Combining entertainment and education

When I wrote my last blog, I was busy preparing for a trip to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The ship I was due to sail on promised an on board marine biologist and I was curious to see what learning opportunities there would be for the guests. I’m pleased to report that the trip, and the on board marine experts, exceeded my expectations!

First, I shall introduce the people who made the trip so memorable – the Trip Director and the Diving Instructor, who were both experts in marine biology. I was thrilled to discover there were two marine biologist on board! Kristy, the Trip Director, delivered fascinating talks about the Great Barrier Reef and led the glass bottom boat tours while Riccardo, the Diving Instructor, showed off the reefs from an underwater perspective. Both of them willingly shared their own knowledge, passion and infectious enthusiasm for the reef!

Over the course of a four night cruise, the ship stopped at four different reefs: the reef fringing Lizard Island; Ribbon Reef Number 9; Ribbon Reef Number 3; and Rescue Reef. Throughout the trip there were many opportunities for guests to learn about the reefs they were visiting and education was very much part of the entertainment schedule.

Kristy made daily presentations about coral reefs and the animals you might find living on them. She explained how coral reefs are formed, the threats they face, and what measures are being taken to protect the Great Barrier Reef. The science behind the formation and composition of a coral reef was clearly and simply explained with scientifically accurate detail.

Kristy’s presentations were well rehearsed from doing them on a weekly basis but her passion for the reef was obvious and the talks still sounded fresh. The excitement in her voice shone through when she told us about her favourite fish (boxfish) and she always seemed happy to answer any questions people had about what they were seeing under the water.

After one of her talks, Kristy revealed her secret to success. When she had started out as a presenter, one of her colleagues had counted the number of times she ummed or erred during one talk. The number was too high for Kristy’s liking so she worked hard to build her confidence and practiced until her talks were um and err free. Of course, confidence builds the more presentations you give but Kristy puts 110% into her presentations and this dedication has paid off.

Beneath the glass like surface of the ocean, Riccardo was working hard to show the first-time divers the wonders of the coral reefs. Even though most of his attention was on the novice divers and making sure they didn’t get too close to the coral, he was still keeping an eye out for the species that some of us had on our wish list to see. I was thrilled when Riccardo gave the signal for a shark and just ahead of us was a white-tipped reef shark making its way slowly along a coral wall, paying absolutely no attention to the divers floating motionless just a few meters away.

Back above the surface, Riccardo shared his own memorable experiences of sailing and diving on the reef. His eyes lit up as he shared a story about the time a humpback whale came alongside the ship while it was at anchor and showed off, flapping its fins and apparently enjoying the attention of its rapturous audience.

Kristy and Riccardo are exactly the kind of people who should be educating others about coral reefs. Thanks to their efforts, I had one of the best experiences I’ll probably ever have. Their love of the reef helps others understand why these incredible places should be respected and protected. They also knew how to talk about the reef in a way that everyone can understand, and they made it fun to learn. Kristy, in particular, did a fine job of combining education with entertainment and I’d like to finish off by sharing the key learning points she has inspired.

  • Be passionate about your subject and let it show in your voice and actions.
  • Get a friend to count the number of times you say um, err, or ah during your presentations. If you are guilty of adding an umm at the beginning of every sentence, practice and build your confidence until the ums and errs are eliminated.
  • Practice makes perfect but keep it fresh and add your own anecdotes to make it personal.
A picture of a shallow coral reef in Australia's Great Barrier Reef
Rescue Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Photo copyright Camellia Williams

Final note: I visited the Great Barrier Reef with Coral Expeditions as a paying guest. They showed great respect for the Great Barrier Reef and the crew was helpful and knowledgeable. This blog is independently written and all views and opinions expressed are entirely mine.