The Coffs Ambassadors Tours

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The Coffs Ambassadors Tours are a great initiative by Coffs Harbour City Council to help locals and visitors get to know the region’s natural environment. FOCUS talks to Erika Van Schellebeck from the Council to find out a little more about what it means to be part of this programme.

What is the Coffs Ambassadors programme?

Coffs Ambassadors Tours is a unique eco tourism programme that has tempted hundreds of locals and visitors to explore our wonderful scenery in the two years that it has been run by Coffs Harbour City Council.

The programme involves everyday people who have been trained through NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Coffs Harbour City Council to become volunteer guides, who run tours of particular areas of the Coffs Coast that they know and love.

Tours are run all year round by volunteer tour guides in Coffs Harbour, Coramba, Moonee, Sawtell, Toormina and Woolgoolga.

Coffs Ambassadors Tours is a partnership with Coffs Harbour Regional Landcare, Friends of the Botanic Gardens, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Solitary Islands Marine Park Association. The programme was initiated from a NSW Government Environmental Trust grant and is now fully funded by Council with assistance from its Environmental Levy Program.

So you are currently recruiting more Coffs Ambassadors Tour guides?

Council is now looking for volunteers to join the current team of Coffs Ambassadors in 2012.  We are looking for people who wish to share their passion and knowledge for our natural places, make new friends, have fun and learn new skills.

Anyone 18 years and over can become a volunteer tour guide. Obviously this is an outdoor activity so a general level of mobility and fitness is required.

What are the benefits of becoming a Coffs Ambassador?

Volunteer tour guides receive free training in:

• Interpretive Tour Guiding for Public Groups by NPWS Discovery Rangers and Solitary Islands Marine Park Education Officers;

• Aboriginal cultural awareness by Mark Flanders;

• accredited Senior First Aid; and

• reptile awareness by Steve McEwan.

This enables volunteers to develop their skills in tour guiding, designing and writing their own tour (interpretation), public speaking and occupational health and safety. Council provides accredited First Aid Training and ongoing support for each volunteer.  This includes opportunities to catch up with the whole Coffs Ambassadors team during team debriefing activities, additional training and – of course – the Christmas lunch.

Tell me about the new opportunities for Ambassadors in 2012

2012 provides an exciting opportunity for Coffs Ambassadors to develop tours along the proposed Solitary Islands Coastal Walk. The Walk, a joint project of Council, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Coffs Coast Regional Park will link Sawtell to Arrawarra when it opens in late 2012.

I hear that becoming an Ambassador can be a career stepping-stone?

Would-be guides should also be aware that becoming a Coffs Ambassador can be a stepping-stone to a new career – two Ambassadors volunteers have since found work as National Parks and Wildlife Service Discovery Rangers.

One of the Rangers, Kev Starkey, says: “Without the Coffs Ambassador programme, I wouldn’t have become a National Parks Discovery Ranger. The training I received as a Coffs Ambassador gave me the skills and confidence needed to gain employment as a Discovery tour guide.”

What other rewards are there for Ambassador Tour Guides?

Locals love the tours and are always giving the tour guides great feedback.

“I’ve lived here for 26 years and I never knew about this walk”

– Craig from Bonville.

“I only moved to Coffs Harbour a year ago, so these tours are a great way to get to know the area”

– Lesley from Korora.

During a recent “Koalas in our Backyard” Walk in Toormina, the tour guide and tour participants were thrilled to discover a koala with its baby on it’s back just a couple of metres above them in a gum tree.

Who can people contact if they are interested in becoming a Coffs Ambassador?

I’d encourage anyone who is interested to give me a call on 6648 4668 or email me at

erika.vanschellebeck@chcc.nsw.gov.au

as I’m more than happy to answer any questions about what’s involved.

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