Meet Cecilia, one of the Australian sea lions listed as vulnerable and rarely seen off the west Australian coast.
This adorably playful little girl makes regular visits to the Busselton Jetty in the Margaret River region. For her, the 1.84-kilometre-long jetty and the staff who work at this award-winning attraction are her happy place. They have a special bond.
So much so that Cecilia swam to one of the viewing windows in the Underwater Observatory at the end of the jetty and waited patiently until a staff member she recognised came over to say hello. Astoundingly, this trusting sea lion then lifted her flipper to show a hook embedded. The response was swift and with quick medical intervention this little darling was once again enjoying life unencumbered in the Indian Ocean.
To keep visitors happy during the COVID 19 lockdown the Jetty hosted live virtual tours and one of those showcased Cecilia, proving just how much she has become a much-loved part of the Busselton Jetty “crew”.
Shooting from the Underwater Observatory, one of only six in the world, people were given a guided tour and were then able to watch from the comfort of their homes as Cecilia explored her natural environment. Soon she met an octopus and engaged in what appeared to be a friendly game, entrancing viewers as the two danced and glided around each other. Alas, a game it turned not, as towards the end of the live session Cecilia decided it was time for lunch, and octopus was on the menu.
Cecilia is just one of many aspects of the Busselton Jetty that has received special attention since coronavirus began to impact everyone’s lives. Volunteers, staff, the Underwater Observatory itself and the Busselton Jetty visitor areas have all benefited from extra care.
One hundred volunteer hosts meet and greet the 500,000+ people who visit the Jetty, Underwater Observatory and its over-the-ocean train each year. They are an integral part of the Jetty’s success and so management wanted to help them through this hard period. As the mature-age volunteers were the most vulnerable, and they themselves needed assistance in everyday tasks, staff stepped-up to aid the volunteers in doing everyday tasks such as shopping, pharmacy pickups and dog walking.
Like many of us, members of the team also reported feeling lonely and isolated in the early days of the lockdown. By being able to provide the volunteers with these essential services Busselton Jetty management found a solution to this loneliness while ensuring everyone was safe and social distancing was maintained.
In addition to helping the volunteers, staff also chose to help the community through participation in a beach cleaning project, assisting in tree planting and helping restore the tuart forest at Ludlow.
Built in the year 2000, the Underwater Observatory takes visitors eight metres below the ocean surface to explore Australia’s greatest artificial reef. You will see an awe-inspiring forest of tropical and subtropical corals, fish and invertebrates. In winter, whales occasionally pass by too.
While this is usually the bumper season, management used the lockdown period to invest $150,000 in upgrading the attraction. Visitors now will experience incredible artwork on the floor and new carpets, amenities and videos, plus a sensory immersion where whale songs have been brought to life.
Watch this short video to learn more about the Jetty’s innovations through lockdown.
The future is bright
Busselton Jetty Inc. CEO, Lisa Shreeve, said that the virtual tours, staff projects and upgrades were all part of ensuring that the team remained incredibly proud of this internationally renowned marine attraction. “We have done a lot of soul searching to find ways that, post-COVID, we continue to provide a tremendous experience for grey nomads throughout the rest of 2020.
“We have also installed screens between the seats in our train and Underwater Observatory tours are operating, although with fewer numbers per tour that previously. This means that visitors are receiving a more intimate experience and, of course, winter is a beautiful time to walk along the Jetty and enjoy the 360-degree views in the glorious sunshine and fresh air,” Ms Shreeve said.
In addition, the Busselton Jetty is creating a spectacular winter wonderland theme that will run from mid-July through August. Visitors will be greeted by snowmen and be awed by snow and giant ice sculptures.
While all this innovation is extremely impressive, one of the things that amazes the Grey Nomad Awards team most is that all this is achieved by a not-for-profit organisation which exists to maintain the longest wooden piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere and provide visitors with a unique experience.
These aspects combine to make an incredible visitor experience and the Best Attraction or Tour in Australia. That’s official!
Images supplied by Busselton Jetty Inc.