When you imagine exploring the dreamtime world of Australia’s Outback, especially the searing deserts of South Australia, be sure you plan your journey during the right season or you may snag more than you can handle. This year, to make sure that no one makes this mistake, officials will close the Simpson Desert from Dec. 1 to March 15—the Australian summer—to avoid tourist deaths and protect emergency personnel who might have to risk themselves to save stranded visitors.
The Simpson Desert at the northern end of South Australia is one of the world’s most unforgiving places where temperatures can reach hellish temperatures (this year officials forecast temperatures as high as 50 degrees centigrade, or 122 degrees Fahrenheit). Thousands visit the Simpson Desert Conservation Park each year to see the sand dunes and rock formations, but the park has no maintained roads, only tracks, and breakdowns are common, both from the rough terrain and intense heat. Deaths have occurred in the past and officials say they have had many near misses.
If death by desiccation isn’t enough to deter you, you probably won’t be put off by the fine for violators: 1,000 Australian dollars (US$657).