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Youth Beat

Group Touring in Australia on a Tight Budget

May 31, 1987|LUCY IZON | Izon is a Canadian travel journalist covering youth budget routes.

If you are not familiar with a country, it can be difficult to know where to begin making plans for a budget visit. Young travelers heading to Australia can get some help from Australia's Youth Hostel Assn. They can arrange for you to participate in a variety of economical programs ranging from snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef to camping.

The YHA Adventure program includes group tours and do-it-yourself arrangements. For example, if you want to travel independently in the Great Barrier Reef area through the YHA, you could join a seven-day Whitsunday sailing program for $425 Australian (about $319 U.S.). That includes cabin accommodation at Palm Bay, sailing to several resorts and islands, submarine coral viewing and the use of windsurfing and snorkeling equipment. You can start from Shute Harbor in Queensland on any day of the year.

If you want to enjoy the reef area but you need to stretch your budget further, another option would be the seven-day Great Keppel Island do-it-yourself program. For $199 Australian ($150 U.S.) you get bus and boat transportation, two nights' accommodation at Rockhampton Youth Hostel and four nights at Great Keppel Youth Hostel, cruise tickets, coral viewing and boom-netting. You can begin from Brisbane, Queensland, also on any day.

Travel With a Group

In some remote areas it's wiser to travel with a small group and a guide who knows where to find the wildlife and what to watch out for. For example, you can spend two days in Kakadu National Park (where part of the movie "Crocodile Dundee" was made) and enjoy the wildlife, birds and ancient rock art. The trips operate several times a week and cost $155 Australian ($116 U.S.). The fee covers all camping and fishing equipment.

Group travel can also provide some unusual opportunities. Three- and five-day camel/camping trips are available from Alice Springs, in the heart of the Australian outback. Three-day trips cost $315 Australian ($236 U.S.) and five-day trips cost $495 Australian ($372 U.S.).

Longer group trips into the outback, using a combination of camping and youth hostel accommodations, are also available. You can join a 10-day outback safari and visit sheep stations, fish, swim and sample native foods for $362 Australian ($271 U.S.), plus $98 Australian ($74 U.S.) for the shared food fund.

Fourteen-day camping/hosteling tours are operated every two weeks from Dulwhich Youth Hostel in Sydney. The program includes visiting sheep stations, exploring national parks, opal mining and boomerang lessons. The cost is $350 Australian ($262 U.S.), plus $4 per day for the food fund.

Cycling, Hiking, Rafting

Other YHA Adventure programs involving cycling, hiking, river rafting, farm stays and ballooning.

There are no age restrictions for these trips, but you must become a member of the International Youth Hostel Federation. You can get copies of the brochure by contacting the Australian Youth Hostels Assn. at 60 Mary St., Surry Hills, NSW 2010, Australia. In Sydney there is a YHA storefront travel service at 355 Kent St.

You might want to check with the Sydney travel service to learn about other possible travel discounts. For example, members of the IYHF can obtain a 10% reduction on the regular rates offered by Deluxe bus services. Youth hostel members may also get a 10% reduction on unlimited travel passes available through the Australian Greyhound company.

You can get a much better idea of the different transportation services, plus maps and background on the country, from the free publication "Destination Australia." It is available from the Australian Tourist Commission Distribution Center, P.O. Box 7049, North Hollywood, Calif. 91605.

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