Since last July, wildfires in Australia have destroyed an estimated 14 million acres across the continent. Most of the damage is concentrated in rural areas in the southeastern states of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia. At least 25 people have died, hundreds of homes have been lost, and, while it’s hard to provide an exact number, some estimates of the wildlife death toll are in the millions. Record high temperatures and last year’s severe drought are partially to blame for the spread of flames, and with Australia’s wildfire season lasting through March, further damage is likely.
On Kangaroo Island, Southern Ocean Lodge suffered “significant damage,” according to an update posted on its Facebook page, and is closed indefinitely. And in an update distributed earlier this week, Abercrombie & Kent Australia – a Virtuoso on-site tour connection in the country – noted that travelers visiting Kangaroo Island and the Blue Mountains have had to alter plans. All tours are operating as normal in Sydney, Melbourne, and in the Yarra Valley wine region. Despite some air quality issues, the wildfires aren’t directly affecting major cities or tourism destinations. (For those with upcoming travel plans to Australia, Virtuoso advisors recommend purchasing travel insurance; your advisor can help you select a policy that includes wildfire coverage.)
“The recent bushfires we’ve witnessed in Australia have been unprecedented in terms of their devastation, with the terrible loss of life, wildlife, and property. However, it’s worth noting that although the scale is immense, the fires are largely regional and have not ravaged the entire country,” says Virtuoso agency executive Michael Nolan. “So don’t cancel your travels to Australia! Key tourist destinations such as Sydney, Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, the Red Center, Tasmania, and Perth are operating as usual, as is Melbourne, where I live.”
One of the best ways travelers can help is by making a donation to an Australian organization supporting bushfire control and recovery efforts, including the following:
- The Australian Red Cross, which is supporting Australians who have lost their homes or have been forced to evacuate to avoid the wildfires.
- WIRES Wildlife Rescue Organisation, the largest wildlife rescue and rehabilitation nonprofit in Australia.
- The New South Wales Rural Fire Service and the Victoria County Fire Authority, who are sending firefighters to the front lines.
Donating is a small but substantive way to show support for a destination we love so much.
Top Photo: Stuart Shaw/iStock/Getty Images Plus