There are 15 Master Reef Guides who operate in the Southern region, including locations such as Yeppoon, Great Keppel Island, Heron Island, Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliot Island.
You can read the profiles of each Master Reef Guide in the Southern region 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 - Southern
Master Reef Guide Catie is the Activities Supervisor on Heron Island where a typical day consists of taking visitors around Heron Island on guided island walks, reef walks, semi-submersible tours and evening talks.
Catie grew up in Sydney, NSW where she has always loved animals and the ocean. She completed a Bachelor of Marine Science degree from Macquarie University with the hopes of getting into research. However, whilst completing her Master of Science (Marine Biology and Ecology) degree from James Cook University, she started working as an education officer at Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville. It was at this job that she fell in love with educating people about the marine environment.
Having worked on Heron Island as a Naturalist Guide and Activities Supervisor for over a year, Catie loves educating and inspiring visitors about the reef, the island, the birds and all the marine life. Catie’s biggest goal in life is to teach people about the reef and have them leave with a love of the reef. She believes that to get people to want to help protect the Great Barrier Reef first they must learn about the reef and fall in love with it. If she can teach one person one new thing about the reef each day, she knows that she is making a difference for the reef and its future.
Master Reef Guide | Southern Great Barrier Reef (Cohort 3)
Master Reef Guide Georgia will connect you to the Reef in a unique way, she will make you laugh, cry and be captivated all at once. As a natural storyteller, Georgia loves opening people’s eyes, connecting with people and sharing her enthusiasm, especially for the most inconspicuous reef critters!
As a Master Reef Guide she is on a platform from which she can give guests a life changing experience in a way that encourages guests to care and hopefully change their way of thinking and actions towards impact on the environment.
“I have undertaken a life changing experience by becoming a Master Reef Guide. A priceless fire that’s burning inside me, that I couldn’t get anywhere else but from this”.
Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | Lady Elliot Island EcoResort | Southern Great Barrier Reef (Cohort 4)
Master Reef Guide Jacinta is a Marine Biologist on the team at Lady Elliot Island - the most southern island in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. As a sixth-generation descendant of the famous Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, Jacinta shares his famed spirit of adventure which is what lead her to – Lady Elliot Island. Here she spends her time educating and showcasing the magic the island has to offer to the guests through island walks, glass bottom boat and snorkelling tours.
Living and breathing Lady Elliott Island everyday has led Jacinta to capture and share her most memorable moments through her social media channels. With this love for the ocean comes her passion for protecting the reef and encourages the world to come visit or consider what changes they can make at home to help protect the Great Barrier Reef.
“Storytelling is probably one of the most important tools with guiding because that’s how we engage with our customers. Ultimately, that’s what they will remember – how we made them feel about the reef”.
Master Reef Guide | Activities Supervisor | Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort | Southern Great Barrier Reef (Cohort 1)
Master Reef Guide Jess is the Activities Supervisor at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort. Her role includes developing interpretation programs for visitors and, along with her team, delivering engaging and informative presentations and tours on a wide range of topics, including coral reef ecology, sea birds, sea turtles, island and cay vegetation, sharks, manta rays, humpback whales and history.
Living permanently on the Island has provided her with the unique opportunity to become fully immersed in the ecosystem, day and night. Jess is a naturalist guide and natural educator, with a thirst for knowledge making her the ideal guide to the Reef and Islands.
She aims to use her passion and knowledge to educate visitors and build their appreciation and understanding for the coral reef environment in order to influence positive change. Her goal is for the people she encounters to feel the same enthusiasm for the Reef that she feels. When Jess is not snorkelling or scuba diving, she is usually found painting seascapes.
“I was lucky enough to be selected to be part of the first cohort of the Great Barrier Reef Master Reef Guide Program. I am humbled and proud to be included in this group of incredibly passionate and inspirational people who love the Reef with all they have to give. Friendships have been formed and I know that I’ve come out a different person, with an extended family all across the Great Barrier Reef”.
Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | Skipper | Lady Elliot Eco Resort | Southern Great Barrier Reef (Cohort 3)
Master Reef Guide Josh sails the Ngaro waters of the Whitsundays aboard the Portland Roads fleet. Immersing guests in the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef through guided snorkelling, reef interpretation, and bush walks, often to ancient and historical Ngaro meeting grounds.
Portland Roads, through Josh was one of the first charter businesses to drop plastic water bottles (2015), disallow plastic bags (2016), move to non-toxic cleaning products, allow the guests the option to recycle, reuse left over produce, installed 'sea clean up tubs' to each boat encouraging guests to bring back more than what they take ashore.
Josh's entire world focuses on the ocean. Exploring the Whitsundays since he was a child, he is able to share a lifetime of stories and knowledge with his guests, who he spends six days with at a time. You will leave feeling a deep connection to the interconnected life of the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsunday islands and our traditional First Nations People.
Master Reef Guide | Marine Biologist | Dive Instructor | Passions of Paradise | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 4)
Master Reef Guide Kirsty started diving at the age of 21, and from that moment, she fell in love with it and knew that this was what she wanted to do for her future. From then on, Kirsty will take on any opportunity to get in the water, this lead to working at the Aquarium of Western Australia as an Ocean Guide and volunteering to do biodiversity surveys in the tropical waters of Rottnest Island and Ningaloo Reef.
After seeing the Great Barrier Reef for the first time she wanted to see and know more. Kristy works as a Dive Instructor and Master Reef Guide at Passions of Paradise where she has remained for the last 3 years living her dream daily.
With a degree in Marine Science and Kirsty’s outgoing personality, she relays facts and stories to guests in a fun and entertaining manner. When leading dive or snorkel tours, she likes to show the guests the ‘weirder’ residents of the Great Barrier Reef.
“I get to share my passion for the Great Barrier Reef with guests, and present them with current information, received through the Master Reef Guide channels, to invoke in my guest a deeper passion for the Reef”.
Lyndsay Appleton – Master Reef Guide | Owner| Great Keppel Water Sports | Southern (Cohort 5)
Lyndsay Appleton is the Owner/Operator of Great Keppel Water Sports. On Great Keppel Island on the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Lyndsay started working in the tourism industry 15 years ago on day boats out of Port Douglas, where she fell in love with the Great Barrier Reef. Since then, she has spent 4 years on Lizard Island where she met her husband and now fellow Master Reef Guide, Sam Appleton, followed by working on day boats out of Cairns. Lyndsay has had varying roles, working as an underwater videographer, Naturalist, Dive Instructor and Lifeguard. During this time, Lyndsay also became a Critical Care Flight Paramedic with QLD Ambulance Service, and now works on the Capricorn Rescue Helicopter.
Madison Drabble – Master Reef Guide | Lead Marine Educator | Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort | Southern GBR (Cohort 5)
Born and raised by the ocean, Madison has spent her entire life living and breathing salt water. Having grown up next to the sea, her passion started from an early age. Madison began as a rookie lifeguard at age nine and from that moment on, she knew her career would be linked with the ocean. Madison then went on to achieve her Advanced Open Water during school when she was 15, and then proceeded to complete her Open Water Scuba Instructors in 2013. Having been based in a temperate water climate, moving to the Great Barrier Reef in 2014 opened her eyes to an entirely new ecosystem, fueling her curiosity for the underwater world. She has lived here ever since, striving to spread her enthusiasm about the Great Barrier Reef.
“Having recently been trained by GBRMPA in EOTR during my time with Lady Musgrave Experience, I have been exposed to the scientific side of the Great Barrier Reef. This has enabled me to view the reef from a different standpoint and has peaked my interest to a new level."
Mary Porter – Master Reef Guide | Guest Activities Attendant | Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort | Southern GBR (Cohort 5)
Mary grew up in Louisiana and studied Ecology in the mountains of Tennessee, which is a whole world away from the Great Barrier Reef, but she said it was always in her mind. Mary moved to Australia in 2016 and it only took her a month to end up on Lady Elliot Island, where she has been (off and on) for over four years. Mary gets just as excited to see a 5cm Mantis Shrimp as she does when she sees a 5m Manta Ray.
Mary loves watching people learn, seeing their eyes widen with excitement and their passion for the ocean grow.
“One of the most amazing things about the Great Barrier Reef is the connectivity between ocean and land. As much as I love the marine life, I also cannot get enough of the vegetation and birds. Watching the trees grow and the birds turn them into homes reminds me of the coral and the fish who rely on them. These are some of the world’s most beautiful and important relationships. The Great Barrier Reef is unlike anywhere in the world, and I am one of the lucky ones who gets to share it with others every day."
Master Reef Guide | Skipper | Owner | Freedom Fast Cats | Southern Great Barrier Reef (Cohort 4)
Master Reef Guide Max has Island living and boats are in the Max’s blood, the history of maritime tourism in the Allen family dates back to 1950 when Lew Allen established the first resort on Quoin Island – off the shores of Gladstone. Fast forward 70 years and the family still work showcasing the beauty of islands and the surrounding waters through ‘Freedom Fast Cat’s’ which has been operating since 1999. Freedom Fast Cats offers ferry transfers as well as a wide range of cruises to the Keppel bay Islands.
Max Allen Junior brings his own spin and creative flair to the business. Through his family’s stories and local knowledge, he plays an important part in preserving and presenting the Southern Great Barrier Reefs colourful past, present and future to visitors.
Master Reef Guide I Dive Instructor | Lady Elliot Eco Resort | Tropical North Queensland (Cohort 4)
Master Reef Guide Naoko, fondly known as Naz, discovered her love of diving in 2014 and spent much time in the water volunteering in the Maldives, Fiji, Thailand and Bali. She then spent the next 2 years teaching people how to explore the oceans of the Indo-Pacific she realised it was time to return home to Australia and explore her Queensland backyard – The Great Barrier Reef.
“I realised that I hadn’t had the chance to dive and see the beautiful reefs back home in Australia, so I packed my things up and moved to Cairns to see what the Great Barrier Reef had to offer’.
Naz wasn’t disappointed and her passion for the reef and underwater world led her to study marine biology at university. Fast forward to today, Naz is now working as a dive instructor with TUSA Dive and is busy sharing her knowledge with guests.
“The Great Barrier Reef never ceases to surprise me. Whenever you think you’ve had the best dive/snorkel in your life, the Great Barrier Reef shows you that it just gets better and better. Working as a dive instructor and a Master Reef Guide on the Great Barrier Reef, gives me the opportunity to share amazing experiences and educate customers about the beautiful reef and it’s inhabitants. I believe that coming out to the reef and seeing it in its glorious state will inspire people to protect it, wherever in the world they are from”.
Master Reef Guide | Dive Instructor | Marine Biologist | Southern Great Barrier Reef (Cohort 1)
Master Reef Guide Nat believes that one person can make a difference. Passionate about the Reef, she is convinced that the best way to motivate people to care for the natural world is to get them to experience and fall in love with it. Bringing the Reef to life to inspire people through stories and fun facts, she is always looking for ways to create change by connecting visitors’ encounters to an element of their everyday lives. She is enthusiastic and optimistic and especially loves interacting with younger generations to encourage them to follow their passions and create positive change in the world.
Whether guiding on land or in the water, she enjoys dodging bird poop on island walks as much as she loves the challenge of teaching first-timers to snorkel and scuba dive.
“I was lucky enough to spend a week surrounded by the most inspiring group of people who, like me, have a common vision and passion, and are dedicated to loving, protecting and sharing the wondrous Great Barrier Reef with the world. The Master Reef Guides were brought together to learn how to enhance people’s reef experiences through storytelling, creating those unforgettable WOW moments, and planting seeds for people to take home and grow into something beautiful. Yes, I am just one person, but as one of the Master Reef Guides I’m part of a small group with a BIG potential for impact and that’s how one person can make a difference.”
Master Reef Guide | Managing Director | Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort | Southern Great Barrier Reef (Cohort 1)
In 1984, Peter obtained a cleaning contract for Queensland National Parks within the Brisbane Forest Park, where he became involved in the ecotourism industry and learned about protecting the environment. He realised it was possible to have a sustainable tourism business that cared for the environment and could make a difference.
In his late teens, Peter visited Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave Islands (the Southern Ladies) and fell in love with the Great Barrier Reef. He set his goal to be the Island lease holder and successfully achieved this in July 2005. Peter is now operator of Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort.
His future vision for Lady Elliot Island is to showcase this magnificent jewel of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and to keep its access and visitation costs at a level that all Australians can afford to experience its natural beauty. The Lady Elliot Island team work hard at providing an educational experience, particularly encouraging school and university groups to learn about the Reef, its diversity and marine life, and to educate their guests about climate change issues.
Peter’s personal mission is inspiring people to make a difference – we all have the ability to influence change for the good. He and his family see themselves as custodians of this wonderful island – their goal is to leave a legacy – the legacy of a better place….. to inspire others to do amazing things.
Master Reef Guide | Skipper | Dive Instructor | Owner | Keppel Dive | Keppel Islands(Cohort 4)
Master Reef Guide Sam Appleton was raised around snorkelling and enjoying the Keppel Islands. Throughout his career, he has worked for many High Standard Tourism Operators in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, working as far North as Lizard Island through to the Southern Great Barrier Reef where he is today. He also spent time as a Rescue Crew Officer for Queensland Government Air Rescue, so you know you are in safe hands when around Sam.
Returning to the Keppel Islands, he realised the region needed interpretive guided Reef tours. Keppel Dive was then born, where Sam and his wife Lyndsay run the only PADI dive resort on the Capricorn Coast and the only dive centre on Great Keppel Island.
“We aim to exceed the expectations of our guests by providing professional, informative, fun and emotional tours that leave them with an understanding of all the special values that warrant the world heritage listing. Being a Master Reef Guide has changed how I will guide and provided me with so much valuable information, that I really wish I had sought 13 years ago, as it would have most certainly improved my delivery of information and in turn the guests experience.”
Steven was successfully nominated as a MRG by 'Lady Musgrave Experience' to represent the Southern Great Barrier Reef Island of Lady Musgrave. Steven’s background is in conservation efforts for both Rainforest and Reef habitats. His interest lays predominately in Coral Reef biomes. His journey started swimming and free diving off the Queensland coast as a kid with his family in Bundaberg growing up in the small beachside area of Bargara. It was here his love for all things aquatic began, likewise his first interactions of nesting sea turtles became a lifelong interest. Weekends were spent heading out on a boat exploring Reef systems and learning how fragile and important our oceans are and how intricate life forms are contained within.
Since then, Steven has been involved with many conservation efforts and organisations from volunteering to actively researching terrestrial and marine species including Clean-up Australia, Conservation Volunteers Australia, Coral Cay Island Bird Count in Australia, Leaf to Reef, Eye on the Reef, and Mon Repos Turtle Rookery. Steven’s background studies are in Animal Ecology and Reef Ecology. Studied and contributed to conservation efforts in Western Papua on Rinca Island for the Komodo Dragon, filmed and documented Red Crab migrations of Christmas Island, he actively participates in 'Leaf to Reef', Eye on Reef and Sea turtle nesting monitoring and turtle research outside of work where he actively tags, monitors and releases.
Steven’s interest in marine turtles eventually brought him back to the town of Bundaberg, where he now contributes to research data for Queensland Parks and Wildlife under Professor Colin Limpus. His other passions lay in wildlife photography and making documentaries. He is currently employed with Lady Musgrave Experience as the Director of Marine Education and Senior Wildlife Ecologist where he continues his research on marine life and Reef systems. Also, educating people on the immense value and importance the Great Barrier Reef holds. In Steven’s words, this is a dream come true where he is able to live and work on the Southern Great Barrier Reef, which in his opinion is one of the BEST offices in the world.