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New Simpson Desert Recovery Service


Words Allison Watt  Pics Simpson Desert Recovery Service & Ben Carceller

Hema Maps is supporting the new Birdsville-based Simpson Desert Recovery Service with navigation equipment and mapping subscriptions to provide assurance and peace of mind for the hundreds of adventurers who undertake the crossing of the Simpson each year.


Covering nearly one million hectares, Munga-Thirri National Park (Simpson Desert) is Queensland’s largest protected area and is a bucket-list destination for four-wheel drive enthusiasts who want to explore some of Australia’s most remote areas. 

A Simpson Desert crossing comes with challenges and while this is a big part of the attraction it can also be a worry for those considering embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. 


Simpson Desert Recovery Service
The new Mercedes-Benz Arocs 1835 4WD with 7.7L TDI specifically built for Simpson Desert terrain


Most roadside assistance policies do not cover remote locations such as the Simpson Desert and emergency vehicle recovery callout services can take weeks and cost upwards of $10,000, so breaking down in the Simpson can ruin an epic adventure very quickly.

The Birdsville-based Simpson Desert Recovery Service launched this week in time for the start of the dry season when hundreds of four-wheel drive travellers will flock to the region to undertake this iconic Aussie adventure.

The recovery assurance package costs $495 per four-wheel drive vehicle and an additional $99 for a trailer. The package covers the recovery of a 4WD vehicle if it suffers a major mechanical breakdown while crossing the Simpson Desert.

Please be aware that trailers are actively discouraged for use in the desert due to the damage caused to the track and owner’s vehicles. But if your vehicle needs to be recovered and you are towing a trailer, the recovery vehicle can tow your trailer back to Birdsville for an additional $99 (as long as selected at the time of purchase). However, trailers are not covered by the recovery assurance so if your trailer breaks down then you will be charged the standard $450 per hour recovery fee.

Ben Fullagar is the General Manager of the Birdsville Hotel which also owns the Simpson Desert Recovery Service, Birdsville Bakery, Birdsville Aviation and 4WD Ground Tours.

“We feel it’s important to ensure that people looking to traverse the Simpson Desert can do so with a feeling of confidence so that if they do face an issue there is support available to them,” Ben said.

“Our goal is to ensure that those taking on the adventure of the Simpson Desert feel assured that we have a premium recovery service to back them up should the trip not go to plan.”

The service will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week from 15 March to 30 November, which are the same seasonal operating months of the desert itself. 

The Simpson Desert Recovery Package is available for purchase now on the Birdsville Hotel website. For further information you can call 07 4656 3244.


What is the recovery package?

The package covers the recovery of a 4WD vehicle if it suffers a major mechanical breakdown while crossing the Simpson Desert. It is not an RACQ or NRMA type of service and cannot be called out to assist with basic breakdowns such as flat batteries, flat tyres, running out of fuel or other minor problems that can be fixed or repaired onsite. The recovery service will bring the vehicle back to Birdsville.

A major mechanical breakdown or failure can be described as:

  • Front or rear suspension failure which is not repairable on the track and the vehicle is not driveable.
  • Engine, transmission or any part of the driveline that has failed and is beyond being able to ‘limp’ back to Birdsville.
  • Broken vehicle chassis, blown up or failed axles, failed and collapsed wheel bearings, broken steering systems, failed fuel systems, broken and failed water pumps or radiators, seized or failed alternators preventing the engine/electrical system to run. 
  • Becoming severely bogged and not part of a convoy of other vehicles (after all recovery efforts have been exhausted).
  • Recovery of vehicle and passengers in the event of a rollover or other accident (000 should be called if urgent medical assistance is needed).


The recovery package is purchased in advance of intended travel, however, for those who choose not to purchase the package, recovery services can be provided at a cost of $450 per hour from the time the recovery truck leaves Birdsville until the time it returns (dependent on the location of the breakdown).

Assistance cannot be assured within a reasonable time frame as paying package customers will be first priority. It is common for a recovery to take anywhere from eight hours to two days (depending on location), so any recovery is likely to be $4,500–12,000, which makes the recovery package at $495 great value for money.


Simpson Desert Recovery Service

The new Mercedes-Benz Arocs taking a river crossing in its stride


The recovery truck

A new take on the original Birdsville Roadhouse Recovery Vehicle, the Mercedes-Benz Arocs 1835 4WD with 7.7L TDI engine developing 1400 Nm of pulling power is a bespoke heavy-duty offroad recovery vehicle specifically designed for recoveries out in Simpson Desert terrain. 

The specially designed sliding tilt tray has been purpose-built to carry large 4WD vehicles including larger imported dual cab utilities that have become extremely popular with offroad touring enthusiasts. The tray has also been designed with the region in mind with the ability to carry additional spare wheels, tools and heavy-duty recovery equipment. 

Boasting bigger-than-standard offroad tyres to ensure premium performance in the sand hills, there are few places this vehicle can’t go. The cabin is well appointed with a bench seat in the rear of the cab to enable the safe and comfortable transportation of passengers.

Hema Maps has partnered with the Simpson Desert Recovery Service with the provision of an HX-2+ Navigator GPS unit and software subscription for the recovery truck. 

The Hema HX-2+ Navigator enables desert travellers to easily locate where they are in the Simpson so they can call through their location specifically — making it much easier for the recovery service to reach them. 

NB: To enable a successful recovery, a Satellite phone or mobile phone with satellite connectivity (Starlink or SatSleeve) is required to notify the service. Satellite phones also provide tremendous peace of mind should you need to call for emergency medical assistance.


Where does the service operate?

The Recovery Assurance Package will cover drivers for vehicle recovery while travelling on the designated tracks within the zone clearly stated on the map below.


Click to view full map


Recovery package cover stretches from the township of Birdsville in the east to over Big Red and to the western intersection of the Rig Road and French Line. Further west, the track is far less arduous and considered fairly easy. 

Venturing to the southeast of the Munga-Thirri NP? The Recovery Assurance Package covers drivers on those desert southern routes tracking down onto the K1 line and into the Warburton Track finishing at the intersection of the Warburton and Birdsville Tracks (when this route is open, please check with SA National Parks to ensure that it is open at the time of travelling). 

While the package covers travellers for the marked routes within the zone, please be aware that if tracks are officially closed due to wet weather or poor track conditions, the service will be unable to depart Birdsville to conduct a recovery until the track is officially reopened for travel.

For further information and to book a Simpson Desert Recovery Package, just head here.


Simpson Desert Hema Maps

Traversing the Simpson Desert is an adventure of a lifetime 


Next steps

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  • Nick Freeman: May 30, 2024

    Thanks Hema,
    This info is very helpful as I’m soon travelling the desert tracks.
    $495 is inexpensive for me compared to a massive recovery cost and peace of mind.
    I do have a question,
    Is the recovery package for 12 months or for the open season of the desert for that year?

  • Rick Shea: June 19, 2024

    I am disappointed at the area covered, very little of the Hay River track and virtually nothing of the Madigan Line.

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