Every year, in the New South Wales September/October school holidays, between 70 and 90 vehicles set off from the NSW opal mining community of Lightning Ridge for the 10 13 day Lightning Ridge Police Bush Safari. Trekking through a different part of Australia each year the Bush Safari is a meandering tag-along adventure. It is also the biggest fundraiser in Lightning Ridge. Organised by members of the Police, Ambulance and SES, as well as Lightning Ridge community members, the Bush Safari has made its way to NSW, Western Victoria, Western and Northern Queensland and part of South Australia.
Former Lightning Ridge based Police Sergeant, Stan Single, started the Bush Safari back in 1990 as a fund raiser for the Lightning Ridge SES and the local school. Since then, the annual event has raised over $250 000 for community groups that operate within the township. Mr Single said he was determined to start the Safari after seeing the dedication of the SES who had been working hard and had more call outs than usual due to an opal-mining boom that took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The venture was an immediate success with the proceeds of the Safari enabling the committee to purchase a new rescue truck and equipment for the SES as well as a 22-seater bus for the Lightning Ridge Central School so the children could go on annual excursions. SES controller Dave Lane, who has been on the Bush Safari committee since 1992, said the early trips took place out west with rough camping and old bombs for cars. “We had the Army come along as well as Ambulance, SES and Police,” Mr Lane said. But when Australian troops became involved in Afghanistan, Iraq and East Timor the Army dropped out. Local members of the Police, Ambulance and SES continue to organise the Safari each year.
This event sees participants come from all walks of life and from all areas of the country. Since the early days, the Safari has become bigger, better and more comfortable. This years Safari will be no exception. Once again, the Bush Safari members and members of the Lightning Ridge community are enthusiastic about making this years trek memorable for all participants. The main thing to remember is that the safari is not a race, but a chance to travel with support including Police, Ambulance, SES and a mechanic to ensure you enjoy some of what this great country of ours has to offer, take your time and have a look around.
For information, itineraries and photos from previous safaris, click the links below: