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Maybe you do have to travel far from home to really appreciate what you’ve got. This is certainly what Lukas Rinnhofer did. He followed many winding paths before he discovered the place where he belonged. Travelling abroad definitely exerted a strong pull. The naturalist from Vorarlberg travelled frequently to Australia. Over a period of ten years, he went at least once a year, often staying for months at a time. He even considered emigrating and remaining down under for good. “My love of the mountains was just too strong though,” says Lukas, hiking guide and mountain enthusiast.

When you hear Lukas talk about the Alps and the Bregenz Forest where he lives, he’s really passionate. He sees the mountains as far more than just an alpine arena to keep fit in. Of course, he admits that they are a great place for clocking up vertical metres, something he says he’s also fond of. However, mountains have so much more to offer, “including for those of us with an eye for the small details off the side of the path.” The mountains constantly look different, in different weather, different light and different seasons. This is why he’s made it his mission to “show the amazing diversity of the natural world.”

The small details off the side of the path

Sharing special, inspirational moments, explaining all about nature in the Alps. As a biologist and all-round naturalist, Lukas has a fascinating view of the mountains. His approach is also informed by his walkabouts down under. Though he says: “When I left school, if someone had told me that one day I would go to university to study biology, I would never have believed them.” After all, he went to a commercial academy in Bregenz, Austria and received “classic accountant training”. After a year of civilian service, he left to go travelling and headed to Nepal, South America, California and finally Australia. He headed back to Australia time and time again – to a small village surrounded by nature, on the south-west coast, south of Perth. A friend of his, who he’d met on a backpacking trip, was a boot trip operator in the national park there. Lukas refers to it as ‘ecotourism’.

“I would never have thought that I would end up studying biology.”

Lukas Rinnhofer

As a matter of fact, these days, you could say that he’s working in ecotourism himself. After finishing university in Innsbruck – and taking “somewhat longer than normal” – he trained as a hiking guide at Lake Achen in Tyrol and worked as a ranger in the Karwendel mountains. Now, as a freelance nature-and hiking guide, he talks to people of all ages about his home region during lectures, workshops, school trips and company visits. And he says he wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world.

5 Questions for Lukas

You say one of your hobbies is bird watching? Isn’t that for elderly English pensioners in tweed jackets?

Hey, that’s a bit of a stereotype! Bird watching is a really intense way to experience nature because you’re up and out early and really make the most of the quiet hours before daybreak. More and more people are getting into bird watching, although not in large numbers. During the Covid-19 period, people became more aware of the birds singing. Life was quieter and we all heard more birdsong.

Where would you rather be: West Coast Australia or Lake Constance in Vorarlberg?

These days, definitely Lake Constance and Vorarlberg. There are many beautiful places in the world, but Vorarlberg is my home. It’s safe day and night, we have a good school and healthcare system, there are still some untouched natural areas, and we have the whole range of climate zones – from Mediterranean to Arctic. There are so many different possibilities, for what is such a small area. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to Vorarlberg, I’m thinking more in terms of the entire alpine region. I should also add that I don’t have particularly good sea legs and am not a great water sports fan. Unless you’re talking about water in the form of snow that is.

What about travelling and our carbon footprint?

Good point. To be honest, I’ve not really given it that much thought. Today’s generation is far more aware about this issue.

Do you have a favourite place where you live?

Yes. It’s nothing spectacular though. The Brueggelekopf is a mountain above Alberschwende in the Bregenzerwald. It’s 1,182 metres high, and 450 vertical metres from my front door. The top of the Brüggelekopf is a great place to go and watch the sunrise and sunset. You see Lake Constance on one side and the entire Bregenz Forest on the other.

As a hiking guide, what do you always have in your backpack?

My binoculars. And the usual essentials, like a rain jacket and a first aid kit – I always have them too.

A pair of Hanwag Banks hiking boots on a hiker’s feet

Lukas’ favourite boot: HANWAG Banks GTX

For me, the HANWAG Banks GTX is the perfect combination of a stable, lightweight boot that’s not too clumpy and gives good grip in difficult terrain.

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