Gawler ranges: Eco-tourism
State: SA | Hectares: 166,650 | IUCN Category: II | Partners: Department of Environment and Heritage
The Gawler Ranges, 600 kilometres to the North West of Adelaide on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, is one of the oldest volcanic landscapes in the world, created almost 1,500 million years ago. Now a company specialising in eco-tourism is sharing this special place with tourists from all over the world.
Gawler Ranges National Park started as a 120,000 hectare pastoral property known as Paney Station. It was purchased by the South Australian Government in 2000, with help from the Australian Government and the Nature Foundation SA. In 2001 the same partners then acquired part of adjacent Scrubby Peak Station and almost 42,000 hectares were added to the national park.
Gawler Ranges' volcanic rock formations were formed almost 1,500 million years ago. Over millions of years a spectacular spread of gorges and weathered rocky outcrops were created, populated by native birds and animals such as the sandhill dunnart, mallee fowl and pink cockatoo. In spring, the landscape comes alive with a carpet of wildflowers and more than 100 different species of birds.
Gawler Ranges Safaris is living proof that Australia's wilderness places, protected through the National Reserve System Program, can be enjoyed without damaging the environment. The nature-based safaris are run by a team of Aussies who have lived in the outback all their lives and have a vested interest in keeping the land healthy.
Gawler Ranges Safaris owner Geoff Scholz says his company has been taking tourists through the region for nearly 20 years, and makes a big effort to ensure there is no damage to the environment.
"We show people how to conserve water and electricity, stay on the national park tracks and take out all the rubbish," he says.
Many of his clients come from Central Europe and Japan and are amazed at the abundance of wildlife, trees and wide-open spaces.
One of the animals they sometimes encounter in the Gawler Ranges National Park is the endangered yellow footed rock wallaby. In 2000 there were only about six of the animals left in the region. Thanks to a concerted effort by park rangers, they now number more than 100.
District Ranger Craig Nixon says it's a matter of putting into place some straightforward protective measures. "We have implemented a fox and feral goat control program, reduced the campground size, stopped people driving in sensitive areas and consolidated the tracks where people can walk," he says.
Now when people visit Yandinga Gorge they're much more likely to spot the wallabies in one of their last remaining habitats.
The local community enthusiastically supported the acquisition and the proclamation of the park, and continues to take an active interest in its ongoing development and management. Friends of the Gawler Ranges National Park was established in 2003 and carries out restoration works such as the refurbishment of historic Pondanna Station.