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The tug-of-war between environmentalists and industrialists is glaringly apparent on the Great Barrier Reef. Yet, at least one local eco certified reef operator is going above and beyond in its commitment to the environment.

In a business that is entirely dependent on the environment, it makes sense for dive and snorkel operators on the Great Barrier Reef to do whatever they can to protect the very thing that their livelihoods are dependent on.

However, whilst many Great Barrier Reef tour operators are ‘eco certified’, spruiking their green credentials in their marketing literature, few of them have the commitment to go the extra mile.

[headline size=”small” align=”left”]why sustainability is important[/headline]

picture of great barrier reef fishPassions of Paradise is an exception in that they can back up their ‘green’ credentials, taking a much broader view of the importance of sustainability.

As Russell Hosp, their Environment & Sustainability Manager says, “Conservation and sustainability are in our DNA.”

On the day we went out to the reef with Passions of Paradise to chat with Russell about their green initiatives, there was a huge container ship motoring across the horizon inside the Reef.

It is a confronting sight given the fragility of this iconic marine environment, but since the waters are calmer inside the reef, travelling this route makes their trips quicker and cheaper. Unfortunately money talks and the environment is not high on their agenda.

As Russell points out, “Tourism is a small industry compared to the giants of mining and agriculture”.

[headline size=”small” align=”left”]what it means to be eco-certified[/headline]

eye on the reefOn the upside, over the last few years there has been a general trend in the tourism industry towards sustainability.

Eco Tourism Australia was set up as a certifying body to further inspire tourism businesses to be environmentally sustainable.

As eco certified businesses, part of their responsibility involves educating tourists about the reef, so each new passenger goes away with a greater understanding of the environment and becomes a champion of the ‘conservation cause’.

But Passions of Paradise go much further. Their slew of awards and eco certifications is evidence of their commitment and a testament to what they do.

As we chatted to Russell, it was very clear what makes Passions so different as a business. Environmental values are so deeply embedded into the culture of the business that everything they do is seen through a ‘green lens’.

And, they’re prepared to put their money where their mouth is.

[headline size=”small” align=”left”]why passions of paradise are true eco heroes[/headline]

sea birds on michaelmas cayNot only have Passions allocated a staff member to coordinate all of their sustainability and environment initiatives, they also donate to programs such as the Save a Shark program and they play an active role in monitoring the reef.

Their long list of green credentials includes:

  • Being Advanced EcoTourism certified
  • Being a Climate Action Leader (one of only 11 in Australia)
  • Operating a sailboat to cut their carbon emissions
  • Being first to be recognised by dive organisation PADI for promoting ocean conservation
  • Offsetting their emissions by planting trees in the Daintree through the Australian Rainforest Foundation
  • Donating to the Save a Shark program and educating passengers about the plight of sharks and shark finning
  • Getting involved in other environmental campaigns like World Rivers Day to clean up our local waterways

And the list goes on.

[headline size=”small” align=”left”]eye on the reef[/headline]

passions eye on the reefPassions of Paradise’s role in helping to monitor the health of the reef involves submitting weekly data on water quality, temperature and vertical visibility as well as monitoring coral cover, disease and predation.

A key part of this research also includes monitoring indicator species.

As Russell says, “what you don’t see is just as important as what you do see” as far as determining what’s happening on the reef.

It takes a major commitment of energy and money to do all of these things. There’s no doubt Passions go so far above and beyond what’s expected that they leave most other operators behind in their wake.

[headline size=”small” align=”left”]travel nq fast facts:[/headline]

picture of passions of paradise boat

  • Passions of Paradise provide daily trips to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns. They vary their dive sites to ensure reef sustainability.
  • They take a maximum of 70 guests on a 25-foot catarmaran. Dive/snorkel gear, food and drinks are all included in the price.