Hundreds of tourists flocked to Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, a sandstone rock formation in the southern part of the Northern Territory in Australia, for the last time on Friday, AFP reported. A permanent ban on scaling the Ayers Rock will come into place on Saturday.

The ban on scaling the rock formation is in accordance with the long-held wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land, the Anangu. The upcoming ban has led to a surge in the number of tourists visiting Ayers Rock in recent days. But on Friday, tourists were left waiting for hours due to safety concerns over heavy winds, before rangers allowed the climbers to begin the ascent at 10 am local time (4.30 am Indian Standard Time).

Parks Australia, an agency that manages national parks and conservation areas in the country, said it would continue to make assessments on the safety of the climb before the official closure at 4 pm local time (9.30 pm IST) on Friday, ABC News reported. “Anangu and the [Uluru] board provided a two year’s notice because they were mindful that people wanted to climb,” Parks Australia Operations and Visitor Services Manager Steve Baldwin said.

Traditional owners regard the rock as a sacred site, and have said in the past that climbing it was not only disrespectful but also dangerous. At least 37 people have died over the years during the ascent.

Uluru custodian Leroy Lester said there were many reasons why Anangu wanted the site closed. “Mainly because it’s a sacred site and mainly because for safety reasons, pollution on top, no toilets up there and E. coli [bacteria] killing all the organisms, all the frogs and everything,” he said. “And it’s very, very dangerous.”

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