National Park so we decided to take a self-guided driving tour.
After looking at the Walls of China from the major lookouts, we made a nice cup of coffee at a rest stop along the track. It was a bliss to drink coffee, sitting on a tree log side by side under the wide open blue sky. Sometimes small things in life give happiness.
At Vigars Well, we climbed up the sand dunes, where we could see a 360 degree view of the horizon faraway and beautiful earth formations nearby. It was going to be a full moon on that day so we decided to wait for the sunset and moon-rise.
There were quite a number of people around the area in the late afternoon but everybody left before the sunset.
Sitting on top of the highest sand dune, we watched the sun setting on the western horizon and turned around immediately to watch the full moon rising on the opposite horizon. It was a truly awesome experience. We saw the sun setting and the full moon rising in different times before but it was the very first time we watched from the same spot the sunset and moon-rise happening one after the other.
Best of all, there was absolutely nobody around us except wild animals for many kilometres in all directions. We were like Adam and Eve in Genesis.
Even after the sunset, the sky remained bright enough for us to clearly see even the emu foot prints on the sand. We descended from the sand dunes and tried to take some fancy photos among the nature-carved sculptures with the proper camera but its battery became flat by then. What a timing!
So we ended up taking a few shots with my mobile phone only. Oh well… We will just have to remember how beautiful everything looked under the soft moon light.
Watching the sunset and full moon-rise on top of the sand dunes, just the two of us, was the highlight of our trip to Mungo. It blew away our initial underwhelming feeling about the place and was definitely worth our 1,000 km long drive.
For more information about the Mungo National Park and relevant contact details, go to the official NSW National Park website on