Devil’s Marbles (Karlu Karlu)
Devil’s Marbles (Karlu Karlu), Northern Territory
- Large granite boulders that form the exposed top layer of an extensive and mostly underground granite formation.
- The reserve protects one of the oldest religious sites in the world as well as the natural rock formations.
The Traditional Owners
- The traditional owners of the land are Alyawarre people.
- The Marbles is the meeting place of four different Aboriginal groups who have important spiritual connections and responsibilities for the area. These traditional people are;
- The Alyawarre name for the entire area is Ayleparrarntenhe.
Land and Language
- The name “Karlu Karlu” is the Aboriginal term for round boulders.
- The English name “Devil’s Marbles” is derived from explorer John Ross’s quote, “This is the Devil’s country; he’s even emptied his bag of marbles around the place!”
- Alyawarre is the local Aboriginal language.
2008 to Present Day
- The whole area is protected under Northern Territory law as a Registered Sacred Site.
- 2008 – Ownership of the area was officially handed back to the traditional owners.
- 2008 onwards – The park is now on a 99-year lease to the Parks Service.
- Currently, the site has been jointly managed by the traditional owners and Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Services.
- Aboriginal youth as well as the local Indigenous Ranger group in Tennant Creek look after the reserve.
- The traditional owners request visitors to respect their culture and look after this reserve.
For historical information of Devil’s Marbles please visit this website: Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve
- A number of Dreaming stories have Karlu Karlu as their setting. As such it is considered to be very sacred to the Aborigines.
- Only a few of these stories are suitable for telling uninitiated visitors.
Origin of Devil’s Marbles
- The Aboriginal people believe in a Dreaming Story in which a Devil Man called Arrange travelled through the area.
- While travelling, he was making a hair belt, twirling the hair into strings.
- Arrange dropped clusters of hair on the ground, and these clusters of hair turned into the boulders at Karlu Karlu.
- On his way back, he spat on the ground and his spit turned into the granite boulders at the central part of this area.
- Arrange finally returned to his place of origin, Ayleparrarntenhe and still remains in these hills.
Tradition / Customs
- The Alyawarre and other Aboriginal people were not free to visit any part of Devil’s Marbles as they pleased.
- Current day’s visitors’ campsite was once considered a sacred site for both men and women.
- Alyawarre Elders still hold the stories and songs for the area.
- These Elders visit the central area of Devil’s Marbles to maintain these sites and teach younger people about the sacredness of this place.
- In ancient times, the central part was open to all Alyawarre people to hunt and gather bush food and medicines.
- The Aboriginal men and women hold separate and different stories, songs and ceremonies for the site.
- Certain parts of Devil’s Marbles were considered very dangerous and only certain Elders were allowed to visit them for important ceremonial purposes.
- Their ceremonies play an important role in passing dreaming stories to successors.
Animals / Birdlife
Zebra finch, painted finch, fairy martin, dollar bird, koel, rainbow bee-eater
Black-headed goanna, black snake, redbelly snake, brown snake, blue tongue and spiky black lizard
For more information on the animal and birdlife of the region please visit this website: karlu-karlu-devils-marbles-conservation-reserve
Devil’s Marbles Reserve Tours
Features of the tours :-
- Short walks
- Geological features
- Wildlife spotting
- Ranger-guided activities
Notes for traveller safety and comfort:-
- Traditional owners ask that Karlu (marbles) are not climbed by tourists
Please note, The Devils Marbles are no longer visited on our tours. For alternative Northern Territory Destinations take a look at our outback Uluru camping tours.