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Outback Etiquette

Copyright © Joel GrobergTraveling out bush is something every visitor should try. There are many opportunities to go bush. If you are not certain about traveling on your own, think about taking a guided safari, check out the extensive listings under our adventure section.

If you have some camping experience, a self-drive visit is well worth considering. The National Parks of the Savannah and Cape York region are excellent places for first time visitors to visit by four-wheel drive. Check out our Getting around guide for information about renting a four-wheel drive.

The tips below are intended to provide you with some background information on the etiquette of the area, and safety tips for travelers.

Outback Precautions

Copyright © Joel GrobergUse a suitable vehicle - Don’t take two-wheel drives into the outback. They are not designed for the rough roads, and if you are renting, your rental insurance for vehicle damage will be voided, and the costs for repairing any damage you do will come out of your pocket.

Drive carefully - Excessive speed is dangerous and damages your vehicle. Remember, roads can suddenly change from very smooth to very rough. Don’t be tempted to go fast on the smoother sections of roads. Maintenance of dirt roads is expensive and time consuming; don’t drive on them when they are wet. Don’t drive off road or through crops.

Crocodiles - Crocs are found in the lagoons, rivers, estuaries, beaches and other waterways of this region. Check out our more complete guide to being croc-wise.

Snakes - Many of the snakes out here are venomous; assume any snake you encounter is venomous. Most humans bitten either were bothering the snake, or had stepped on it. Watch where you are walking, and give any snake you encounter a wide berth. Snakes in the tropics can be active at night, so be sure to use a flashlight when you are walking around camp.

Routes - We recommend that first timers to the area stick to National Parks and surrounding areas. These are very remote areas, but there is enough traffic that if you have a problem, someone will be along that day to help you out.

If you are going into an extremely remote area make sure that the local police know where you are going and when you plan on coming back. Make sure you are properly equipped to operate totally independently.

Outback Etiquette

The outback is a great area to travel, but you need to remember that to respect the local customs and culture of the ranchers, farmers and aboriginal residents of these areas. While the land seems really empty a rancher, park ranger, or aboriginal tribe is caring it for. These simple guidelines will help you get along, be safe, and earn the respect of the locals.

Wave - Once you leave the pavement you will notice that almost everyone will raise a hand or couple of fingers or nod their head to vehicles coming the other way as they pass. You never know who you may rely on for help, cultivate goodwill as you go.

Copyright © Joel GrobergGates - Gates control the movement of livestock. Leave open gates open and closed gates closed. Doing otherwise can kill livestock by preventing them from accessing water, or letting them into areas they should not be allowed.

Show respect for the locals - Country folks are hospitable, but don’t wear out your welcome. Plan your trip wisely, and bring the food, water and equipment you need. Sharing your fresh produce and recent newspapers is often appreciated in the more remote areas. Keep in mind that these folks are working and may not have much time to spend with you. Early to rise and early to bed is the pattern out here, avoid late night visits and phone calls.

Spend money in the towns - Yes, it does cost more, but go out of your way to buy at least some of your food and supplies in the towns that you pass through. You’ll meet some interesting folks, and contribute to the economy of the area.

Be careful with fire - While fire is used as a management tool in some areas, uncontrolled accidental fires burn fences, buildings, and can kill wildlife and livestock. Use common sense with fire and cigarettes, and always extinguish both completely.

Keep away from livestock - Livestock are the livelihood of the graziers that live in cattle and sheep country. Out here livestock is not as accustomed to people, your presence at a waterhole can prevent them from getting to their only source of water. Take care during lambing and calving times, and check with the landowner prior to setting up camp.

Pets - Don’t bring your pets. Cattle and sheep graziers have every reason to regard dogs as threats to their livelihoods.

Water - Safeguard the water supplies in the area. Supplies are limited in drier areas. Make sure your camp activities do not pollute the waterways, and that you leave any wells and tanks you encounter as you found them.

Litter - Take your rubbish home with you. Plastic, glass and metal litter is not only unsightly, but kills wildlife and livestock.

Protect native wildlife - Enjoy observing the unique animals of the area, and leave them undisturbed so the next visitor can enjoy them the same way.

Save your windshield - Slow down and pull to the left when passing an oncoming vehicle. Not only is this courteous, but it greatly reduces the chances of a stone chipping your or the other vehicle. (If your car is a rental, you will pay for the new windshield.) Likewise, if you are following another vehicle, stay back out of range of the stones it kicks up.


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