Tag Along Tours

If you have ever wondered what happens on a Tag Along Tour, then this article has all the answers. There are tons of options, and surprisingly, they are not all geared towards the first time 4WD traveller. Read on and find out more about the modern day Tag Along Tour.
Created: June 2008
Revised: May 2007
Latest Feedback: May 2015

Tag Along - Defined

Tag along tours can have a few different formats, but put very simply, all involve travellers tagging along, or following in the wheel tracks of a lead vehicle driven by an experienced guide, who plans the trip, does much of the preparation, and may also provide meals.

Guides not only are able to provide off-road driving tuition and advice, but also have specialist knowledge such as geology, fauna, flora, that provides travellers with a true interpretive travel experience. Usually travellers would utilise their own vehicle, but hiring a vehicle is also an option that is popular with overseas visitors.

Tag Along Options

Duration

Tag-along tours vary in length from simple 1-day trips to extensive 20-plus-day expeditions. If you wish to travel extensively across the country at your own pace, the shorter trips offer an opportunity to experience an area in a way that you never could without a guide. Utilising your vehicle as a kind of home base, you can join selected short tours in various parts of the country that interest you. These short tours are more often than not, designed to highlight a region's best features, or to allow visitors access to areas that would otherwise not be available to solo travellers.

Longer expedition style trips running from around a week to more than 20 days often include iconic outback locations and treks, such as the Canning Stock Route, the Simpson Desert, the Kimberly region or trans-continental routes utilising several such tracks. As our lives become more comfortable than ever, Australians begin to understand the contributions made by our forefathers and we are flocking to such iconic places to experience in some small way, what their lives must have been like. It is even possible to travel Len Beadell's roads with Len's daughter Connie and her husband Mick.

Catered or Uncatered

Some tour operators offer a catered tour, that is they provide meals. These meals are sometimes provided by third parties that specialise in catering and as such offer a high class dining experience for the traveller. Some operators give the option of catered or uncatered while some may cater short tours but not longer ones. Many give you the option to decide if you want catered or uncatered tours. There are benefits to each approach.

Even guides who don't provide a catered option will usually help a great deal in meal planning, perhaps even making up a suggested shopping list for you. If the tour is a long one, you will often need to bring your own refrigeration even if you choose a catered tour, as it is easier to share the load across vehicles. You should discuss these options with your tour provider well prior to booking.

Themes

Shorter tours often specialise or follow a theme. Bird watching, photographic safaris, visits to historic towns and places, fishing, advanced off-road driving and outback pub tours are just some of the types of short tours available. Just about any outdor activity you can think of has been incorporated into 4wd tag-along tours. Kayaking, horse riding, climbing, abseiling and fishing are just a few that can be readily found in many regions of Australia.

Often these themed tours have education value. Bird watchers can learn about new species and their habits, amateur and even professional photographers can be tutored in the finer points of landscape or nature photography, history buffs can learn about interesting episodes in our country's history whether European or Aboriginal and of course four-wheel driving tuition particularly with respect to remote or difficult terrain is always available.

Tours incorporating aboriginal cultural experiences, once mostly popular with European visitors, are gaining in popularity amongst Australians, as we begin to realise the extent to which aboriginal culture has been lost to future generations. Whether run by aboriginal people or white folk, more tours are incorporating aboriginal people, experiences and culture.

Adventure

As more of our bush tracks turn into gravel superhighways or, god forbid asphalt-covered highways, remote area treks along unmade routes are becoming very popular with the more experienced four-wheel driver. Such so called off-track tours often follow explorers routes such as that of Madigan across the Simpson desert, or Giles across the Western deserts, or follow roughly the original route of simple tracks, such as the Callawa or the tracks along the Hay River in the northern Simpson.

While some are not strictly off track, they feature quite difficult terrain and tracks so rough that making eight kilometres in an hour is good progress. Such tours are ideally suited to the experienced traveller looking for something challenging and different. Tag along tours may well be the only way to access such tracks for most people, as convincing sufficient of your mates to undertake such a trip could be difficult.

Safety

Remote travel is risky when alone, but finding a compatible travel companion is not always easy. With a tag-along tour, there is no need to restrict your travel plans to match those of your travel companions. Moreover you will meet new people whilst experiencing and sharing in a common travel adventure full of fun and excitement.

Whether you are intending to travel off-track or on a more sedate expedition, you will be required to have your vehicle inspected by the tour operator or a reputable 4wd service centre prior to travel. Many tour operators have arrangements with 4WD specialists, providing discounted inspections, should you wish to take advantage of this service.

Advantages

Tag Along tours offer a hassle free holiday for even the most experienced travellers and provide numerous advantages to going it alone. All permits and access arrangements are made for you, checking & monitoring outback road conditions for your trip is safely handled by your 4wd tour guide, you don't have to research exactly where to go. Trips are mapped out for you and your 4wd tour guides have been there before. Most guides through special arrangements with land owners will take you to unique places that are little known and cannot be found on the standard Australian tourist four-wheel drive trek routes.

Holidays

So many times our four-wheel driving holidays are crammed with destinations separated by immense driving distances. We try desperately to cram a lifetime of travel into 3 or 4 short weeks. Returning home we proudly proclaim we "did the Cape" or "did the Simpson" or "did the Gibb River Road" , but our experience is more of a blur of scenery punctuated by a rush of setting up and pulling down camps. Tag-along operators work very hard to weave as much of a special experience into their tours as they can, whilst trying to minimise daily driving distances. They can do this because of extensive local knowledge combined with access to restricted or difficult areas. Years of travel experience, also allow them to be organised to an extent that most of us could only aspire to.

Professionalism

Typically tag-along tours are very professional operations. Some years ago there may have been a few less reputable service providers, but the risks to unprofessional service providers is so high, that few survive today's rigorous safety standards. Many tour guides have undertaken extensive training in a range of diverse fields such as off-road driver training, radio telephony, survival, occupational health and safety, leadership and team building, customer service, cultural awareness, cooking and hygiene, time management, small business and finance, geology, botany, astronomy, navigation and many more subjects. Today most tour operations are as professional as any business you would encounter in your daily work life.

A tour guide's primary role is to ensure a safe enjoyable journey for all participants and any members of the public encountered along the way. They also have to ensure minimal environmental damage and must remain sensitive to any cultural issues. Managing these issues, the day-to-day operation of a tour and interacting with people in a friendly and entertaining way is the work of a skilled person. Few who lack these skills will survive in the business today.

So why not consider a tag-along tour for your next holiday? Whether it be in the more populated centres, in the outback, or a remote desert location, there is a tour operator out there who can provide you with an experience you will remember for your entire life. If you are an experienced traveller, take the opportunity to holiday without the extensive preparation normally associated with such travel. Get your head out of the maps, and enjoy the scenery.

What Tour Operators May Provide?

Below is a general guide to what you may expect to be offered by a professional tour operator.
  • Off-road driving knowledge

  • Local Knowledge, history and information about flora and fauna

  • Sometimes they provide specialised knowledge - such as photography, canoeing, fishing, etc

  • Mechanical knowledge

  • Recovery Skills

  • Tools

  • Tyre repair skills and equipment

  • Convoy Management

  • Information about refuel points and fuel management strategy

  • Water management

  • Shower or bathing facilities where required

  • Privacy tents and toilet facilities where required

  • Communications such as HF radio or satellite phone

  • Navigation

  • First Aid

  • On some tours meals are also provided

  • BBQ plates, and some cooking equipment

  • Communal Lighting

What Participants May Need to Bring?

Below is a general guide to what the tour operator may expect you as a participant to bring along.
  • Your own or hired 4WD vehicle suitable for the trip

  • Tyres of suitable type usually at least All Terrain (AT)

  • Tyres with sufficient tread, usually 70% minimum

  • At least two spare tyres and at least one spare wheel

  • For remote area travel, basic spares such as fuel filter and radiator hoses

  • UHF radio - hire units are usually available

  • Food (except on catered trips)

  • Refrigeration - some catered trips may also require you to carry a fridge to share load

  • Camping equipment- such as tent and bedding

  • Plates and cutlery - except on some catered trips

  • Personal items

  • Vehicles, fridges and camping equipment can be hired from many tour operators themselves, or via third party who provide discounted prices to tour operators.

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