With 2017 declared as the year of Australian/Chinese tourism,Â we reached outÂ to speak to a local tourism operator dedicated to providing a unique experience for Chinese tourists.Â ‘Lunch’ runsÂ Goin’ Off Safaris – a day tour business which takes visitorsÂ on unforgettable sights and activities around Port Lincoln. His backyard is not far from Adelaide and home to raw undiscovered beauty and a plethora of wildlife experiences. He’s such a great character – we’re going to have him explain theÂ region and Goin’ Off Safaris inÂ his own words.
We have been business since 2005.
Whoâ€™s in the business?
We are just a very small family operation which involves myself, partner Mandy and our young kids get involved as well. We have another twoÂ casual guides and Mandy’s mum does a lot of catering for us. Small is good!
Tell us a bit about yourself!
There’s not too much to say here. I’m just a country bloke who dipped his toes into tourism a few years ago as a bit of a hobby and a diversification from our farm and grain growing business. EightÂ years later, we are running this business full time from Port Lincoln and meeting people from all over the world which is a bit different from operating large farming machinery or shearing sheep all day! I’m very fortunate to be brought up in this magnificent area and spent a large part of myÂ youth exploring the coastline, fishing, camping etc. Â We are sharing these types of experiences with many others andÂ showcasing the region in 4W Drives, boats, helicopters and having a lot of fun.
Why are you called Lunch?
It’s quite a long story, so you will need to come on one of our 3 day trips to get the full understanding of the nickname
How does Goin’ Off get full marks on Trip Advisor?
The people that I have tried to bribe in the past, never owned a computer so that didn’t work. I’m a big believer in customer service and what our guests experience is not onlyÂ interacting with wildlife, walking on beautiful beaches or tasting the best seafood, there is also a lot of fun, history & education about everything in the area. Because our tours are very personalised, we get to know ourÂ customers very well and this quickly builds up a relationship.
Whatâ€™s your secret?
We want people to be talking about us and what we do, in a positive way. So people are coming to Port Lincoln to experience what we do and they want to know all about the place. So with every thing that we can do and show off here in one of Australia’s best kept secrets, it’s pretty easy to enjoy a tour with us. Again, its the personalised touch that you cannot advertise as well as the open spaces, the fresh clean sea air and the friendliness of the locals which are all added bonuses that our guests really appreciate.
Tell us a bit about your backyard.
OurÂ “backyard” is like no other. We are blessed that we have yet to be discovered in the world of tourism so our coastline is just as raw, natural and rugged as when Matthew Flinders first found it by ship in 1802. Its a beautiful place with wide open spaces, diverse landscapes and incredible beaches which you pretty much have all to your self! The local people are full of character, genuine, friendly and I think that our fairly casual lifestyle makes this a great place to live.
WhenÂ do you operate and when are the best months of the year to enjoy it?
We operate all year round Â Every month is a great time to visit Port Lincoln. My favourite time is in spring when the weather starts to warm up, the wildlife is everywhere as are the wild flowers, the huge area of farmers canola crops are bright & golden yellow as they flower, the seafood is at its most premium, we can light a fire anywhere and the scenery & beaches are just superb! In saying that, I also love the the heat of the summer -Â it can get hot but luckily we can always find a secluded & remote rock pool to wallow around or jump into the surf of the Southern Ocean to cool off. Also February to June are an excellent time to visit.
So yep, pretty much all year round is excellent!
What activities do you offer?
We offer a huge range of options for our guests here from fishing packages to the adrenaline seeking adventurer, from the outdoor and active traveller, to those that just want a break in life and search for the finer things like wines, in-house massages and local boutique foods.
We have agricultural based tours incorporating our 5000 acre family grain farm using modern technology and machinery and visitors can alsoÂ see behind the scene workings of the local fisherman’s catch in the factory. Paddock to plate, hunting and gathering. Whether it’s on land, at sea or in the air, the Eyre Peninsula is a region of outstanding bio-diversity. Highly regarded as “Natures Playground”, this is the only place in the world where you can safely swim with Australian Sea-lions, Bottlenose dolphins and the oceans most feared predator – Great White Sharks, all in their natural environment.
On land and in and around stunning National Parks, encounter kangaroos, koalas, emus, wombats and amazing bird life. The wildlife is diverse and there are many opportunities to see unique and rare native species at play with many endangered species found in parks and roaming around in the wild! In a nutshell, we can customise an itinerary to suit the individual, family or group but to make decisions easier for you, we have carefully designed 3 totally different packages and also 2 outstanding Day Trips for those thatÂ want a quick snippet of the regionÂ – this is an Australian experience like no other!
IsÂ your business serious about attracting the Chinese tourist?
We’re serious about attracting all international markets but the language barrier has made us learn to be patient.
When did this opportunity first get on your radar?
We were fortunate enough to host Chinese media in 2013 and then some travel agents which is where we first noticed the potential through the eyes of these guests and from then inÂ October 2014,Â we started to get families and groups of Chinese over to Port Lincoln. I can still remember the first week of this month, we had a group of 8 and then as soon as they left, a group of 23 friends & family rolled in! That was pretty much the kick start we needed to really see where we were at with these type of tourists. We had an enormous amount of fun, developed a great relationship with everyone and they just loved everything about the trip that we planned for them so everything has snowballed from that week in October!
Why do you think Chinese tourists love your neck of the woods so much?
I think it is because of theÂ raw beauty of the region for one. As soon as we pick the guests up from the airport, they are gasping at what they see. I know that they are genuinely excited, so when we turn off onto a dirt road through some beautiful country with the Boston Bay as a back drop, I also get a buzz because little do they know that I will have a kangaroo eating out of their hands in the next 10 minutes!
The extra beauty here is that the animal farm where I will take them as a first stopover, is that this farm is open range, spread out and they will pretty much have the place to themselves to hand feed all types of animals including koalas, emus, native birds, rabbits, Guiana pigs, chooks, alpacas, ostrich, camels, sheep, cows, pigsÂ andÂ donkeys. It’s a great start to the trip! We also see a plethora of wildlife such as kangaroos, emus, koalas as we drive along in the National Parks and even throughout the town of Coffin Bay and on the beaches. To interact with these animals plus getting really close up andÂ personal with Great White Sharks in a cage or to swim with sea lions & tuna is also a great attraction.
The lack of other people isÂ certainly an attraction. We can take you to one of the worlds best beaches & there won’t be anyone elseÂ there. The openness is certainly a great attribute to have. I love going out to catch a fish or peel an abalone off the rock with these small groups and to cook this up within an hour of being caught – it’s reallyÂ something pretty special.
Speaking of seafood, this is certainly a large reason why we are attracting this market. We are known as the seafood capital of Australia for that exact reason, so going outÂ sampling, catching or even purchasing the freshest & best seafood around is always well received. And, as we have many connections within the seafood industry, we actually take our guests through processing sheds like fish, mussels, lobster, tuna, abalone and oysters so that they can see where the produce comes from and how it gets to the plate. There are some great stories here!
Tell us about any magic moments youâ€™ve encountered.
There are many! Like drinking potent Chinese liquor with the male counterparts of ourÂ first Chinese group in October 2014. There wasÂ a lot of toasting going on that evening so itÂ was eventful! We’ve also hosted many Chinese singers, actors & celebrities who were part of media famils. They were not recognised here, so I think they really relaxed a lot.
We hosted aÂ family in which we had a bigÂ budget to put together an amazing itinerary. This included flying 2 large helicopters along the coastline of the Great Australian Bight and along the way we dropped on down to a secluded andÂ remote beach (there are a few of these around!) and pulled out the fishing rods and caught some big salmon and played around on some massive sand dunes spendingÂ some time sand-boarding. From here we went up to Baird Bay and swam with sealions andÂ dolphins with a mate of mine who runs interactive tours. This was all first class and very adventurous!
One of our very best wildlife experiences was with a very popular young diva who came to visit us with her friend. I didn’t know that she was actually quite famous back in China and amongst some other guest, she started singing in our 4WD as we drove out to see some koalas in the wild -Â her voice was beautiful. We had a bit of luck as once we got to our location, I spotted a very healthy koala eating leaves from the ground, having lunch! We very carefully approached this koala who just chomped away at the leaves with no fuss at all. Our new friend was gently stroking the koalas head andÂ then started singing this most beautifulÂ song to the koala in just an incredible moment to all that witnessed it. The song was a traditional Chinese ballad and we were lucky enough to film it! You don’t normally see koalas on the ground like this so that also made it special. Seeing the genuine smiles of our guests throughout the days are always magic to me!
What feedback have you heard from your China guests?
We have many great testimonials and I guess the biggest feedback is having repeat visitors and also friends andÂ families from people that have travelled here with us.
Is there any difference to the way a Chinese tourist appreciates your backyard?
I think that they sometimes approach booking trips to the region with a bit of caution. I say caution because the region is not yet a big tourist destination so they have not heard a great deal about it, versus other more well known regions in South Australia like Kangaroo Island. So they probably don’t really know what to expect. But when they can get a world class andÂ authentic Australian experience withoutÂ other buses full of tourists around, they certainly appreciate the freedom and the laid-back lifestyle we are accustomed to. I guess it’s a bit of a strange experience for them as manyÂ guests have come from a city of millions of people. To sit on a beautiful beach or pat a koala in the wild with just us there is a dream come true. I would like to think that the historical andÂ educational side of our tours is also appreciated. We’ve noticed our Chinese friends are very interested and knowledgeable about history!
What do you do to promote your business to the China market?
We regularly use Wechat and have found that it is our most powerful marketing tool. We post our guests experiences on a regular basis. Being Chinese ready is very important and we are continuing trying to better ourselves in this way so that we can offer better services. I have previously engaged a consultant in Adelaide whom we befriended and his company has been an enormous help to us. We have been well guided by them to engage the Chinese market, so that has been a great investment. We have a local Mandarin guide andÂ translator working with usÂ andÂ we have itineraries in Mandarin. Very shortly, our website and digital brochure will also be translated. Over the last 6 months we did a “Spring special” and Chinese New Year package in Mandarin which was well received. I also try to get to as many Chinese workshops as possible to learn more about the culture and what we need to do to understand this market better. Lastly, we are also trying to learn the language as well but this is work in progress!
Do you feel the local tourism organisations/government support you in promoting to China?
Yes, they have been very good but I guess until we have regular departures with greater numbers, we won’t be satisfied! We have been providing transport for government delegations that have visited the region of lateÂ andÂ have hosted many other famils via the South Australian Tourism Commission and there is currently a ‘buy one get one free’ initiative with the Chinese/International Uni Students & SATC to attract this market. It’s a superb deal.
Can it be done better?
Absolutely. I would definitely like to see increasedÂ promotion of our region to the greater market instead ofÂ the normal andÂ easier sell that pushes regions closer to Adelaide. This would be a much fairer spread. Most people don’t know or realise that Port Lincoln is just a 40 minute flight from Adelaide and that there are 10 flights per day with 2 carriers. Within 15 minutes of arriving, I can have a kangaroo eating out of your hand or swimming with wild tuna and you cannot do this anywhere else in the world! So it’s about educating people about what we have on the doorstep of Adelaide andÂ in particular, with our sister city relationship with Shandong province. We need more China direct flights!
Goin’ Off SafarisÂ Website for itinerary information
Contact Lunch at Goin’ Off Safaris
0428 877 488 (from within Australia)
+61 428 877 488 (from outside Australia)