How experienced are you with multi-day walks; have you done anything like this before?
Do you have first aid knowledge & a first aid kit?
Are you comfortable being out in some fairly remote locations?
Does the possibility of close encounters with wildlife bother you?
Have you got good walking stamina to complete the distances?
If you are travelling alone it’s probably best to have the back up of a self guided or guided trip. Otherwise in the event of an emergency or injury that incapacitates you how will you cope? You should at the very least have a reliable mobile and emergency device ( EPIRB or similar) with you if travelling solo.
If you are going to walk independently and carry your own pack you need to be fitter than if you opt for a guided or self guided walk where your luggage is carried for you. Training with your pack beforehand is essential so you can see how your body copes with the demands of a fully laden pack – practice with the gear you intend to use and don’t forget to add the weight of food and water! If you’re unsure of your fitness then the support of a guided walk is your best bet where you can have vehicle back up and pull out points.
To some people, the camaraderie of a walking group is one of the highlights of their trip, new friends made, people to socialise and share experiences with at the end of their day. Female walkers also appreciate the feeling of security that comes with a group. Other people crave solitude and the ability to appreciate nature quietly and unobtrusively - not to mention the adventure factor of exploring on your on terms.
A good guide can bring a destination to life, passing on interesting knowledge about the unique features of an environment that independent walkers will most often miss. Guides know the best places to take you, where to look for wildlife and the names of plants and flowers along the way. They bring a measure of certainty to each day's walk and make sure everything goes to plan. For some people the educational aspect that a guide can bring to their walking makes it all worthwhile. Other people enjoy the challenge of doing their own exploration and relying upon their own knowledge and abilities. Some companies such as RAW Travel ( www.rawtravel.com) also bring in specialist local guides to complement their walking leaders during their walks.
What's your walking pace?
Some people are happy to walk with the support of a group & leader and adapt to the groups pace when walking - usually paced to accommodate slower members. (The best operators allow people to choose their own walking pace and regroup as needed.) Other people might feel constrained & frustrated by the pace of a group and like to adopt a faster pace than a group allows.
Self guided walks strike a balance between the two as you have the back up of a company in case anything goes amiss, but the freedom to walk your own way.
One other factor to consider is whether you have a vehicle or not? As some guided trips start in Melbourne the return transfers with a guided group can be an important factor. Self guided and independent trips mean you have to make your own way to Apollo Bay and back again. Have a look at the Transport section for more details on public transport options to get to the area and back.
So it's largely a personal choice as to which might suit you best! But if you're new at this and at all uncertain then maybe opt for a guided package the first time and get a feel for the walk - you can always come back and try it independently once you've got a taste for it.
Whether on an independent or guided trip you should be aware of & practice minimal impact practices for your walk. For what this means in practice please see our Responsible Walking guidelines page