‘I was hoping to visit Australia in 2020 but with all the bush fires I’m not sure that’s a good idea anymore. Should I postpone?’
The short answer is that it depends on where in the country your plans will take you and when you’re planning to travel. Remember that your world map is probably lying to you about Australia’s size. The country is just more than 75 per cent of the size of Canada. As of press time – and things change by the day – the major fires have been limited to New South Wales (Sydney), South Australia (Adelaide), Queensland (Brisbane), Tasmania and Victoria (Melbourne).
Major cities haven’t been directly affected by fire, but air quality can be an issue. Canberra, Sydney and Victoria have reported Air Quality Indexes of late that are among the worst in the world. Travellers with respiratory or heart ailments would do well to stay clear. (You can check the air quality for specific regions here: aqicn.org/map/australia)
Victoria declared a state of disaster, while New South Wales declared a state of emergency (which has since been lifted) and both began evacuating tourists from some areas in the south. (If you choose to go, be sure to read the fine print on your travel insurance as “state of emergency” may invalidate some coverage.)
The Northern Territory (where popular sites such as Uluru and Alice Springs are located) and Western Australia (Perth) are not among areas of concern but, again, that changes day to day. Cancelling a trip to Perth today would be akin to cancelling a trip to Saskatoon for a fire in Toronto, but the summer is young in Australia and things change by the hour.
“Whilst bushfires continue to impact parts of Australia, many areas are unaffected and most tourism businesses are still open,” Phillipa Harrison, managing director, Tourism Australia said in a recent statement. “We would encourage all travellers coming to Australia to seek the most up to date information prior to departure and remain informed about changing conditions whilst on the ground.”
On South Australia’s Kangaroo Island, which compares in size to New York’s Long Island, bushfires were responsible for two deaths on the western side of the island. Residents say that while there is significant damage to areas on the western side including the Southern Ocean Lodge resort and Flinders Chase National Park, the more densely populated eastern side of the island has been spared.
Craig Wickham, managing director of Exceptional Kangaroo Island, says he was given the green light to continue tours on the island. Flights and ferries to the island remain running.
“We need to do all we can to make the recovery as rapid and positive as we can,” he said from his home on the island.
“Our new itineraries are being finalized and they will initially stay well away from the burned areas but as signs of the recovery start to appear and the infrastructure and access is restored, we will add in those beautiful places once more.”
Here’s where to find information on the current state of fires across the country:
- New South Wales - www.rfs.nsw.gov.au
- Victoria - www.cfa.vic.gov.au
- Tasmania - www.fire.tas.gov.au
- Australian Capital Territory - www.esa.act.gov.au
- Northern Territory - www.pfes.nt.gov.au
- Queensland - www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au
- South Australia - www.cfs.org.au
- Western Australia - www.emergency.wa.gov.au and www.fesa.wa.gov.au
Donations to the Australian Red Cross can be made here: https://www.redcross.org.au/.
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