Turtle-y awesome educational experience launched at Great Keppel Island

With thanks to a $30K contribution from the *Australian Government’s Bushfire Recovery Initiative secured by Capricorn Enterprise, $7.5K from Emu Park Community Branch of Bendigo Bank and the balance from the Keppel Turtle Fund Inc, a new trail has been launched on Great Keppel Island.
*Austrade administers the Regional Tourism Bushfire Recovery grants program.

The volunteer run Keppel Turtle Fund has proudly unveiled a fabulous new educational attraction which will greatly support environmental and ecological aspects of the Southern Great Barrier Reef.

Stage 1 of the Great Keppel Island Marine Environmental Awareness/Education Trail (promoted as the GKI Sea Way Trail) has now been installed and is open to the public.

The trail, which runs for approximately 300 metres, starts on the lawns overlooking ‘The Spit’ at Fisherman’s Beach, follows a boardwalk meandering throughout Great Keppel Island Hideaway’s grounds and features 15 beautifully sculptured information panels. Keppel Turtle Fund Inc’s Denise Weisse and Mark Edmistone engaged local artists and fabricators to help develop concepts to installed artworks. The team included Bill and Luke Gannon, Michelle Black and GJK Contractors.

The trail tells of our impressive marine life. Each sculpture is in a local marine shape – starfish, dugong, hard and soft coral, jellyfish, turtles and hatchlings, butterflyfish, coral cod, giant clam, shark, whale, dolphin, seahorse, and a snorkeler over a reef.

The colourful panels highlight marine facts, values, and conservation. QR codes are utilised to link visitors directly to further information and ways for people to get involved to help protect the marine environment.

An initiative of the Keppel Turtle Fund Inc – a charity focused on education, appreciation, protection, and rehabilitation of the natural marine environment – the trail will overcome an educational gap and lead to greater respect of the Keppel Bay Islands, Southern Great Barrier Reef land and water eco-systems.

Keppel Turtle Fund Chair Denise Weisse is absolutely thrilled to see the initiative, which has been four years in the making, come to fruition.

“Awareness and respect of our unique reef including all of the marine life within is a critical factor for our future, and the GKI Sea Way Trail will take a further step in the right direction to make sure visitors and locals understand and appreciate the environment on which we call home,” Denise said.

“Caring for the reef and it’s many miraculous creatures is everyone’s responsibility, and the Keppel Turtle Fund remains committed to protecting and preserving it as best we can so that future generations can enjoy it as much as we do.”

The GKI Sea Way Trail was developed in conjunction with community representatives including local marine biologist Dr Alison Jones, Gordon La Praik and established tourism operators including Capricorn Enterprise along with staff from the local Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, to ensure that the project delivered the best outcomes.

Capricorn Enterprise CEO Mary Carroll said, “We are very supportive of any new tourism and economic development activities across the region which embrace our environmental assets, enhance the visitor experience and encourage greater visitor appreciation, understanding and protection of the natural beauty of our destination.”

“After assisting with the funding application, we certainly acknowledge the dedication, passion and commitment that have gone into this project from concept to end goal, and we certainly look forward to continuing our support of the Keppel Turtle Fund with developments in the future.”

Federal Member for Capricornia and Assistant Minister for Regional Tourism, Michelle Landry welcomed the opening of the GKI Sea Way trail.

“This walking trail will be a welcome addition to Great Keppel Island, and I congratulate Capricorn Enterprise, all funding partners and Keppel Turtle Fund for delivering on this vital project,” Ms Landry said.

“The regional tourism industry has been doing it incredibly tough following the impact of bushfires, drought and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Regional Tourism Bushfire Recovery grants have gone a long way towards revitalising a range of events that had otherwise been postponed or cancelled, as well as the development of new experiences that will encourage visitors. This program is crucial to helping these affected communities back on their feet and putting tourism dollars back into the regions.”

The GKI Sea Way Trail is a fabulous addition to Great Keppel Island’s diverse offerings. Locals and holiday makers are encouraged to take a trip ‘overseas’ and check out the new attraction.

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