Safety & communications

 

Mobile telephone coverage is intermittent along the Great Ocean Walk, coverage depends on your carrier and where you are at on the walk.

Mobile coverage

By our estimate a Telstra Next G handset will have 85% coverage along the route, other carriers less so to the point where some (Vodaphone / Optus) should not be relied upon. The area where coverage is least reliable is Cape Otway due to the dense forest cover. Signal will wane, drop out and come back again as you walk in and out of gullies and thicker forest cover along any section of the Great Ocean Walk.

See link below for coverage map with Telstra:

http://www.telstra.com.au/mobile-phones/coverage-networks/our-coverage/state-coverage/

Hikers are advised to check their mobile telephones for reception along the way. In the event that walkers need to contact someone, one option can be to return to the last spot they received reception to make a call out. Generally this is at high points with little overhanging vegetation. These locations include Blanket Bay beach area, Station Beach inland walk section, Ryans Den campsite, Moonlight Head and Devils Kitchen campsite ocean-view areas. In an emergency, dial 000 for Police, Fire and Ambulance. For mobile telephones you can also dial 112, which will connect you into any carrier’s service in that area regardless of whether you are showing signal with your carrier.

Explanation on calling 112

112 is a secondary emergency number that can be dialled from mobile phones in Australia. (Special capabilities, including roaming, once only existed when dialling 112, however mobile phones manufactured since January 2002 also provide these capabilities when dialling Triple Zero (000) to access the emergency call service). It is important to realise that if there is no mobile coverage on any network, you will not be able to reach the emergency call service via a mobile phone, regardless of which number you dialled.

The best solution for safety

You have a couple of options open to you that can give you emergency back up in remote areas. PLB’s (Personal Locator Beacons) are designed to be carried by individuals to give out a distress call to emergency services with your location. A device we’d recommend for bushwalkers is the “Spot GPS Satellite Messenger” which acts as a PLB but also allows you to send pre-programmed texts to nominated mobiles saying that you’re OK or on your way. it also has a tracking feature that allows someone to track your moving position on a Google map – useful if you have a driver waiting for you or worried family member! You can pick these up  for around $200 but you also need an annual subscription to the satellite service for $115 – a good investment if you are a frequent adventurer into remote outdoor areas. Otherwise you may consider just hiring a PLB for your trip.

If you are booking on a self guided trip with either RAW Travel, Walk 91 or Bothfeet, they will provide you with one of these devices  as part of your kit.

Other Safety considerations

Bushfires

The Great Ocean Walk is in a high bushfire risk area and there is no safe place to shelter and survive a bushfire. Because your safety is your responsibility, we ask that you read this guide to Prepare, Act and Survive. During the fire season, over the warmer months of the year, hikers on the Great Ocean Walk need to be aware of when a Total Fire Ban has been declared. On these days you must not light a fire and stop any activity which might start a fire. This includes using portable liquid and gas fuel cooking stoves. During periods of hot and windy weather and in the event a Total Fire Ban is declared, hikers should carry some food that does not need to be cooked. For Total Fire Ban information, please call the Country Fire Authority (CFA) on 13 1599 or visit the CFA website www.cfa.vic.gov.au

On days rated Severe and Extreme fire danger, all walkers are advised to  consider safety along their planned walking route. If temperatures and winds are high, escape routes need to be considered as many sections of the walk have no safe refuge due to impenetrable heathland vegetation, thick fuel-laden forest, steep cliffs or a combination of these.

Parks Victoria advises that leaving the park early in the day is your best option, do not wait and see how conditions develop. Code Red indicates the worst conditions for a bush or grass fire and leaving the park the night before is the safest option, again do not wait and see. Parks Victoria advises park visitors that the Great Otway National Park will be closed on days of Code Red fire weather predictions. The Great Ocean Walk is subject to the Department of Sustainability’s (DSE) Planned Burning program aimed at reducing the bushfire risk in Victoria’s public land. Planned burns usually happen in autumn or spring and may impact on sections of the walk. Planned burning is weather dependent, so advice on when it may occur could be short. Walkers may need to look at alternative options to avoid the areas impacted and/or repeat sections of the walk when a planned burn is underway. Information will be updated with Tour Operators and can also be found on the DSE website www.dse.vic.gov.au

Can you have a campfire?

No! There are no camp fires allowed at Great Ocean Walk hike-in camp sites at any time. However camp fires can be lit (in designated fireplaces only) within the Great Otway National Park at Blanket Bay and Aire River West which are car-based camping areas. Campers must provide their own firewood from outside the National Park. No fires or flames are permitted anywhere on Total Fire Ban days, inside or outside tents, shelters or toilets. This includes the use of portable compact liquid or gas cooking stoves. For further information, please ring the CFA on 13 1599 or visit the CFA website (www.cfa.vic.gov.au)

Snakes and other critters

Tiger snake at Twelve Apostles

Tiger Snake at Gibson’s Steps

The warmer months bring snakes out onto the track and it is not unusual to come across a Tiger or Brown Snake on your walk so you need to be alert but not panic:

  • Keep your distance – snakes will usually slither away as they feel you approaching. Give them time to disappear and they will try and avoid you. Don’t try & get close for a photo!
  • Don’t ever try to handle or kill a snake. Firstly they are a protected species in Australia and secondly your chances of being bitten increases dramatically with this kind of stupidity.
  • So give any visible snakes a wide berth and you’ll be fine. Wearing boots, gaiters & trousers gives your legs more protection from bites than bare ankles & legs.

Make sure you check rocks and logs before you sit down on them and please avoid walking through long grass. (If you stick to the path you shouldn’t encounter long grass anyway!) But to put your mind at rest the incidence of people being bitten by a snake on this walk is negligible and a with a bit of common sense you’ll be fine.

Walkers need to also be aware that they can occasionally share the walking track with spiders, ants, bees, European wasps and leaches. This is all a part of the experience of being out “in the bush”. Walkers with any allergies need to ensure they have appropriate medication and parties should carry a basic first-aid kit.

High tides & surges

Just one last thing to be aware of – carry with you and check the tide timetables for the area. Some beaches such as Station Beach, Johanna Beach & Wreck Beach can be subject to surges from rogue waves when you are walking along them, so keep away from the water’s edge by at least 10m. At Station & Wreck Beach there is a high tide alternative to walking along the beach and you should err on the side of caution if in doubt which way the tide is moving. Wreck Beach in particular needs to be treated with caution as it is very easy to get caught out by the tide in the bay where the anchors lie. Do not venture down there unless you are at low tide and it is clearly safe to do so –  there is a real danger of being cut off by the water on the jutting cliff corners either side of the bay.

Keep on track

The Great Ocean Walk includes a mixture of tracks, gradients and surfaces, including rock platforms, sandy beaches and vehicle tracks. Be alert for cars when walking on shared vehicle tracks, and fallen tree limbs when walking through forested areas. Keep to the track when you are hiking. This protects native vegetation, reduces spread of disease, and also keeps you safe.