The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s premier attractions, but for me it’s also a place of great childhood memories. I grew up in western Victoria and most of our family holidays were at the beach, exploring the rocky coastline or hiking to the numerous waterfalls in the rainforest of the Otway National Park.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the times when my Dad, who passed away in 2007, took the whole family on excursions to Pebble Point (a place that most people don’t know about). From memory it was a quite an ordeal to get there, including one time when I sat down on the path not wanting to go on, only to realise I’d sat on a nest of bull-ants. That certainly got me moving again.
Once we got to Pebble Point we would spend the day collecting beautiful stones, which was rather like a treasure hunt. Then, when we got home, Dad would polish the stones and make them into jewellery for us, which was truly remarkable.
For some reason, I haven’t been back to Pebble Point as an adult, but I’ve certainly spent plenty of time enjoying various other parts of the Great Ocean Road, including one time when I did a Naturewise trip with Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA). This was a wonderful way for me to give something back to a region that holds a special place in my heart.
CVA’s Naturewise trips typically combine hands-on conservation work with a unique travel experience and on its Great Ocean Road trip, they’ve teamed up with another eco-certified operator, bothfeet.
bothfeet lead guided hikes on the Great Ocean Walk, a spectacular trail that meanders 100km from Apollo Bay to the famous Twelve Apostles rock formations. We got to hike two short sections through beautiful rainforest, along spectacular cliff tops, and over windswept beaches.
Afterwards we enjoyed luxury eco-style accommodation at bothfeet walking lodge, where we were truly pampered – foot spas, chef prepared meals, locally produced wine, and a comfy bed; all the while surrounded by beautiful rainforest.
And of course, we did a couple of sessions of voluntary work. On our first afternoon we collected seeds from flowering native plants in the heart of the rainforest, which will be used in the future for re-generative projects. The next day we removed weeds from the Apollo Bay foreshore, which was particularly invigorating in torrential rainfall.
The culmination of the trip was visiting the spectacular Twelve Apostles, just as the clouds lifted to reveal brilliant blue skies and bright sunshine. This really was a fantastic way to spend a few days, giving back to such a special place.
What motivates you to volunteer? Is it to help preserve a special place you’ve always loved or is it because you want to learn more about the country where you are travelling?