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There are two Master Reef Guides whose work, as Australian Reef Pilots, covers the entire Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Dozens of Master Reef Guides operate in the Cairns region, including locations such as Frankland Islands, Green Island and Fitzroy Island.

You can read the profiles of each Master Reef Guide in the Cairns and Reef-wide regions below, including the High Standard Tourism Operator they work for, their professional experience, and what they specialise in.

Master Reef Guides are the world’s leading reef guides, interpreters and storytellers sharing the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

These reef ambassadors can provide up to date information on the Reef, share stories of the magical World Heritage Area and explain what you can do to make a difference.


Meet your Master Reef Guides - Reef-wide

Master Reef Guide | Coastal Marine Pilot | Auriga | Great Barrier Reef (Cohort 4)

Master Reef Guide Bruce is an Australian Reef Pilot. The Australian Reef Pilots have been protecting the Torres Strait and the Great Barrier Reef for more than 125 years and are proud to be known as Guardians of the Reef. Bruce takes his role seriously as he safely guide ships through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Bruce enjoys presenting the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area to the guests or crew onboard the ships he is piloting. As an excellent presenter he ensures from the moment they enter the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to the time they leave, that their experience is an enlightening and memorable one.


Master Reef Guide Bruce

Master Reef Guide | Coastal Marine Pilot | Auriga | Great Barrier Reef (Cohort 2)

Master Reef Guide Vikram Australian Reef Pilots have been the ‘Guardians of the Reef’ for more than 100 years and, to this day, our Reef Pilots remain the most vital defense against calamitous maritime accidents. His role takes him on board to an array of ships from cargo ships to luxury cruise ships and everything in between.

Vikram’s ‘office is 2300km long covering an area the size of 70 million football fields with over 4500 ships going through this marine highway every year. It is Vikram and his colleagues as Reef Pilots who are doing their best in guarding the Great Barrier Reef.

It is a legal requirement for ships more than 70m in length to have a licensed Reef Pilot on-board to navigate them through the Great Barrier Reef.

"There are some really talented people from diverse academic and cultural backgrounds whose sole aim is to protect this World Heritage site and showcase it to the world. The Master Reef Guide program is a wonderful connection between these academics in the marine field and the workforce who present the Great Barrier Reef to our visitors".



Master Reef Guide Vikram

Meet your Master Reef Guides - Cairns

Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | Marine Discoveries | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 3)

Master Reef Guide Abby has worked for Marine Discoveries for over six years and at no time has her passion waived. She has this incredible desire to share accurate information about the Great Barrier Reef and realises the importance of doing so. Abby hosts presentations daily with visitors and children to share her knowledge in an accurate and informative way through stories and interpretation.

Abby’s favourite thing about the Great Barrier Reef is understanding behavioural adaptations of marine animals and corals. She believes behaviours are overlooked and once you understand why, or how an animal or coral acts a certain way you can relate to them, and that helps bring that connection between people and the Great Barrier Reef.

“I’m honoured to be a Master Reef Guide as it means being part of a great network of people who are all so driven and passionate about providing the best information possible.”


Master Reef Guide Abby

Alistair Chegwidden – Master Reef Guide | Deck Supervisor-Marine Biologist | Down Under Dive and Tours | Cairns (Cohort 5)

As a child, Alistair spent his holidays on the East Coast of South Africa where he would spend hours in the rock pools looking for creatures that intrigued him.  This childhood interest grew into a career when he undertook a BSc Aquaculture at James Cook University (JCU) Townsville and completed his Dive Instructor training through Down Under Cruise and Dive in Cairns. Since 2014 Alistair has been leading dives and providing educational snorkel eco-tours while working on MV Osprey V and MV Evolution to try and instils his own childhood wonder and interest into the guests that come aboard for their once in a lifetime trip out to the Great Barrier Reef.

Alistair hopes that with enough research into the ocean and into the anthropogenic factors that affect his “office”, we might see a day that we can start to reverse the effects we have had on our Environment.


Master Reef Guide Alistair

Anthony Flinn hails from the cooler climate to the South East of the Great Barrier Reef, Upper Hutt, New Zealand. He is a Marine Biologist and self proclaimed entertainer working on various day trips for Quicksilver Group in Cairns, Australia.  Anthony studied Marine Biology and Statistics at Victoria University of Wellington and had experience in many different lines of work before joining Quicksilver Group in 2022.  He notably also spent 6 months in Northern Thailand exploring biodiversity and leading hikes as a volunteer on an elephant eco-tourism project. As an accredited Master Reef Guide he hopes to inspire, educate and influence visitors to the Great Barrier Reef and to show people that they can contribute to its future. 


Anthony Flinn

Azri Saparwan – Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | Fitzroy Island Resort | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 3) (From: Singapore)

Master Reef Guide Azri started his career in the biomedical science field, he wanted to help the sick and injured.  For over two years he was a combat medic for the Singapore Armed Forces. He went through various rescue and first aid missions around the world.  Azri suffered from PTSD until a diving experience changed his life.

“We came across a sea turtle who was entangled in a net who I was able to free, it felt good and I realised I still wanted to save lives but in the natural world; the marine world”.

Azri moved to Adelaide, Australia to study marine biology and this is where his journey began. Azri started a volunteer program to assist a sea turtle rookery in Indonesia.

After growing up in Indonesia, he witnessed that Indonesia still has a high poaching rate of sea turtles and the rangers are overworked and underpaid.  

So using his reach, he created a volunteer program to get volunteers to assist in the centre. Azri has volunteered in Ngarloo, Malaysia and several other sea turtle nesting sites, sharing his knowledge and passion for sea turtles.

Today, Azri is the Conservation Officer at Fitzroy Island Resort. His role involves reef management of the island and giving educational tours to guests.

He also maintains the wellbeing of sea turtles seeking treatment in the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and giving educational tours to raise awareness on the threats to sea turtles.

Azri remains dedicated to conservation and citizen science, including as the Volunteer Coordinator for Reef Restoration Foundation, who nurture and grow coral fragments on a nursery and transplant back onto the reef at Fitzroy Island.

“I am honoured to be a Master Reef Guide because it gives me greater power to achieve my objectives. I have the power of knowledge to raise awareness to conserve these iconic wonders. The sea turtle completely changed my life and I am doing my best to save theirs”.


Master Reef Guide Azri

Bekki Hull - Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | Quicksilver Cruises | Cairns (Cohort 7)

Bekki’s journey into marine biology began with a deep-seated passion for the ocean and wanting to ensure that coral reefs remain healthy for her whole life.

After completing a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science (Marine Biology) and a Post Graduate Diploma in Tropical Marine Biology at JCU in Townsville her passion took her overseas.

After completing internships in Mauritius, Indonesia, and South Africa she went to work in the Maldives where she spent 5 years guiding curious guests through underwater realms of coral reefs. 

Over her career Bekki has gained experience in coral restoration, shark and ray conservation, sea turtle rehabilitation, reef surveys and educating people from all over the world.

Returning to Australia in 2022 she made her way to Cairns to work on the Great Barrier Reef and fulfill her lifelong dream of taking people out to see the mesmerizing colours and shapes of the coral, fish and marine life that call the Great Barrier Reef home. 

"By introducing people to the beauty of these ecosystems, I can inspire them to become stewards of the sea."

Bekki Hull

Ben Taylor - Master Reef Guide | Skipper | Ocean Free and Ocean Freedom | Cairns (Cohort 5)

Ben grew up spending the better part of his childhood living on a 43ft catamaran sailing up and down the east coast of Australia.

This made him fall in love with the Great Barrier Reef and inspired him to pursue a career on the water, studying a Bachelor Degree in Marine Science.

He believes that “the more you learn about something, the more you will fall in love with it and feel compelled to protect it.”

These days you can find him sailing and cruising on Ocean Free and Ocean Freedom in Cairns where he has worked as a Skipper, Marine Biologist and Dive Instructor for the past 5 years.

Ben considers himself very lucky to have the best office in the world and gets great enjoyment out of seeing the look of wonder on people’s faces when they see the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef or learn an interesting fact!


Master Reef Guide Ben

Blake Cedar - Master Reef Guide | Cultural Guide | Great Adventures - Green Island and Wunyami Cultural Tours | Cairns (Cohort 7)

With a passion for culture, conservation and outdoor education, Master Reef Guide Blake is based in Cairns, and works on as a Cultural Guide on Wunyami, Green Island.

My true passion is sea country tribal science and how it can be used to guide the future management of the Great Barrier Reef. Western Science and Traditional Stories united can provide solutions to climate change and the future we have created for ourselves. Resilience comes from the community working together. 

For the past six years, Blake has been immersed in Reef and Rainforest education, catering to schools, universities, and international travel groups. His dedication lies in creating welcoming and safe experiences. In 2021/22, Blake was recognized as a Young Queensland Tourism Leader. 

With extensive experience in roles of Cultural Heritage Guide, Tour Guide, and Biocultural Ranger, Blake has honed skills in customer service, safety management, and educational tours to become the adaptable, sociable, and strong leader within the tourism industry.

I love people and learning from shared experiences. I bring character, enthusiasm, and passion to everything I do, and the people I have the power to influence.

Blake Cedar

Brian Connelly - Master Reef Guide | Cultural Guide | Experience Co. | Cairns (Cohort 7)

Brian Connolly, proud Kuku Yalanji man from the small community of Wujal Wujal. Brian has grown up in the small aboriginal community of Yarrabah along the salt water and the Reef his entire life.

With an enduring passion for not only his beautiful Land and Sea Country, Brian was inspired to pursue a career - in the paths of his mentors - within the marine tourism industry, to share his knowledge, and his culture.

''My elders would always tell me “look after the land and it shall look after you.''

Commencing work in the marine tourism industry on the Great Barrier Reef in 2019, Brian was inspired by his 'brother' and mentor, Master Reef Guide Dustin, who paved the way and inspired him to become a Cultural Guide aboard Experience CO. 

"Being selected in this program has now allowed me to go a step further in the marine industry and I can now take my cultural talks around the whole of Australia and if there’s a chance hopefully over to another country."

Brian Connelly

Chris Williams - Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | Sunlover Reef Cruises | Cairns (Cohort 7)

Master Reef Guide Chris’ interest in marine conservation was first sparked rock pooling on holidays and watching nature documentaries.

He then studied BSc Marine Biology, but it wasn’t until South East Asia where spending his days surrounded by those who had made working with the ocean their livelihood and number one passion that he truly knew that marine biology and protecting the ocean was his calling.

"There’s no better place in the world to be if you’re an ocean lover than The Great Barrier Reef."

Chris brought that enthusiasm to the ‘gateway to the Great Barrier Reef’ Cairns in 2018 to various voluntary and paid roles including Crown-of-thorns starfish control program, Turtle Rehabilitation Center, Parley and now as a Marine Biologist for Sunlover Reef Cruises.

It’s his dream come true to spend his days swimming with turtles & sharing his excitement and knowledge with reef visitors.

Spending time with those who love the ocean and the wonders of the reef had a huge affect on Chris. His goal is to share that energy with reef visitors, and to inspire young people to build for a bigger and brighter future for themselves and the environment.

Chris Williams

Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | Trip Director | Dive Instructor l Coral Expeditions | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 4)

Master Reef Guide Dani grew up alongside the Great Barrier Reef which instilled in her a deep appreciation and passion for its biology and natural systems.

Her passion for ocean conservancy led her to university to undertake a Bachelor of Science in Biology.

After her degree she went on a Marine Biology exchange Program and Research Internship to the Galapagos Islands.

During her three years on the Galapagos Island she became fluent in Spanish!  Dani was fortunate enough to work alongside the Galapagos Naturalist Guides and saw how their training was so effective in the preservation and protection of the Galapagos National Park she wanted to transfer these skills to the Great Barrier Reef.

Coming back to Australia after presenting at the Superyacht Environmental Symposium in Monaco she became a Dive Instructor and developed a career at Coral Expeditions where she shares and educates the wonders of the Reef to a global audience.

“To be a leader in the communication and education of the true science and wonder of the Great Barrier Reef to a global audience is amazing. It allows those who work in the field access to peer reviewed information about the Great Barrier Reef and the tools to be able to present those facts in captivating stories. This allows for visitors to develop a love and personal investment in the Great Barrier Reef”.


Master Reef Guide Danni



Master Reef Guide | Indigenous Ranger | Reef Education Ranger | Experience Co. - Dreamtime Dive and Snorkel | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 4)

Master Reef Guide Dustin works with Experience Co. Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel as an Indigenous Ranger. Dustin is very fortunate to have connections to four Great Barrier Reef clan groups; the Kuku-Yalanji, Yirrganydji, Yidinji, Gunggandji.

Dustin’s was born with a cultural connection to the Great Barrier Reef, “my passion for the reef and the marine life it holds will never go away because it is a part of me and makes me who I am”.

Dustin has had many teachers throughout his life who all taught him to "look after the place (land and sea) and in return it'll look after you and those who'll be here after you (the next generation)".

“Being a Master Reef Guide means that I am a now part of a special selective group that is leading the way to show Australia and the rest of the world, no matter your nationality or where you come from, we can work together as one to reach a common goal. As an Indigenous Australian, I can be a role model and show them, that no matter how hard it may be, you can be all that you can be, if you carry yourself with pride for your culture and the respect of your family, your buma (people) and your country (tribal area). Being a Master Reef Guide is an honour and I wear the title with pride”.


Master Reef Guide Dustin

Master Reef Guide I Marine Biologist | GBR Biology Manager | Experience Co – Reef Magic Cruises | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 2)

Master Reef Guide Eric grew up in North Queensland and graduated from James Cook University in Townsville in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Marine Biology.

Following university and extensive travel overseas, Eric settled back in North Queensland and followed his passion for understanding and exploring the Great Barrier Reef, where he has worked extensively in tourism. Eric currently manages Exco Biology — the biology department for large adventure tourism company, Experience Co. Experience Co. operates several products in world heritage listed areas.

GBR Biology and their team of marine biologists pride themselves on quality interpretation being delivered to visitors, scientific monitoring and research. Eric is currently undertaking a PhD through James Cook University in coral reef fish forming aggregations on the Great Barrier Reef.

“Master Reef Guides introduced me to like-minded people who share a passion for interpreting natural world heritage sites.”


Master Reef Guide Eric

Master Reef Guide | Reef Educator |Skipper | Marine Biologist | Marine Discoveries | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 1) (From: South Africa)

Master Reef Guide Gareth’s passion for the ocean started as far back as he can remember.

Originally South African, Gareth moved to Australia in 2008 with his wife. Gareth completed his Master’s degree in South Africa, working with the Oceanographic Research Institute, Centre for Dolphin Studies and other coral propagation projects.

Gareth has now been working on the Great Barrier Reef for over 10 years. He is the owner of Marine Discoveries, Cairns’ longest standing Great Barrier Reef research and education centre.

Over the last 10 years, Gareth has educated thousands of people about the Great Barrier Reef.

Gareth’s main goal is to share as much about the Great Barrier Reef to as many people as possible to strengthen its conservation status.

As a Master Reef Guide and through his extensive reef knowledge, endless energy and passion, Gareth will convey these important key messages to the world.


Master Reef Guide Gareth

Master Reef Guide | Dive Instructor Trainer | Training Manager | Gempearl | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 1) (From: Great Britain)

Master Reef Guide Gary grew up watching wildlife documentaries but found it hard to find anything of interest living in an industrial town.

He then learnt to dive in Jamaica on honeymoon and was instantly hooked.

Living in Southeast Asia for 18 years, he became a diving instructor and technical diver.

Part owning and running SSI SE Asia (Scuba Schools International), he took the business from 500 yearly diving certificates issued to just short of 30,000 across 6 countries over 9 years.

This feat granted him influence on dive professionals, pushing safety and care for the environment as priorities.

During this period, living in Thailand, Gary witnessed the impacts of tourism and uncontrolled development on many previously pristine reefs, beaches and rainforests.

He strategically sought funding and permissions to get rules enforced for environmental issues.

Gary now lives and works in Cairns as the Training Manager for the Skilling Queenslanders for Work program. Becoming a Master Reef Guide has given Gary a great opportunity to get the message, mindset and skills needed to the next generation.

Master Reef Guide Gary

Growing up in the seaside town of Redcliffe, Jack spent his childhood in and around the ocean. He could not wait to learn to dive.

So for his twelfth birthday, he completed his PADI Open Water at Heron Island, returning a year later to do the Advanced Course. It was at Heron Island, diving with manta rays, reef sharks and turtles for the first time, that ignited his interest in underwater photography, learning more about sea life and ocean conservation.

After leaving school in 2018, Jack was offered a dive instructor internship in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. Living, working and diving in one of the most unspoilt places left in the world, was a once in a lifetime experience.

Whilst working and training to become a dive instructor, he spent his days exploring uncharted, pristine reefs, learning about local customs, WW2 history and sharing his knowledge and fascination for the underwater world with dive guests.

Jack returned to Australia in 2020 and started work as a dive instructor and coxswain at the beautiful Lady Elliot Island.

Here, he joined a passionate, like-minded team of people dedicated to protecting the reef and sharing countless incredible underwater experiences with friends and guests.

In June this year, Jack was delighted to join Mike Ball Dive Expeditions in Cairns, as underwater photographer and dive instructor, giving him an amazing opportunity to visit and showcase the spectacular Great Barrier Reef.


Jack McKee

Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | Reef Authority | Cairns (Cohort 4)

Master Reef Guide Johnny’s office is the beautiful Daydream Island in Queensland’s spectacular Whitsundays. His day job is to develop and take care of the Island’s Living Reef, an open-air coral lagoon, designed to replicate the Great Barrier Reef’s coral lagoons.

Johnny is a marine biologist and qualified teacher who takes great pride in the educational element of the Living Reef, an ideal window into the Great Barrier Reef without even getting your feet wet.

In 2019 Johnny completed a yearlong exploration of reefs from Lady Elliot Island at its southern tip to the far northern reefs of Raine Island, traveling approx. 1810 km along almost the entire length of the Great Barrier Reef.

He was determined to record the state of the reefs through underwater photography and videography.

Johnny shares his explorations visually, to educate the world on his findings and highlight the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef.

“Being a Master Reef Guide exposes you to experiences, people and knowledge that you just wouldn't get anywhere else. And it’s hard to not recommend something that is just so awesome!”

Johnny Gaskell

Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | Reef Authority | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 3)

Master Reef Guide Justin is a Senior Marine Biologist with Experience Co. Throughout their fleet of vessels Justin provides interpretation on the Great Barrier Reef to guests visiting various islands and outer reef sites in the Cairns region.

From his very first introductory dive Justin has been fascinated by coral reefs.

After completing a Bachelor and then Honours in Marine Biology at Deakin University he was drawn to the Great Barrier Reef.

As part of the Great Barrier Reef Biology team in Experience Co Justin prides himself on the high-quality interpretation provided to visitors.

To support this Justin is also involved with many of the research and management projects including Crown of Thorns Starfish control and research, as well as reef restoration.

He is also heavily involved with monitoring including the Eye on the Reef program with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

He is strongly involved in the reef education program, working extensively with local schools and visiting education groups to discover and foster an appreciation for the Great Barrier Reef.


Master Reef Guide Justin

Master Reef Guide | Dive Instructor | Mike Ball Dive Expeditions | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 3)

Master Reef Guide Kristy has been a Dive Instructor working on the Great Barrier Reef for years.

She has taken all her years of knowledge, humour, positive and pleasant vibes with her to the team on luxury dive liveaboard vessel, Mike Ball Dive Expeditions.

As Trip Director, her smile and captive briefings will give you an experience of a lifetime.

Prepare to be informed and amazed with all you need to know about the best and safest way to visit the northern reefs of the Great Barrier Reef and out in the Coral Sea.

“Being a Master Reef Guide is being a part of a whole other family (and not your average family). This family has been built from a huge amount of enthusiasm, love and expertise for very special common interests; the World Heritage sites of The Great Barrier Reef. The beauty and wonders shared between these symbiotic heritage areas are simply mind blowing. I love sharing these “wow” moments I’ve felt, learning each bit of new information within our family and passing it on to our excited guests. One of the most rewarding parts of the job is opening people’s minds and hearts to preserve the future of these sites and I feel very privileged to be recognised as a Master Reef Guide”.


Master Reef Guide Kristy

Lazarus Gibson-Friday – Master Reef Guide | Indigenous Cultural Guide | Experience Co. | Cairns (Cohort 5)

Lazarus’s family is from Cooktown, Far North Queensland, and he has been working on boats since he was 15.

His stepdad got him into being a tour guide as he used to drive the bus up to the Atherton Tablelands and into Cape Tribulation.

He has been taking Lazarus with him since he was about 11 years old, and he would get him to talk about the things they saw and could hear and that was his first taste of this work.

Since then, Lazarus has been studying for his Coxswains and dive certifications, prior to this when Lazarus was still in school; he received a traineeship with Shimano and travelled to places like the Tiwi and the Gold Coast as a Fishing Guide to show people how to catch fish.

Lazarus has been working for Dreamtime Dive/Experience Co. over two years, since finishing school. Lazarus has been teaching people about the Great Barrier Reef and his culture and how they went hand in hand with the things around them.

“I love this line of work as it lets me challenge myself and look at things in a way I never knew.”


Master Reef Guide Lazarus

Born and raised in Pensacola, Florida along the Gulf of Mexico, Le'a has always been inseparable from the ocean. Passionate to help the environment, she pursued a Bachelor and Master degree from the University of Florida in Natural Resources and Conservation and Wildlife Ecology.

She then worked as an environmental educator in Florida before becoming a dive instructor on the Great Barrier Reef.

She has been working and volunteering on the reef as far north as Lizard Island and as far south as the Capricornia Cays conducting Eye on the Reef surveys, giving informative reef presentations, and conducting Marine Bio for a Day programs.

Le'a is one of the eco-guides on Passions of Paradise where she educates guests daily about the importance and wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and assists with the Coral Nurture Program and coral planting.

She volunteers in her free time with the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and the Great Reef Census.

She is driven to sharing knowledge and passion with every visitor to the Great Barrier Reef and making sure their experience is one they will never forget.


Le'a Dawes

Luiza Motta - Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | Entrada Travel Group | Cairns (Cohort 7)

Luiza Motta is a passionate Marine Biologist with a strong academic background and a deep-seated commitment to marine conservation. She holds a Master's degree in Biochemistry from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and has a Bachelor's degree in Biological Science from the Federal University of Minas Gerais.

Her academic journey also led her to international experiences, including an inter-university exchange program at Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

Luiza's dedication to marine research and conservation has taken her on remarkable journeys.

She has ventured into diverse research projects, from investigating the metabolic responses of stressed macroalgae to exploring the world of toxins found in snake, scorpion, and anemone venoms.

Her participation in the Brazilian Antarctic research expedition (PROANTAR XXXVII) reflects her adventurous spirit and scientific curiosity.

In her current role as a Marine Biologist at Entrada Travel Group in Cairns, Australia, Luiza combines her academic knowledge with practical expertise.

She works leading tours, and providing environmental education to tourists, contributing to the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef.

Luiza's diverse experiences, academic achievements, and passion for marine biology make her a valuable addition to the Master Reef Guide team. Her expertise ensures that guests receive not only an unforgettable experience but also a deeper understanding of the importance of reef conservation.

Luiza Motta

 Maddie’s love for the ocean began at an early age. Growing up in Washington state, on the west coast of the United States of America, her family frequently visited the cold Oregon coast.

Playing in the tide pools, collecting seashells and examining the creatures in the aquarium were her favourite activities.

Growing up and getting a taste for travel from a study abroad program, she was determined to explore and experience different cultures and surroundings. Leaving the United States to pursue traveling and figuring out what she wanted in life.

On her adventures, she was introduced to the fascinating world of scuba diving, and she had found her answer.

After the very first dive she was hooked; and began her scuba diving journey. Determined to pursue a life where she could continue to travel and explore the world, have fun, but still make a difference to people’s lives, the sound of being a scuba Instructor was extremely appealing.

The best of all worlds; exploration, meeting people from all walks of life, and most importantly, the ocean. Working several seasons around Asia as a divemaster, she came to Australia in 2019 to do her instructors ticket in the hopes to learn more about the boating world as well as diving.

Falling in love with the magic of the Great Barrier Reef and Australia, Maddie has since worked on liveaboards in Cairns and Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays.

Discovering the sailing world, she enjoys being involved with the sail races and casual sailing with friends.

Maddie found herself on the liveaboard sailing vessel Spirit of Freedom where she enjoys introducing people into the underwater world, being involved in various projects on the reef, perusing underwater photography, and participating in beach cleanups. 

“I absolutely love what I do. Not only do I get to visit the reef that I love every day, but I get to physically show people what I love. I get the pleasure to introduce them to something new, a world unexplored to them, and give them an experience they won’t ever forget. One of my favourite things is to have introductory divers and show them fascinating, amazing creatures and to physically see it blow their mind… It’s like taking a grown adult and reverting them back into a child, learning to walk (well swim) and to explore the world again with new eyes… Then we can come back out to the real world and can have informative and inquisitive conversations on the wonders we just witnessed. I want to be the spark. I fondly remember all my teachers and mentors that gave me that spark… to want to learn more, explore more, and do more for the reef. I also want to pass that spark on to all my students, if I can.” 


Maddie Gablehouse

Marita Szymkowska - Master Reef Guide | Trip Director | Mike Ball Dive Expeditions | Cairns (Cohort 7)

Six years ago, Marita came to Australia, from Poland. Originally coming for a six-month holiday to look at the world from a different perspective, now that decision has changed her life. 

After a few months in an office job in Syndey, Marita followed her calling to Far North Queensland. After her second intro dive on the Greta Barrier Reef, she found her home, and her love.

After completeing her Open Water Course, she began diving as much as she could - until her friend rang her up and said “hey, let’s do a Dive Master course on Magnetic Island”, she couldn’t say no.

Soon after, Marita became an instructor. Since then, her passion for the ocean was taken to the next level! Her appetite to learn more about the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area was complimented by her desire to share her knowledge, her love and her commitment to the Reef.

After engaging with the Reef Authority's 'Eye on the Reef' program, I realised there is still so much to discover out there and so many questions to answer.

In 2021, Marita joined Mike Ball Dive Expedition team where she is privileged to be a Trip Director and be surrounded with like-minded crew who are enthusiastic about the Reef. 

Marita Szymkowska

Martina Zarri – Master Reef Guide | Dive Instructor and Supervisor | ProDive Cairns | Cairns (Cohort 5)

Stories about Australia and the Great Barrier Reef have captivated Martina since her studies at University in Italy, where she graduated with a Masters in Biodiversity and Evolution.

Martina learnt about creating engaging and educational experiences for school groups during her time as a Tour Guide at Aquarium di Cattolica on the east cost of Italy.

Seeing the Great Barrier Reef for the first time exceeded all Martina’s expectations with its variety of life and its incredible ecosystems.

Being involved with researchers from around the world during an internship at Australian Institute of Marine Science was an incredible experience for Martina, especially being part of a group studying the unique natural event of Coral Spawning and this made her understand how fragile and sensitive the reef is.

“Now I live and work on the Great Barrier Reef as a Dive Instructor for ProDive in Cairns which gives me the chance to live the reef during the day and night and see the seasonal changes. I share stories with my students and love educating them about the incredible Great Barrier Reef which has become an integral part of my life since I moved to Australia.”


Master Reef Guide Martina

Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | Freelance - Superyachts | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 3)

Master Reef Guide Marysia decided to pursue her love for the ocean by studying Marine Biology at James Cook University in Townsville.

She was involved in various research projects with CSIRO and the Australian Institute of Marine Science designed to understand how climate change would affect corals.

Marysia works as Trip Director onboard Coral Expeditions, where she is responsible for guest education and safety.

Marysia loves to share her knowledge with guests and uses her time onboard the vessel to ensure the knowledge transferred both to guests and crew is everlasting.

She believes everyone who works in the tourism industry should have the same high standards of the product and services they deliver.

“Master Reef Guides are connecting people back to Mother Earth and showing them why it is worth protecting. Not only do we want to take people out to the Great Barrier Reef and give them the best experience, we want to create a feeling that lasts a lifetime”.


Master Reef Guide Marysia

Matt was born and raised in Cairns, exploring the tropical rainforests and beaches of the Far North his entire life.

Matt always had a passion for the ocean; it was embedded into him from a young age because of his regular family trips out to the Great Barrier Reef.

Matt's first ever job on the reef was working for the government in the Crown of Thorns control program out of Cairns.

This is where he discovered his passion for diving. Nowadays, you'll find Matt on board Ocean Freedom as a Dive Instructor, Glass Bottom Boat Tour Operator and Snorkel Guide.

Matt also trained to become part of the Coral Restoration Team within his company.

Even on his days off, Matt loves adventuring out to the reef as he believes there is nothing more exciting than exploring new reefs and finding different species of Marine life. 


Matt Fields

Melissa Alps is a PADI Master Instructor who began her dive training in New Zealand in 2013.  

Her love of teaching student divers from Open Water level all the way up to Instructor is what brought her to the Great Barrier Reef five years ago.

Since then, she has worked for Entrada Travel Group on their various vessels as Crew Trainer and is now the Trip Director of their premier live aboard Spirit of Freedom.

On board Spirit of Freedom, Melissa meets customers from all over the world and takes them on the adventure of a lifetime, heading out to some of the most pristine and remote parts of the Great Barrier Reef, including Osprey Reef and other locations in the Coral Sea.

During her briefings, she has the chance to focus on the beauty that is under the surface and help people fall in love with the Great Barrier Reef.

She is passionate about the Reef and Ocean and wants to encourage and work with people to look after it for future generations to come.


Melissa Alps

Master Reef Guide I Trip Director | Dive Instructor | Entrada Travel Group - Spirit of Freedom and TUSA Dive | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 2) (From: US)

Master Reef Guide Michelle is a charismatic and engaging speaker who enjoys entertaining a crowd. Michelle has broad knowledge of the Great Barrier Reef from its evolution, to its development over the past 8,000 years, to the legacy of human use.

Michelle is passionate to share her knowledge with future generations so they can learn from the past and be inspired to protect our natural world.

Michelle has been a Dive Instructor and trainer with Spirit of Freedom and TUSA Dive for the past nine years. Michelle has taken hundreds of dives and thousands of people diving on the Great Barrier Reef and she still enjoys every moment of it.

“Becoming a Master Reef Guide is absolutely the next step in my career. To enthusiastically share my new knowledge with current and new staff, with my worldly passengers and also through my social media platforms – the future of the reef depends on people like me that can inspire and motivate the thousands of people I encounter and work with each year”.

Master Reef Guide Michelle

Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | Experience Co. – GBR Biology | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 3) (From: US)

Master Reef Guide Michelle is a Marine Biologist at Experience Co, working on a variety of boats taking day trips from Cairns to the outer Great Barrier Reef, Fitzroy Island, and Green Island.

She has been with the company for over two years and in addition to daily guided snorkel tours and marine biology presentations, Michelle is also involved in the Crown-of-thorns Starfish Research and Control Program at Moore Reef.

“As a Master Reef Guide I am now a role model and ambassador for the industry and the Marine Park Authority. I have access to high-level training and a network of like-minded individuals and can share knowledge with guests as well as co-workers to improve the overall standard of interpretation on the Great Barrier Reef.”


Master Reef Guide Michelle

Natalie Smith - Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | GBR Biology/Experience Co. | Cairns (Cohort 7)

Master Reef Guide Natalie grew up in the coastal town of Port Macquarie (NSW) where her love for the marine environment began.

She completed her Bachelor of Marine Science and Management through Southern Cross University whilst gaining experience working on Whale Watching vessels.

In 2022, Natalie moved to Cairns where she joined Experience Co and GBR Biology. Natalie works as a Marine Biologist providing fun and engaging guided snorkel tours across a wide range of reef locations, including Green Island, Fitzroy Island and multiple outer reef sites.

Natalie is a vital part of GBR Biology’s team, engaging across Reef Education and Reef Connect programs, she is a passionate educator, sharing the stories of the Great Barrier Reef to guests from all over the world and ensures that those she connects to the Reef have a better understanding of the wonder that is the Great Barrier Reef and how we can all play a role in looking after it for future generations.

Natalie doesn’t just share her knowledge, passion and enthusiasm with guests, school groups and conference groups but also to the wider GBR Biology team helping to inspire the next generation of Marine Biologist and guides on the Reef as their trainer. 

One of my favourite parts about my job is being able to bring guests out to the Great Barrier Reef and watching them fall in love with its beauty and magnificence as I educate and bring awareness to what I'm most passionate about. Creating connections and life long memories for those who she can share her passion with. 

Natalie Smith

Master Reef Guide | Freelance - Reef Authority | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 3) (From: Great Britain)

Master Reef Guide Nick has always loved being in, near or on water. It was no surprise that when he discovered the ability to see, breathe and swim underwater through the use of SCUBA that Nick’s changed.

He found a love and passion for the ocean and a path that allowed him to push his boundaries and continually practice, perfect and develop new skills.

This led Nick to becoming a Dive Instructor which has allowed him to guide others through the simple processes required to experience something truly incredible; the underwater world.

Moving to Australia and experiencing one of nature's wonders, the Great Barrier Reef, drove him to become the Trip Director of one of Australia’s premier liveaboard dive vessels TUSA-Spirit of Freedom visiting the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea reef systems.

Nick specialises in exploration of the remote Far North regions of the Great Barrier Reef having spent eight years exploring and discovering new dive sites. He has now visited places with his guests that no one else has ever visited, delivering unique experiences and sharing his passion of exploring the incredible ecosystem that is the Great Barrier Reef.

Being privileged to experience so much of this World Heritage Area has reinforced for the Nick the role and responsibility that those that live, breathe and understand the environment have to do everything in their power to educate and protect such a valuable resource.

“I am honoured and privileged to call myself a Master Reef Guide, being part of an inspiring and empowering collection of unique individuals that combine their extensive skills, knowledge and experiences to create the world’s leading Reef experiences. Being part of this special group has the potential to make a big difference in protecting the World Heritage Area that is of huge significance to humanity as a whole and has been the centre of my life for the last ten years. It is incredible to be working together with like-minded people from industry and being involved with passionate people in the government that are dedicated to protecting the place that we all call home”.

Master Reef Guide Nick

Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | Mike Ball Dive Expeditions | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 1) (From: Spain)

Master Reef Guide Pablo grew up dreaming of being a Marine Biologist on the Great Barrier Reef. Hailing from Madrid he completed his Marine Biology degree and moved across the globe, to Australia where he has achieved all this and more.

Pablo is based in Cairns and works as a coral reef ecologist and diving instructor for Sunlover Reef Cruises.

Over the past four years, he has had the privilege of sharing the beauty of the world’s largest coral reef system with guests from every corner of the world. Changing and inspiring people is the most rewarding part of Pablo’s job.

Pablo is a passionate advocate for ocean conservation and volunteers for Cairns and Far North Environmental Centre Marine Response Team, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Divers for Reef Conservation, Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef and Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Pablo is one of the ‘Eye on the Reef’ program’s champions, regularly monitoring and assessing the health of his sites.

Pablo’s love for the Reef is infectious. Through the Master Reef Guide Program, he hopes to spark a passion for reef conservation.


Master Reef Guide Pablo

Phillip Coulthard – Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | Quicksilver Group | Cairns (Cohort 5)

For as long as Phil can remember, the world below the surface of the water has fascinated him.

As a child growing up in Cairns, it was not a surprise that Phil’s love and fascination for the underwater world would eventually steer his life down the path of Marine Biology.

Graduating with a Bachelor of Science from James Cook University.  

His early years of employment included a Curatorial role at an Oceanarium along with various tour guide roles out of Cairns and Port Douglas.

Then in 2001, Phil was appointed the Operations Manager for The Dolphin Discovery Centre, a Marine Conservation organisation with a focus on the lives of a wild population of Bottlenose Dolphins in Bunbury, Western Australia.

The Centre provided an amazing opportunity for Phil to continue his enthusiasm for tour guiding through a number of interactive dolphin experiences, however the development of the Centre’s research, education and conservation initiatives was by far the motivation that kept him employed there for almost 20 years.

Since he returned home to Cairns in 2019 Phil has had the opportunity to re-connect with the Great Barrier Reef. He is currently work as a Marine Biologist for Great Adventures, part of the Quicksilver Group.

Master Reef Guide Phillip

Phil grew up in Sydney and spent his childhood holidays snorkeling off the coast of New South Wales.

After finishing school, he worked as a swim teacher in the Maldives where he marveled at the complexity, beauty and wonder of underwater marine life.

His sense of adventure ignited, Phil further pursued his passion by studying a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Marine Biology at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland.

During his studies, his love of the Great Barrier Reef grew as he was lucky enough to visit multiple research stations along the Great Barrier Reef.

After graduation, he moved further north and completed his dive master traineeship with Down Under Cruise and Dive in Cairns where he currently works as a Marine Biologist, Dive Instructor and Deck supervisor.

Phil’s roles aboard the MV Evolution include conducting regular Eye on the Reef surveys, educating passengers from all over the world and cleaning, maintaining and contributing to multiple Coral Nurseries.

Phil’s daily goal is to share his passion, helping people to appreciate the value and beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, and to motivate those he reaches to keep the health of the planet in mind when making decisions at home in the future.


Phil Scott

Quinn was born and raised in Cairns, with his father having direct connections to the Great Barrier Reef surrounding Murray Island in the Eastern Torres Strait Islands group (Dauareb Tribe).

Despite growing up in Cairns, a place full of reefs, he had never actually been out to many of them. Until he started work in February 2019 where he completed a traineeship with GemPearl to become a Divemaster.

During this time, he went from boat to boat, finding out how beautiful the surrounding reefs were and how much there was to learn about them.

That’s when he realised, he had a natural passion for the reef and teaching about its heritage.

After completing his traineeship, he went on to join Experience Co working on Dreamtime Dive and Snorkel as a Cultural Coordinator, teaching people not only about the biological aspects of the reef but also sharing indigenous stories and knowledge of the surrounding area and its people.

Since joining Dreamtime, he has now become a Dive Instructor and teaches dive courses to many Indigenous ranger groups up the coast of the Great Barrier Reef to help conservation efforts of the reef and water ecosystems that they have back in their country (tribal area).

Quinn Ross-Passi

Master Reef Guide | Environmental Manager | Passions of Paradise | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 1) (From: USA)

Master Reef Guide Russell was born in Denver, Colorado in the United States and has lived in Australia for the past 12 years.

Working for Passions of Paradise in Cairns for over 10 years. As Environmental Manager, Russell is responsible for the on-board marine naturalist presentations and guiding, all of the educational materials and programs, as well as liaising with various government departments, scientific organisations and environmental groups.

Science is at the core of his job, but Russell knows that people play a key role in protecting the environment.

Russell’s passion for the ocean is hard to miss and his educational talks reinforce that even the smallest changes we make can ensure marine habitats are preserved for future generations to come. Russell is a real life superhero for the Great Barrier Reef.

“Today I embark on the greatest journey of my career; in 2019 I am an inaugural member of the Great Barrier Reef’s “Master Reef Guides”.

Master Reef Guide Russell

Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist and Education Manager for GBR Biology - Experience Co. | Tropical North Queensland(Cohort 2)

Master Reef Guide Samantha is a Marine Biologist and Education Manager for GBR Biology with Experience Co.

Samantha combines her lifelong passion for the marine environment with her desire to educate people to deliver memorable experiences for thousands of visitors to the Great Barrier Reef each year.

Samantha has diverse experience across a range of marine tourism products including a remote tropical island resort, whale watching tours and as a Dive Master.

Samantha’s drive to continuously grow has her working full-time whilst undertaking further studies.

Samantha’s favourite thing about the Great Barrier Reef is that it reveals none of its secrets from the surface but once you get into the water and put your face below the surface, the most beautiful colours, shapes and textures appear.

Samantha has been recognised for her expertise in guiding through her graduation as a Master Reef Guide.

“I’m so proud to be a part of this amazing group of people! I’ve never seen so much passion, enthusiasm and knowledge about the Great Barrier Reef in one place!"

Master Reef Guide Samantha

Master Reef Guide | Dive Instructor | Photographer | Entrada Travel Group – Spirit of Freedom | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 4) (From: Japan)

Master Reef Guide Takuma loves nothing more than showcasing the beauty and magic of the Great Barrier Reef to guests.

Takuma has worked for over 8 years as a Dive Instructor and Photographer with Entrada Travel Group onboard Spirit of Freedom and when he is not in the water, he enjoys delivering onboard marine presentations using his own underwater photography.

He has a strong affinity with the marine environment and patience to find even the smallest critters in the vast maze of corals.

“The people who made the Master Reef Guide Program are very passionate for the Great Barrier Reef. Every day at the training school I listened to presentations from famous researchers, who I have never been able to meet before, it was incredibly inspiring”.

Master Reef Guide Takuma

Tess Concannon - Master Reef Guide | Cairns (Cohort 7)

Master Reef Guide Tess’s love of the ocean started from a young age, when her dad took her on his ocean fishing adventures off the South Australian coast.

She then studied a Bachelor of Animal Science at the University of Adelaide, and a Graduate Diploma in Conservation Biology at the Macquire University.

But she was always pulled back to the ocean, undertaking Sea turtle research around the world, and falling in love with coral reefs while undertaking diving research in the Philippines. 

Tess’s Great Barrier Reef love affair started back in 2019 working in the Whitsundays, she then made the move to Cairns and joined the GBR Biology team in 2021 and hasn’t looked back.

She is now Senior Marine Biologist, and Project Manager for a reef conservation, education and community engagement project, with GBR Biology. She conducts her work on the Reef Unlimited vessels where she shares this work and passion for coral reef conservation with the passengers on board.

I believe that the more a person understands how something works, the more they have the compacity to care about it, and so by finding effective and engaging ways to communicate how a coral reef works with people you can influence how much they care.

Tess Concannon

Updated 12 Feb 2024
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