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Beech Forest

THE GREAT OTWAY NATIONAL PARK

VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA

Beauchamp Falls - Hopetoun Falls - Otways Waterfalls - Victoria, Australia DJI MAVIC PRO-1.mp4.00_00_39_13.Still001.jpg
 

About

Under a dense canopy of verdant ferns, flanked by the beach and surrounded by the sounds of nature —what could be better? In the hinterland of the Great Otway National Park, towards Colac, you’ll find fern-lined gullies and tranquil lakes, hear the sound of trickling streams, cascading waterfalls and feel dwarfed by the ancient forest giants. Nature is king in the Great Otway National Park.

But this sanctuary is increasingly threatened. The tranquil rainforest has been set upon by thousands of tour operators, whose day tours and boutique workshops are bringing more and more aspiring Instagrammers to the area in search of their own version of popular compositions. Scores of trail bikers have also been caught riding illegally in protected areas of the National Park.

It is however human nature that is the greatest threat to this beautiful tranquil location. Can ignorance be an excuse, or is our overwhelming desire to destroy things?

Environmental destruction is at the heart of the issues facing the Great Otway National Park, but what will the long term cost be?

 

OVERVIEW

A brief snapshot of the problems currently facing Beech Forest.

Click image to enlarge.

 
 
I was exploring Hopetoun Falls for four hours. In that time, six tour groups went through. I watched photographers snap ferns to get the perfect shot.
When questioned, they laughed it off.
 
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The Online Presence

A search of #hopetounfalls, #beechforest or #theotways turns up a plethora of images, including selfies of people standing off the boardwalks and getting up close to the falls. A range of photographers shoot the falls from different perspectives, all looking for their versions of trophy images.

Source: INSTAGRAM


The Analytics

Utilising social.co an Instagram social media analytics firm, shows the number of posts relating to Beech Forest and Hopetoun Falls is increasing, with social media traffic growing substantially each year. Geotagging of the locations is also swelling. As Instagram likes climb, the destination becomes increasingly popular.

Beech Forest Analytics Overview  (click to enlarge)

Beech Forest Analytics Overview (click to enlarge)

Geotagged Location Data

Geotagging is the process of adding geographical metadata to social media posts, allowing the public to identify locations.

Instagram Likes

An Instagram 'like' is when a user sees a post on the platform and likes the image, either by double tapping the image or hitting the red heart under the post.

SO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

An aerial image of Hopetoun Falls shows the true impact of the social media phenomenon. The markers indicate popular photo/selfie locations, as tracked on social media platforms. The lines indicate cleared paths and sections leading to these locations. These markers are located outside the designated boardwalk and viewing platform.

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what will be the long term impact of the increase in Visitors chasing selfies and trophy images?

Tourists climb precariously over moss and onto fallen trees to get the ultimate selfie. The river beneath flows rapidly and a fall could result in serious injury.
 
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The Real Impact

The trail of destruction: a closer look at how this destination is being impacted.

Click images for captions and larger images (Lightbox).

 
If we want people to be more responsible, we need to spread the message of respecting the environment we all love to enjoy.
 
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“Landscape photography is about sharing the beautiful and often rugged landscape with our audiences. Perhaps as photographers we need to educate and spread the word about conservation and respecting the environment so that future generations can enjoy the landscape too.


Tread lightly and leave no trace”

Danielle Watson


In REFLECTION

The real impact on Hopetoun Falls is best seen in Winter and Spring. Social media traffic, hashtags and geotags are more prevalent and tourism and destination hub accounts share and repost greater numbers of images of the falls. However, the increase in traffic also means more people jumping barriers to get up close to the falls.

With visitor numbers climbing, where does responsibility lie? Do tourism boards need to invest more money into infrastructure to reducing visitors’ impact? Or do we need to spread the word of respecting the environment?


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