On April 27, Nilpena Ediacara National Park officially opened its doors in South Australia, revealing a hidden world of ancient fossils. Despite being known for its arid Outback, Australia was once an ocean floor, and remnants of the oldest animals on Earth, the Ediacara biota, are now protected within this newly established park.
Fossil beds, some over 550 million years old, captivate visitors as they showcase snapshots of the ancient seafloor. American paleontologist Mary L. Droser, a key figure in the ongoing research, highlights the park’s significance, citing discoveries such as the oldest animal sexual reproduction and the advent of mobility.
With almost 40 fossil beds discovered and ongoing work, the park offers a world-class fossil experience. Guided tours provide close-up views, and an immersive audio-visual recreation brings these ancient fossils to life. Due to international importance, visitors must book guided tours to witness the fossils, currently led by Ross Fargher, owner of the nearby Prairie Hotel, who has a personal connection to the park’s history.
Droser emphasizes that while Ediacara biota have been found globally, South Australia’s discoveries stand out for their unparalleled preservation, offering unprecedented insights into early animal life on Earth. Droser is also part of a team working towards nominating the Flinders Ranges, home to Nilpena Ediacara National Park, as a World Heritage Site.
Located approximately six hours by car from Adelaide, entry to Nilpena Ediacara National Park is free, but advance booking is required for guided tours, starting at $160.