Andrew Harper

desert walker : explorer : conservationist : photographer

I’ve been walking and exploring the Australian deserts since 1995 and so far, have journeyed over 20000 kilometres across all of Australia's nine major deserts either as a solo explorer or as leader of commercial camel expeditions with my trekking business, the Outback Camel Company.

In 1999 I brought to fruition a 17 year dream of walking across Australia along The Tropic of Capricorn, a 229 day, 4637 kilometre journey raising funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Stage 2 of Capricorn Expedition, a two-stage walk across South America began in October 2017, and I will continue the walk in October to December 2019. More information here - www.capricornexpedition.com.au

In 2007 I founded Australian Desert Expeditions, a Not-For-Profit Registered Environmental Organisation that partners with leading universities and national research institutions to conduct scientific & ecological surveys in the far reaches of the inland deserts.

I believe that Australia's long cameleering exploration heritage can successfully partner with modern science to further our ecological knowledge of Australia's great arid wilderness.

Since 1995 I’ve walked across the Simpson Desert - the worlds largest parallel sand ridge desert - 12 times in various directions, the latest solo journey being reconnxpedition, a 35 day, 700 kilometre crossing in 2012.

On Australia Day 2015, I was honoured to be awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), for service to environmental science, research and adventure tourism.

"The desert deserves to be approached gently, so its mood is revealed. The way people have always approached the desert was on foot, as we have done today. That reveals the country - the continuum of country."

 In the west of the Northern Territory.

In the west of the Northern Territory.


Capricorn Expedition 1999 & 2017

A solo crossing of Australia along the Tropic Of Capricorn, using three camels as transport, raising funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Andrew has a very strong aversion to following tracks or roads across deserts and so one of the objectives of the journey was an exercise in pure desert navigation - to keep as close to the Tropic as possible, hence using the camels to cross vast tracts of wilderness. The camels carried all of the provisions and this 229 day, 6 million 830 thousand step journey included 86 days of lone travel across the Little Sandy, Gibson and Simpson Deserts. As acknowledgement of this achievement Andrew was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 2000.

Capricorn Expedition continued in 2017 with A Walk Across The Andes. In October 2019 the wobbly walk continues across Paraguay and Brazil. www.capricornexpedition.com.au


Expeditions with the Outback Camel Company 

The Outback Camel Company has been exploring all of Australia's great inland desert's since 1976 and has a heritage that stretches back to 1860, encompassing the golden years of camel based desert exploration. Since 1995 Andrew has led treks & expeditions across all of the major deserts with Australia's last remaining  team of continuously working packcamels and he has been the owner of the Outback Camel Company since 2000.

As far as contemporary Australian desert exploration goes, he believes that this is as pure as it gets and that packcamels are still the best way to explore Australia's great deserts with the smallest environmental "padprint" possible. The expeditions begin where the roads stop - in fact if ever contemporary walking treks were described as 'off the beaten track' these would be it - there are no tracks or roads and in most cases the expeditions are blazing a new path across the red dunes, alongside inland river systems, and across vast gibber flats and claypans.

Andrews ethos for these trips is simple - provide travellers with a real experience of discovery that is grounded in the grand traditions of Australian desert exploration.

  • Expedition Leader, Northern Simpson Desert Expedition 2009, 2010

  • Expedition Leader, Simpson Desert Expedition 1996 (x2), 1998, 2001, 2002, 2004

  • Expedition Leader, Great Victoria Desert/Gibson & Little Sandy Desert Expeditions 1997, 2003, 2005

  • Expedition Leader, Great Southern Simpson Desert Expedition 2014

  • Expedition Leader Munga-Thirri Expedition 2014

In 2014 the Outback Camel Company ceased operating commercial camel expeditions and now works solely for Australian Desert Expeditions on their scientific and ecological surveys. See www.desertexpeditions.org


With Australian Desert Expeditions

Nearly 45% of the continent is yet to be comprehensively surveyed by scientists. Realising that desert exploration by camel could play an important role in increasing our desert knowledge, Andrew founded Australian Desert Expeditions in 2007. The scientific community have quickly recognised the great value in traversing remote country by foot assisted by a team of packcamels. These rigorous scientific and ecological surveys have traversed previously unexplored areas of the Simpson Desert as well as providing a unique ecotourism experience for desert trekkers.

  • Expedition Leader, Arid Rivers Expedition 2007

  • Expedition Leader, Simpson Desert Archaeology Expedition 2008

  • Expedition Leader, Kalamurina Reserve Survey with Australian Wildlife Conservancy and Eyre Creek Ornithological Survey 2009

  • Expedition Leader of the 2010 & 2011 ecological surveys in partnership with Bush Heritage Australia

  • Expedition Leader, Kallakoopah Creek Expeditions 2014, Mikiri Surveys 2014

  • Expedition Leader Simpson Desert Project 138 Surveys 2015, 2016 & 2017


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Central Australian (Tanami) Expedition 2002

With colleague Kieran Kelly. A 720km, 35 day, 2 man, 5 camel expedition across the Tanami Desert to link the routes of explorers John Stuart and Augustus Gregory. The historical challenge for Harper & Kelly was to connect Gregory’s failed attempt in 1856 to cross the Tanami from the west with John McDouall Stuart’s unsuccessful attempt in 1860 to cross the same desert from the east. They were setting out to 'join the dots' and celebrate the achievements of two of Australia's greatest land navigators. 

"We wanted to find out what defeated them – why did they retreat? What was the country like at the exact position where they turned back? What would have happened to each of them, to their men and horses, if they kept going?"


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reconnxpedition 2012

reconnXpedition was a 35 day, 700km west-to-east solo walk across Australia's Simpson Desert, the world's largest parallel sand-ridge desert. It took place in August/September 2012 and in 2013 will be linked with Education Through Expeditions (www.etelive.org) to provide school children with a direct connection to the ancient centre of the Australian continent.
In collaboration with Adventurers & Scientists for Conservation, Andrew carried out a ground-truthing project for Sydney University's Institute of Wildlife Research. He didn't realise it at the time, but the expedition is now believed to be the first recorded solo exploration of the desert from west to east with camels.

Walkabout Expedition 2007

A nomadic walk from the western side of the Simpson Desert in the Northern Territory, to the Warburton River near Lake Eyre in South Australia. A two person, 6 camel, 1 dog journey over 35 days and 430 kilometres.

 The world's largest parallel sand ridge desert. reconnxpedition travelled right across the desert in a wobbly line from west to east.  The Walkabout Expedition route was from the west of the desert to Lake Eyre in the southeast.

The world's largest parallel sand ridge desert. reconnxpedition travelled right across the desert in a wobbly line from west to east.

The Walkabout Expedition route was from the west of the desert to Lake Eyre in the southeast.