Expeditions usually have a specific, often unusual, goal in mind such as exploring remote places, mountaineering in the Himalayas or observing wildlife in Africa.

Exploring mountains in France by bike
  • They can, for example, involve trekking (walking), horse riding, cycling, sailing, motorised transport or even flying.

  • Safari holidays to study wildlife such as animals and birds can include expeditions normally with a guide.

  • They often involve groups travelling together with leaders to areas where the average tourist would not consider going.


Care in choosing the organisers

The ease of modern-day travel has made short expeditions to distant places popular and they are often, but not always, well organised, well equipped and with experienced guides.

There are however organisations which arrange expeditions for teenagers such as Scouting, Raleigh International and World Challenge where a strong emphasis is put upon developing personal life skills and cooperating as a team in challenging circumstances.

A scouting expedition to Europe

A medical research expedition in Africa

Destinations and activities

Those travelling on expeditions go to many different types of environment.

  • For example, they may find themselves in very hot or cold climates, the jungle, outback areas and deserts or at high altitude.

  • Expeditions frequently include overland trekking interspersed with transport by overland vehicles and sometimes on water. Each of these modes of transport and activities carries specific challenges and levels of risk.


Preparation

Good organisations will take care to ensure their participants are both physically and mentally suitable for their particular expeditions.

  • However personal research into what is being offered, perhaps by speaking to previous participants and paying attention to potential health risks related to their intended activities and destination is important.

  • It is unusual for expedition organisations to exclude elderly participants. More important is the fitness of the participant and organisers may request a medical opinion from the participant's doctor.


Expedition leaders should advise in detail on the intended route(s), modes of transport, accommodation and what personal clothing and other equipment is required.

  • They should also give clear details of what equipment is or is not provided by the company and any particular health risks related to activities the participants will be undertaking.

Social skills are very important and when people who have never met before live, work and need to get along with one another in a close and often stressful environment, personality clashes or even ‘power struggles’ may occur when collective decisions are necessary.

  • Not everyone is suitable for expedition travel

Other preparations as described elsewhere in the courses, for example, for climate differences, cultural change and exposure to infections are equally important for expeditions


Guides

The importance of guides for the inexperienced but also for those with experience going to places with which they are unfamiliar with cannot be overemphasised.

  • Apart from the need for reliable navigation, there may also be the need to be aware of unexpected and often sudden climatic changes.

Accidents

Accidents and hypothermia are risks when white water rafting

Well-organised sporting and expedition leaders give a lot of consideration to preventing accidents and also in providing first aid if they occur.

  • These can range from falls or drowning to being attacked unexpectedly by animals such as dogs, lions, rhinoceroses protecting their young, hungry crocodiles or angry hippopotami.

  • These risks need to be considered during the planning stage on expeditions and take into account the availability of any medical care during the expedition.

The need for comprehensive insurance including cover for accidents cannot be emphasised too strongly and most insurance companies ask about high-risk activities before they quote a price


Health Insurance

The need for comprehensive travel insurance must be emphasised and may be obligatory which should include all specific declared activities.

  • This is likely to be more expensive than for package holidays.

  • If the organisers arrange group insurance this may not cover an individual’s existing illnesses and insurance is only as good as the available facilities.


Travelling quickly in emergencies from remote areas can be difficult and may take days especially in bad weather.

  • Sometimes there may be medical or nursing personnel in the party. They can provide limited healthcare advice and may also carry some medical equipment and medications for emergencies. It should not be expected that they will carry any medication for individual travellers that is normally prescribed by their own doctors.

The Expedition Medicine website is an excellent resource for those interested in finding out more about Expedition Medicine