25 Years of Sharing our Magical Reef with the World

25 Years of Sharing our Magical Reef with the World

In 1990, popular US cartoon “The Simpsons” first showed on Fox TV, both Kylie Minogue and sister Dani were in the music charts, and two men quietly started working for leading Cairns reef tourism operator, Sunlover Reef Cruises.

This month both Ted Woolley and Vance Fahey are celebrating 25 years continuous employment with the company, the milestone having been reached for both only a few weeks apart; they having started almost at the same time, after Ted interviewed Vance for his job.

Ted recounts the story, “I had only just joined Sunlover when I was asked to step in for a manager who was sick and interview this young bloke for a job on the boat. I had never interviewed anyone and have not interviewed anyone since – so after 25 years with Vance working for the company, I must have done a pretty good job of the interview. A 100% success rate I’d say!”

Vance is currently working on the boat as a Senior Dive Instructor introducing thousands of guests each year to his “office” – exploring the Great Barrier Reef with a scuba dive tank strapped to their back.  But working for the same business doesn’t mean there is a lack of variety in the work place. Over the last 25 years he and Ted have covered many different roles, including working as Reef Naturalists, Coxswain, Deckhands, Seawalker Instructors, with Vance also spending time working as Cruise Director.

Cairns locals will recognise Vance as when he is not out on the reef, he is one half of the musical group, the Barbary Coasters which he formed in 1988, with Nikki Lowmass. Nikki, who also works for Sunlover, and Vance are one of Cairns longest running musical partnerships, named after the infamous Barbary Coast waterfront of early Cairns. Their album ‘Follow Your Dreams’ was the first CD produced in Cairns, utilizing the best local session musicians and receiving critical acclaim throughout the State, they quickly became one of the busiest acts on the road in FNQ and remain so to this day!

As well as the multitude of roles Ted has been responsible for throughout his career with Sunlover, prior to starting with the company he had previously managed the dive shops on both Green Island and Fitzroy Island before embarking on research into giant clams while studying Marine Biology at James Cook University.

Ted’s degree, coupled with over 25 years of experience, is channelled to guests who join one of Sunlover’s optional activities. The Snorkel Safari Tour, which Ted often leads, gives guests the opportunity to spend up to 30 minutes snorkelling the reef in a small group learning just a little of what Ted knows about this amazing environment.

Both men agree that one of the highlights of their time working on the reef with Sunlover Reef Cruises is having the opportunity to show guests who often have never been in the water before, how to snorkel or how to dive and to see their anxiety slip away, only to be replaced by sheer exhilaration at what they are seeing for the first time.

Julie Duncan, Group General Manager for Sunlover Reef Cruises said, “We congratulate both Ted and Vance on reaching this milestone and we wish to recognise their contribution not only to our company but also to the Cairns tourism industry in general as professional and passionate regional ambassadors! In sharing our special part of the Great Barrier Reef with literally thousands of guests from all over Australia and the world, they have contributed to the growth of tourism to this region.”

Highlights? Vance remembers finding a wedding ring lying on the bottom of the ocean from a couple who had just been married the day before. He is also still moved by letters and photos he receives from guests from all over the world who say the experience they have had with him was simply life changing.

For Ted, the highlight over his 25 years working on the Great Barrier Reef is sharing the simple things with people such as the colourful corals and fish as well as the clear, clean water of the coral-sea. Witnessing and sharing the annual Coral Spawning event with friends and visitors is always one of those amazing times to be living in Cairns and working on the reef.