Leadership: As we enter our 15th year for GO BUSH Safaris we have entered an era when John will not personally lead every safari. This year we are delegating the leadership of our Thailand-Laos Adventure to a young Australian volunteer, Anne Buchan, who has worked with the Hill tribes of Northern Thailand for the past three years. She is a fluent Thai speaker who helped us when we visited Thailand in January 2000 to help develop an ecotourism strategy and again last January, when our first Thai Laos Adventure tried out the practicality of implementing the strategy. Anne and the HADF, the NGO she works with played a pivotal role with both visits.
This year’s Thai Laos Adventure was an exhilarating, stimulating and most enjoyable experience. The “slow boat” trip down the Mekong surpassed our expectations as the river fell 400 metres in the 300 kilometres before passing through the culturally rich World Heritage city of Luang Prabang. The trip was so good that we are following almost the same itinerary again next January —the best time climatically. The trip is restricted to 13 safarists.
Other Changes Ahead: 2002 may have to be the last year in which John personally leads all GO BUSH Safaris within Australia. While not a retiring type, John is planning to scale back from leading about 11 safaris personally each year and delegate leadership of some safaris to a new generation. It is hard to let go but we hope that we will make space for some very capable younger leaders.
Demand increasing: After having a few vacant seats on some safaris following the Olympics and the introduction of the GST, our safaris have been in heavy demand this year. Several were filled over months ahead including Lord Howe Island, Kimberley, Shark Bay and Fraser Island. As John is looking at scaling back his field activities the demand is growing ever stronger. Unfortunately the demands of the new taxation system means though that we have been forced to increase some prices for 2002.
Some Highlights of the Past Year: Clearly the Thai – Laos Adventure last January was one of our highlights. This is an adventure we plan to repeat in forthcoming years.
Our Blue Mountains Safari last November was a wonderful experience. Despite its proximity to Australia’s “Smokus maximus”, the bulk of this huge sandstone region remains little known by the vast majority of Sydneysiders. We are now planning an even more comprehensive view of Australia’s newest World Heritage site next Christmas based on our first wonderful excursion.
Our last Shark Bay safari included our first foray into the floristic wonderland of the south west where the botanical diversity almost overwhelmed us. The sight of so many whales in the Bight was another highlight which we plan to repeat next year.
Our Bush Christmas in the Border Ranges was another great adventure into the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves of Australia World Heritage area. It was so good we are repeating it this year following exactly the same itinerary and planning.
As always our Kimberley Adventure was uplifting. It is especially enriched by the increasing Aboriginal involvement in the program which we plan to increase further in 2002. Over the past three years Joe Gala, a young Butchalla with strong Fraser Island connections has been our Assistant Fearless Leader. He has added an extra dimension to this already great trip.
We were again surprised to see so many wandering through the Kakadu woodlands on dark stormy nights to hunt for snakes and frogs has become. Kakadu seems to be seething with wildlife in the Wet and the night is the best time to see it. We also had the thrill of flying into Arnhemland for the first time in the wet season.
The golden autumn weather of Tasmania is always incredibly pleasant and a relief from the summer heat. However, the ruggedness of the Tasmanian scenery makes it a highlight.
Both Lord Howe Island and Fraser Island safaris are always adventures anticipated with keen anticipation and this year didn’t disappoint. Both are areas of special interest for GO BUSH Safaris. John is revising the Lord Howe Island Management Strategy he wrote in 1988. Ironically it identifies an enormous escalation of people pressure and calls to enforcing some realistic cap on visitor numbers.
Because John is so intimately involved in Fraser Island management, the death of a young boy and the subsequent killing of 31 of the island’s estimated 100 dingos in May was especially tragic. We continue to include the assistance to Fraser Island as part of GO BUSH’s mission. There is still much to be done there where every visitor is resulting in over a tonne of sand being sluiced down the roads and ending up in lakes, streams and other depressions.
Another highlight of 2002 was that John attended the 24th World Heritage Committee meeting in Cairns in November. This is only the second time that the committee has met in Australia and it provided an opportunity to see just how it operates and its processes for monitoring the management of an increasing number of sites. Apart from doing a bit to promote the protection of Fraser Island and supporting the inscription of the Blue Mountains, John was also able to follow up many issues of concern in the Wet Tropics. Our main interest here is the operation of the Cape Tribulation Research Station continues to be a major focus for us.
Cyber safaris: The number of hits to our GO BUSH Safaris web page, www.gobush.com.au continues to grow. We note that now more than half of our safarists are on E-mail. This has trebled over recent years and continues to grow. Also more Application Forms are being taken off our home page. This has encouraged us to expand our Home Page to post the text of each safari diary there beside full safari itineraries. We want every safarist to be well briefed on what might to expect. Seeing how other people on previous safaris viewed the experience helps better appreciate what might be in store. John's personal home page dealing with his conservation interests is www.sinclair.org.au.
Changes for 2002: We are putting two safaris on which we have not done for some time. We have already included the Thailand-Laos Adventure which was not in our 2001 brochure.
We look forward to again conducting our great Mungo-Mutawintji and More safari. This was last conducted in 1999 when it involved just four nights camping. It will visit three World Heritage sites. This year though we have dispensed with all camping and we will be accommodated throughout.
Another big change is a new venue for our Bush Christmas. Previous venues have been Kosciusko, New England and the Border Ranges. For the first time in 2002 we will be in the Blue Mountains to savour this wonderful area at Sydney’s back door.
We continue to refine and trying to improve on our itineraries each year. For example, in 2002 we will reverse the route of the Kakadu in the Wet itinerary. We will now visit National Parks outside Kakadu first, finishing in Kakadu and avoiding any feeling of anti-climax.
The itineraries with little change are proven to have already been refined to provide the highest levels of client satisfaction. These include Tasmania, Fraser Island, Kimberley, Lord Howe Island, and Shark Bay.
Special Thanks: Again we pay a special thanks to the wonderful assistants, particularly our friend, Ian Morris. His contributions have lifted our northern safaris tours to an unsurpassed standard of excellence. Geoff Mosley has added a similar dimension to the Tasmanian and Blue Mountains safaris as has Alan Notley in the south-west of Western Australia. Jo-Jo (Joe Gala) and the other indigenous people have also added so much. Many other crew members have assisted in a multitude of ways. They have, cooked packed, guided and entertained. They made a big difference to the experience.
In addition to the crews, all safarists have made our work a pleasure for all. As most will attest, they are surprised at how well everyone gets one together. Thanks to everyone.
John Sinclair & Sharan Daly