Ok: first of all, I want to say, this trip is NOT for everyone.
If you've not done any research about the outback, the climate, and how big and remote the Northern territory is, you really need to do that first and ask yourself:
1. Am I going to be comfortable with travelling 4000km by coach (sometimes 6 hours a day)?
2. Am I going to be able to deal with 40+ degree heat if I go in summer? (bearing in mind that even indoors, the air conditioning may not be the most efficient in the world?) You WILL sweat profusely and it won't be the least bit glamourous.
3. Am I going to expect a fantastic range of food options/special dietary provisions in the middle of the desert? (hint: you aren't gonna get them. It's just logistics, soz)
4. Do I expect 5 star accommodation? (again, you're in the middle of the desert - not gonna get it!)
5. Am I terrified of spiders and other insects/snakes/crocodiles/frogs (you're going to see a lot of them, including possibly in your bathrooms. Also bring a fly net - the flies are a massive pain in the butt.)
6. Can I deal with being off the radar in terms of phone signal and wifi (really can't stress enough how much you're in a big old remote desert here!)
If you can deal with all of the above, you have a great attitude and a sense of humour, you don't mind (and in fact appreciate) a few 'colourful characters', and you want to see something truly spectacular - GO! You won't regret it. It is the true Australia, it is unique and like nothing else on earth.
The trip can roughly be divided into two aspects: the arid red centre and the more lush region towards the north. Geographically both stunning, this trip is also great if you're interested in aboriginal art and culture.
In the red centre, the colours are incredibly vibrant, the rock formations breathtaking. It is pretty much impossible to take a bad photo here, everything looks like the colours have been saturated! The horizon stretches on, seemingly forever. There are many early starts due to needing to get things done before the heat gets too intense (sometimes 4am - again, consider if this is something you'll be able to deal with) and the desert sunrise is beautiful.
The champagne sunset at Uluru was most definitely a highlight for me - amazingly beautiful, and a childhood dream fulfilled.
The second half of the tour up by Katherine/Kakadu/Darwin is much greener, lusher and more humid but also beautiful. If you like crocodiles you're especially in for a treat! My personal favourite was the waterfalls.
In terms of optionals, I went on the outback balloon flight, the Kakadu fixed wing scenic flight and the Katherine Gorge river cruise. Of these my favourite was probably the Kakadu flight - despite the weather being a bit rubbish when we went, the views were still absolutely stunning.
There was a good mix of people on this tour so don't worry if you're expecting it to all be one type of person - it definitely isn't! We had people from the UK, Germany and other parts of Europe, North Americans and some resident Aussies, as well as a range of ages from 18-34 years old. Go in with an open mind and a friendly attitude and you're sure to find great friends to bunk up with.
You will travel 4000km by coach on this tour, but never for more than about 2.5 hours at a time. Our coach driver, Will, was amazing, a great driver and he did everything he could to make the journey as comfortable as possible - it was nowhere near as bad as I was dreading, in fact the journeys were pretty fun!
In terms of accommodation, it is basic but it is clean and it is fine (again - not a lot of options in the desert). You really need to be understanding and reasonable about what you expect on the accommodation and catering front - consider exactly how remote you are and the distances everything has to travel to get there. You won't get what you're used to at home, and surely that's why you travel in the first place - for the experience! Most people understand this, but a few didn't, and their whinging was most unwelcome.
Unless you select otherwise, you'll be in multi-sleep accommodation of 4 people. If you feel you can't manage this or you know you're a bit of a diva, perhaps a single supplement would be a better option for you.
Make sure you pack a fly net, a sun hat, sunglasses, comfortable closed-toe shoes (some good trainers at least) and a rain coat (yes, really - it can get pretty rainy up north), a travel pilliow and a torch as well as your other stuff - do a bit of reading up about what the climates in the various places you'll be visiting at the time of year you're going, as it does vary a lot. Also bring a nice set of clothes/shoes for when you go out in the evening to restaurants/bars/clubs - flip flops aren't always ok.
All in all, this tour was absolutely life-changing for me and I loved it. I took over 1000 photos and if you go you'll see why! The place is rugged, beautiful and sometimes a little crazy - and I wouldn't want it any other way.
My Contiki was: Vibrant-Stunning-Hot