Conduct remote area touring activities with minimal impact
Note: this study guide will provide you with basic bushcraft skills only. A range of reference documents are cited throughout the study material and it is recommended that you download these and keep them in your professional portfolio for future use, and further study.
Travelling in Australia’s remote areas can be a truly great experience. It offers spectacular scenery and the opportunity for adventure; from parched desert-scapes, to rainforests and vast stretches of bushland. It is a land filled with natural beauty.
It can also, however, be a land that poses great risks if you fail to prepare properly. Each year up to a quarter of the emergency medical evacuations carried out in remote areas are the result of city travellers who get into trouble in isolated and remote areas.
So adequate preparation before undertaking a journey or accepting employment in the outback will lessen the chance of running onto difficulty or jeopardising human life. There have been many cases where loss of life has resulted from a lack of foresight into the problems involved in touring remote areas.
When preparing a tour destined for out of the way, and possibly hostile terrain, it is vital to know;
whether the area you are travelling to is accessible by vehicle
where fuel and water sources are located
the best route to, and throughout, the region
what alternate routes you could use if necessary
what navigational aids you will have at your disposal
what positions of evacuation are available, should they be needed; and
where the local inhabitants are, within the area
With this basic knowledge, you can then begin to put together an enjoyable, educational and safe tour.
Use bushcraft and survival techniques.
Contrary to what most people might think, bushcraft is not purely about survival, it is about living comfortably, while sustainably, in natural bushland settings, and therefore feeling part of the natural world.
Bushcraft, can include the skills to be able to build a shelter, source food and water, as well as being aware of a range of survival skills which include navigating when lost or when maps and navigation equipment fails, and signaling for help when communications equipment fails
Because the consequences of not being prepared properly can be severe, there are a number of things to be considered when getting ready to lead a tour including:
Equipment needed – The equipment you take needs to be serviceable and in sufficient quantities for the trip, taking unforeseen circumstances into account. The amount of equipment you need to take will, clearly, also depend on the size of the group you are leading. If in any doubt allow additional equipment.
Communications – reliable communications equipment is vital when touring to remote areas. You may need to check in with your tour company on a daily basis, in order to report your progress or any issues you are facing, or you may need to contact local authorities, such as police, in an emergency. We will look at communication options later in the unit.
Use of Maps – The Australian landscape can be very monotonous. There are usually few landmarks or signposts on outback roads, so any maps that you need should cover the entire area so the route can be properly plotted and you don’t become lost or disorientated. It is also a good idea to mark your position on the map, as the tour proceeds, so that you can pinpoint your location at any given time and provide exact positions should you need assistance. Understanding manual navigation using maps also provides a critical backup in case of failure of electronic GPS devices.
Time allowance – consider the time allocated to the tour, as well as the extra time needed, in terms of tour duration and the sites being visited. Extra consideration should also be given to;
When you are leaving
How long the tour will take
Where you will stop to camp
When you are due to arrive at each stop
Allowing a safety margin in case of mishaps or delays
Weather Conditions – The weather in the area you are travelling to and/or through, must always be considered. Road and touring conditions can vary according to local rainfall or other weather based anomalies. You should be aware of the changes of season in the area that you are touring, as this will impact on the success of the tour. For example, when travelling through the northern part of Queensland in January, there is a risk of being flooded out by monsoons that generally strike at that time of the year. Check with police or local authorities after heavy rainfall, as many outback roads can be closed. Depending on the group you are leading, remember that if you take them out to remote desert areas during the height of summer, it can be extremely hot or humid. This may have a negative impact on tour guests, who are not used to extreme heat or the discomfort of high humidity.
Area knowledge – Learn as much as possible about the areas that the tour will be travelling through. Local knowledge will help to survive in it. Things to understand include;
any dangerous animals or reptiles you are likely to come across, that could pose a risk
insects, flies and mosquitoes that you may need to guard against
any prickle bushes or any poisonous or discomforting plants
any edible wild foods and bush tucker that might be useful (if only to add local ‘flavour’ to the tour)
location of any available water sources
location of any caves, mine-workings, holes and local problems in the areas you are visiting
any diseases that you may need to guard against
environmental impact of tourism. You will need to understand how touring in a given area, might impact on the local community, flora and/or fauna. Steps maybe necessary to minimize any harm, caused by this impact (we will look at this in more detail later in the unit)
Notifications – Before leaving on any journey to remote areas, you should always notify a responsible person (for example: tour company staff member, station owners or local police or SES) of the following;
Estimated time of departure [ETD] of the tour
Proposed and alternate routes the tour will be taking
Estimated time of arrival [ETA] at each intended stop
Transport – the type of vehicle you choose for safe outback travel, will depend on the load that you are going to carry. As well as major items such as fuel, food and water, you may also be carrying camping equipment, cooking gear, vehicle spares, tools, recovery equipment, an extra spare tyre and passengers. If you are travelling ‘off road’, the vehicle will need to withstand the harsh and rugged conditions you may encounter. The vehicle will not only be a means of transport, it will also be a home and the biggest aid to survival, should something unforeseen happen. As such, your vehicle must be in first class mechanical condition and the following items should be checked at the end of each day, as a matter of course.
engine drive belts
engine oil and coolant levels
Check fuel filter [if possible]
Clean air cleaner
Clean radiator fins
Clean windscreen and headlights
brake, clutch and power steering fluid levels
engine for oil or coolant leaks
transmission and differential for oil leaks
all steering rods, chassis and joints for wear and cracking