Devil’s Marbles

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;
    • Alyawarre
    • Kayteye
    • Warumunga
    • Warlpiri
  • 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

Major Beliefs

  • 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 


Places spotted



Zebra finch, painted finch, fairy martin, dollar bird, koel, rainbow bee-eater

Devil’s Marbles



Black-headed goanna, black snake, redbelly snake, brown snake, blue tongue and spiky black lizard

Devil’s Marbles 



Land crabs

Devil’s Marbles 

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
  • Camping
  • 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