Forget classrooms or YouTube, it's the people you meet you learn the most from.
CLICK TO WATCH THE VIDEO
WORDS CAROLYN BEASLEY
Silky Oaks Lodge overlooking the Mossman River.
Juan Walker is a Kuku Yalanji man from the Mossman and Daintree area, with over 20 years of experience as a tour guide in the same region. Juan spoke to Michelle Cox for · Baillie Lodges’ Luxury Redefined podcast about his region’s Indigenous heritage, and nature’s supermarket.
AS I PULL ON WATERPROOF COVERALLS...
and wiggle my feet into built-in rubber boots, I’m ready to hit the oyster farm. Sloshing through the knee-deep estuary, I’m struck by how different this is to a traditional luxury holiday. Here at Saffire Freycinet, on Tasmania’s east coast, excursions are anything but ordinary.
Here at Saffire Freycinet, on Tasmania’s east coast, excursions are anything but ordinary.
Saffire Freycinet Marine Farm Experience.
TASSIE IN A SHELL
My group wades out to a high wooden table, where our guide, Nicole Dyble, opens her backpack and whips out a white tablecloth. Next comes china plates, dressings, wine glasses, and lastly, a chilled sparkling Riesling, the grapes grown on a neighbouring hillside.
Brandishing her knife, Nicole reaches into the water for a handful of oysters and starts shucking, setting salty molluscs before us as quick as we can slurp them down.
Develop an understanding for wetland and marine ecology.
With the backdrop of the pink-hued Hazards Range and accompanied by the honking of black swans, Nicole explains the finer points of oyster farming. Later, with the briny richness lingering on our palates, she introduces us to the friendly oyster farmer himself, and we pepper him with questions (who knew a winter oyster is smaller than its summer counterpart, when there is more algae to feed on?).
Don a pair of waders and visit the Freycinet Marine Farm.
One of Tasmania’s most iconic experiences.
Freshly shucked oysters straight from the lease.
The free-range devil enclosure at Saffire Freycinet.
THE DEVIL SHE KNOWS
Nicole’s talents extend well beyond the estuary, and later, I follow her to meet Saffire’s famous Tasmanian devils. She is just the person to lead this experience, having worked with devils for over 15 years.
“Because it’s such a wild environment down here, the devils indulge in quite natural behaviour.
“People come down and when they first see the area, they’re not actually expecting to see anything. I don’t say anything… then all of a sudden all of these devils pop out of the east coast flora.”
We stroll beside the one-hectare enclosure and sure enough, a male devil scurries into view.
Nicole steps inside and offers the skittish carnivore a meal, and a female timidly appears, claiming her piece as well.
From a sunken viewing area, we watch through glass as the devils interact. Nicole says these devils have retired to the purpose-built sanctuary at Saffire from the government’s Save the Tasmanian Devil breeding program, which helps wild devils fight disease.
Tasmanian Devil - sarcophilus harrisii.
Saffire Freycinet guide Nicole Dyble introduces a guest to the resident devils.
CLICK TO WATCH THE VIDEO
Tasmanian Devil - sarcophilus harrisii.
“There’s a lot of myths about Tasmanian devils, and I think that’s something of a hangover from European settlement,” Nicole says. “They’re not aggressive at all, contrary to what people say.”
As I listen and watch, I realise they’re really quite shy. But it’s the passion that Nicole speaks with, hardly shyly, that is most affecting here.
Between the oysters and the devils, I feel connected to Tasmania through experiences that I’ll be talking about for years. “In my opinion, our guiding role is connecting people to place,” Nicole says. “We want to create lifelong memories, and I think that we do that.”
El Questro Homestead prides itself on enriching the connection to iconic landscapes through the power of its people.
THE KIMBERLEY CONNECTION
Some 4,200km away, at the opposite end of the country in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, El Questro Homestead cantilevers out above the Chamberlain River Gorge.
The landscape is certainly different, but in common with Saffire, El Questro Homestead prides itself on enriching the connection to iconic landscapes through the power of its people.
El Questro’s Vinnie Antony has been working tourist seasons in the Kimberley for eight years. He’s drawn here by the landscapes, but also the opportunity to stitch together Kimberley stories.
The Homestead's dramatic surrounding landscape.
Experience the expanse of El Questro Homestead from the air.
The iconic Australian Kimberley.
The history, nature and wildlife are revealed by knowledgeable guides.
“The Bush Culture Heritage Tour is the one I like doing the best,” Vinnie says, explaining that he’s fascinated by Indigenous heritage, particularly Aboriginal tool-making.
He says guided activities like these present the chance to connect people and landscapes, and to break down cultural divides.
“I see it as a cultural bridge. It’s incredibly important and valuable information that you wouldn’t otherwise learn. The pressure-flaked spear heads here in The Kimberley have been made differently to anywhere else in Australia, for example.”
The insights into to the ancient ways of the Ngarinyin and Balanggarra people, the Traditional Owners of this land, is a feeling guests carry home with them, and snippets of Vinnie’s tours will become lifelong memories.
Vinnie explains that with just a handful of guests, each tour is inherently personal, with visitors becoming deeply involved.
The guided Emma Gorge hike.
“I had a couple come back three years in a row and we’d just go out and look around again,” Vinnie says. “One couple sent me a book a few weeks after a tour, just of the stuff that I was talking about. That’s how invested they were.”
Travel is about the people you meet as much as the destination itself, and often when we return, we find ourselves regaling family and friends with tales of the characters we met on the road. We learn from the right people – about a place, sure, but about ourselves as well.
FAMILY TRAVEL: THE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN TRAVEL AND EDUCATION
By definition, a luxury lodge is much more than just a place to stay. There is always a compelling reason to go there to ‘do’ something. At some, expert guides design education programs to engage families with hands-on nature and cultural activities. This is not just a holiday sipping coladas by a swimming pool (although you can easily do this as well).
At Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, the Wolgan Rangers Kids Program is designed to inspire junior explorers with outdoor adventures. Activities like the Helping Hands program sees children joining field guides for conservation activities, like constructing nesting boxes for possums and birds, rebuilding habitats, tree planting, or even collecting seeds for habitat restoration.
The dedicated children's program inspires young minds.
Share this article