Protecting the Barrier Reef Together

By Tanya Murphy, Dive Instructor

For Sunlover staff, the Great Barrier Reef isn’t just our workplace. It is a priceless wonder that we feel privileged and honoured to be able to visit. We are an Australian-owned company, and as locals who live and breathe the Reef, we want to keep it in a pristine and healthy state so it can continue to be a part of our lives and our children’s lives forever, and we are dedicated to doing our bit to protect it.

Thanks to eco-tourism businesses like ours, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the best-protected marine parks in the world. An entire third of it, or more than 114,000 square kilometres (an area bigger than Austria and Switzerland combined), is a Green Zone which means all marine life are protected and no fishing or extractive activities are allowed. This makes it vastly healthier than many other Reefs around the world.

In 2004, it was the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO), of which Sunlover is a member, who worked together with conservationists to help have the Barrier Reef’s Green Zone created, thus protecting it from being used for other more harmful industries. Eco-tourism is carried out in a small part of this Green Zone, with only about 0.6 per cent of the Reef’s total area being visited by tourists.

Eco Standards
Sunlover Reef Cruises are an Eco-Certified company, and to cut down on plastic waste, we encourage our customers to bring their own re-useable water bottles and use our water filter on board. Our staff lead the way in setting a good example for this. We also don’t provide plastic drinking straws and we recycle a lot of the waste that is produced. As with all tour companies in the marine park, we do not allow any litter or waste to go overboard and we use eco-friendly cleaning products wherever possible.

Eco-Conscious Guides
At Sunlover Reef Cruises, our snorkelling and diving activities are led by highly experienced, eco-conscious guides, who teach visitors to appreciate and respect these amazing marine creatures in their pristine natural habitat, while protecting them at the same time. Our guides teach visitors never to touch or stand on corals and to keep a safe distance by using flotation aids and safe swimming techniques. By following our “look but don’t touch!” motto, we ensure all visitors leave nothing but bubbles and take nothing but photographs!

Small Tour Groups
At Sunlover Cruises we have a unique permit to our southern Moore Reef site which means there are no other tour boats within several kilometres, ensuring that over-crowding does not occur. Our guided snorkel safari groups are no larger than six people; our scuba diving guides take no more than four people at a time; and our Seawalking (helmet diving) groups are no larger than seven people at a time. We have a huge Reef site, and by only taking a few people in the water at a time, we avoid overcrowding it and ensure we do not disturb the marine habitat.

We have so many activities to choose from at our activity pontoon, and four hours to enjoy them all, so guests can spread out and are never all in the snorkelling / diving area at the same time. You might spend an hour snorkelling, and then check out some of the other activities like the glass bottom boat rides, semi-submarine rides, and helicopter joy-flights. And of course, don’t forget to treat yourself to a little bit of relaxing sunbathing on our upper deck while enjoying the bar facilities, or playing with your kids in the baby pool!

Guests who are not strong swimmers can “paddle” knee-deep in fish on our platforms or hold onto the rails of the platform, leaving the bulk of the coral Reef for those more experienced snorkellers and divers to explore in relative solitude. With so many activities on offer to cater for everyone, there is plenty of space for everyone to spread out and thus, overcrowding of both guests and marine life is avoided.

Funds for Reef Protection
Every tourist that visits the Reef with Sunlover contributes a marine park fee (included in your tour booking price) which goes directly to the Marine Park for research and protection of the Reef. Along with other tour companies this amounts to millions of dollars each year raised for Reef conservation!

Scientific Research
At Sunlover Reef Cruises, we have two qualified Marine Biologists, two qualified Master Reef Guides and several qualified Eye on the Reef Surveyors who carry out important research which is submitted to the Marine Park Authority to help protect the Reef.
Scientists based at universities in the city simply don’t have the time and resources to visit the Reef every day, so they benefit greatly from data and research carried out by the marine biologists working on tour boats. Without tourists enabling companies like Sunlover to visit the Reef, these marine biologists’ work and research could not be carried out.
For this reason, the Reef’s top scientists from the Marine Park Authority and James Cook University have endorsed the eco-tourism industry as a hugely important ally in protecting the Reef.

Marine Education
Our qualified staff offer world-class education, teaching you and your family about the importance of the marine ecosystem and how to take simple steps to protect it.
Our “Marine Bio for a Day” program offers school students from all over Australia and internationally an opportunity to learn about marine science in a fun, interactive way, thus inspiring the next generation to protect our priceless Reef.

Pest Removal
Our staff carry out pest-control at our Reef sites, by removing the invasive Crown of Thorns Seastar (COTS) and Drupella snail from the area using methods provided by the Marine Park Authority.

Passionate Staff
On top of everything that our staff do while working at Sunlover, many of them are so passionate about marine conservation that they also volunteer in conservation activities on their days off. For example, our long-term Senior Dive Instructor Makie Yato is a dedicated volunteer at Parley for the Oceans, collecting several metric tons of plastic debris over her time at their regular beach cleanups. Our Marine Biologist and Master Reef Guide Pablo Cogollos also volunteers for both Parley for the Oceans and the Reef Restoration Foundation on top of working full-time for Sunlover. Dive Instructor Tanya Murphy is the coordinator of Conservation group Divers for Reef Conservation when she’s not busy teaching diving at the Reef.

The Takeaway
Sunlover REEF CRUISES ARE proud to be doing as much as possible to help protect the Great Barrier Reef. The best thing you can do to help the Barrier Reef right now is to book your holiday to come and see her. Not only will you and your family have an amazing, unforgettable experience getting up close and personal with marine life, but you’ll learn about things you can do to help protect her, and will be supporting an eco-tourism industry which is working to protect the Reef for future generations.

Marine Touch Tank Presentation