Once every 50 years or more, life in the normally deserted Lake Eyre Basin, the lowest point on the Australian continental landmass at about...

By no means as well known as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef but no less spectacular is Lake Eyre Basin, the lowest point on the Australian continental landmass at about 50 feet below sea level.

Once every 50 years or more, life in this normally deserted region awakens as the lake, roughly twice the size of Texas, fills with water.

Down Under Answers is offering an 11-night Australian vacation package to see this wonder of the natural world, beginning on September 11. Timed for when the region will be at its most lush and accessible, this Australian vacation costs US$6,099 per person based on double occupancy and includes:

● Airfare: Round-trip airfare on Qantas Airways from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Sydney and REX Airlines from Sydney to Broken Hill;

● Pre-Tour: One night’s accommodation in Broken Hill;

● On the Tour: Nine days of small-group touring with an experienced guide and driver. Breakfast, lunch and dinner meals on the tour. Best available accommodations and all national park entry fees are also included; and

● Post-Tour: Two nights’ accommodation at Sebel Pier 1 in Sydney and round-trip seat-in-coach transfers from Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport to the hotel.

The Eyre Basin is normally inhospitable to life and usually contains little or no water. The shallow lake itself is a vast drainage system, but when it fills, or “floods”, it is transformed into an abundant oasis for flora and fauna, providing breeding grounds for some six million birds. They travel from as far away as Japan and China and the larger birds include pelicans, cormorants and ibis. Frogs and other amphibians hibernating for 50 years or more spring to life, and even wild camels are drawn to the lake’s shores by the scent of water.

Australia's enormous dry Lake Eyre Basin – it is twice the size of Texas – very rarely fills, but following high waters in 2010 building on 2009's significant water inflow, Lake Eyre is filling up in 2010. This photograph was taken from an aircraft flying over one of the water flows into the Lake Eyre Basin

Although it has contained water a number of times over the last century, Lake Eyre has filled to capacity only three times in the last 150 years; it is rare to see floods two years running. However, with this year’s high waters building on 2009’s significant water level, Lake Eyre Basin is filling tp in 2010 and is a don’t-miss place for travelers who want to see some astonishing Australian sights. For more information on Lake Eyre Basin, visit www.lakeeyrebasin.org.au.

“The Lake Eyre Basin is one of the most fascinating regions of the most unusual continent on the planet. We designed this comprehensive tour because we wanted to give nature-loving travelers, as well as those who are looking for a truly unique vacation in Australia, the chance to really experience this once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon,” says Kirk Demeter, president of Down Under Answers.

Among the highlights of the Lake Eyre circular route – which covers the Western Channel Country – that Down Under Answers’ tour takes are:

● Broken Hill, an isolated mining city of the outback known as the “Oasis of the West,” and Tibooburra, established at the height of the Australian gold rush;

● Mutawintji National Park, with breathtaking gorges and Aboriginal rock art, and the rolling red-sand dunes and grass-covered plains of Sturt National Park;

● The town of Innamincka, majestic red gum trees along the banks of the famous Cooper Creek, and a monument to Burke and Wills, who led an ill-fated expedition attempting a north-south crossing of the continent but perished in the desert of starvation and thiamine deficiency (beriberi);

● An exploration of the Diamantina River and Birdsville, in the heart of the Outback at the edge of the vast Simpson Desert, home to exotic wildlife including dingoes, red kangaroos and other marsupials, falcons, eagles, lizards and snakes;

● The old settlement of Marree, possible flights over Lake Eyre and the award-winning Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, home to more than 160 bird species and the endangered yellow-footed rock wallaby;

● Gammon Ranges National Park, which offers spectacular scenery teeming with wildlife and a wealth of European and Aboriginal cultural heritage; and

● A return to Broken Hill, where travelers can relax and enjoy the town.

For a detailed itinerary, go to www.duatravel.com. To book call DUA on (800) 788-6685, email info@duatravel.com or contact your local travel expert. The tour begins on September 11 and concludes on September 22, 2010.

Founded in 1992, Seattle-based Down Under Answers offers travel and tours to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Vanuatu and Dubai and (from 2010) Africa Answers. The company employs seasoned staff members to customize tours – ranging from unique, hands-on holidays to more traditional itineraries – for groups of virtually any size.