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Car rental NT Australia for wildlife watching

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Old Wednesday 29th January 2020, 08:45   #1
opisska
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Car rental NT Australia for wildlife watching

I am planning a trip to the Northern Territories, mainly the tropical part around Darwin and I have stumbled upon some issues regarding car rentals in this area and an input of someone with local knowledge would be really appreciated.

The most troubling issue is that most rental companies prohibit driving at night in Northern Territories. I have read experience of people who were not even warned about that rule and then got forced to sign a paper that they won't drive at night upon getting the car. Not being able to drive at night would completely defeat the purpose of renting a car as we want to spotlight for wildlife.

Moreover, I have also found stories of people who rented and then were tracked remotely via GPS and upon return, the company just took their deposits because they were speeding or just "driving badly" which seems really off-putting practice to me. If this happens, the night driving ban would be even a bigger issue, because I would actually have to adhere to it.

Relatedly, companies tend to prohibit driving off tarmac, even in good gravel roads and, what is the most absurd sometimes even for 4wd rentals. Again, this is technically the case in many places and I have always successfully ignored that, but if they track you?

Normally, I rent a 2wd and use my judgement where to drive and I never had a problem with that. If that's not possible in NT, I am willing to splash for a 4wd, but I would by quite upset to find that I still can't go anywhere... I found that some companies just ask you where you want to drive and greenlight each track individually, which I would also hate to do as I don't like to plan beforehand where I am going.

When I found out I am going to Australia for a work trip, I became excited about tacking on a personal holiday, but when I bumped into these issues, I became pretty demotivated. Can someone recommend a reliable outlet in Darwin that won't strip me naked using silly excuses and will give me at least some freedom or movement or should I scrap Australia as a whole? It's honestly not that difficult to do Borneo isntead ....
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Old Wednesday 29th January 2020, 10:21   #2
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Unfortunately, not sure there is much option, I came across all these issues when I was looking in to it hence, haven't yet done it.

Depending how long you go for, it could be an idea to buy a vehicle and sell it at the end, I know that people do it. I think there may be companies that specialise in this type of thing and agree a buy back price at the start of the agreement, assuming you haven't trashed it by the end!
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Old Wednesday 29th January 2020, 13:01   #3
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We want to go for two weeks and in any case, I can't really see myself buying and selling vehicles in Australia. Everytime I try to even touch any business related to any significant money, I get screwed over so much that it's not even funny, so I can't imagine how much money I could lose on that adventure ...

I have done a bit more research and find some local 4wd rental companies which do not forbid night driving on T&Cs - I am not sure how much I can rely on that being actually true, but when they have some pretty comprehensive T&Cs published on their website, that should be it, shouldn't it? The only drawback is that it the cheapest option is then 3500 AUD for two weeks with full insurance (or a bit cheaper, but with insane excess of 8000 AUD). I have written emails to some companies and to the tourism service of Darwin (which offers help with car rental), let's see what happens.
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Old Thursday 30th January 2020, 06:56   #4
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I have studied Terms of many companies, sent emails that went largely unanswered, but finally, Europcar confirmed that their vehicles can be driven after dark, which is a progress.
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Old Thursday 30th January 2020, 07:41   #5
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I lived in Darwin a few yrs ago.

Problem is the roads are dangerous at night & there were lots of nasty accidents -the roads are generally empty for many many miles tempting fast driving...

animals on roads, tourists driving on wrong side of road (i.e people used to driving on the right), and locals driving without lights in clapped out bangers having drunk too much alcohol etc.

I agree it seems overly harsh to ban driving at night in rental cars and good that you have found a solution.

the Northern Territory is an awesome place though -- well worth the effort
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Old Thursday 30th January 2020, 08:12   #6
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Obviously crawling along a quiet country road spotlighting isn't a risky activity, but I really would underline the danger of driving at night at normal speed in rural Australia. Kangaroos are abundant in some areas and have an unerring ability to bounce in front of the only car for 50 miles. They have less road sense than a squirrel, and they bounce at the perfect height to go straight through the windscreen.
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Old Thursday 30th January 2020, 08:16   #7
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I'd advise following all laws, rules, regulations, terms and conditions. Insurance premiums are designed to make insurance companies rich - not actually help you in the case that you might need it !

Is spotlighting even legal or advisable ?




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Old Thursday 30th January 2020, 08:23   #8
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Originally Posted by Chosun Juan View Post
I'd advise following all laws, rules, regulations, terms and conditions. Insurance premiums are designed to make insurance companies rich - not actually help you in the case that you might need it !

Is spotlighting even legal or advisable ?




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It's actually recommended on some webpages of the local nature areas - which is quite unusual actually, even in places when it is normally allowed.

I would like to note that I am well aware of dangers of night driving and I have previously hit a Pademelon in the night in Tasmania (sorry about that, but it's the mistakes that we learn from), we would really like to have this privilege just for slow drives.
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Old Thursday 30th January 2020, 09:33   #9
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Arrow

Quote:
Originally Posted by opisska View Post
It's actually recommended on some webpages of the local nature areas - which is quite unusual actually, even in places when it is normally allowed.

I would like to note that I am well aware of dangers of night driving and I have previously hit a Pademelon in the night in Tasmania (sorry about that, but it's the mistakes that we learn from), we would really like to have this privilege just for slow drives.
I would check with the local Tradional Owners to get their feelings and advice.
Different animals have different sensitivities too - you have to be careful with the power of the light, the exposure and circumstances, and colour - red filters are recommended.

I would imagine that naturally lit dusk and twilight would be more rewarding. It is quite amazing to see Falcons active at this time.




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Old Tuesday 4th February 2020, 17:21   #10
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Might be worth a try

We booked with Avis but through ATS Pacific Australia, who got us permission to drive across state lines, drive at night, drive on gravel roads etc, we did loads from Alice Springs north, around Katherine, Litchfield and up to Darwin.

Only draw back for us was hefty charge for returning in Darwin after pick up in Adelaide.

It was 18 months ago and we weren't tracked by GPS.
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Old Wednesday 5th February 2020, 07:56   #11
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Hi Jan,

- Double check the conditions - some companies either formally or informally allow driving to campsites and sights in national parks on gravel, if no other road exists. Otherwise many national parks in Australia might be empty.
- As others said, beware of kangaroos. Marsupials are not like placentals. Even if a car is in full view, they will suicidaly decide to hop in its path.
- At least in Brisbane area, farmers seem to watch remote pastures and gates with CCTV cameras. When I was spotlighting in the, apparently, middle of nowhere, farmers kept coming and asking if I broke down.

And a general remark. As you pointed, some national parks in Australia actually encourage spotlighting to get familiar with the local animals. This long-time contradictory situation - one place encourages it, another prohibits it, most don't care - is a proof that spotlighting has no practical effect on animals whatsoever.
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Old Wednesday 5th February 2020, 14:09   #12
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I have studied Terms of many companies, sent emails that went largely unanswered, but finally, Europcar confirmed that their vehicles can be driven after dark, which is a progress.
Europcar will also allow you to go on almost all unsealed roads in NT as well - providing you have taken out their ALWD insurance.
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Old Wednesday 5th February 2020, 14:24   #13
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Europcar will also allow you to go on almost all unsealed roads in NT as well - providing you have taken out their ALWD insurance.
I did ask about that and Europcar told me it's only for 4WD cars - which obviously also other companies allow off tarmac. It's actually quite funny that Europcar gives you the option to rent a 4WD, NOT get the extra insurance and then be only allowed to drive the 4WD on tarmac ...

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We booked with Avis but through ATS Pacific Australia, who got us permission to drive across state lines, drive at night, drive on gravel roads etc, we did loads from Alice Springs north, around Katherine, Litchfield and up to Darwin.

Only draw back for us was hefty charge for returning in Darwin after pick up in Adelaide.

It was 18 months ago and we weren't tracked by GPS.
Are you 100% sure you were actually allowed to drive at night and on unsealed roads also in Northern Territory? Because some of these restriction only apply to NT and sometimes WA and QLD - so if you got the car in Adelaide, it might not have been spelled out, but still applying? Do they also offer rentals in Darwin? This might be really worth checking out!

I am still on the fence about the trip, it looks like such an interesting destination, but planning it is so tiring ...
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Old Tuesday 21st July 2020, 12:15   #14
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Hi Jan.

I've been up to the Darwin region 3 times over the past 5 years and spent many nights out after dark driving roads looking for herps or simply driving to my next destination. I'd never had any issues with rental companies tracking my activities so I think you'll be fine. It is wise to slow down at night as kangaroos and also livestock can be a menace on the roads.

Let me know if you need any more info nearer the time of your trip.

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Old Tuesday 21st July 2020, 14:41   #15
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I lived in Darwin a few yrs ago.

Problem is the roads are dangerous at night & there were lots of nasty accidents -the roads are generally empty for many many miles tempting fast driving...

animals on roads, tourists driving on wrong side of road (i.e people used to driving on the right), and locals driving without lights in clapped out bangers having drunk too much alcohol etc.

I agree it seems overly harsh to ban driving at night in rental cars and good that you have found a solution.

the Northern Territory is an awesome place though -- well worth the effort
In some areas are lots of Kangoroos. Problem is the jumping, because they hit your front screen window.
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Old Tuesday 21st July 2020, 14:47   #16
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In Northern Territory some lake for swim. Some can be very interesting for fish and freshwater turtle. For watching I used swimmglases.
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Old Tuesday 21st July 2020, 17:37   #17
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Hi Jan.

I've been up to the Darwin region 3 times over the past 5 years and spent many nights out after dark driving roads looking for herps or simply driving to my next destination. I'd never had any issues with rental companies tracking my activities so I think you'll be fine. It is wise to slow down at night as kangaroos and also livestock can be a menace on the roads.

Let me know if you need any more info nearer the time of your trip.

Rob
Good to hear! Sadly, the whole plan was cancelled be coronavirus, but after having learnt about northern Australia, I really hope I will be able to visit one day
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Old Thursday 23rd July 2020, 05:07   #18
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In Northern Territory some lake for swim. Some can be very interesting for fish and freshwater turtle. For watching I used swimmglases.
I'd think that this would be crazy dangerous?

Saltwater Crocodiles are everywhere, I wouldn't venture in to any kind of lake in the NT.
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Old Thursday 23rd July 2020, 08:44   #19
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I'd think that this would be crazy dangerous?

Saltwater Crocodiles are everywhere, I wouldn't venture in to any kind of lake in the NT.
I was, in my usual style, looking at boating possibilities in NT - the places I looked at allow boats, but you have to have an engine - I presume it's so you can outrun the crocs? :) Doesn't look good for swimming, maybe if you are really fast ...
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