At our new and very exciting Creating Great Wildlife Viewing Experiences workshop last week we flagged up some case studies from our recent Australian trip that we thought were particularly interesting in some way.
1. Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia
This has been recently and somewhat controversially redesigned to create a more controlled experience that is less disturbing to the Australasian sealions (not seals, despite the name). We loved the opportunity to get within a few metres of such magnificent animals, were happy to pay for the experience, and appreciated the respectful atmosphere of our small group and our skilled and knowledgeable guide. However, generations of people who remember being able to wander at will among the sealions see the new approach as a significant loss. A challenge for management.
2. Pelican feeding, Kangaroo Island, South Australia
A great example of showmanship linked to great wildlife knowledge, entrepeneurship -and ducking and diving around the bye-laws and authorities who would really rather he wasn’t doing this. Wildlife viewing at its most accessible and predictable – and, some might say, exploitative and damaging to the natural behaviour. Discuss.
3. Viewpoint, Francois Peron National Park, Western Australia
This well-positioned and designed viewpoint gave excellent and, crucially, safe views from the cliff top into the clear waters beneath – and of the sharks, turtles, rays and cormorants that swim in them. A great intervention.
4. Shotover Marine viewing trip, Shark Bay, Western Australia
These people know how to combine unpredictable wildlife with great customer care. When I, rather stroppily I thought, pointed out that I had come half way across the world to see a dugong and so badly wanted to know which was the best trip of the day to go on, they reassured me that it really didn’t matter because if I wasn’t entirely satisfied, I could go on another trip … and , if necessary, another and another, until I was. I thought that was a blowaway response that way more than exceeded my expectations.
As did the boat trip itself. It reinforced the value of a knowledgeable guide who (apparently) enjoys communicating. This guy answered a huge range of questions, was great with people and, equally importantly, read the sea well. He showed us more than 30 dugongs – as well as a range of other marine wildlife. Nice work.
All pictures thanks to Peter Phillipson. For more go to Peter’s Flickr stream. Follow Peter @ TellTalePeter on Twitter.