We have all seen the powerful images of bushfires in Australia and have heard of the impact they have had on the wildlife population. It’s estimated that hundreds of millions of animals have died in New South Wales alone. Many of you are wondering what you can do to help.
First off, if you have travel planned to Australia in 2020, check with your local tour operator before you consider cancelling. Australia is a huge place --- nearly as large as the continental U.S. -- and while large swaths of the country’s southeast have been hit by fires, many places are unaffected. As when any disaster hits, the affected country’s economy needs a jolt. Lost revenue from cancellations of tours in unaffected areas will slow recovery.
The areas most affected are the Blue Mountains and South Coast of New South Wales, East Gippsland and Upper Murray in Victoria, and Kangaroo Island off the South Australia mainland. Sadly, Virtuoso-preferred Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island has sustained heavy damage and is closed indefinitely. Baillie Lodges has vowed to rebuild and reopen the resort, which was a favorite destination of animal lovers in “Australia’s Galapagos.”
Air quality in Sydney and Canberra is a concern, as shifting winds can bring smoke and haze into the cities, but major attractions remain open. The latest updates from Tourism Australia list Tasmania, Western Australia, Queensland, and the Northern Territory as not impacted. That means Perth and the Margaret River wine region, Kakadu National Park, the Great Barrier Reef and other popular destinations are perfectly safe to visit.
Victoria’s most visited areas: Melbourne, Phillip Island, the Great Ocean Road, Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley are free and clear, as Adelaide and the Barossa Valley in South Australia.
If you’d like to donate to rescue and recovery efforts, these agencies are doing incredible work and could really use your support. Wildlife: Animal Welfare League NSW, Taronga Zoo Conservation Program, Wildlife Victoria, WIRES (NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Services). Firefighters: CFS Foundation, CFA Victoria, NSW Rural Fire Service. Community: Country Women’s Association Disaster Relief Fund, Kangaroo Island Fire Fund, Australian Red Cross, NSW St. Vincent de Paul Society. Environment: Australian Conservation Foundation, Australian Marine Conservation Society.
Australia is a beautiful place and a wonderful destination for travelers, and it could really use our help.