Local Expert Interview - Kenneth Hall, New South Wales

  • Posted by TripTide HQ
  • March 8, 2014 2:49 AM AEDT

Tell us about your area of expertise

My area of expertise falls into the two categories of bushwalking and photography and I have been involved with both for a long time.

I was born in Yorkshire where I spent much of my time as a child out in the paddocks and ranging over an estate with a stately home called Temple Newsam. My father used to take me on walks as a child, he also bought me my first camera which was a little Kodak Box Brownie. Often we couldn't afford to have the films developed but I still went on taking photographs and had many undeveloped film around my home.

In 1963 as a young teenager I joined the British Army and served in REME with several of the well known regiments including the Grenadier Guards, the Royal Tank Regiments, Cavalry and Hussars. This allowed me to travel and carry on with my hiking and photography activities. Much of the time I was based in West Germany but travelled throughout Europe, Canada, Cyprus and North Africa. It was a great life tasting new foods and seeing other cultures. There is nothing like travel to open ones mind.

In 1977 I emigrated to Australia with my family and started to fly fish. The Australians wouldn't tell me where to fish so I fell back on my skills learned in the army. Armed with compass and topographical maps I would set off and find my own spots. Within a short time the Aussies were asking me where to go. Luckily times have changed with Aussies more open to sharing their favourite spots.

I soon realised that the navigation, map reading and exploration was challenging and much more enjoyable than fly fishing. Since those days I have spent many years as a solo walker in the NSW National Parks, Blue Mountains NSW.

Later I walked with several bushwalking clubs then started a Campbelltown based club. This was followed after a couple of years by a more exclusive long distance walking club. During my club days I had occupied the roles of club president and safety officer. Eventually my solo walking was curtailed on the insistence of my Australian born wife after a snake bite happened on one of my walks. This was on an off-track adventure and I only take tourists on well managed tracks.

It is roughly 37 years since I started bushwalking in Australia, I still do it and have combined it with my photography skills to create Australian photography tours. In 2013 I was happy to become the Australian winner of Adobe Perfect Picture of the Year winner for a winter shot taken near my home which is located south west of Sydney.

It has been a long career and in the early days of my arrival in Australia little did I know how valuable the military experience plus my father's influence with walking and hiking would become. Australian photography tours are a labour of love not just a business. I take immense pride in showing visitors my adopted home and  sharing the natural history of NSW.


How long have you been running these types of tours in Sydney?

Sydney is the NSW capital.

My tours operate on the outskirts of Sydney within a one hour journey by commuter train.

I have operated this type of tour for over 20 years, often much further afield than what I do now. Initially the tours were run for the bushwalking club without charge. We cut our teeth on protecting the environment going deep into Sydney's drinking water catchments to obtain information. We ran walks covering the four highest peaks in the Snowy mountains or pioneering new routes through the bush. We even searched for downed aircraft from the second world war in hope that we could give families information about their lost ones.

These activities were arduous but not our sole activities. We also ran walks for older people or the less fit.

These days walks are gentle and of short duration aimed at everybody who would like to see the bush rather than hop out of a bus, take a photograph and get in the bus again.

A distance of 500 metres can make the difference between a busy tourist occupied area


Got any quick tips for newbies on the subject?

Walk with a local.

Every year tourists die in the bush.

The Australian Bush is hostile and doesn't tolerate the inexperienced. I have come across many visitors on my activities who are not dressed properly, don't have water or means of communication if they get into trouble.

I take beginners into the bush and less than 25 metres from the track we stop, I ask them to close their eyes.  I then quietly change my position and ask them to turn around. After opening their eyes they are asked from which direction they came . Frighteningly, they never get it right.


Where in NSW is your all time favourite view?

It would be based on weather; cloud conditions including mist and low lying cloud at sunrise and one of a number in the Blue Mountains at Leura, Wentworth Falls or Katoomba


Where is your favourite spot to kick back and relax in Sydney?

Circular Quay

To the left is the Rocks and Sydney Harbour bridge. To the right is the Opera House and The Botanical Gardens. It is the "key" to Sydney.

It is all hustle and bustle with so many nationalities, different faces, accents and skin colours. It is the centre point to any Sydney adventure I may plan. The ferries are arriving and leaving and Sydney's quaint old fashioned little ferries are beautiful.


If someone has a day to spend in the city...

See question 5

Circular Quay is close to so many areas which are all within walking distance. Darling Harbour, Sydney Cove which has lovely old streets dating back to First Settlement. Food is good with plenty of choice due to the multicultural nature of the community. Great seafood and one of my favourites is fish 'n 'chips. That must come from my childhood days as it was a special treat.

The railway station is overhead giving you access to almost anywhere within a two hour radius of Sydney.


Best festival or event

Without doubt the Festival of Sydney from 9 - 26 Jan and held throughout the city at many locations.

Many freebies in Music, Theatre, Dance, Opera, Classical, Family, Cultural.

Things like Opera in the Park, Symphony in the Domain where Sunday people with a story would stand on a box and give their opinion to any who would listen.


Best time of the year to be in Sydney

As an ex pat I am not fond of heat, summer can be very hot. Winter has superb light for photography and can be quite cool.

I am wrapped up yet our United Kingdom visitors are in shorts and short sleeved shirts as they are very used to the cold and wet of the U.K

December, January and Feb I should go to the UK to avoid the heat! However, I do realise that lots of visitors from the U.K come here for our Summer to avoid the freezing cold at home.

Autumn or Spring is my favourite time.


Where else would you like to be?

I recently started a tour to Narooma, Montague Island and the Eurobodalla NP. The area is stunningly beautiful.

It is only 3.5 hours south of Sydney on the coast and it lives up to it's name of the Emerald Coast. The sea colours remind me of the Mediterranean.

I could live there. It is a gentle relaxed way of life surrounded by some of the best coastline you will ever see and has a small population.


How do you like to get around the city?

By train, they are a bit like London's Tube system, frequent, cheap and generally reliable. They will take you to all the tourist locations outside Sydney


Is there a famous cuisine for Sydney that visitors must try?

Sydney doesn't have its own national dish.

There are many quality restaurants in Sydney from many different cultures. Doyles Sea Food stands out but it would in a harbour city.

We have everything from African to Vietnamese then some. I like to go out and try something I haven't eaten before.


Exploring Australia with Sydney as a base, what is a must see destination in your opinion?

Choose your destinations then research.

Many tourists visit Australia and follow the tourist circuit. They miss the true Australia and the very best.

Don't just visit a lookout, grab a water bottle and follow recognised trails.

Seek advice from the locals, people are only too happy to help. A couple of months ago whilst on a recce for a new tour in the Blue Mountains I came across a couple of German girls following a map. We stopped to chat, they didn't know what to look for. After asking questions I ended up guiding them along the cliffs on my journey to another location where they left me. They were amazed that I would do that and I was pleased that they appreciated my short tour. Why not, I wasn't in a hurry.

For a tourist coming to Australia I would say that the most sought after and visited location is the Blue Mountains.


What are some useful local terms or words that visitors should know?


Alcohol is an issue in Australia and the authorities need to get to grips with it. Walk away.

We now have the centre of Sydney being made a safe zone and not before time.

I'm sorry to say that some Australians can be racist despite our multi culturism but are few and far between.

Our emergency number is 000

Despite the warnings Australia is a lovely place to visit with a magnificent city in Sydney.

Outside Sydney the people are warm and laid back, in many places it is like going back in time. What you see is what you get.

Large beer is a schooner and a small beer is a Middie.

English is the first language and pretty much everyone speaks it apart from tourists and some new immigrants.

The major problem can be in asking for directions. There are so many visitors you may pick on several for directions before you find a local. Grab a map, they are free.


Finally, please tell us about one of your most popular tours

Last year I ran 36 tours to the Blue Mountains and Sydney's Royal National Park for around 350 people.

My tours are generally tailored for individuals or small groups.

90% of people booking eventually chose the Blue Mountains with many changing their original bookings from the Royal to the Blue Mountains.

The Royal NP and its coastline are stunning.

In the mountains we completed a 3.5 km walk along gorges, under waterfalls, through the rainforest and along creeks.

We saw Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos, Lyre birds and Water Dragons. At the finish debrief at a local Vietnamese bakery with coffee and cakes. We always finish with something nice to eat irrespective of where we go.

90% of all participants were women who booked because they were going into locations which they wanted to visit but were afraid to do so and lacked experience. They were a pleasure to guide, keen, chatty and always laughing.

Sometimes it rains or is misty and that doesn't seem to matter, They enjoy themselves anyway.

I must admit some of the conversations were women only and I quickly walked ahead.


And your most favourite tour..

Narooma, Eurobodalla National Park & Montague Island three night, four day tour

  • It is the most beautiful area I have ever  visited in Australia.
  • One gets up close and personal with the Great Whales.
  • We have a master cheese maker teach cheese making.
  • The tour visits significant aboriginal sites and one of the most significant spiritual sites in Australia, it is on top of an extinct volcano.
  • The tour group learns of aboriginal relationships with Killer Whales and Dolphins who were called to herd in whales and fish.
  • The tour visits the quirky town of Central Tilba which is superb and the whole town is heritage listed..
  • Mogo Zoo, plus Mogo arts and crafts village is also on the list.
  • Last but not least is a visit to Montague Island which is home to many Australian and New Zealand Fur Seals.
  • It is also the migratory nesting site for tens of thousands of birds from Russia and around the world.


Make an enquiry or book Ken's Sydney & NSW Photography Tour 

and Narooma, Eurobodalla, Montague Island Tour at TripTide