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Travel & Holiday

Plan for a safe trip

Love a great adventure? Take the necessary precautions before getting into it
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - January 26, 2011
By: Sheila Lim
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Plan for a safe trip

Whenever we embark on an overseas holiday adventure, we expose ourselves to a certain degree of risk. One doesn’t have to be shooting the rapids, scaling a treacherous mountain or trekking in the wilderness to risk sustaining serious injuries or being caught in a life-threatening situation.

Injuries and fatalities often result from our own carelessness, irresponsible tour operators and equipment failure, as we’ve seen in the Mersing incident where a number of holidaymakers drowned after the overloaded wooden boat they were travelling in capsized and sank.

Pay heed to safety concerns

My sister recently returned from a holiday in Bali and recounted her whitewater rafting adventure to me. She and some other family members were abandoned by their guide in the midst of the journey as he had spotted a chicken on the river bank. He ran off into the jungle to chase it, and to the amazement of his stunned “entourage”, returned to the raft with the chicken! As they made their way downstream, he left the raft once again to hand the chicken over to an elderly, half-naked couple (probably natives from one of the villages located along the river)!

What’s more, this “guide” simply told them that they would have to duck whenever he shouted “Boom Boom!”. What he didn’t bother to explain was that this was because they would be coming across several extremely low-slung, solidly-built bridges along the way. They didn’t realise this till they came to the bridges, and had to instinctively duck or stretch backwards almost horizontally. If they hadn’t done so, the consequences would have been very ugly – scratched faces, severe concussions or worse, decapitation!

If the person who told me this story wasn’t my sister, I would have found it very hard to believe. It certainly sounded like a thrilling holiday adventure, but one I’m glad to have missed!

My own whitewater rafting adventure in Cairns many years ago was totally different. The professionally trained guides gave us a thorough briefing once we arrived at the river. They handed out life-jackets and helmets to everyone and showed us how to wear them properly.  They also told us what to expect along the way, how to “ride the waves” safely and what we should do if we should fall overboard. The whole experience was wonderful and my initial fears as a novice and non-swimmer melted away as I knew I was in good hands.

Exciting adventures such as these keep drawing us to embark on overseas holidays. They make up some of the most memorable experiences of our lives, but we must always watch out for own safety if we want to live to tell the tale!

Look before you leap

We often can’t tell how reliable an adventure outfitter is until we arrive at the spot where the adventure is about to begin. By then, most of us would feel obligated to continue with it. To play it safe, we should try to obtain recommendations or scout around for reputable and licensed travel operators/adventure outfitters, and learn more about their background, experience and qualifications before making any bookings with them.

That may still not be good enough. For example, I once picked a snorkelling excursion in Koh Samui based on the adventure outfitter’s impressive website and their claim that their clients’ safety is a top priority. However, when my friends and I arrived at the snorkelling site, the boat crew handed us ill-fitting and grubby life vests. Our complaints were ignored, partly due to the language barrier, I suppose. After we immersed ourselves in the choppy and slightly cloudy water, we felt that the loose-fitting life vests did not offer adequate security, and decided to haul ourselves back into the boat (the crew didn’t even bother to help!). Though we felt somewhat embarrassed, it was a wise judgement call. There’s absolutely no point risking your life just to save face! 

Unfortunate incidents and accidents will still occur no matter where we are or how well-prepared we are. But all of us can play our part in protecting as many lives as possible – by recommending reliable travel operators/adventure outfitters to the people we know, and naming and shaming the irresponsible ones.

Put yourself in good hands

Unless you are properly trained and well-equipped for activities where there are elements of risk or danger involved, don’t go it alone.

Here’s why it’s necessary for us to engage experienced and knowledgeable guides:

  • Even if you possess the essential technical expertise, you may not know the local conditions (such as the weather, water currents and topography) as well as an experienced guide would.
  • With their expert knowledge, professional guides are able to clearly instruct and educate the members of the group they are leading on how to wear safety gear and use any equipment that’s provided; the kinds of dangers to expect and avoid – such as poisonous plants and bugs, slippery rocks and hidden fissures in glacier ice, and how to react and what to do and when certain situations or dangers arise.
  • Professional guides are trained and equipped to plan and prepare for a trip/activity thoroughly to ensure that it goes smoothly and safely, as well as to handle medical concerns or emergencies that may crop up.
  • It is a guide’s careful preparation, caring attitude and passion about his or her job that leave us wishing that our adventure would never end, and our next adventure trip will come around again real soon!

The best measures we can take to prevent a holiday adventure from turning into a “misadventure” are to always be well-prepared, careful and alert, listen attentively to instructions and exercise common sense in whatever we do. 

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