The tour vehicles used on Small Group 4WD Tours are a very important factor in terms of your comfort and safety- Nevertheless, this factor is often overlooked by travellers.
When shopping around for a small group 4WD tour in Outback Australia, for example to the Kimberleys, Kakadu or the Top End, how much attention do you pay to the tour vehicle you will be travelling in? Many tour guests do not reaslise the vast differences that exist between vehicles used by different operators. While some (very few) of our guests specifically enquired about our tour vehicles, most travellers only realised what vehicle they would be in once their tour started. We find this a little neglectful, given you will be spending a good deal of time travelling on road while on tour
Travellers should pay more attention to the tour vehicle they will be travelling in, as it is of the utmost importance for their comfort and safety!
There are vast differences between the vehicles used by different small group tour operators for their Kakadu and Kimberley tours.
At Charter North 4WD Safaris, we only use late model Toyota 200 series luxury 4wds. Our vehicles are specifically fitted out for our Kimberleys Tours and Kakadu Tours. They are fitted with snorkels, bull bars and roof racks, and also receive a suspension upgrade. The suspension upgrade helps to smooth out those inevitable bumps, as well as making the vehicles more stable and safer on the road. More over, our vehicles come with full internal climate control and are fitted with full airbag protection. Our vehicles are also suitable for fitting child seats in all seating rows when required. We carry a satellite phone and remote first aid kit in every vehicle, as well as other on board safety systems. Last but not least, our vehicles provide very quiet acoustics, which is important for our guides in providing on road interpretation, and to freely converse with our guests while travelling. All of these factors make our vehicles the best in touring comfort and safety, so you can fully enjoy your Kimberleys Tour or Kakadu Tour with us.
On the other hand, some other small group tour operators in the Top End are still using Toyota Troop Carriers, or “Troopies”. Mainly, but not necessarily only budget operators use these, and it is very important that you check before booking. Troop Carriers were, as the name suggests, designed for the Australian army as personnel carriers, and were often used on mine sites and remote communities as a cheap affordable and robust form of group transport. While these vehicles are very robust and tough, they are not necessarily the best in comfort and safety. In fact in some Australian States, authorities have now banned the use of these vehicles for these purposes.
Troop carriers can seat up to eight people on side facing rear bench seats, plus two people in the front passenger seat, along with the guide/driver. The passengers in the back are only secured by lap belts, and no child seats can be legally or safely fitted on the rear benches. In the event of an accident, this could contribute to fatal consequences. Aside from the rear bench seating arrangement, there are also no rear air bags. The air conditioning of these vehicles is not very effective, as airflow is via front cabin vents only, and as a result it can get quite warm for passengers in the back. Passenger access to the rear seats of a Troopy is via a climb through barn style doors fitted to the rear of the vehicle, while paying particular attention to not fall from the step, or strike your head in the process. Furthermore, Troopies don’t come standard with sound insulation, however some operators do go to the trouble of adding their own in an attempt to improve the on road acoustics. Troop carriers are comparatively noisy on road, therefore it can be hard to hold a conversation or hear your guide from the driver seat. Another important consideration for touring is of course being able to not only understand what you are experiencing, but also be able to see the landscapes. Troop Carriers do have quite small windows in the rear passenger area, which can be below some peoples eye level, thus making it difficult and uncomfortable to admire the landscapes and passing sights. After all, isn’t this all of what you are on tour for?
We at Charter North think that the vehicle used on your Kakadu Tour or Kimberleys Tour is a very important factor in deciding on your tour operator, for all of the reasons above. It is important that tour guests are aware of the differences between vehicles before booking. Often, these details are not easy to find on operator web sites.
If you have any further questions about our vehicles and tours, please contact us.