Types of Tours

This article lists the different sorts of 4WD Tours on offer by commercial operators in Australia and defines the differences between each. This article will help you understand what to expect from a Guided Tour, Safari Tour, Tag Along Tour, Escorted Tour and so on.

Why Take a Tour?

Other than not having a 4WD of your own or the right equipment, the rest of the reasons usually boil down to concerns about travelling alone and of not knowing where to go.

I thought I'd look at another angle on taking a 4WD Tour - for people like you and I that are already setup with your own 4WD and gear and don't have major concerns, but have realised that the difference between a "good trip" and an "experience of a lifetime" has little to do with budget and a lot to do with local knowledge.

Unless you know everyone in Australia there's bound to be a few interesting places tucked away that even you don't know about... but the locals do and so do the tour operators.

Landowners and Tour Operators

Over recent years, many landowners have had to close access to tracks that run through their properties - and rightly so, because of the irresponsible few out there who leave their rubbish lying around or who chop up tracks by ploughing through in muddy conditions creating heavy and expensive maintenance for the farmers.

Often, tour operators have worked hard with land owners and have gained their trust to take tour groups onto some amazing properties where the average tourer cannot access. There's an arrangement that the tour will be responsible for cleaning up and often assist with property maintenance such as fences and gates. So there's a big bonus for both parties.

Tour Operators can also offer more than just access to private land. One of the major advantages is their excellent knowledge base about the local area and some even focus on ecological activities that compliment the tour guides professional expertise or personal interest.

What I like about these sorts of operators is that for someone that has already marked the "been there - done that" tourist destinations off the list, its nice to have a definite goal for an outback trip. Take a quick look on the internet and you'll find tours that focus on a huge range of special interests from animal research to wildflower cataloguing.

Make Your Visit Count

I know many 4WDrivers, ourselves included, that have done a trip through a region but have later realised that we missed some things and so that destination has to be put into the plan for a re-visit. The shame about this is that re-visits are costly and may take many years to achieve. Some people use the philosophy that they'll just whiz through a region to get a quick overview and then do a re-visit of the best bits at a later stage. From experience, I can say that this rarely happens so it is far better and cheaper to do it properly the first time!

For some reason most of us get behind the wheel of our 4WDs intent to conquer a list of highlights along a whirlwind journey of 20,000kms crammed into 3 weeks, yet in fact see little other than 2 wheel tracks on the road ahead.

Tour Guides Offer More

With tour operators absolutely everywhere, there's no reason why you can't consider your vehicle to be your mobile home and when you get to a place you really want to explore, pick up a tag-along tour or even a day tour with someone that knows that region well. That way you will do more than tick off the major highlights from your guidebook or brochure and you'll see the place for what it really is.

I can think of a recent trip in the Kimberly to a cave we have visited twice before, but I had never noticed an aboriginal painting on the cave ceiling, nor would I have noticed it except for the tour guide giving a talk and shining his torch upon it. My thoughts are if you're going to pay for someone to take you, make sure they can offer you something more than just the driving experience.

Types of Tours

Safari Tour

These tours are often one driver, and a mixed group of around 12 tourists together in a 4WD bus, Oka, LWB Landcruiser Troopcarrier or similar. These tours are usually fully catered with tents and food towed behind in a trailer or stacked on roof racks. Advantages are you don't do the driving, don't need any special equipment and there's lots of socialising opportunities. Disadvantage is you are a captive audience the whole trip and can't get away for some peace on your own or go at your own pace.

Tag Along Tour

This type of tour gives you the opportunity to drive in your own vehicle (or a hired vehicle) led by an experienced guide. There is usually the option to go fully catered or self catered. Advantages are you travel in the comfort and familiarity of your own vehicle, yet have the guidance of an expert and have safety in numbers. Disadvantages are that many vehicles in a tour can slow down travel considerably, for example if one car gets a flat, then you all stop till it’s fixed. Also, wherever you travel, you are not going to experience it in solitude - the group is always with you.
Tag Along ToursIf you have ever wondered what happens on a Tag Along Tour, then this article has all the answers. There are tons of options, and surprisingly, they are not all geared towards the first time 4WD traveller. See Tag Along Tours.

Single Vehicle Tour

This is where the tour operator takes you in his 4WD vehicle so there's usually a limit of 2-4 passengers. This is the way to go if you don't like travelling with a bus load of strangers but want your very own personalised guide and driver.

Final Thoughts on Touring

With all the tour options, you should look for one that will get you on the "road less travelled", that way all the disadvantages of travelling with others will all be worth it.

We hope this feature will encourage you to consider using a bit of local knowledge to make the most of every trip you plan.

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Created: April 2003
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