Exploring the bush trails of Southern Queensland with guide Emma Walton is more than just an adventure. It is an eye-opening education. A whirl of windswept undergrowth is revealed to be a platelet caused by button quail who twirl in one spot creating distinctive circular patterns. An unobtrusive shadow in a clump of bushes turns out to be a pademelon watching the walkers to see what they are up to.

Walton has been a lover of nature since she was a child. “I’ve been exploring since I could walk,” she said, “hiking and camping with my family.” Walton became a professional guide in 2018, working east of Darwin at Bamurru Wild Bush Luxury doing safari style guiding with Landcruisers and air boats. She returned to the Southern Downs to open Emma Walton Guiding because she wanted to live out the environmental values she holds dear and inspire others to love and delight in the native animals, birds and plants of Australia.

“The environment is super important to me,” Walton said. “I don’t just want to be eco; I want to be out there living a sustainable life as well as I can.” She loves helping people notice and observe what is around them as they walk through the bush and fields of Southern Queensland. On a recent hike through Main Range National Park, she stopped often to point out hoop pines and melaleuca or paused mid-step to identify the calls of eastern whipbirds and rufous fantails. “I get distracted easily,” she said, laughing, as she stops to inspect a unique species of tree.

Walton finds that education is invaluable in making any walk, hike or camping trip even more interesting. She likens it to walking into an art gallery without knowing anything about the artist or the painting and just glancing at each piece of art. But if someone takes the time to explain the stories and techniques behind the paintings, the experience is enhanced exponentially. “You’re more likely to stay longer and gain an appreciation of it,” she said, “and that’s what I’m trying to do. I want to impart the ability of noticing how amazing the world is.” Walton does this through scheduled walks, bird watching groups, spotlighting, herping and special commissions. She does corporate events as well, taking groups on night walks or team hikes.

One of her greatest passions is teaching women how to hike and camp by themselves. “Getting women to feel confident and comfortable travelling by themselves, hiking by themselves, camping by themselves, that it’s okay to be by themselves,” Walton explained. “This is a safe place where we’re going to learn.” She teaches workshops on simple things that build confidence, security and peace of mind, like how to pack a backpack, change a flat tire, and how to respond in difficult situations like spraining an ankle while hiking solo or discovering your battery is flat and you are in the middle of nowhere. “It’s great to know you can rely on you,” Walton said. “I want everyone to feel that.”

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