Jim and Jo Wallace, the Cairns-based owners and operators of Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruises, are celebrating 30 years of cruising to the Great Barrier Reef.
The couple recognised the importance of the Great Barrier Reef long before it was inscribed on the World Heritage List, first sharing it with visitors on June 9, 1979 when they started daily cruises to Low Isles, off Port Douglas, on the Martin Cash.
“We have had 30 wonderful years in an industry we love. Sharing the magnificent Great Barrier Reef with others is simply the best job in the world,” Jim said.
“Our challenge as one of the early reef operators has been to set new standards for our competitors to follow and we have done this on many counts.
“In the late 80s we changed the ‘face’ of the reef cruising industry by introducing the revolutionary, comfortable and fast wavepiercer vessels. This year, we are the first reef operator to achieve a Zero Carbon Footprint and as a result have been awarded the highest level of certification under Eco Tourism Australia’s inaugural Climate Action Certification Program.”
The Wallaces operated Quicksilver Connections at Port Douglas for 10 years before selling in 1989 to the current owners.
However, it was only a year before Jim and Jo were back in the cruising industry, buying Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruises in 1990.
They expanded the company’s capacity to Green Island from 200 to 320 in 1997 when they bought Reef Jet and merged the two permits. In 1999 they built the Reef Rocket to replace the Reef Jet vessel and the following year purchased the original Quicksilver III, refitting it and renaming it Big Cat.
The next major expansion was in 2004 when Jim and Jo bought Terri Too and changed the name to Cairns Habitat Cruises. This expanded the business from half and full day trips to Green Island to include day trips on Trinity Inlet to the Cairns Crocodile Farm and sunset cruises in the evening.
Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruises truly is a locally-owned family business with Jim and Jo’s daughter, Paula Wallace, appointed Managing Director of the company.
The Wallace family’s winning formula of friendly and helpful service has earned Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruises an induction into the Tropical North Queensland Tourism Awards Hall of Fame after winning the Best Major Tour and Transport Operator in 2004, 2006 and 2007.