Omar Bakhach is a Senior Ranger in the South East Queensland Region, based on the Sunshine Coast. While volunteering for cassowary conservation in Mission Beach in the late 1980s, and showing his father-in-law around the rainforest, an ‘off the cuff’ comment—“You’d make a good ranger!”—set him on the path to becoming a Park Ranger. Omar was accepted as a mature age student into University of Queensland, Gatton Campus, then won a position with Queensland Parks Wildlife Service (QPWS) in Toowoomba…the rest is history.
How long have you worked in national parks?
Since the early 1990s.
Which parks have you worked in?
I initially had some short stints working around the Lake Eacham and Mission Beach area in Far North Queensland. In the mid-90s, I worked in Marine Parks out of Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and island national parks between Dunk Island and the top of Cape York Peninsula. After that, I spent a couple of years as Ranger in Charge at Central Station on K’gari (Fraser Island), Great Sandy National Park, World Heritage Area. One day I was invited to relieve in the Ranger in Charge Noosa National Park, a position eventually became permanent. I am now Senior Ranger for the Sunshine Coast coastal area, based in Maroochydore. Key parks in this area include Noosa, Mt Coolum and Tewantin National Parks, Eumundi Conservation Park, and Tuchekoi National Park (home of the Pomona King of the Mountain foot race).
What is your most memorable moment?
One highlight was the far northern boat patrols on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in the mid-1990s! On these trips between Cairns and the Torres Strait, our tasks were very diverse and we had the privilege of experiencing the sheer beauty of some of the most remote parts of the Great Barrier Reef islands, coral cays and reefs, and Cape York Peninsula. We did flora and fauna surveys of islands and reefs, scuba diving and snorkeling almost pristine coral reefs, tagging marine turtles and surveying for crown-of-thorns starfish, along with compliance work, moorings maintenance and infrastructure maintenance on remote islands. Much of our work was in conjunction with local Traditional Owners such as Djabugay and Kuku Yalanji around Cairns and Mossman, as well as communities of Cape York. It really was a special part of my working life that I look back on very fondly.
Can you describe your favourite national parks experience?
A boat trip through the Noosa Everglades and to the Upper Noosa River in the Southern Cooloola section of Great Sandy National Park has to be right up there. Just knowing how close it is to South East Queensland (and civilization), while experiencing its beauty and remoteness when you are paddling into the upper reaches is very special.
What is the best part about working in a National Park?
The best thing about working as a Park Ranger is feeling like you are a real part of the community, and managing a community asset that hopefully will be around in as good (or better) condition in years to come, for future generations.
What is your top tip for visitors to parks for bushwalking?
Be prepared! Do a little reading up about where you’re going. Carry a small backpack with water, snacks and a basic first aid kit. Most of all switch off from your ‘daily grind’. Take time to stop, breathe and ‘feel’ the environment around you… Don’t race through your trip!!
What is your top tip for campers?
If you come to a relatively empty camping area, don’t set up your camp right next to the only other camp there! Also clean up around your site (and beyond) thoroughly when you pack up. Respect other campers!
NPAQ thanks Omar for taking time to answer our questions. We appreciate the work all QPWS rangers undertake in protecting Queensland’s national parks.