At Ningaloo Ecology Cruises we attempt to live up to our name by engaging in very strict self-imposed guidelines for conservation and sustainability of the marine environment around us. We do so not only because it is the vital source of our business, but more so because of the deep commitment to conservation by the company’s owners. This commitment is an underlying thread of all of our tour activities.
Our business operates on the Ningaloo Reef and within the Tantabiddi Sanctuary Zone – an area so rich in biodiversity, it acquired its sanctuary status in 2005. Acquisition of the prestigious World Heritage status in 2011 for Ningaloo and the surrounding areas, has further highlighted the importance of our region to a broader audience. Our goal is to show this richness to present and future generations in its current pristine state.
Our strength lies in our spoken word. Our business prides itself on delivering a message of conservation in a fun and interpretive way on every tour. This message, along with the wonders below the water, is the reason why we continue to exist and thrive personally and in the marketplace. When it comes to environmental awareness and conservation we believe in action – now, not tomorrow.
At Ningaloo Ecology Cruises, we pride ourselves on practicing “Responsible” Ecotourism, as defined by the Cape Town Declaration of 2002:
Responsible tourism is tourism which:
• minimizes negative social, economic and environmental impacts
• generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities
• improves working conditions and access to the industry
• involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances
• makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage embracing diversity
• provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues
• provides access for physically challenged people
• is culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence
“Ecotourism is environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy, study and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features – both past and present), that promotes conservation, has low visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations.”
~Definition as adopted in 1996 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
So, what does this look like? What does it mean for Ningaloo Ecology Cruises, our customers and the local community?
• The presentations that passengers hear on every tour highlight the message of conservation of the remaining biodiversity in the world – including things that they can do to preserve our precious environment and we let them know about our donations to environmental charities.
• We teach our customers about the Ningaloo Reef and its marine biodiversity, letting them know what it is they are seeing whilst on tour and also highlighting the negative impacts that humans can have on the fragile reef system via anchor damage or standing on the corals.
• We incorporate stories and information into all of our tour presentations that foster a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues and history that impact the Ningaloo Reef and surrounds.
• We hire locally to ensure our customers benefit from our staff’s strong understanding of Exmouth, the Ningaloo Reef and the surrounding areas – and to support those living here year round.
• We partner with Reef Check Australia to support the ongoing monitoring of the Ningaloo Reef system by taking their members out at various times to check the health of the local reef and to allow for training of new members.
• We work with the local Exmouth Visitor Centre and other regional Tourism bodies to promote and protect Exmouth’s many wonders to potential visitors.
• We donate a portion of every ticket/seat sold on every tour to a group of 6 charities each month – with over $25,000 donated to date! Two of those charities were selected for their protection and conservation of the Australian wildlife and marine environments – the Australian Marine Conservation Society and Australian Wildlife Conservancy.
• We regularly support local community organisations via sponsorship and donation of tours.
• We provide work experience opportunities for local Exmouth High School Students.
• Substantial discounts are given to local and regional school groups bringing students on tour.
• We donate the use of our bus and driver for various community functions and fundraisers.
• Whenever practicable, we buy local. Approximately 80% of our spending is done locally. This includes the sourcing of products and services for all our vehicles, vessel, and other equipment.
• We continue to utilise moorings as a low-impact alternative to anchoring during our snorkelling activities. If a mooring is unavailable, a suitable sandy area is always found to ensure minimal impact.
• We use the most efficient Mercury 4-stroke engines (far exceeding the Australian emission standards) on our vessels to minimise environmental impact.
• We do not use disposable dishes, cups or cutlery on our tours.
• We minimise paper usage by issuing all invoices and credit card receipts electronically to booking agents and customers, utilising recycled paper for any printing that cannot be avoided. Printer cartridges are recycled as well.
• We use environmentally-safe detergent to disinfect the snorkelling gear and dishes after use.
• We encourage passengers to take all rubbish back with them during their stay in the area to minimise the potential of it ending up in the ocean.
• We do not allow our passengers to feed the wild animals, including fish, whilst on tour and do not engage in this practice ourselves.
• We target several species of fish and coral for monitoring and then pass the acquired information to the Department of Parks & Wildlife (DPAW), Reef Check Australia and Department of Fisheries.
• We liaise regularly with local authorities and assist them in making decisions that impact the Tantabiddi Sanctuary Zone and wider Ningaloo Marine Park, such as advising on possible locations to place public moorings.
• We monitor illegal fishing and anchoring activity in the Tantabiddi Sanctuary Zone. Though we have no formal authority to issue infringement notices, our actions include education of ignorant parties and diplomacy when asking them to go elsewhere. Education and explanation of suitable anchoring grounds and anchors is given, including handing them a copy of the Ningaloo Marine Park Sanctuary Zones brochure issued by the DPAW.
The above are some of the ways that we look after our local environment, community and its visitors through the course of doing business. We look forward to hosting customers on board of our glass bottom boat vessels and sharing the wonders of the Ningaloo Reef and surrounding areas in an environmentally sensitive and responsible way. This is achieved through our ongoing dedication to the principles of Responsible Ecotourism and our ongoing passion for the Ningaloo Reef.