Okay, so I know what you’re thinking, of course, I am going to promote guided tours, I own a hiking tour company. But what you may not know is that my first few experiences with multi-day hikes were all guided tours. I walked to Everest Base Camp on a guided tour in 2014, and then the Overland Track in 2016. In both these experiences, I would never have been able to do the walk on my own, for several reasons; I did not have the gear, I did not have the skills, and what the hell was I supposed to eat??
More than just someone waving a flag and loading you on a bus, a guided hiking trip can offer up a completely different experience than doing it on your own. Here are my top 5 reasons why you should take a guided tour in 2019.
Safety in numbers!
First and foremost, it’s safer! The age-old rule in bushwalking is never walk alone, and always tell someone where you’re going. That’s fantastic advice, but what happens when you both get lost, like this VERY experienced couple recently in the Budawangs?
Now I’m not trying to scare you, but a guided tour can offer you the safety and security that a DIY just simply cannot. Tour operators are required, that is by law, to carry above and beyond safety equipment. On every one of my tours, we carry a satellite phone, a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), two fully stocked and extremely comprehensive first aid kit’s and both guides will be Wilderness First Aid trained, with the skills and knowledge to respond to situations in isolated and remote conditions.
I’m pretty sure that your average bushwalker won’t carry half that equipment. In fact, I can guarantee it because on some of my own personal trips I’ve been known to become lax; “it’s just me, I know what I am doing… what could go wrong?” – Sorry Mum!
Luckily, when you come on a guided tour, there’s none of that. Also, it’s tough to become lost when you part of a large group! Aside from that, with comprehensive back-up and contingency plans in place, you’re also not going to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere during a severe thunderstorm or heat-wave. You can relax a little, let someone else make some decisions for once and feel confident in the knowledge that your safety is in the hands of experienced people whose first priority is YOU!
A guided tour offers an enhanced experience!
The second biggest reason to book a tour is the incredible knowledge and insights your guides will share. When you’re overseas, nothing beat a local’s guides to the best café’s and restaurants right? Well, the same applies to hiking. Your guides know the best places to walk, they know the secret lookouts, and they know SO MUCH about the environment around you.
One of the biggest motivators for me when I am guiding is sharing an incredible fact about a plant or bird, and witnessing the child-like wonder on people’s faces. Nature is so intricate, and beautiful symbiotic relationships exist everywhere. But if you didn’t know it, you would most likely walk right on past that mushroom, or not hear that bird call.
You’ll still have a fantastic time, because any time in the bush is a great time, but you might not get the chance to develop a deeper connection to the world around you. Not a flower kinda guy? No worries, maybe history fascinates you instead? Or perhaps you want to know how to read the weather using the clouds? Or maybe even, you’re an astronomy expert, and you finally have a willing audience to listen and learn about your great wealth of knowledge (if you are an astronomy expert reading this, please contact me, let’s talk!).
At the end of the day, any time you take a tour, whether it’s a free walking tour around Barcelona, or an overpriced (A.K.A. rip off) tuk-tuk ride around Vietnam, you’re going to learn something, and what’s better than learning new things right?
It might be cheaper than you think
People sometimes comment on the price of a guided tour, and I can see where they are coming from. Sure, you can DIY, and you’ll have a great time. But have you thought about the National Park fees? What about the tolls on the roads and the petrol to get there? Want to take some milk powder for your coffee in the morning? Too bad it only comes in giant 1KG bags that will last you a lifetime.
When you start to break down the individual costs of DIY’ing, you might be surprised by how quickly it all adds up. That’s not to mention forking out $1000’s to buy all the gear if you don’t already own it. Like any new hobby, it’s great to try before you buy right? A guided hiking tour is the perfect way to test the waters, see if you like it and then perhaps look at investing in a quality gear collection that is built up slowly over time.
Also, tour companies can sometimes get discounts, or corporate pricing for certain things, reducing the cost compared to you doing it on your own. For example, For Freeland Hiking Co. I am buying a lot of the ingredients I need for my recipes in bulk from wholesalers, so I can reduce my food costs, a saving which is then passed along to my guests.
But the number one thing people forget to value is their own time! The best bit about a guided tour is that you don’t have to do anything; it’s all taken care off. So before you start dishing out the responsibilities to each of your mates, and getting into the attic to find that old (and let’s face it, probably broken) tent, have a think about the real cost of a guided tour, and put a value on your time.
You can meet new people!
I’m putting this one in here because it might not be your first thought, but it’s undoubtedly a fantastic chance to meet new people. As an adult, it quite hard to meet new, like-minded people outside of your usual friendship circles. By joining a tour, you never know who you might be sharing a tent with for three days, and you’re significantly increasing your chances of making lifelong friends.
Contrary to popular belief, guided tours are not exclusively for beginners. I regularly came across immensely experienced hikers, who simply do not want to hike alone, and would rather join a group for the social experience. They love the idea of sharing the ‘wow’ moment with others, chatting with people over dinner and best of all…not having to take a selfie stick to capture the moment!
No matter how experienced you are, or introverted you are, I can guarantee you will have a good time on a guided tour! And why is that? Because at the end of the day (sorry to be so blunt) the guided tour industry is a business, and we rely on word of mouth and guests reviews. Any tour company will go above and beyond to provide the best, money-can’t-buy experience possible. Hopefully, as in my case, it’s driven by a moral and well-meaning motivation to make sure you have a good time. But there is always the underlying, secondary reason, and that’s the hope that you will share your experience with others, and hopefully inspire them to join a tour one day themselves.
It’s better for the environment!
And lastly, but certainly not least, a hiking tour is actually better for the environment. Sure, larger groups are going to have a more substantial impact on the track, that’s simple science. And I cannot speak for the entire industry when I say this, but on my trips at least, the focus on environmental protection is so great, that the overall impact is going to be smaller than if we all traveled up, and hiked individually along the same trail.
On a guided tour, you’ll learn how to toilet correctly in the bush (15cm holes baby), and you’ll be camping in designated campgrounds that are designed to handle a little impact. Also, hopefully you’re walking with an ethical company who will be following the 7 Leave No Trace Principles, meaning your impact on the landscape around you will be reduced to almost nothing.
For example, your guides won’t let you walk off track to get a close up of that flower (sorry, but looking at the big picture it’s not worth it), or feed the wallaby inappropriate food. There will be no campfires in certain areas, and you might be yelled at if you throw your apple core into the bush. When you’re on your own, or with a bunch of friends, it’s easy to let these things slip for the sake of the Instagram, or maybe you’re just simply not in the habit of doing something. But on a guided tour, you’ll be shown and taught all the ‘right-ways’ to do things. Monkey see monkey do right?
Treating the bush right is founded in a love and awe for the delicate ecosystems that exist. Hopefully, your guides will have instilled in you a newfound respect for nature, which will stick with you for any future adventures you undertake, and who knows, after joining a guided tour, you might find yourself being the one scrounging around the campsite for any tiny bits of rubbish left behind!
In the end, your adventure is what you make it. But next time your planning your next big thing, have a quick look to see if there is anyone out there that’s already proving the service, and give them a go!
Freeland Hiking Co. offers multi-day expedition style hiking tours through some of NSW’s most beautiful wilderness. With a range of tours to suit all levels of experience and fitness, and inclusive of gear, food and transport, it’s the perfect opportunity to get out amongst nature and take the time to reconnect.