You know, when it’s winter here, it’s summer in Australia…just saying.
If you’re planning a trip, or want to be, check out this COOL NEW THING, AussieHikingTours. It’s got reviews, tips, tricks, routes, groups, and everything you might need to design the perfect trip down under. We interviewed it’s founder, Neil Fahey, to get the inside scoop.
You just invented something — tell us about Aussiehikingtours.com and why you thought it needed to exist.
Over the last six years that I’ve spent blogging about hiking at Bushwalking Blog, I’ve taken a handful of group guided tours and grown to really love them. While there will always be something special about throwing everything I need in a backpack and taking off into the wilderness by myself, I have to admit that sometimes it’s just as enjoyable (if not more enjoyable) to have everything done for you, leaving you to just focus on enjoying the hiking.
In Australia, there are a huge number of tour operators offering hiking-based tours for all regions and all levels of hiker. In fact, there are so many that it can make choosing the right tour a bit tricky. I’ve heard a lot of stories from readers of my blog, and from tour guides that I’ve met, about people heading off on tours with absolutely no idea why they’d chosen one tour operator’s offering over another’s. When I’ve looked into taking these tours myself, I’ve found comparing them to be pretty tiresome. There are so many factors to consider – Do they include accommodation or camping on the trail? Do you eat campfire food or leave the trail and eat at a restaurant? What’s the maximum group size for the trip? Is it focused on luxury, or roughing it?
So that’s why I decided to create AussieHikingTours.com, a bookings portal that makes it easy for travellers can find, compare and book tours from operators all over the country.
What was your process of coming up with the design for the site?
The main focus was on making it as easy as possible for users to find the tour that would best suit their needs, so the design is based around a simple search form with drop-down menus for region, travel style, season, duration, and price. The tours can also be browsed by state. I’ve tried to use big, beautiful photos to showcase each destination, without it getting in the way of the essential information.
My final goal was to make it easy to compare similar tours on the site so I’ve kept the information across each tour page as consistent as possible, and also included a “Compare Similar Tours” section where relevant, which compares a range of factors in dot-point format.
How do you aggregate all of these walking tours? Do you have partnerships with certain companies? Basically, how does it work? Does it generate revenue?
My mission from the beginning has been to get as close as possible to listing every tour in Australia that has a significant hiking element, so I’ve had to approach a multitude of tour operators with my offer of partnership. A strong advantage of using AussieHikingTours.com is that you won’t pay any more for your booking than you would if you booked directly through the operator, so each tour operator gives me a cut of their profit. Since launching, I’ve been approached by several operators asking me to list their tours but prior to that I was searching them out myself and manually assessing their suitability.
What are some tips for people looking to hike in Australia? What should they bring? What’s the best time of year?
Firstly, it seems that Australia has a bit of an unfair reputation overseas for being scary and dangerous. I promise you it’s not that bad! In all my years of hiking I’ve never been bitten by anything more dangerous than a mosquito. I’ve never seen a dangerous spider on a hike, and although I have seen a lot of snakes they’re almost always trying to get away from me as quickly as possible when I see them.
Speaking of mosquitoes, they may not be dangerous but they’re definitely something to keep in mind. Grab some repellent before you set off on any hike. Even if you’re taking a guided tour, it won’t hurt to have your own. The flies in some parts of Australia, and at certain times of year, will be an even bigger annoyance. Repellent will be a big help there as well.
Aside from that I don’t think there’s anything you need to bring that you wouldn’t take on any hike, no matter what country you’re in. If you’re taking a tour, you’ll normally be provided with a comprehensive gear list before your trip, anyway.
As for best times of year, if you’re visiting the northern parts of Australia you’d be best avoiding the summer wet season. Everywhere else in the country can be accessed all year round but it depends what you’re looking for. I’d personally avoid hiking in Tasmania during winter to decrease the chances of snow, but others go there in winter specifically for the snowshoeing. My favourite time for hiking is always spring though, for the less extreme weather and the incredible wildflowers.
What is your favorite area in Australia for hiking? What about outside of Australia? What are the best tours you have on your site right now?
The place in Australia that I feel most connected to is definitely Cathedral Range, about 2 hours from Melbourne. It’s one of the few places I can revisit over and over again. It’s not just that I never get bored of hiking there, but it feels like I’m returning home every time I visit. I love the place so much that I dragged my lady, who isn’t exactly a hiking enthusiast, up there last year to propose to her. Unfortunately for those who prefer their hikes to be guided, there aren’t any such trips currently available at Cathedral Range. If anyone is super keen they should get in touch and maybe I can arrange something customised for them.
My overseas hiking experience is fairly limited, but I absolutely loved hiking Peru’s Colca Canyon. It’s a unique landscape dotted with bizarre looking plant life, but what’s even more bizarre is that there’s a “resort” at the bottom of the canyon where you can stay in cute little huts and swim in a luxurious swimming pool. They even sell beer, which is delivered to the resort on the back of a donkey, since there are no roads.
Though I haven’t personally experienced all of the tours on AussieHikingTours.com, my favourite hiking trail that I’ve listed is the Northern Territory’s Larapinta Trail. I’ve only hiked four days of its total sixteen, but it was some of the most rugged and diverse country I’ve ever hiked. It’s really just an incredibly special place.
Hiking in the U.S. has definitely gotten more popular. How has hiking in Australia changed over the years?
Hiking is definitely increasing in popularity in Australia, helped along by the growth of the Internet and the ever-increasing number of blogs and websites that provide comprehensive information for free. When I first started hiking regularly six years ago, the Australian hiking community was mostly made up of hardcore wilderness junkies who didn’t think much of anyone who only did day-hikes, but I think more recently it has become more welcoming, friendly, and approachable.
What’s next for Aussiehikingtours.com?
At the moment I’m mainly focusing on getting through the extremely long list of tours that I still need to list, but once the site is completely established there are lots of ways I’d love to improve on it. I’m a big believer in the power of the internet for connecting people, so I’d love to integrate some community elements to the site. I’m also keen to include the functionality for customers to come back and review their tours, and create bucket lists of tours they want to take. I’d love for Australia to be one of the first places that hikers all over the world think of when they’re looking for a hiking holiday, so I hope that AussieHikingTours.com can contribute to making that happen.