Tourism heroes serving Australia’s natural environment

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In 2020, when tourists were scarce on the Great Barrier Reef, Alan Wallish, founder of Passions of Paradise (passions.com.au), which offers diving and snorkeling trips to the Outer Reef, organized Weekly coral regeneration expeditions for himself and 18 staff. , planting 2,000 live corals over a three-month period.

At Coodlie Park Farm Retreat (coodliepark.com.au) on the Eyre Peninsula, Craig “Hassie ” Haslem replants 1.2 hectares of native vegetation each year, turning what was a dilapidated farm into a 100% neutral farm. carbon, which is a starting point for interactive guided tours of the rugged region with Australian Wildlife Adventures.

In Victoria’s Cape Otway, Lizzie Cork and her husband Shayne Neal of the Conservation Ecology Center (conservationecologycentre.org) have planted more than 100,000 koala habitat trees over the past decade and launched several urgent conservation programs, including the detection and protection of endangered potoroos and tiger quolls. .

We may not know their names, but they are just a few of the hundreds of sustainability heroes working tirelessly in the Australian tourism industry, as stewards of the irreplaceable environments in which they operate. “I call them heritage creators,” says Penny Rafferty, Sustainability Manager at Tourism Australia, whose role is to raise awareness of the extraordinary work already done by many people, while guiding others to follow in their footsteps. .

Long before sustainable tourism became a buzzword, these entrepreneurs were already working hard as stewards of Australia’s natural ecosystems, driven by the belief that tourism can be a powerful means of communicating conservation messages to generations of people. travelers.

Twenty years ago Greg Irons, director of the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary (bonorong.com.au), started Tasmania’s first wildlife rescue service after graduating from high school. For 25 years, Tim Tranter of Tread-Lightly Eco Tours (treadlightly.com.au) has led interpretive bush walks in the Blue Mountains. Ian Johnstone began his popular trek on UNESCO-recognized Maria Island in Southeast Tasmania in 2003 and later became the primary instigator for the creation of Great Walks of Tasmania (mariaislandwalk.com. to).

And on the Sapphire Coast of New South Wales, Loz Hunt and his business partner Sam Bright have regenerated and restored the natural habitat around the luxury 17-hectare Tanja Lagoon Camp hideaway (tanjalagooncamp.com.au) and established safe wildlife corridors for over 20 years.

Many are small family businesses. The Gash family on Lady Elliot Island, 80 kilometers off the Queensland coast, have protected the 45 hectare island (ladyelliot.com.au) since Peter Gash leased it in 2005 with the intention of building a ecological complex, successfully lobbying to create a green fishing zone without fishing around it. Sixteen years later, the island is powered almost 100% by renewable energy with the implementation of 900 solar panels and 240 batteries, which is equivalent to reducing carbon emissions by around 500 tonnes.

What’s most important about all of these small businesses is that guests are an integral part of the curation process. Charles Carlow, founder of Arkaba Conservancy (arkabaconservancy.com), a sheep station turned into a wildlife refuge in the Flinders Ranges, says: live. “

It’s a win-win classic. “Customers leave with a much deeper understanding and appreciation for what this place is all about,” said Gene Hardy, general manager of Cape to Cape Explorer Tours in Margaret River (capetocapetours.com.au). “Returning customers tell me things like, ‘My first cap-to-cap walk eight years ago changed my life.” Most of the time, they changed their values. Seeing their joy is what keeps us going. “

Education is the key, as is the truth. Rosie Sandover and Bec Sampi are partners of Kingfisher Tours (kingfishertours.com.au), which provides luxury air, sea and land travel in the Kimberleys and is a route to tourism activity for Indigenous peoples. Bec is a Gija woman and the only indigenous female chief guide in the country. “We show clients what we know: stunning, pristine wilderness and the stories behind it,” she says. “We don’t overlook complex issues like social dysfunction – we help clients understand and empathize with our goal of nurturing and supporting Indigenous peoples to find a way out.”

In Victoria, James “Murph ” Murphy, captain and owner of Sea All Dolphins Swims in Port Phillip Bay (dolphinswims.com.au) works with high school students to teach them about marine conservation through swimming trips with dolphins and seals. Lately he has set up plastic recycling workshops. “The payoff is seeing the penny for the students, when they create something useful out of waste and realize that they – n ‘anyone – have the power to make a real difference,’ he says.

Australian ambassadors who are passionate about the environment are there, eager to show their corner of the world, leave you with wonderful memories and make you come away richer from the experience. As Penny Rafferty observes, when people talk about their vacations, “the stories they tell are always about times when they were slightly uncomfortable or out of their comfort zone, when they discovered something. . They never talk about the number of threads on the sheets.


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