Posted by Katie Heilbronn on 24 August 2021 | Comments

Tags: , , ,

Master Reef Guides are scattered along the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Queensland, residing as far north as the Ribbons Reefs, all the way down south to Lady Elliot Island. Currently, there are 13 in the Southern Great Barrier Reef (GBR), 40 in Far North Queensland, 22 in Central Queensland and 8 roaming at this time.

ECO certified Great Barrier Reef tourism operators can apply to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to become High Standard Tourism Operators. High Standard Tourism Operators receive a number of benefits, including the ability to nominate Master Reef Guides. But what is a Master Reef Guide?

Master Reef Guides in their uniforms walking on jetty towards the water

[Photo credit: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority]

Master Reef Guides are striving to be the world’s leading coral reef guides sharing the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Each Master Reef Guide cohort undergoes rigorous training to achieve their prestigious title. The program is developed and delivered by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), a Protected Area Manager member, the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators and Tourism and Events Queensland, and ECO certified tourism operators with the philosophy that storytelling and reef interpretation are integral to fostering appreciation for the iconic Great Barrier Reef in travellers.

This year, nineteen Master Reef Guides were added to the Master Reef Guide family from nineteen ECO certified operators.

“We thought we were coming to learn more about coral polyps and zooxanthellae, and we have come away from this knowing about so much more, about the history of this place…” said Madison Drabble from Advanced Ecotourism certified Lady Musgrave Experience.


[Photo credit: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority]

The group spent one week on Heron Island near the Tropic of Capricorn, building on their scientific knowledge of the reef and learning storytelling techniques which will be the key to educating travellers coming to see the Great Barrier Reef each year. Alistair Chegwidden from Advanced Ecotourism certified Down Under Cruise & Dive praised the importance of storytelling after his experience, stating “This is the next step to make sure that we have someone on that boat to make sure that those guests are getting the right information and having fun.”

The Master Reef Guide program was led by world leading mentors and educators imparting knowledge from their life’s work onto future Great Barrier Reef ambassadors. The program was facilitated by Fiona Merida, Assistant Director Strategic Engagement and Fred Nucifora, Director Strategic Engagement. Expert trainers included James Cook University Distinguished Professor Sean Ulm who shared research on the coastal occupation of Australia and its cultural significance. , World renowned Cinematographer and shark researcher, Richard Fitzpatrick, Director of Biopixel, passed on his wealth of knowledge on reef biology and , cinematography and demonstrated the power of piecing this together to tell an incredible story. The field school program also featured researchers such as Dr. Jimmy White with a PhD in Marine Biology, the first to track Dwarf Minke Whales with satellite transmitters, and Dr. Jessica Stella whose PhD delved into the effects of climate change on tiny invertebrates that live in branching corals in the Great Barrier Reef. Paul Groves, Project Manager from the GBRMPA presented on The Importance of Reef Monitoring along with Peta Ross, Assistant Director, Indigenous Compliance, who gave the Master Reef Guides an unforgettable session on Cultural Awareness and the importance of Sea Country to Traditional Owners.

Ocean Rafting QLD Toby James Taylor MRG

[Photo credit: Ocean Rafting. L-R: Ocean Rafting Skipper/Eco Host/Master Reef Guide, Toby Lodewijks, Ocean Rafting Skipper/Environmental Manager/Master Reef Guide, James Unsworth and Ocean Rafting Eco Host/Master Reef Guide, Taylor Chen.]

“The quality of guest speakers that we have had has been second to none,” stated Toby Lodewijks from Advanced Ecotourism certified, Climate Action Innovator, Green Travel Leader and Hall of Fame member Ocean Rafting. Toby’s experience in the fifth cohort of Master Reef Guides means that he joins two of his colleagues, James Unsworth and Taylor Chen, in holding this prestigious title. Certified with Ecotourism Australia for over twenty years, Ocean Rafting now has the largest team of accredited Master Reef Guides in the Whitsundays Region. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing people from all walks of life, whether that’s science based, adventure based, cultural based…” said Toby of his momentous achievement.

The program’s aim to produce experts who educate and inspire travellers is a vital part of marine conservation and comes in time with conversations on the world stage about the importance of protecting the Great Barrier Reef. The Master Reef Guide program is part of an array of concerted efforts to share the unique beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. .

Ecotourism Australia congratulates the 5th cohort of Master Reef Guides! 

comments powered by Disqus