Safety in Remote Areas
Over the past few years, there has been an explosion of companies offering Australians the opportunity to trek the Kokoda Trail. The volume of trekkers has increased significantly, and as a result there has been an increasing number of injuries and evacuations. This confirms that trekking Kokoda is a tough and challenging proposition; prospective trekkers need to understand this, and take responsibility when choosing to take this on.
There are a number of simple precautions to minimise chances of sickness, injury or failure when trekking on the Kokoda Trail, or indeed undertaking any remote adventure activity. One is in selection of an appropriate operator, and you need to be confident that your operator has an appropriate Risk Management Plan to take care of you in the event of an emergency.
Below is a tip sheet created to assist in selecting a trekking operator:
- Has the operator a current registered KTA operator’s licence? Ask for the number!
- How long has the company been operating in PNG? Trekking Kokoda is not the same as trekking Nepal or the Pyrenees.
- What is the operator’s serious incident / casualty record?
- What are the Risk Management Procedures for an emergency?
- Find out if the operator principals actually do the trek. Although many companies (us included!) have a number of great trek leaders working for them, the principals still need to be out there, to stay on top of what’s happening.
- Ask what the operator does to assist your trek fitness preparation. Some operators offer training programs or assistance. If you live in a remote area, you should discuss the operator’s specific fitness requirements.
- Call the operator and ask questions. A great website doesn’t always equate to a great trekking operation. Find someone who is happy to chat with you and answer your questions and concerns. If they haven’t got time for you before you leave, chances are they may not have time for you on the track either
- Attend information sessions. An operator who cares about your trekking experience will want to ensure you are properly prepared, in terms of fitness, equipment AND expectations. There is a great deal of information to be relayed, particularly in terms of health and safety. Find out for yourself how these issues are addressed
- Ask for References. Quality operators will publish testimonials from trekkers on their website. Ask for permission to speak with previous trekkers – that way you can ask your own questions directly
- Is your money protected by the Travel Compensation Fund? The TCF is designed to protect consumers from operators who lose your money by going broke.
- Does the operator have Public Liability Insurance? Ask for a copy of the Certificate!
Adventure travel in remote areas can be a life changing and empowering experience, however it is vital that the correct approach and preparation is taken. It is imperative that you understand that you will be undertaking strenuous activity in a remote area, and that medical assistance may not be immediately available. You must purpose train –having a high level of cardiovascular fitness is a good start, however successful trekkers train on hilly terrain for a considerable period prior to undertaking the trek itself. Successful cyclists train on their bikes and those undertaking kayaking and canoeing activities purpose train also. You must also have a good understanding of the conditions expected, and their requirements whilst on the track.
Other useful questions for any destination:
- What are the inclusions / exclusions? Most operators cost their treks differently – a lower priced trek may not include all accommodation or meals (on and off track).
- Check if you are required to hire tents, etc.
- Does the trek include an Australian leader? A local led trek may come at a lower cost, but may not include the same attention to history, safety or group dynamics as an Australian led adventure.
- What First Aid qualifications to the leaders have?
- What group sizes does the trek operator run?
- What food is served on the track?
- What historic and/or cultural sites are available along the way, and is the cost of entry included?
Ensure that you properly research the activity, the terrain and the trek operator. Remember that – as with most things in life – the cheapest is rarely the best.