Australia’s low crime rate, well-maintained roads and high standard of living makes it pretty safe to explore the country. It is important however, to be aware of the impending environmental hazards, such as extreme desert heat, bushfires and rip tides.
When travelling Australia, one has to be scrupulously prepared and take sensible precautions as sharks, crocodiles and poisonous Aussie animals are very real dangers. Here’s some ways to prepare for your Australia travel experience.
Bushwalking or hiking in wilderness
A bushwalk can take many forms a walk around a forest near where you live to a multi-day expedition through a national park. Before you venture outdoors, it is important to consider some safety prerequisites when taking into the account the unique features of Australia’s environment. Here’s some beginner basics.
1.) Always check the length and difficulty of the walk.
2) Consider using a local guide for long and challenging walks.
3) If you plan to walk without a guide, tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return.
4) Wear protective footwear, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, wet weather gear, and a topographic map and lastly, bring plenty of water.
4) Read maps and all signs when bush walking.
5) Stay on the walking tracks.
6) Don’t feed the native animals.
Bushfires in Australia are generally defined as any unrestrained, non-structural fire burning either in a grass, scrub, bush, or forested area. Australia is known for being a geographically and meteorically diverse continent, having experienced many types of bushfires. Here are preventive steps to evade bushfires:
1) When you are on an outback camping or bushwalking trip, it may be essential to carry a portable AM/FM radio to listen for information if you feel there is any signs smoke or fire.
2) Always check the weather conditions in your camping area.
3) Take extra precautions when lighting a campfire if windy and dry weather.
4) Always check if campfire is possible before lighting it. The Australia Government now includes fines up to $25,000 including possible jail time. You don’t want that.
Staying safe around the wildlife
As a tourist, all you really want is to see and do as much as humanly possible. Staying safe however, is an obvious priority. Remember that Australian national parks are natural environments and can be unpredictable. In addition to planning your journey for all weather conditions, you also may need to plan for the wildlife.
1) Marine Stingers – Many beaches have special floating 'stinger net' enclosure giving you a safe place to swim. You must not swim beyond the stinger-resistant enclosures. They are usually present in tropical waters from November to April.
2) Snakes and Spiders – The good news is snakes usually stay away from people, but once cornered or threatened, they may strike. When in the bush, you can avoid snake and spider bites by wearing protective footwear and using your common sense. If bitten, seek immediate medical attention and call triple zero (000) for an ambulance. Apply a pressure bandage and keep the person calm and as still as possible until medical help arrives.
3) Sharks and Crocodiles – When swimming on Australian beaches always swim between flags and avoid swimming at dusk or evenings. Never swim alone and off open waters. To avoid croc attacks, it’s best to swim away from rivers, estuaries, tidal rivers, deep pools or mangrove shores.
4) Wear protective clothing when swimming, snorkeling or diving on the outer Great Barrier Reef.
5) Observe safety signs and check for enclosures, nettings, flags, warning signs and native animals that are abundant in the area.
Rip Currents - Flags and Signs
The beach is a vibrant, fun environment, but it is also volatile and dangerous to people who are unaware of the threats when swimming with rip currents. This is why lifeguards who understand the intricacies of the beach use a system of flags and signs to let beachgoers know about the dangers. The red and yellow flags are controlled area of the beach and that a lifesaving service is available. If there are no red and yellow flags, you should never wonder about.
- Click here for more information about the Rip Currents Factsheet
Be Sun Smart – UV & Sunscreen
This is one many travellers ignore until they realize the harmful effects of the tropical sun. Never underestimate the damage this can do. It is best practice to utilize a few of these common practices on a daily basis.
1) Wear some sun-protective clothing even on cloudy days.
2) Re-apply sunscreen (SPF30+ or higher) regularly when spending the whole day outdoors. 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every 2 hours after that.
3) Wear a hat preferably broad brim or legionnaire style for full protection
4) Sunglasses that meet Australian Standards.
5) Avoid high-noon sun when it is the strongest.
6) Bring plenty of fluid to avoid dehydration.
When travelling the outback, don't make your schedule too tight. Give some extra days just in case something happens. A sudden downpour can cause flash floods and road closures. Driving at night in the outback is not advisable. As bizarre as it sounds to many tourists, there is a strong possibility of accidentally hitting a kangaroo, dingo, emu or cow.
Lastly, it’s always important to check if permits are need for Aboriginal lands, or a pass for national & conservation parks. It is better to be prepared with emergency supplies such as enough water and some non-perishable foods.
The most important thing to remember out of all this is to have fun. Don't be fixated on these dangers like snakes, spiders and crocs as they are unlikely to harm if you leave them alone. If you treat Australia with the utmost respect, you’ll get rewarded and captivated in its outback beauty.
Jethro Batts is the driver and co-founder of Park My Van. He has worked in travel and technology for the last decade. Additionally, Jethro has been involved in variety of technology start-ups and represented Australia in various competitions internationally. As an avid traveler, Jethro is a start-up enthusiast and advocate of collaborative consumption.