The Western Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Council - WAITOC - and member businesses from around the State celebrated the Tourism Award wins for three unique Aboriginal Tourism experiences at three magical locations from the north to the south of WA.
From left: Clinton Walker (Ngurrangga Tours), Jo Camilleri & Neville Poelina (Uptuyu), Jessica Priestly and Josh Whiteland (Koomal Dreaming)
Gold for Ngurrangga Tours - in the Pilbara
Gold for Clinton Walker & Family
This first time entrant soared straight to gold! Showcasing one of the world's most ancient landscapes - over 2.5 billion years old - where the Aboriginal people have lived for more than 40,000 years. Almost too excited for words, owner/operator, Clinton Walker said "I'm so proud to receive this award for my business, for my family, but above all for Aboriginal tourism in the Pilbara region - it casts a much-needed spotlight on these ancient landscapes which lie at the very heart of WA's outback - so rich in natural treasures and cultural diversity". Clinton's range of tour options include a visit to the world's largest open air art gallery - the Murujuga National Park - which houses the highest concentration of rock art in the world, featuring around one million engravings across the entire Burrup Peninsula and Dampier Archipelago. Tour guests are treated to exclusive cultural insights, sacred sites and stories - created by the Yaburrara (Northern Ngarluma) people. These rock art sites have been dated back to the ice age. And your journey with Clinton will encompass some of the Pilbara's most beautiful, colourful landscapes. Visit Ngurrangga Tours' website here
In the Kimberley - Uptuyu Aboriginal Adventures Won their 6th State Tourism Award
Multi Award Winners - Neville Poelina and Jo Camilleri
Uptuyu offer nature-based 4WD adventure tours to small groups, showcasing breathtaking locations and exclusive spots which are only accessible with a local custodian. Not 'just' a tour - this is a Bush Rendezvous through one of the world's last great wilderness frontiers, where you will discover traditional food and medicine as you explore the Aboriginal Kimberley and its history. Passionate about sharing cultural immersion at a remote and intimate setting without compromising the welfare of their guests, Uptuyu places special emphasis on the finer details, ensuring that safety and comfort thread the trail of every journey. And all along the way, your Uptuyu tour guide will offer flexible options - if there are places or topics of particular interest, they will be tagged into your own, specially tailored experience - it's UPTUYU! Visit Uptuyu's website here
Josh Whiteland and Jessica Priestly join the Hall of Fame
Following three consecutive gold awards, Koomal Dreaming has now entered the WA Tourism Hall of Fame. Welcome to Country, Didgeridoo Music Performances, Cultural Awareness and Education Programmes and Cultural Tours - their product portfolio comprises a wide range of options - testifying the many years of passion and hard work that Josh Whiteland and Jessica Priestly have invested in the organisation. Explore the Dreamtime story of Ngilgi Cave and experience a Didgeridoo performance - a live 'rock' concert. Fire making and traditional cooking are popular tour topics along with interactive opportunities to try your hand at foraging and gathering as you explore some of the South West coastal trails with Josh - immersing your senses in the culture and traditions of the Wadandi and Bibbulman people. Visit Koomal Dreaming's website here
Taking a closer look at this year’s Golden Guide Award Winner - Brian Lee
Today’s travellers have such individual perceptions of good and bad tour experiences, that - trying to define a list of ‘top tour guide’ characteristics leaves us paddling endless tides of ‘variables’. So let’s just focus on the highlights - the ‘glitter’ that catches our eyes as our journey with Brian unfurls.
Brian Lee’s Hunters Creek Tagalong Tour takes small groups of self-drive visitors on an explorative journey into the turquoise seascapes of Hunters Creek. The area is rich in stories of the history, culture and lifestyle of the local Bardi people, of the white settlers and a variety of natural treasures, flora and fauna.
As we start the tour, our first impression is that we feel relaxed and comfortable with our guide, and we quickly recognise that we are not part of a ‘standard’ itinerary - we are special guests and our tour will be ‘styled’ in line with our individual aspirations.
One of Brian’s main agendas – which threads the events of our day – is to constantly interact and get to know his tour guests. But he is not doing this as ‘a routine part of the job’, his depth of engagement reflects a genuine interest in each and every one of the people on his tour - and his natural, non-invasive approach signifies a strong empathy.
The main focus of this tour is to share knowledge, not just by pointing things out – it is largely portrayed through a selection of local stories - and
to extend an opportunity to immerse in the local Bardi culture. As we venture through today’s journey, we are stopping here and there, discovering
hidden treasures we would not have seen without our guide, and gaining a better understanding of his fascinating and uniquely rich perspective of the
Brian’s stories are beautifully crafted with a strong sense of passion and pride. The information is authentic – delivered first hand by a traditional custodian who has a deep, personal connection to his country and heritage. A guest described this very aptly “I have done Brian’s tours a few times now and love it more and more every time . . . his wealth of knowledge and cultural richness . . . he always has me walking away feeling uplifted and very privileged to have shared a small slice of his world”.
The number of (tagalong) vehicles is limited to 10, allowing for a maximum of 25 guests, to ensure an interactive, personalised experience. The tours commence at 8.30 am and return at approximately 2.30 pm - but this is often later, as Brian is an extremely engaging guide who is willing to invest additional time to elaborate on information and activities.
Another key highlight is the variety of ‘hands-on’ interaction opportunities. These can be flexibly tailored in line with our preferences. Guests are encouraged to try their hand at traditional hunting and fishing, discover the local flora and taste the ‘catch of the day’ – which usually includes mud crab, cooked in a traditional way on an open fire on the banks of the creek. An interactive tour leaves a much stronger footprint in our ‘take home’ stories and memories – as Benjamin Franklin once said “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”.
And the landscape itself should not go amiss on our list of highlights. The area, abundant with natural attractions, portrays a powerful feeling of space and solitude – all richly coloured with turquoise waters, white sand and pindan cliffs. In the interest of environmental and cultural protection, Hunters Creek is closed to the general public. Brian operates his tours as a tagalong concept, ensuring that guests follow in his tracks, and that this pristine environment retains its unspoiled magic for many years to come.
Last but not least – a quote from Brian: “I am a Bardi man and this country has been home to my people for tens of thousands of years. We are proud saltwater people. It is my privilege to be able to share the stories of my people and our beautiful home with visitors from around the country and all over the world”.
In 1998 FACET’s deputy chair, Colin Ingram initiated the idea and FACET developed this into the FACET Golden Guide Award. Colin said, “ What inspired me with this idea, was seeing other industries recognise their staff at the coalface, whereas the tourism industry awards were mainly focused on the businesses. It appeared to me that the most important people where those that were delivering the tourism experience directly to the customer, and yet there was no formal recognition to reward those that were extraordinary”.