BUSHWALKING SAFETY IN VICTORIA
It’s important that you follow some basic tips for Bushwalking safety in Victoria if you are planning to head out exploring the countryside. The terrain and environment in this part of the country can be extremely harsh.
Bushwalking in national parks and reserves is a great way to exercise, and to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the Australian bush. Bushwalking provides a great opportunity for exploration on your own, or with a group of friends, at minimal cost. However, in order to protect the land, birds and animals you should not disturb them, or the native plants. Walking tracks throughout our parks are not always signposted or maintained, so be sure to take care when walking in them.
The Australian bush can be a harsh and unforgiving place. Unwary bushwalkers have lost their lives by not respecting it. Don’t panic or be put off, just be sensible! You may be planning a walk just for an hour or two, for a full day, or perhaps even to camp out for a night or two. Whatever you decide to do, be prepared. Here are the basics about bushwalking safety in Victoria.
Check with Parks Victoria as to which reserves and parks are appropriate for your age and fitness level. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your walk. Research your walk, and ensure everyone is comfortable with the planned route. Don’t overestimate your level of fitness or stamina, and go at the pace of the slowest person. Check weather forecasts and park conditions before you set out, and be aware that weather conditions can change.
If you have not ventured into the bush before, or are intending to walk in a new area, then ideally you should walk in a group of three or more, as in an emergency one might need to wait with the injured person while the other gets help. Remember that in the great outdoors there is sometimes no escape from pests, including mosquitoes, ticks and insects. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing to prevent bites. Spray clothing and exposed skin with an insect repellent and reapply as directed, particularly if camping. (And if you are camping, remember to close the tent flap at night!). Be mindful of the fact that here could also be leeches and yabbies in the waterways.
Taking a compass with you is not a bad idea either, and remember that you may not have mobile/cellphone service where you are going. If you’re really heading way out into the bush, provide route details with friends or the police, tell them about any medical conditions, and when to expect you back. Also consider taking a personal locator beacon which can be used as a last resort.
Check the weather forecast, and wear or take appropriate clothing and proper walking shoes or boots. You should always take a windproof and waterproof jacket. Remember that the weather can change unexpectedly. If you’re camping take a good tent and appropriate sleeping bag. Check with the park office about fire and firewood-gathering restrictions, and remember that fires are not allowed during a total fire ban.
For longer walks take more water, snacks and a first aid kit. Remember insect repellent, and a torch/flashlight. Remember also to take all your rubbish back with you. Please do not litter. Be aware of snakes. Snakes left alone will tend to leave you alone. If you see one, don’t disturb or harass it. Snakes are most likely to be seen sunbathing at the beginning of summer, after their winter hibernation. B
e prepared to turn back, or change your plans, if the weather deteriorates or the walk is more difficult than expected. Pushing on beyond your limits may result in injury or even death. Be sure that you can recognize signs of hypothermia and know how to respond. Finally, don’t forget to tell people when you get back. Check in when you return!
The warmer months from November to April are the perfect time to experience regional Victoria. However, Victoria is fire-prone. If you are hiking or camping during summer in an area that is heavily forested, has thick bush or long, dry grass, or coastal areas with lots of plant life – you are at risk of bush fire.
It might seem like a lot of work, but these tips are easy to follow, and are designed to ensure your safety. We are not trying to put you off, but want to help you be better informed and prepared. Be sensible, informed and prepared, and you’ll have a wonderful experience bushwalking across Victoria!
Should you wish to go bushwalking in or with a group, you can join a bushwalking club. Whatever you decide, bushwalking across Victoria is a fantastic, healthy and enjoyable activity.