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Safety with Araucaria Ecotours

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Driving

Our main driver (and also a guide) has had a perfect record throughout two decades of driving: He's never had an accident, and not even a speeding or parking ticket. He's been trained in rally driving, to star in a video commercial, also in defensive driving (in our current tour vehicle), has driven in many challenging conditions, such as sandy, muddy, dusty and rocky roads in the outback and elsewhere, drifting safely to the emergency lane on a multi-lane freeway when a tyre blew, negotiating the traffic in Sydney and Johannesburg, and escaping from an angry wild African elephant on a rough rocky road.

tour vehicle

None of our drivers has ever had a serious incident during over two decades of running tours

On tours to remote areas we carry plenty of water, longlife food supplies, two spare tyres, tyre repair kits, extra fanbelts, 2-way radios and our usual first aid kits, for safety in the event of any mis-hap.

Some of our guests are unaccustomed to winding mountain roads, have been involved in previous accidents or have a tendency to car-sickness. We always drive within speed limits, and often well  below, but if you wish us to go even slower, please let us know. Your safety is our top priority but we want you to be comfortable.

Remember that your drivers and guides have normal human limits, and this affects safety factors, such as reaction times when driving. Please don't expect a guide to be seeking nocturnal wildlife until late at night and also be up at dawn for bird-watching if he or she is then going to drive for a couple of hours or more

Please understand that we cannot always stop the vehicle safely or legally even if you do suddenly see a new bird



Health

All our guides are trained in first aid and in food safety

We always carry a first aid kit

We often travel with two guides. If someone is feeling unwell or is less fit than others, we can split the group accordingly

We sanitize seats, seat-belts, handles and inner surfaces of windows between tours, and travel with hand sanitizer.

Please respect social distancing of 1.5m, except between individuals who live together or have already been traveling together, or if you have been vacinated for Covid-19

Let us know before the tour if you have any condition that may limit some activities or mean you will need more frequent rest stops (recent operation, pregnancy, asthma etc.)

On most of our tours we will never be more than a 90-minute drive to the nearest medical centre or hospital, but on outback tours such facilities could be a half-day drive away. We carry two-way radios in case of emergency on such tours.

Please ensure that you bring any important medications with you especially on overnight tours. We may not be near a pharmacy when you need them, and we're not permitted even to give you non-prescription medications such as aspirin.  If you do leave them behind, please tell us ASAP while it is still possible to return to you accommodation or visit a pharmacist without disrupting the tour for everyone else.

If you feel ill, find a tick or a leech attached, have an allergic reaction, scratch your leg on a thorny bush or have some other mishap please tell us ASAP so we can help.



Walking

WALKING
                AT GIRRAWEENOur walks are usually gentle, as our emphasis is on exploring the fauna and flora, although we can lead more energetic hikes if requested, preferably in advance.

We can with prior warning carry a light (preferably foldable) wheelchair (brought by you or hired by us) and with prior notice we can modify a tour to stay on routes compatible with wheelchair access.

Most of our walks are on designated tracks or other easy surfaces such as beaches. You won't need hiking boots. Sneakers are ok, even sandals or thongs (flipflops) on some tours, but make sure the soles are non-slip, in case of any mud or other slippery surfaces. Covered shoes and long  pants are recommended for forest walks.

Please do not leave the group, stay behind alone or wander off at any time without first advising your guide.  Accidents can happen, and if we don't know where you are we can waste much time and energy looking for you, to the inconvenience and annoyance of other guests

Never walk into long grass. Snakes can be easily  concealed by grass, even ankle-height, and while they do not seek out humans as prey and are generally non-aggressive, they can get a fright and strike out in defense if stepped on.   For similar reasons, never reach your hand or any other parts of your body into dark crevices or anywhere else you can't see clearly.

Never walk or stand close to a clifftop. There have been a number of deaths over the years (not on our tours) by people stepping backwards or sideways, losing balance, loosening a rock or gravel being at the edge when a strong wind blows suddenly.                                                                                                   

Never walk on boulders close to where waves are crashing on rocks. An occasional massive wave can occur and people fishing or admiring the view have been swept off into waters swirling around the base of the rocks - a very dangerous and likely fatal place to be. If you have children, please ensure they don't forget this in the excitement of exploring a new place or seeing dolphins.

Do not continue walking while admiring a distant view or looking upwards, e.g.  into the tree-tops without constantly checking the ground ahead of you: it can be surprisingly easy to trip on a stone or uneven ground, or tread on something you'll regret.
At night, use a personal torch (flashlight) to frequently check where you are about to tread, for similar reasons.

Two of the sites we visit involve walking on platforms in the rainforest canopy.  They are very safe and sturdy structures with a fence each side, but please let us know if you prefer not to do this and we can provide you with an alternative




Animals and plants

funnelwebSnakes and spiders know we're too big to eat.  They see us more as predators than as prey, so they don't stalk us the way a shark or crocodile might, but can bite in defense if they feel threatened.  Don't walk in long grass, as snakes are easily concealed and can be alarmed if stepped on.  Don't reach into dark places where you can't clearly see where your hand or fingers are going. If suddenly aware there is a snake or spider close to you, stay calm and be as still as possible or back off slowly as sudden movements could make them think they're under attack. 

The funnelweb (pictured) is the most lethal of our spiders, but during the day they mostly shelter inside their funnels, only getting active at night, and we've never heard of anyone being bitten in the forest. Other spiders can give a painful bite, and the redback bite has sometimes been fatal, but since the development of antivenins there have been no deaths from spider bite in Australia for over four decades. Most species are harmless to humans, and no one has ever been bitten by any kind of spider (or snake) on our tours, so there is no need for the paranoia some feel about them.

Ticks are one of the most troublesome invertebrates, especially the paralysis tick.  They kill many dog and cats, but human fatalities are very rare, partly because they feed for several days before releasing the strongest toxin, and we usually become aware of them long before that.  Some people experience allergic reactions, and very occasionally a condition similar to Lyme's disease. They sometimes latch onto us in the rainforest, or from lantana (an introduced weedy shrub) or long grass. They are generally not a problem if they are promptly removed, but you need to be careful not to squeeze venom into the bite area. If you find a tick attached to you, let us know ASAP, so we can assist.  If you have been walking anywhere that ticks may have been lurking, examine any small itchy or painful spot, and investigate your body for them while showering, just in case.

bull-antAnts are not dangerous but can be painful, especially those that not only bite, but also inject formic acid through a sting at the end of the abdomen. Especially keep your distance from large alert-looking ants with long jaws. 

The introduced European honey bee has caused a few deaths over the years through allergic reactions. Even without allergic reaction the sting is quite painful, so avoid swarms and be aware that ponds and flowers, including clover, may have bees visiting

Stay away from paper wasp nests. The big, yellow and black lazy-looking mudwasps you may see flying around are not aggressive. The little paper wasps, living in structures a little like hanging lanterns that we occasionally see are quite aggressive if you go close to the nest.  Their stings are not dangerous, but they do hurt.

Mosquitoes can be a nuisance, especially near wetlands at dusk, although we don't have big swarms, and there is no malaria or dengue fever in  our region. A small amount of personal insect spray should deter the.

Leeches are sometimes a nuisance in wet weather but not dangerous.  Again, if you find one attached, ask us to help.

Stinging trees,  with large, round, hairy leaves,  common in light gaps in the rainforest, are in the same family as stinging nettle, and the pain from the hairs is worse than nettle. Leaves of tall trees are generally too far above us to be a problem, but saplings at hand-height near the track should be watched for. They are not dangerous, but very unpleasant.

Be aware of prickly plants that can scratch ankles and arms, and  lawyer vines in the rainforest have recurved spines that are a nuisance to disentangle from your clothes: again, not dangerous, just uncomfortable.

Do not taste fruits, leaves, or fungi without first checking with your guide.  In fact we advise not tasting any fungi, as very similar species can vary in toxicity. but there are a number of locally native fruits and leaves that are quite safe.

Bladey grass, a tall, robust grass, is called that for a reason. Sliding your fingers casually up a blade while walking can give you a surprisingly nasty cut.




Other

Please understand if we cancel a booking or change route due to fire danger or flooded roads.  Our top priority is to keep everyone safe, even if it means altering a route  or in very rare cases not running a tour (in which case your money will be refunded).

In the very unlikely event of your guide or guides being incapacitated in an emergency situation, we always carry a list of emergency numbers in the tour vehicle: your guide will show you this at the start of your tour.

If bird-watching by the side of the road, please be alert for traffic, even if there are no vehicles in sight when we first stop.

Ensure children in your group understand and obey safety rules.  It's easy for youngsters to get carried away with enthusiasm or forget their surroundings during a sparring match or game of chasey to the point where they may run onto slippery surfaces, into long grass that could harbour snakes, or too close to clifftops.

On sunny days or days of high uv alert we advise you to wear a hat and use sunscreen. It is less important on days we spend mostly in the rainforest or are heavily overcast.

Please bring rain gear, warm clothing and a sunhat to provide for any changes in the weather: it can be unpredictable, especially if we're going to different districts or changing altitude.

Let your guide know immediately if you see anyone behaving suspiciously.   We've never had a problem with terrorists, drunkards or muggers, but want to be as sure as possible that we never do.    


NOTES:

We have a copy of ISO 3100 and comply with its advice
We have a comprehensive risk management plan and incident report form (the latter is very rarely used, as we've had  no serious incidents and just occasional minor ones since we started running tours in 1997)

We have tour vehicle, third party and public liability insurance, but strongly advise guests to take out their own travel insurance for the unlikely event of any kind of accident
Our current insurer insists that all guests of tour companies sign an indemnity form before any tour.  We can send one to you at time of booking so that's all taken care of before the tour, to either email back to us or hand to us on arrival.

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