Sammy Dalton

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Sam has combined his love of adventure and the great outdoors in an exciting business venture that gives people opportunities to explore, learn and grow personally through challenging activities in our wonderful natural environment. 

Last time we spoke Sam, you were taking your adventure business, Edge Experience to new heights. Are the new adventure activities proving popular? 
Definitely. Besides being fortunate enough to spend the best part of my week outdoors, I’m seeing a much more diverse clientele base, from school groups to corporate, couples and families, as well as more mentoring and community groups. 

As far as health and lifestyle goes, it’s a great industry to be in and a lot less seasonal than it used to be. The mentoring work is definitely worthwhile and it’s seeing some great results. Mind you … it’s not hard to inspire people when you have their whole attention while belaying them off an 18 storey cliff on their first day abseiling! 

> Why are outdoor adventure activities increasing in popularity?

I think the outdoors has always been a popular past-time in Australia, but perhaps for me it’s the area’s more widely recognised “perfect” climate. 

Also, the area now provides a variety of different adventure disciplines, like mountain biking and corporate outdoor programs. 

Port Macquarie’s tourist infrastructure seems to have grown considerably over the last few years, and there are a number of other operators really building the profile of the area. 

The simple fact that we are surrounded by ocean, National Parks, State Forests and such expansive river systems I imagine is a big attraction; literally speaking, it’s a mecca for adventure.

> You mentioned corporate programs. What activities do they involve?

Actually, pretty well anything and everything. I try to build programs to suit individual clients. Some offer much more holistic experiences, like challenge hikes and mountain bike tours, while others are designed to address certain work related issues like group cohesion and communication. 

One activity that’s proving very popular is my low-ropes course – it guarantees a few laughs! I’ve also produced some pretty cool programs by combining some other specialty disciplines like whitewater kayaking and rafting. They are more specialised and loads of fun, although if you asked some of the sporting groups we’ve had on gruelling team challenges how much fun it was, they might give you a second opinion! 

This year I’ll be opening my new survival school, which I’m really looking forward to. I think it’ll be quite popular with the corporate sector and sporting clubs wanting to make themselves more resilient outdoors.

Sammy Dalton

Sammy Dalton

> Many corporate clients may not want to rough it too much, so what sort of things does a survival school teach?

I don’t know about roughing it, but they certainly won’t have the luxuries of a spa or sauna. No, the survival school is a two day introduction to bush survival and teaches the fundamentals like trip preparation, survival priorities, navigating by terrain, fire lighting techniques, improvising shelters, procuring water, cooking, bush tucker and a whole lot more. Food will be, if I can call it “gourmet traditional” and everyone camps in a traditional long hut. So, it should be pretty interesting, and you’ll definitely get your hands dirty. 

> Is bush tucker a big part of survival school?

Sure, although technically speaking food is not top of the short-term priority list for survival. 

The school will be based on private property abounding with bush tucker and bush medicines, so everybody has the opportunity to gather food firsthand. Like I said though, I’ll be combining traditional Australian bush foods with more popular and substantial camp cooking, so nobody goes hungry.

> Sounds like you are enjoying the perfect job. Would you recommend it as a career option?

I think people that work in the outdoors understand that the work’s extremely rewarding, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever make a million bucks. It’s definitely a lifestyle option and I know for me it’s also an avenue for showcasing the region’s more special sites and a means of educating people on important environmental issues like conservation and low impact adventure pursuits. 

Having said that, there is now a formal certification process for outdoor educators and instructors. There is even a Bachelor in Outdoor Education and Adventure Recreation, and you can climb, hike, paddle or bike all over the world.

As far as a working holiday goes, it’s definitely a great avenue for travel. I recently had a good mate visit; he was whitewater guiding on the Tully River out of Cairns and he’s just been offered a job raft guiding and has moved to raft in Italy. Then he’ll be off to the White Nile in Africa – awesome!

> You were recently married. Is your wife an adventure nut too?

For sure. Unfortunately Melinda is extremely busy working and studying, but she has always been a good all rounder and a natural sportsperson. Melinda’s also a bit of a water baby; our friends recently introduced her to whitewater kayaking, so in the future she might train as a kayak guide so we can work together more often. 

We are also in the very early and exciting stages of expanding into a new area, so exploring is always fun. In the last few years we’ve travelled to some 20 or so countries and she loves discovering new places and cultures. As far as we’re concerned, you can never get enough adventure in your life! 

> There have been a number of extreme sports accidents in Australia and overseas in recent years. Has that had an impact on the industry?

Actually, on the grand scale of things there is and have been very few accidents in the extreme sports fraternity. From an operator’s perspective, there are a lot more systems and procedures in place to ensure a fun and safe outdoor environment these days. Insurance has always been an issue, but I think finally people are beginning to assume a little responsibility themselves. That said, the majority of incidents are extreme cases – like first descents of epic rivers or topping out on Everest. Often complacency, inexperience and poor preparation are the major catalysts for an accident. Outdoor pursuits and other related non conventional sports are becoming increasingly popular, and there are many more people participating than ever before. Also, a lot of accidents in extreme sports have been over sensationalised by the media, but the disciplines I offer are not extreme as such. The sports I offer may be perceived as “extreme”, but providing all the rules are abided by, the danger should be no more inherent than your normal 80 minute game of football. In fact, I’d say they were a whole lot less dangerous. 

> Is abseiling something anybody can enjoy, or do you think that only a certain type of person would be more likely to try it?

Abseiling is a great sport and has taken off as sport in its own right in Australia. Traditionally overseas it was just a means of getting down after a climb or getting down to start a climb. However, it’s not a sport you can teach yourself out of a textbook and should only be practised under the supervision of somebody experienced in abseiling and working with heights. 

The equipment is quite specialised too, and you need to know the correct applications for every piece of equipment for it to work safely. But yes … I would say anybody can do it. There are a variety of physical, psychological and emotional factors that deter people from trying it, but technically speaking if you are in reasonable health and you can walk, you can abseil. 

> Finally Sam, what is the most memorable adventure you’ve had in your travels?

Actually, you don’t have to leave the area for something remarkable to happen. This week I was sea kayaking and had a pod of dolphins appear from nowhere all around my kayak, breaching and rolling on their backs. A few weeks ago I had an echidna appear on the edge of an 18 storey cliff and proceed to walk over and smell my big toe (I’m sure he’s still recovering!) and next week … well, you never know what will happen!

> Thank you Sam, and happy adventuring.

For more information about Sam’s abseiling, mountain biking and kayaking tours call Edge Experience on 0427 324 009.

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