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Australia wins Lonely Planet's Best In Travel 2021 Community Restoration award

Following catastrophic fires last summer, a number of Australian tour operators like Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours are developing effective and interesting ways to get visitors involved in helping rebuild the native wildlife and their habitat.

Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours' Janine Duffy was featured in Lonely Planet's video annoucing that Australia has been recognised in their annual Best In Travel award for Community Restoration.

Learn more about Janine in our Q&A With Guides series.

Watch the video here


Full article (courtesy of Lonely Planet)

After one of the worst bushfire seasons in history, the rainforests, sapphire coasts and endemic wildlife of Australia are slowly rising from the ashes thanks to a number of community restoration efforts.

Last year, around 27 million acres of Australia’s bush, forest and parkland were burned in one of the biggest wildfire disasters ever recorded with 3 billion animals estimated to have either been killed or harmed. New South Wales and Victoria were the worst affected, with thousands of koalas losing 80% of their natural habitat in the bush.

Despite the damage, restoration plans are now helping the worst affected areas to recover. The Australian Government is investing $200 million to save native species like the koala, the Kangaroo Island dunnart and the Wollemia pine tree, while donations from overseas will fund new wildlife breeding programs and facilities.

Tourism is likely to play a hands-on role in the restoration too with operators like Echidna Walkabout Tours and Australian Wildlife Journeys offering koala recovery experiences. These tours allow travelers to plant trees, remove weeds, and carry out biodiversity surveys in native habitats for when the marsupials return to nature. Of course, they’ll get to meet the koalas too.

Other more climate-friendly measures on the cards include the installation of new charging stations for electric vehicles, the introduction of hydrogen-powered tour coaches and incentivization of renewable energy sources in buildings. But it’s the collective charity and volunteering efforts pulled together by the National Bushfire Recovery Agency that will help those in the most need.


“It’s hard to relay quite how badly communities have been hit by the bushfires. You’re talking areas the size of small countries being decimated in a matter of days. But the response from everyday Australians has been incredible. Tens of millions have been raised to help communities get back on their feet and support the volunteer rural fire services. There’s much to be done in terms of restoring the bush, but we're already starting to see green shoots appear against the scorched trunks.”



Although the damage is real, Australia is a huge country, and over 97% of Australia’s attractions – from the Great Ocean Road to the Great Barrier Reef – remain unscathed. Furthermore, visitors on a working holiday visa can now undertake paid and volunteer work in certain affected areas that will count towards the work required to apply for a second or third year. Workers can now also remain with the same employer for up to 12 months rather than the usual six, leaving plenty of time to help while exploring.