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World at his feet: 'Aussie Ben' says it's high time for return of overseas travel

Business

Ben Southall said he has waited long enough for the borders to open and will reignite his adventure travel company mid-year.

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The first trip after more than two years won’t be anything simple. There won’t be a testing of the waters. It will be 14 days in Uganda and Tanzania, not exactly destinations known for easy travel, but many of his customers paid their deposits for the trip two years ago.

But at least the two years of sitting at home allowed the former Brit and one-time winner of the Greatest Job in the World competition to promote Queensland travel to spend enough days in Australian to meet the criteria to become an Australian citizen. He was also able to spend more time with his four-year-old son.

Southall’s Best Life Adventures is not the only one getting back into overseas travel. Scoot announced this week that it would start Gold Coast to Singapore flights while Fiji has started welcoming back tourists. However, New Zealand still has its entry door bolted shut.

Fully vaccinated Australians can travel without needing an exemption, however there are warnings that many countries are still not allowing travellers and travel plans can be disrupted.

Southall said the biggest hurdle for the Uganda-Tanzania trip won’t be the Mt Stanley climb or the three-day walking safari during a wildebeest migration. It would be getting back into Australia safely.

“We know everyone will be trained up and everyone will be fit enough. We are in control of all of that. The uncontrollables are a new strain developing while we are away and we only find out about it 72 hours before we come home and someone deciding in the run up to an election that they lock the borders and then we get stuck.

“That’s our biggest unknown.

“If someone turns around and changes the condition of entry while I have 12 people overseas that’s where it hits the fan.”

But being adventure travel his customers are the more adaptable types and are more willing to accept things that don’t go according to plan.

His company has survived the past two years by adapting and picking up work wherever it can while borders were closed. He also ran an adventure kayaking trip through the Torres Strait which was a revelation for him in what could be achieved in the far north.

So Covid gave him a new passport 10 days ago and a new travel destination.

“I really started to lose a bit of faith at the tail end of last year. I was starting to think about whether there was really going to be a chance to do anything (this year).

“Out of the adversity, some good things did come.”

It will be back to the Everest base camp in October and then the most popular of his trips is Norway, Sweden and Finland where customers will see the northern lights, go trekking, dog sledding and possibly snorkelling with Orcas in the middle of the northern winter.

“It’s a mad one, but I could fill that one three times over if I wanted to,” he said.

“People just love the idea of doing something they don’t do normally.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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