ABC Open

(2015)

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My life on the Great Barrier Reef

By Islandjems ·

I take a breath, my head leaves the surface and I am transported to a different world where time slows down.

Tomorrow doesn’t matter here, the problems of everyday life are gone. When I dive, when I’m in the ocean, under the water, I feel the connection. I’m a part of everything around me.

I’m home.

My name is Jemma Craig. I’m 22 years old and I grew up on a Crocodile park situated on a tiny sand cay in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef.

The reef is my childhood, my legacy. Where ever I go in the world, it never leaves my heart, it calls to me. Everything is connected here – my family, my career, my passion, my dream. Growing up on a tiny island sets you apart from people you meet, it lets you believe in magic.

Green Island is where it all began.

The beach and the rain forest were my classroom, and Mother Nature, my teacher. All my primary education was done through home school of the air. My classmates were all kids that lived in unique situations, like children on rural cattle farms in the middle of the outback. My brother and I were the only two on an island.

I swam before I could walk, made friends with the fish and the seagulls, built stick empires in the rain forest and created anything a kid would ever need out of sand.

After moving to the city to complete high school, I have come home again to work for my parents at our crocodile zoo, looking after the crocs and leading the feeding tours. This is a place built by my family three generation ago. We have crocodiles in our blood and the ocean in our hearts.

I was never very good in social situations.

My brother and I were the only kids who lived on the island so learning to interact with other people properly was not something we knew how to do early on. But we knew other things. We felt like we had found the secret frequency of the Earth that only people who were willing to stay quiet and listen could understand.

It was quite shocking moving to Cairns and making friends with people who had no idea what I was talking about. It helped me realise I was truly privileged.

But I also want to help people realise how lucky they are in the lives they live.

Look around you.  We are so lucky to be Australian and, for those of you in Far North Queensland, this region has so much. You need to make the most of your life here.

It is a tropical valley nestled in mountains with the oldest rain forest on Planet Earth spilling out onto pristine beaches on one side. On the other side, there’s the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

People come from all over the world to visit this paradise. I feel there are too many locals missing out on the treasure in front of their eyes.

Too often, people tell me they’re bored and there is nothing to do, unhappy with their lives and the daily grind. Life is yours to create, why not create the best life you can with the things you’ve been given? Nature is abundant and free.

My message to people, through the experiences that I’ve had, is this happiness, this passion, is possible for anyone willing to chase a dream. Motivation is key. Trying new things; things that scare you, is a must.

You’re part of the Earth, part of the ocean, part of the universe. There’s a magic here and we need to fiercely protect and hold on to that.

Get outside.  Don’t let people blinded by money destroy the Great Barrier Reef.  Help them realise what they’re doing by shouting love at the top of your lungs.

Express, express, express what a beautiful life you have. Do it through photography, painting, writing, politics, running, hiking – anything… the choice is yours.

If we fill every corner of the universe with positivity, we will never be shy of it again.

My pet croc Cassius

By Islandjems ·

Cassius lives at Marineland Melanesia on Green Island, a tiny sand cay off the coast of Cairns, Queensland.

My family own a crocodile and aquatic zoo there. Gramps used to be a croc hunter in Papua New Guinea in the 60s. He’s 84 years old now, retired and living on Green Island along with about forty crocodiles, sea turtles, tropical fish, sharks and a bunch of marine animals and sea birds.

This is where I grew up as a kid. I literally lived on Green island until I was 12 years old.

All of my Primary schooling was done through Distance Education – School of the Air. My classmates were all kids that lived with unique situations, such as boys on rural cattle farms in the middle of the outback, or girls on tiny islands on the edge of the ocean.

I’m 22 years old now, and have gone home to work for my family for awhile, looking after the crocs and leading the feeding tours. My life is magic. I get paid to feed this beautiful animal on a tropical island!

I have a passion for photography, especially macro shots of animal’s faces – they’re just so fascinating. Crocodiles really are amazing animals, I could talk about them all day and frequently do at work.

Cassius was captured in the Finnis River in the Northern Territory of Australia and he has been in captivity for around thirty years now. My grandfather brought him down from NT in the back of a bus to come live in a tropical paradise.

Originally, he was targeted because he was reported to be attacking boats and actually ripping off people’s outboard motors, so he was deemed a bit of a troublemaker.

His age is a guess, but it is a very calculated and accurate guess. His activity, diet, scarring, immune system, size and teeth are all an indication of how long this guy has been around – around 110 years.

He has a lot of scars all up and down his body. He is missing a leg and six inches off the end of his tale. If only those eyes could speak – imagine the things this animal has seen.

At 5.48 metres long, he got the Guinness World Record in 2012 for the biggest crocodile in captivity. They drained his pool and measured him with a very long pole with a measuring tape attached to the end of it. He actually behaved surprisingly well!

He still holds that world record today and is also believed to be one of the oldest living crocodiles in existence.

Despite all of his injuries and his age, he is in very good condition and is living out his golden years on Green Island with everything he needs, along with people who love and care for him. I feel honored to be one of those people.

Who knows how much longer he will be around? Only time will tell.

ABC Open Contributor: Jemma Craig

This is why we dive

By Islandjems ·

 

“To me, the fish seemed endless, the water so clear. To swim was to fly. It was a different world, a kaledescope of colour and movement.”

My name is Jemma Craig, I’m 22 years old and I grew up on a Crocodile park situated on a tiny sand cay in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef.

This is my story… My Grandfather, George Craig, used to be a big name crocodile hunter in Papua New Guinea for many years. In 1972 he brought a big boatload of Crocs over to Green Island, which is where he set up Marineland Melanesia. Green Island is a pretty unique place, it’s actually the only Sand Cay on the Great Barrier Reef (out of about 300) with a rainforest growing on it. Located about 27 kilometers off the coast of Cairns, Green Island is now a popular tourist destination, averaging around 300,000 tourists a year.

I lived on Green Island until I was 12 years old and all of my Primary schooling was done through Distance Education – School of the Air. My classmates were all kids that lived with unique situations, such as boys on rural cattle farms in the middle of the outback, or girls on tiny islands in the middle of the ocean. My brother Billy and I were literally the only kids who lived on the island, so we kind of had to make our own fun (although that wasn’t hard). We swam before we could walk, we were friends with the fishes and the seagulls, we built stick empires in the rainforest and we created anything a kid would ever need out of sand.

After moving to the city to complete my high school education, I have now come home again to work for my parents for a while, looking after the crocs and leading the feeding tours. The Great Barrier Reef is truly beyond words, after 22 years I think it’s safe to say you could never get bored exploring it.

My passion is scuba diving, photography and travel/adventure blogging, so my dream is to use my online media following to allow me to travel blog all over the world full time and share my amazing experiences with everyone. I’m actually in the process of starting my own adventure blog for activities and adventures for motivated individuals. It’s not just about travel, it’ll have info on local camp spots and hiking trails, island activities, dive sites and which companies to choose, as well as reviews on all our local favorite tourist activities.

I also plan to eventually become a dive instructor and visit the best dive sites around the world. Next year I will begin my journey and travel to Thailand to complete my Dive Master course, one step before the instructor program.

I love underwater photography, especially macro shots of animals.

It’s hard to capture some of the things I’ve experienced, or to express the connection I feel to this place, and to the ocean. I’ve always been lucky, so I’m trying to give back in the only was I know how, by sharing my passion. Too many of my locals friends tell me how Cairns is so boring and how there is just nothing to do.

Here I am literally living my dream in one of the most unique and beautiful locations in the whole entire World. Cairns has so much. It is a beautiful tropical valley nestled in among gorgeous mountains, with the oldest rain forest on planet earth on one side, spilling out onto pristine beaches… and on the other side, a lagoon doorstep to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, not to mention the largest living organism – The Great Barrier Reef.

We have more reef and Islands than we know what to do with, we have thousands of unique wildlife, some incredible hikes, countless camping spots, waterfalls, creeks and swimming holes and some of the best mountain biking trails in Australia.

You can learn how to skydive and scuba dive and spear fish, you can meet people from cultures all over the world -learn languages, musical instruments and how to cook. So don’t tell me you’re bored and you’ve got nothing to do, all you need is to open your eyes, get outside, get back your motivation and START LIVING!

This is where magic happens

By Islandjems ·

My Grandfather, George Craig, used to be a wild crocodile hunter in Papua New Guinea for many years. In 1972 he brought a big boatload of Crocs over to Green Island, which is where he set up Marineland Melanesia. Green Island is a pretty unique place, it’s actually the only Sand Cay on the Great Barrier Reef (out of about 300) with a rain forest growing on it. Located about 27 kilometers off the coast of Cairns, Today Green Island is a popular tourist destination, averaging around 300,000 tourists a year. I think most people head out there for a bit of sun, surf and sand; so I imagine giant crocodiles are probably the last thing you would expect to see in among the sand dunes.

I lived on Green Island until I was 12 years old and all of my Primary schooling was done through Distance Education – School of the Air. My classmates were all kids that lived with unique situations, such as boys on rural cattle farms in the middle of the outback, or girls on tiny islands in the middle of the ocean. My brother Billy and I were literally the only kids who lived on the island, so we kind of had to make our own fun (although that wasn’t hard). We swam before we could walk, we were friends with the fishes and the seagulls, we built stick empires in the rain forest and we created anything a kid would ever need out of sand.

After moving to the city to complete my high school education, I have now come home again to work for my parents for a while, looking after the crocs and leading the feeding tours. My family has given me the gift of a huge appreciation for the natural wonder that is sitting on our doorstep. Working with animals is fantastic. Crocodiles truly are amazing animals, not to mention the location is great! I love working in the tourism industry. It has given me a real appreciation for culture and travel. The Great Barrier Reef is truly beyond words, after 22 years I think it’s safe to say you could never get bored exploring it. I’d say growing up there has had something to do with it, but I’ve always felt such a huge connection to the ocean.

My passion is scuba diving, photography and travel/adventure blogging, so my dream is to use my online media following to allow me to travel blog full time and share my amazing experiences with everyone. I also plan to eventually become a dive instructor and visit the best dive sites around the world.

I have experienced many challenges and incredible moments growing up and working in such a unique place with my closest family. It hasn’t always been easy and working with family is definitely tricky, but I will keep it with me forever. It’s hard to capture some of the things I’ve experienced, or to express the connection I feel to this place, and to the ocean. I think a lot of locals forget how lucky we are to live in such an incredible part of the world. If you haven’t seen the Great Barrier Reef, do it today and do it as often as possible. There is literally nothing else like it. I’ve always been lucky, so i’m trying to give back in the only way I know how, by sharing my passion. Maybe I can inspire others to come find magic for themselves.