There’s an ever-growing list of waterfalls and other picturesque spots in the Wet Tropics that provide outdoor inspo for thousands of people via hashtags and interest-based social media groups.
If you use socials, it’s likely that in your digital travels you’ve seen a photo of a spectacular-looking natural spot, and it’s translated into an actual visit. You’re not alone. Social media is a driver and inspirer to get people out into nature.
On the one hand, this helps connect us with our environment and it supports accessibility for more people. But on the other, there is such a thing as loving a place to death.
The bright milky-blue Cardwell Spa Pools and the infinity pool at the top of Windin Falls are just two spots that have blown up on Instagram in the last few years.
While we’re not at risk of the drastic damage from millions of visitors, or ‘Instagram crowds’, at some locations overseas, our environment is sensitive and can be impacted by increased visitation if people aren’t doing the right thing.
Here are some simple things we can all do to help look after places when we’re out and about.
Leave it as you found it
Enjoy the moment and the environment while you’re there – that flower or rock might look great in your home, but it looks better where it is now! Also, it should go without saying but take your rubbish home with you. This includes food scraps – wildlife have specialised diets, and they can also become dependent on people for food.
Learn about wildlife by quietly observing from a distance. Avoid approaching or disturbing them. Never bring domestic animals to areas they’re not supposed to be in. Their presence, and even the scent they leave, can scare and stress native animals. Help protect wildlife rather than adding to their survival challenges.
Keep it out of the water
Sunscreen and insect repellent is bad news for critters and plants that live in waterways. Apply after you swim, or wipe it off before you hop in the water.
Stick to the path
Keep to designated walking tracks to avoid trampling young seedlings and compacting fragile soils. It might not seem like a big deal but some ecosystems are very fragile, even if they don’t look it. Leave only footprints – and leave them in the right place!
Clean your shoes
Disease, weed seeds and pathogens can easily hitch-hike to new places on your footwear. Give your shoes a good brush down before you go out walking – it’s even better if you can quickly disinfect them with mild bleach solution.
Be mindful of what you portray
If you’re posting a snap of your adventures on socials, give some thought to what your pictures might encourage others to do. Is it safe? Is it respectful? Is it setting a good example? Why not include some ‘Leave No Trace’ tips in your captions and stories and spread the word for others people. ‘Leave No Trace’ is a framework for making good decisions on enjoying the outdoors responsibly. Whether it’s in your backyard, at your local park, or in the remote wilderness, it’s all about minimising your impact.