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New pontoon opens exciting new cultural and scientific opportunities for the Great Barrier Reef

October 29, 2020 QLD News No Comments

Australian adventure and leisure tourism company, Experience Co. (EXP) has been awarded a $3m grant by the Queensland Government to build the Cairns region’s first pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef in over a decade.   

With a current working title of ‘Dreamtime Island’, the platform will offer visitors the Great Barrier Reef’s only Sea Country, Science and Sustainability-led on-water product, weaving a narrative of indigenous storytelling with western science and eco powered initiatives. 

Due to launch at the beginning of 2022, the new pontoon will be an exciting extension of Experience Co.’s current Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel tour, a one-day, all-inclusive experience led by indigenous Sea Rangers who provide a local interpretation of the sea country.  

Delivered in partnership with the Traditional Owner group Gunggandji, it is the only indigenous-led sea country tour on the Great Barrier Reef. 

The $3m support from the Queensland Government will be further supplemented by $3.7m of funding from Experience Co. to build a two-storey structure for reef-based exploration and onboard scientific learning via a purpose-built laboratory – the first of its kind on the Great Barrier Reef.  It will also feature a floor to ceiling underwater observatory. 

Innovative in its design, the build and day-to-day operations of the platform will focus on reducing the impact on the environment with wind, solar and, where possible, electricity generation to power the pontoon and smaller support vessels – another first for the region. 

The activity pontoon will be based at Moore Reef, a large horseshoe-shaped reef system nearly 45km offshore from Cairns. The new floating platform will provide capacity for up to 700 passengers a day, split into two departures with a maximum of up to 350 passengers on the pontoon at any one time.  

Existing partners – Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and The Reef & Rainforest Centre – have all shown an interest in working with Experience Co. to have an office on the reef. Onboard accommodation will be available for marine scientists to use the facility for major reef events such as coral spawning and other research projects.  

As part of its commitment to the local region, Experience Co. intends to build and design the pontoon structure in Cairns using local shipyards and labour. 

It is estimated the construction of ‘Dreamtime Island’ will create around 40 jobs in Cairns over an 18- month period while the pontoon is built. Once operational, Experience Co. estimates 59 full time jobs will be created over a five-year period, through the appointment of indigenous Sea Rangers as well as through employment opportunities in other areas of the business, including sales and marketing, operations and frontline services. 

The local construction will have a large economic impact on the city of Cairns, in addition to the economic impact of the existing Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel product.  

Experience Co. Chief Executive Officer, John O’Sullivan said “We would not be able to build ‘Dreamtime Island’ without the support and funding from the Queensland Government.  This grant will allow us to build the first new pontoon product out of Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef in over ten years. 

“There are multiple benefits associated with this exciting new project.  It is not only a shot in the arm for tourism in the region but also a win for the marine science community who will have access to our purpose-built onboard laboratory; and the local Cairns community who will gain economic benefit from the local construction.  The new ‘Dreamtime Island’ platform, in addition to our existing Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel tour, will also provide enhanced employment and career opportunities for local indigenous communities across all areas of our operation. 

 “This year has undoubtedly been the hardest for tourism operators throughout Australia and we are excited to be able share some good news” O’Sullivan concluded. 

 This grant has been provided through the Queensland Government’s Growing Tourism Infrastructure Fund 2020/21 (GTI Fund) as part of Queensland’s Economic Recovery Strategy: ‘Unite and Recover for Queensland Jobs’ to help accelerate the State’s recovery from COVID-19. 

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