The rich Indigenous heritage and spectacular coastline of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast are set to be celebrated with the launch of a new cruise operator.
Operating from Mooloolaba, Saltwater Eco Tours is using a century-old historic timber sailing vessel, Spray of the Coral Coast, to showcase the Sunshine Coast’s Indigenous heritage and marine beauty.
Each tour will have an Indigenous storyteller on board to share the stories, traditions and culture of the Sunshine Coast’s original Indigenous inhabitants and first eco custodians, the Kabi Kabi people (who were originally known as the ‘Saltwater People’).
Saltwater Eco Tours is the brainchild of Simon Thornalley, a young Indigenous man of Torres Strait Island descent.
Thornalley spent his life sailing through the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Straits as a child, honing his skills before gaining his Commercial Master Class 5 licence, which took him across many oceans, including six cruises to Antarctica as first officer on a charter vessel.
Thornalley has incorporated his love for the marine environment, his cultural heritage, and his passion for sailing by launching a series of tours aboard Spray of the Coral Coast.
The two-hour ‘Cultural Tour’ takes passengers to sites of cultural significance and places where Dreamtime stories and songs originated. Large numbers of sea birds, turtles, and dolphins can be spotted along the way.
There will be storytelling, didgeridoo and entertainment provided by Indigenous guides during the two-hour cruise, along with bush-tucker inspired catering accompanied by a local craft beer or sparkling wine.
Operating three times daily each weekend, adult tickets for the Cultural Tour cost $120, and tickets for children’s tickets are $79.
The two-hour ‘Sunset Acoustic Tour’ operates on Saturday and Sunday evenings, combining a dramatic sunset, soft acoustic music, a selection of grazing platters and a local craft beer as the vessel cruises the waterways, taking in nocturnal wildlife, fishing vessels and the setting sun. Adult prices are $55 per person.
Saltwater Eco Tours also offers private charters of two to four hours, which can accommodate a wide range of requirements including custom catering, live music and storytelling.
The vessel can cater for 35 passengers, but is restricting numbers to 20 currently, to adhere to its COVID-19 safety plan.
Commenting on the new venture, Thornalley said: “I am honoured and proud to launch a business that encompasses my passion for culture, as well as maritime history and sailing.
“Sustainable tourism plays a crucial role in today’s society, and in the year of Indigenous tourism, I am excited to launch Saltwater Eco Tours on the Sunshine Coast.”
Queensland Tourism Minister Kate Jones welcomed the launch of Saltwater Eco Tours.
“There’s more demand than ever for authentic ecotourism and Indigenous cultural experiences in Queensland,” she said.
“COVID-19 has had a huge impact on our tourism industry. We need new experiences like Saltwater Eco Tours to entice visitors back to the Sunny Coast and share the message that we’re good to go in Queensland.”
Featured image source: Tourism and Events Queensland/Daniel Barker