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Wild ecotourism experience approved for Great Ocean Road

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A new ecotourism attraction, which allows visitors to experience the unique environment of the Otways up-close and predator-free, has been given the go-ahead by Colac Otway Shire Council.

Based on a spectacular 20 Ha property just west of Apollo Bay, the attraction will be the first of its kind on the Great Ocean Road. It’s expected to create at least 30 permanent jobs, and the profits will be reinvested into the Conservation Ecology Centre’s research and conservation activities in the Otways.

“We want visitors to the area to be able to experience the Otways truly vibrant with wildlife,” said Lizzie Corke, Conservation Ecology Centre CEO.

“Accompanied by a qualified conservationist guide, small groups of visitors will experience a beautifully restored area, where koalas doze in the treetops, potoroos and bandicoots forage on the ferny forest floors and kangaroos hop along the horizon against a spectacular ocean vista.”

Visitors will be able to see native wildlife behaving naturally – at liberty within the protected habitat area. There are no cages – the visitors share space with the animals as they walk through stunning bushland along designed paths and raised walks, against the backdrop of the Southern Ocean.

They’ll have unsurpassed opportunities to observe and photograph the iconic animals of the area and will experience the Otways as it once was, and could be again – abundant and vibrant with wildlife. The qualified and engaging guides will share the secrets of the bush, the animals and the ecosystems, and visitors will learn about the conservation programs that are protecting this precious wildlife.

The experience will be designed and created by Brian Massey who was the Greens Master for ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, Art Director of ‘The Hobbit’ and designer of the highly successful ‘Hobbiton’ in New Zealand. In addition to the walking path, the project includes a themed ‘field-research base’; visitor arrivals building; and a café and retail outlet showcasing local products.

“This immersive experience will engage visitors and the local community alike in conservation issues, at the same time generating significant funding wildlife and ecosystem conservation across the region,” said Lizzie Corke.

Colac Otway Shire Council’s Mayor Chris Potter said Council was committed to developing the shire’s visitor economy.

“This project is sustainable and builds on the nature-based tourism that the Colac Otway Shire has a growing reputation for,” Cr Potter said. “Council was thrilled to work with the Conservation Ecology Centre on this innovative and sustainable project.”

“The Centre has a strong track record in ecotourism operations and is ideally placed to engage both visitors and our local community in conservation to the benefit of our overall region. I’d like to congratulate Lizzie and her team for their continued commitment not just to our region, but the environment that makes it so special.”

The venture will generate at least 45 jobs during construction and 30 new full-time positions in both ecotourism and conservation once operational, resulting in significant ongoing employment and career development opportunities. All surplus generated through the venture will support conservation of region’s flora and fauna.

The project will also receive $557,962 in funding from the Federal Government’s Tourism Demand Driver Infrastructure (TDDI) programme. Read the Minister’s release here.

The attraction is expected to open in December 2018.

Conservation Ecology Centre CEO Lizzie Corke with Colac Otway Shire CEO Sue Wilkinson (L) and Mayor Chris Potter (R)

Banner photo: Doug Gimesy