POLICE have warned people not to underestimate the dangers of the Otways after five men spent almost 24 hours lost near Wye River.
Rescuers safely retrieved five motorbike riders, from Ballarat and aged between 18 and 50, who became lost while riding in dense bush.
The men were part of a group of eight riding in the Wye River Valley before they got separated and became lost in a steep ravine on Sunday afternoon.
Rescuers found three Melton men on Sunday evening after they stayed put and one of them called authorities, but searchers failed to find the missing five before dark and the search resumed Monday morning.
Sergeant Nick Buenen of Apollo Bay police said a search and rescue helicopter team spotted the men about 9.30am Monday.
Sgt Buenen said the group had moved and separated, making for a difficult and frustrating rescue effort which took until about 4pm.
“Essentially it was three searches in one – they were only 250 metres apart when they were spotted but in that terrain it is a long way,” he said.
“The air wing lowered in a search and rescue member to get the groups together and get them back to where the motorbikes were.
“There was one who wasn’t as fit and was suffering from hypothermia and needed to be stabilised before he could be moved – so the others needed to be moved out otherwise they would have become hypothermic,” Sgt Buenen said.
Sgt Buenen said “relief was palpable” when family members greeted the men as they emerged from the bush.
He said the group had spent a worried night huddled together and had to drink from a river.
“They were okay but they were starting to flag – it just goes to show, any more than one night out there it starts to become life threatening,” Sgt Buenen said.
“They learnt a valuable lesson because they now know it’s important to stay together, work as a team and if you’re going to do anything like that, go out the way you came.
“What influenced their thinking was the recovery of their motorbikes and that was just not the way to go,” he said.
Sgt Buenen said the men also learnt the hard way about the dangers of the Otways.
“It’s very dynamic and it can be very dangerous – it always surprises me just how dangerous and tricky the Otways can be.”