When navy veteran and UNSW Canberra alumnus Stuart Alexander and his wife, Adele, floated the idea of buying a small tourism business in far North Queensland, they had no idea the positive impact it would have on the Great Barrier Reef.

Based in Mission Beach in Queensland, Great Barrier Reef Safaris offers marine biologist-led private tours of the Great Barrier Reef. Stuart and Adele, through Great Barrier Reef Safaris, look after and care for 5% of the Reef as well as dedicating 25% of their business to supporting scientific research by some of Australia’s world-class institutions. They are the only operator between Townsville and Cairns certified by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) to conduct reef health surveys.

Great Barrier Reef Safaris’ value proposition says it all – unique, private, suitable for everyone, and all-inclusive, but what really separates the business from other tourism companies is that it is founded on education and passion for the preservation of one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef. Whether it’s camping on a tropical island, island hopping, snorkelling fringing reefs around islands, visiting a sand cay on the Great Barrier Reef or having a seafood picnic on a secluded island beach, they can cater to almost all requests.

“The greatest challenge facing humankind is anthropogenic climate change. We believe there is also a moral obligation for everyone in their business dealings and private lives to do everything within their power to stop and then reverse anthropogenic climate change,” Stuart said.

Stuart says the most powerful tool that we have to mediate climate change is education.  

“Adele developed our Junior Ocean Explorer program to demonstrate the role of Citizen Scientists in documenting the health of the Great Barrier Reef. The Junior Ocean Explorer Program is aligned with the national science curriculum and originally targeted school-aged children.”  

Finalists in the Tourism Reef Protection Initiative, Great Barrier Reef Safaris will be funded $315,500 by the GBRMPA to continue monitoring the Reef over the next two years. The majority of this money will be used to increase their reef health monitoring days substantially, but also includes funds to develop programs to better engage their guests in citizen science.  

“We do not limit our educational voice to our guests. Tourism is in dire need of a cultural change to become more sustainable and take ownership of their patch of the planet,” Stuart said.

“We volunteer our time and skill sets on the regional tourism body to facilitate cultural change. We are strong voices for more environmentally sustainable practices.”

Earlier this year, Stuart won the Prince’s Trust Australia (PTA) Commonwealth Bank Business of the Year Award, the final prize at the Beyond Service Awards, which celebrates entrepreneurs and businesses in the veteran community. Stuart also won the Environmental Warrior Award, recognising veteran and Australian Defence Force family members championing sustainability through their business.

Stuart Alexander holds his awards from the Beyond Services Awards 2022
Stuart won the Prince’s Trust Australia (PTA) Commonwealth Bank Business of the Year Award. Image: Rob White Photography

“I think at a very simple level it is recognition that what we've been working towards and doing, is seen by others as a ‘good thing’,” he said.  

“This validation of our approach also motivates us to continue to offer it and look at ways to enhance or improve it further.”  

Stuart, who graduated UNSW Canberra in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science, says you can only protect what you love, and his love of the reef is infectious.

If you’re looking to unplug and reconnect with a loved one, friends or family over the holiday period, support a UNSW Canberra alumnus and head to Great Barrier Reef Safaris to choose your own adventure!