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”.
Sixteen indigenous hospitality students from WA’s Kimberley, Pilbara and South West regions travelled to this year’s Margaret River Gourmet Escape to join a series of Master classes. Working alongside the cooking stars; Mark Olive, Josh Whiteland and a range of other industry professionals, their ‘classroom’ was the Kambarang South West Aboriginal Gourmet Experience - for 100 guests!
The Kambarang gourmet experience showcases a creative fusion of contemporary and native bush flavours, with locally ‘foraged’ ingredients such as lemon myrtle beer battered reef fish served with quandong sea celery mayo dips. Foraging expeditions are part of the students' on country training activities during the lead up to the cooking tutorials. Josh Whiteland, who has inspired many great chefs at previous Gourmet Escapes with his knowledge of native foods, said “we collected grains, sea celery, saltbush and dune spinach and identified native medicine and food plants”.
The ‘cutting edge’ of the week-long coaching is when the students – aged between 15 and 17 – are fast tracked into a real life restaurant situation where they prepare, plate and serve the five course gourmet menu. This exercise reflects the main aim of the Kambarang event which, alongside the staging of a uniquely different long table lunch, is to give indigenous students from remote communities an opportunity to gain first hand insights into what the hospitality industry is all about and to boost their confidence and self-esteem to do the job.
This year’s celebrity guests included the famous Italian born chef Antonia Carluccio and one of Australia's leading Aboriginal performers, musicians and writers, Dr Richard Walley. Kambarang is one of the six seasons on the Aboriginal calendar - marking the transition between the flowering plants and the end of the rain, it is a bountiful time for local seafood such as crab and abalone. The lush menu of fresh culinary creations was served with some ‘shy' smiles, a pride and passion for country and a portion of heart-melting cuteness.
Local Aboriginal art, artefacts and music decked the venue with ‘glitter and glam’ and the Merindas, whose music is influenced by Motown and the Sapphires, set the ‘soul train’ rolling.
The Kambarang Aboriginal Gourmet Experience is staged in November, as part of the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. The event provides a unique opportunity for Hospitality High School students (Cert I & II) from remote communities throughout WA to gain hands-on experience creating European style gourmet cuisine, ‘flavoured’ with their own special touch. Proudly driven and supported by Mark Olive (the Black Olive), Josh Whiteland (Koomal Dreaming), Roelands Village, South West Institute of Technology, Prepare Produce Provide, Outback Academy, WAITOC (WA Indigenous Tourism Operators Council) and Moontide Management.
Venue: The South West Institute of Technology Margaret River Campus
Date: The next Kambarang Experience will be staged in November 2016 - check our WAITOC events calendar here