From the news coverage of Australia’s apocalyptic bushfires early this year, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking the entire place had burned to the ground. I arrived in New South Wales, the country’s most blaze-ravaged state, in mid-March, expecting devastation. But barely a month after the last flames had been put out, there were already signs of renewal. Amanda Fry, founder of Wild Food Adventures, a travel outfitter that designs culinary-focused nature experiences, showed me around Kangaroo Valley, a wildlife haven 90 minutes south of Sydney, where rock wallabies, wombats, and echidna had started to return. In nearby Morton National Park, vibrant green shoots sprouted from trees charred to the color of obsidian, and emerald cycads, palmlike plants dating to Jurassic times, bloomed from singed trunks.
In March, Fry developed a tour called Travel in Purpose after dozens of travelers asked how they could assist in the relief effort. The program involves hikes and picnics in affected areas to educate people about the resilience of the bush. Though the immense scale of the recent fires was the result of drought, deforestation, climate change, and high winds, fire always has been and always will be part of the bush, Fry told me: “The Aboriginal culture has used fire for land management for centuries. It’s essential to the propagation of many species, like eucalyptus. That’s why we’re already seeing native plants regenerating.” The new offering has proven as popular as her more luxe experiences, like a Champagne-and-canapés canoe trip.
Four hours north of the park at Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, a 7,000-acre eco-retreat, I joined guests engaged in restoration work. The buildings were unscathed, and recent rains had turned the burnt landscape lush and green. As I knelt to plant a sapling, conservation manager Simone Brooks pointed out a tufted honeyeater, noting how the property has become an unexpected refuge for previously uncommon bird species. “It’s a fascinating time to experience the bush and get to see Mother Nature at work,” she told me.
This is an excerpt from an article by Jen Murphy, originally published on Condé Nast Traveler.