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February 23, 2024

Out of the Blue Adventures wins Tourism Hero Award

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Alanah Ward from Ballina Visitor Information Centre with Dean Fox from Out of the Blue Adventures at the award ceremony in Grafton. Photo supplied.

A local whale watching and eco-tourism business has been announced as one of the region’s Local Tourism Heroes at a gala dinner co-hosted by Destination North Coast.

Out of the Blue Adventures sails from Ballina daily, across the bar and then up the coast to the Byron Bay Marine Park. Kasia Smith is an environmental scientist who also handles office operations for the business. She told The Echo that winning the award was ‘a big thing’ after a difficult few years with COVID and the floods.

‘Tourism has been so affected,’ she said. ‘It’s amazing to have that reward for all the hard work.’

Ms Smith says environmental education is very important to Out of the Blue Adventures, with marine biologists on board and the whole team ‘very eco-conscious’.

Whale tail spotting with Out of the Blue Adventures. Photo supplied.

They have extensive ocean experience as far afield as Europe, New Zealand and Antarctica, and voluntary connections with organisations including Australian Seabird Rescue and Marine Rescue.

‘We try and create as many sustainable practices as we can, and educate while we’re out on the water,’ she said.

Great to be back up and running

With their previous base of operations being damaged in the flood, and the wharf at Ballina being out of action for a while, Out of the Blue Adventures has now moved to a new base, with things looking a lot more positive both for local tourism and the marine environment.

‘The ocean’s definitely recovered,’ said Ms Smith. ‘The river is even crystal clear blue again, which is really nice to see. The whales haven’t been affected, which is really amazing.’

She said the business has strong Ballina connections, with one of the captains, Angus Steele, being Ballina born and raised, and great support from the Ballina Visitor Centre, which nominated Out of the Blue Adventures for the award.

Dean Fox (right) with other award winners at the Destination NSW/Clarence Council gala dinner. Photo supplied.

Ms Smith said it was a wonderful surprise for owner/captain Dean Fox to have the business nominated, and then go on to win, becoming one of ten Local Tourism Heroes (from Newcastle all the way north to the border) to take out awards in Grafton.

With four years sharing the wonders of whales with visitors to the Northern Rivers, as Mr Fox puts it, ‘I have turned my passion into a way of life’.

Kasia Smith told The Echo things were incredibly busy at the moment, with good weather and the whale migration in full swing. Out of the Blue Adventures operates with two vessels, sailing up to eight times a day.

What have you been seeing out there recently?

‘Last weekend there was lots and lots of breaching action! This is the month where we get to see a lot more inquisitive whales and close encounters,’ she said.

‘May to August is the north migration. And then August to October, or the start of November, is the south migration.

Making a splash on a recent Out of the Blue Adventure. Photo supplied.

‘August is that nice month in between when you get a little bit of everything. So we saw some of the first new little babies with their mothers making their way back down south on the weekend,’ said Ms Smith.

‘There’s been lots of mugging behaviour and spy hopping where they come close to the vessel and check us out!’

You can find out more about Out of the Blue Adventures here. Tours board at the Lance Ferris Wharf in Ballina.

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