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I will be forever thankful to Craig Kitson for giving me my first job as a marine tourism charter boat skipper driving a glass bottom boat. Having a qualification to drive a commercial vessel is one thing, but actually being trusted to drive a boat for the first time is a big thing, to me it was huge.

Craig taught me to drive the vessel Reef Viewer in the Tantabiddi Sanctuary, plus give a full commentary for the duration of the tours. I was a little nervous to live up to his amazing rendition of the speech, but I found my own way eventually with time.

I even learned a few things about the marine life in the Ningaloo Marine Park. Did you know that in the anemone fish world, the largest one is always the female and all the rest of the fish are males? The second largest will turn into a female and take over the harem of males if something happens to the female and she disappears from the school!

Running Coral Viewing tours was more rewarding than I could have imagined. I always thought I would miss being in the water with the people, but to see the look of amazement on the faces of the guests who visited the World Heritage Listed Ningaloo Reef and saw the underwater world for the first time was so rewarding.

The first order of the day was to ready the vessel and meet the guests for the 1 hour Coral Viewing cruise at 9am. I’d then do a safety brief and off we’d go to see the Ningaloo Reef, more specifically the Tantabiddi Sanctuary. Almost 30% of the reef is sanctuary and the corals here are spectacular.

The second tour was 2 hours long, the same Coral Viewing tour as the morning but with a 30-40 minute snorkel on the Ningaloo Reef. Perfect for families where only some like swimming.

Sharing years of knowledge about the Ningaloo Reef and its inhabitants, the Cape Range, and the history of the area was second nature to me already, and to successfully run a tour showing people a window into the sea was a quiet personal achievement for me.

I knew I finally aced it when I could find Nemo the Australian Anemone fish, Big Bad Barry the giant Qld Grouper, Cyril the White Tip reef shark, and a turtley cool turtle!

I’ve got to say it wasn’t easy learning to be friends with the wind. It took some time but we got there in the end. My husband Shaine told me if I can master driving Reef Viewer, I’ll be able to drive any boat. He was a huge help too in my training days. Thanks Shaine.

I’ll never forget the glassy mornings with not a breath of wind, the first time a dolphin swam under the glass, and the collective excitement of the guests when we find a turtle under the glass bottom boat. Those were the best days!

Not everyone wants to get in, or can physically get into the ocean to enjoy it. It’s so important for people to be connected to the sea.

It’s our job to preserve the reef for future generations and educating guests to the World Heritage Listed Ningaloo Reef is a vital part.

I want to thank Craig & Bec Kitson for giving me the opportunity to run a glass bottom boat tour, for welcoming me to their family, and for helping do their part to preserve the Ningaloo Reef. You are both truly beautiful people.

About Danielle Middleton

“Teaching people about the underwater world, and sharing adventures on the sea is what I was born to do!”

Danielle Middleton
Dive Instructor, Skipper and Tour Host – Exmouth, Western Australia

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