The Small World Journeys Team – About Us

The Only Tour Operator in Queensland Dedicated Solely to Educational Student Tours

You are a group organiser or a teacher who looks for a trip with depth.  A trip that introduces you to local people, local customs and the wonders of the natural world.  A trip that you walk away from feeling dazzled, surprised and educated. Congratulations, you’ve found the company that can give you those things and more.

Winner of a 2016 State Tourism Award and 2017 Cassowary Award

Logo Cassowary Awards 2017

2016 Queensland Tourism Awards bronze

We are proud to say Small World Journeys received a state-level bronze tourism award in Specialised Tourism Services. We are also the honored recipient of the 2017 Tourism and Presentation Cassowary Award. Additionally, Small World was a finalist in the the 2018 Cairns Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards.

Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners

We humbly acknowledge Aboriginal People and Torres Strait Islander People as the first inhabitants of Australia and acknowledge Traditional Owners of the lands where we work and our groups travel.

Look at the Cool People On Our Team!

Our guides are smarty-pants! We feel it’s important for your guide to be not just knowledgeable, but the kind of person you’d want as your travelling companion. While we have naturalists, storytellers, PhDs, entertainers, biologists, field-guide authors and indigenous people in our diverse collection of educators and guides, we are also proud of the kind of people they are – those who are passionate about the natural world, and who want to share their enthusiasm with you.

Laurie Pritchard - Managing Director & Disco Queen

Laurie Pritchard - Managing Director & Disco Queen

Laurie was raised in the United States but her heart belongs to Australia. Educated at the Cranbrook-Kingswood School and the University of South Florida and L’Institut de Touraine in France, Laurie also held a university teaching post in mainland China. A love of the outdoors led to 12 years working for and developing adventure trips for organisations like The World Outdoors, Adventures Cross-Country and People to People Student Ambassador Programs in the USA, and RnR Adventures in Australia. Laurie was a field instructor for the Outward Bound School, leading educational wilderness expeditions for disadvantaged and at-risk youth and she was also the Wilderness Director for Oak Creek Ranch School. She holds a Diploma of Tourism from Far North Queensland TAFE, and is a certified Bronze Medallion. Laurie has traveled to over 40 countries, and her articles about travel have appeared in magazines such as Transitions Abroad, Real Travel and on The Travel Channel’s World Hum. In 2017, she was the regional winner for Institute of Manager and Leaders’ Owner/Entrepreneur category, and was named the CBWC Cairns Small Business Woman of the Year.

Rachael MacLeod - Tour Specialist & Turtle Whisperer

Rachael MacLeod - Tour Specialist & Turtle Whisperer

Rachael is our Queensland queen:  having been born and raised in the Sunshine State, she is an outback girl at heart.  With a diploma in Event Management from James Cook University, Rachael is a planner extraordinaire.  She has organised functions, festivals and major events from wedding expos to school camps from Towoomba to Cairns. Rachael also honed her skills with young people after obtaining a Certificate III in Youth Work and facilitating regional youth programs for Council. She continued on working in tourism and hospitality, finding her niche as Function & Events Manager at the world’s oldest and largest operating woolshed of its kind.  Rachael had fun for over four years organising schools and groups on day visits and multi-day stays at this historic venue, where students could learn damper making and Australian history, witness blacksmithing and beekeeping and of course, watch the sheep shearing.  Whereas once Rachael’s wild side involved her in amateur competition drag racing, she now prefers camping, hiking, and training for Cairns Ironman and other running events.  Rachael is also an active volunteer at the Fitzroy Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, helping sick and injured turtles, and is on the Cairns and Far North Environmental Centre Marine Response Team.

Deb Ieiri - Groups Coordinator & Mistress of Order

Deb Ieiri - Groups Coordinator & Mistress of Order

Deb earned a Bachelor’s degree in Administration (major in International Trade), Certificate IV in Information Technology, and a diploma in Business Management from Sydney’s Homes Institute.  She worked as an assistant manager and then as Administration Manager at a bustling Sydney restaurant, however, Deb fell in love with Far North Queensland.  She moved to Cairns where she worked as Office Administrator for a busy tour company until she found her way to us.  In her former life in Brazil, where she was born, Deb worked as an admin assistant in the international division of The Bank of Brazil– Latin America´s largest financial institution. She also spent a short time working as a travel agent in Argentina. Her travels have taken her extensively through Southeast Asia, Europe, South America and around Australia.  She has lived in both Queenstown and Mt. Maunganui in New Zealand, and recently completed her SCUBA diving certification.

Amber Vallance - Groups Coordinator & Marine Naturalist/Mermaid

Amber Vallance - Groups Coordinator & Marine Naturalist/Mermaid

Amber holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Management as well as a Certificate IV in Tourism (Guiding and Operations).  She spent several years as a travel consultant for Flight Centre, organising travel within Australia and overseas. Her love of the reef drew her to the Lizard Island Resort Marine Department, where she worked for a couple of years as the island’s naturalist. It was here Amber sharpened her skills in reef interpretation, giving tours in kayaks as well as the glass bottom boat. On land, Amber led interpretive walks on the national park trails and gave evening presentations on Far North Queensland’s terrestrial and marine environments.  Amber also spent almost a year on the inner Great Barrier Reef at Green Island as an eco-guide and activities officer, helping people learn about the island and reef ecology.  Sick and injured turtles received Amber’s care as a volunteer at the Fitzroy Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Amber is a certified Adventure Diver—with over 70 dives under her belt—who has explored the undersea world in locations such as Thailand, the Maldives and the Philippines.  Amber has worked in both Canada and Korea, and her travels have taken her to the far-flung corners of the globe, from the USA to Europe to Southeast Asia.

Libby Kennedy - Admin Extraordinaire

Libby Kennedy - Admin Extraordinaire

As a highly focused and scrupulous administration queen at Small World, Libby dots our i’s and crosses our t’s.  Having worked at St. Mary’s College for nearly ten years, Libby is used to an educational environment. Teachers depended on her to organise and prepare materials and resources for the delivery of curriculum and activities as well as coordinate events like presentation evenings. Before her work at the high school, Libby calmly and patiently carried out consulting work with perhaps the most volatile of all clients: brides.  She also honed her skills at the Queensland Ambulance service in both the Customer Service and Community Education departments. Libby can count “wedding singer” as one of her many talents.  In addition to visiting almost all of Australia’s states, she has also travelled to the USA. Libby is Cairns region born and bred, and lives with her husband and two children.

Rick Hall - Guide & Rubber Spider Tamer

Rick Hall - Guide & Rubber Spider Tamer

As a former researcher for the Wet Tropics Management Authority, Rick has spent many years up close to Australian fauna. He was involved with frog monitoring and mammal surveys, which eventually led to his profession as a naturalist. Rick also conducted extensive field research and interpretation programs on sea turtle biology at the Mon Repos Turtle Rookery. Rick is a true-blue Aussie bloke born and bred in Queensland, and he knows the Aussie “bush” intimately. Having worked as a full time naturalist guide from the coast to the outback for many years, Rick is also a superb generalist with an enthusiasm for camping, teaching, and working with young people. Working with companies such as Australian Wild Escapes and Wilderness Eco Safaris further honed his group management and “tour guiding” skills. His travels have taken him through South America and Papua New Guinea, and his time with Australia’s Indigenous people created a fondness for playing the didgeridoo.

George Woodleigh - Guide & Joke Master

George Woodleigh - Guide & Joke Master

George is a Cairns-area local, with his Aboriginal ancestry (Yidinji) tracing back thousands of years in this region.  George has explored almost every inch of Queensland, from the rainforests of the Wet Tropics to the tip of Cape York Peninsula.  He has worked as a tour guide, public servant and even ran his own coach touring business. George loves teaching visitors about Australian flora, fauna, and biodiversity, and he is especially fond of teaching young people about his culture.  George has three grown children and lives with his wife Alice, and loves both rugby league and country music. He has travelled to far flung locations such as the Philippines, and the home of country music, Nashville USA.

Kylie Michell - Sydney Guide & Italiaphile

Kylie Michell - Sydney Guide & Italiaphile

Kylie is our Sydney-based guide: she loves showing visitors the hidden and unusual corners of Sydney, and her two children keep her busy discovering more. Kylie got her start as a guide in 1994 with Contiki which gave her a sound background in managing groups of young people and an intimate knowledge of Australia’s entire east coast. Kylie then went on to train tour guides for Contiki’s head office in Sydney, and even taught tour guiding at an adult college. Kylie studied mass communications at Macquarie University in Sydney, and obtained her NAATI accreditation as an interpreter which has led to work in Italian as well as French. Kylie has also recently completed a course on the colonial history of Sydney, which has added a new dimension to her knowledge of the city. Although Kylie spent her youth in Florence, Italy, having attended the American School there, she is an Aussie through and through. Consequently, Kylie is just as comfortable sipping a cappuccino at a cafe as a beer in a country pub.

Yann Levieux - Guide & Baguette Baker

Yann Levieux - Guide & Baguette Baker

Originally from Brittany in northwest France, Yann came to Australia in the 1990s inspired by his love of sailing and by the tropics. In 1985, he pursued his dream of sailing around the world. By crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a French 3 mast old rigging and then in 1986 on a luxury yacht through the Pacific Ocean, Yann joined the America’s Cup’s yacht racing organisation. In 1988 he came back to Australia to represent France on another French old rigging for the celebration of the Australian bicentenary. Enamoured by Australia, Yann decided with his family to permanently move to Queensland’s Far North. Yann has been working in the Cairns region now for more than 20 years, teaching visitors about both the sea and the rainforest. Yann is an accredited guide through the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WETMA), a highly regarded certification, as well as a lifeguard. He and his wife divide their time between living on their yacht and in their house in the middle of the rainforest.

Emma Cooke - Guide & Glee Goddess

Emma Cooke - Guide & Glee Goddess

Emma grew up in Melbourne, but her love of nature took her out of the city often as a child. Emma studied at both Monash University (Bachelor of Arts) and at James Cook University in Cairns (Australian Literature and Australian History) with a focus on early European and Indigenous Australian contact and early European perception of the rainforest. Emma began guiding in 1996 working for Jungle Tours in the Cairns region, taking young backpackers on adventures in the rainforest. At this point, Emma earned the distinction of being the only female trekking guide in north Queensland! In addition, Emma managed a lodge in the Cairns Highlands that provided nature walks & hiking, canoeing, wildlife spotting. Her interests include indigenous affairs – including Aboriginal civil rights within the Australian political landscape. Her travels have taken her around the world, solo hiking and camping in remote Europe, post-communist Russia and the Baltic States.  When she is not guiding, Emma teaches tourism at TAFE College in Cairns.

 

Bess Murphy - Guide & Mangrove Mamma

Bess Murphy - Guide & Mangrove Mamma

Bess is a shining star in environmental science.  Having won the Howard Worner Prize in Environmental Science, the Allan Sefton Memorial Prize for best (environmental science) graduate at the University of Wollongong and the Crozcare Geological Prize relating to soils, landscape and hydrology, she is well suited to teach students about our natural world.  Her love of working with students manifested in a private tutoring position for HSC Biology, and later for first year university biology students at the University of Wollongong.  Bess has also worked as a research assistant for both the Bathurst School of Teacher education at Charles Sturt University and in Faculty of Teacher Education at the University of Wollongong (and Faculty of Biological Sciences at UOW). The study of mangrove systems continues to hold her interest. Since 2008 Bess has worked tirelessly on rainforest regeneration at Garriya Nature Reserve and together with her partner, she also grows sustainable timber. Bess has been nominated for an FNQ Handmade Industry award for the jewelry she makes from the timber offcuts.   Her travels have taken her extensively around Australia, from temperate savanna to the tropics.

Leanne Hayter - Sydney Guide & Singer

Leanne Hayter - Sydney Guide & Singer

Lee has Sydney in her blood.  She has volunteered as an “Aquarist” at the Sydney Aquarium, worked as a trainer at Taronga Zoo to teach employees about tour excellence, and developed and delivered tours focusing on Aboriginal and colonial heritage for the Paramatta City Council.  She continues her work at Taronga Zoo conducting guided tours and assisting on educational programs for young people. As an active member of the Professional Tour Guide Association Australia (PTGAA) and Guiding Organisation Australia (GOA), Lee has made it her life to introduce visitors to the wonders of Australia.  Lee has a Certificate IV in guiding, a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and a Certificate III in Tourism under her belt. She serves as board member of Savannah Guides, and has attended guide training schools from the Wet Tropics to the eastern cape of South Africa.  One of her many talents is organising volunteer activities for school holidays and special events. When Lee is not guiding visitors around Sydney, she is rocking out with her bass guitar and her band Something Else Trio.

Elise Chatterton - Guide & Hula Hoop Guru

Elise Chatterton - Guide & Hula Hoop Guru

Elise is a champion in community service.  She served as the Community Engagement Officer for Cairns and Far North Environment Centre (CAFNEC), coordinating volunteers to help out in the community. She is also a project coordinator for Cairns Community Kitchen and helps REAP Cairns with collecting surplus food from businesses and delivering it to local charities and schools. Elise got her start working with young people as a coach of soccer, cricket, AFL and circus skills with Active After School Communities (AASC). Elise holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology from James Cook University, and has supported the university’s data collection efforts as a research assistant at the Daintree Rainforest Observatory.  She also assisted the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary to help protects some of the largest remaining populations of many endangered species like Bilbies, Numbats & Gouldian Finches. Elise continues to support JCU and the WWF in their Northern Bettong Project, setting up field sites, handling animals and recording data.  Her conservation work has also taken her to South Africa to a game reserve.

Libby Rawley - Marine Biologist & Friend of Jellyfish

Libby Rawley - Marine Biologist & Friend of Jellyfish

Libby holds a Bachelor’s Degree–with first class honours–in marine biology from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. She made geography a minor area of study at the university as well.  Now after taking a couple of years away from her academic studies to freelance as a marine biologist throughout the southern hemisphere, her deep desire for warmer waters and all things venomous has brought her to Cairns. She currently is in the midst of her PhD studies looking into the ecology of box jellyfish at James Cook University. When not submerged in the sea, she can be found with a camera in one hand and binoculars in the other, chasing the birds of the Far North. Libby has spent time as a research assistant at Ningaloo Reef as well as a conservational biologist with Conservation Volunteers, both in Western Australia. SCUBA diving is one of her passions.

Dom Drotini - Guide and Kava Captain

Dom Drotini - Guide and Kava Captain

Having worked as both a sea kayaking and canyoning guide out of Cairns, Dom is an amphibious teacher with a passion for both the marine environment and The Wet Tropics.  Dom is especially fond of working with young people, and has spent time conducting lengthy sea kayaking expeditions for school kids. With a view to improving the fishing industry and promoting sustainable practices, Dom started a commercial harvest dive operation in 2005.  For ten years he worked from Cooktown to Papua New Guinea, managing a dive team that sourced marine products. Dom honed his bush and survival skills as a marine army reservist, operating unassisted in small teams on some of Australia’s most remote stretches of coast and islands.  Dom’s childhood was spent between Australia and Fiji, home of his father’s people, and takes pride in knowing both cultures intimately.

Abbi Scott - Marine Biologist & Seagrass Sprite

Abbi Scott - Marine Biologist & Seagrass Sprite

Having obtained both her Bachelor’s and Masters Degree in marine biology, Abbi is now completing her PhD to be a marine biologist superstar.  Her PhD focuses on the importance of seagrass as a food source for herbivores on the Great Barrier Reef and the impacts herbivory can have on seagrass meadows.  As a research assistant, Abbi also plans, organises and leads surveys at field experiments in the marine environment.  She has trained more than 300 volunteers in marine identification and surveying during her time as a research assistant. Abbi is a certified BSAC snorkel guide, a trained dive master and we secretly suspect, a mermaid.

Special Speakers and Instructors

Special Speakers and Instructors

We are proud to have arranged speakers like Astrophysicist & Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt and Astronomer Duane Hamacher (Part of the Aboriginal Astronomy Project at Macquarie University) to speak exclusively to Small World Journeys’ groups in Cairns for the total solar eclipse in November 2012.  Noted scientist and venomologist Jaime Seymour and Dr. Lynne Kelly, author of The Memory Code, have been speakers on Small World Journeys tours as well.  Whenever possible, we find top-notch experts in their field to match your educational goals.

 

g-ecologist

Our Vision, Mission and Core Values

Our Vision, Mission and Core Values

Our vision is to be Australia’s premier provider of youth education outside the classroom, and our mission is to connect young people to community, culture and nature through exceptional tours.  Our core values are:

  • Absolute Integrity
  • Passion for Education
  • Supreme Organisation
  • Unfailing Support of Staff and Guests
  • Commitment to Sustainability
Our Logo - By Aboriginal Artist Colin Higgins

Our Logo - By Aboriginal Artist Colin Higgins

We were inspired by the beautiful artwork of local indigenous artist Colin Higgins – painter and musician. We commissioned Colin for the use of his painting (symbolizing the world in the dry season) and are grateful for his contribution.

 

Our Disco Ball

Our Disco Ball

Our office disco ball reminds us to dance when we get good news, develop cool new activities, or receive excellent feedback from our groups.  If you join us on a trip, ask us to show you our moves.