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.

Our Story

Owners Peter and Laurie met by chance when both were stranded at the Tokyo airport in 2002 when a massive typhoon prevented them from flying out. They were married a year later and the seeds for Small World Journeys were planted. Through their travels in Europe, Asia, North America and the islands of Oceania together, Peter and Laurie have seen how travels can be transformational, and how the human connection transcends race and borders. It is their dream to inspire this sense of connection – to Australia’s people and places—in every guest. Indeed, it is a small world.

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 Who Work For Us!

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

Laurie Pritchard - Managing Director

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 named the CBWC Cairns Small Business Woman of the Year.

Pete Pritchard - IT Manager/Guide

Pete Pritchard - IT Manager/Guide

Growing up in Australia, Peter spent his young life riding waves, walking barefoot, and playing guitar. A professional music career then blossomed, and he played gigs up and down the coast of Australia. With higher education calling, Peter left music to get a degree at Griffith University, and soon found his passion in design work. He began developing websites and marketing materials as a creative outlet, and is now Small World Journeys one man IT department. Peter has  lived in both the United States and Australia, and has traveled through Europe, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.  His work at Navitas English College first helped him tune in to the needs of international students in Cairns, and he now enjoys teaching foreign students about his beautiful country on tours.

Rachael MacLeod - Admin & Tour Support Officer

Rachael MacLeod - Admin & Tour Support Officer

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 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 four years organising schools and groups on day visits and multi-day stays at this historic venue, where students could learn damper making and old time dancing, witness blacksmithing and beekeeping and of course, watch the sheep shearing.  Whereas once Rachael’s wild side involved her in amateur drag racing, she now prefers camping, fishing and spending time with her two children.

Deb Ieiri - Groups Coordinator

Deb Ieiri - Groups Coordinator

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.

Amber Vallance - Groups Coordinator and Marine Naturalist

Amber Vallance - Groups Coordinator and Marine Naturalist

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 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.

Rick Hall - Guide

Rick Hall - Guide

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

George Woodleigh - Guide

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

Kylie Michell - Sydney Guide

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

Yann Levieux - Guide

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

Emma Cooke - Guide

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.

 

David Witherall - Marine Biologist Guide

David Witherall - Marine Biologist Guide

David has earned two degrees from James Cook University: a Bachelor of Arts in Education and Bachelor of Biological Science.  His attainment of a Certificate III in Tour Guiding and dive instructor training rounded out his education, making him a superb teacher of the sea.  David began his involvement with the Eye on The Reef monitoring programs through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in 2003, and was also involved with cleaner wrasse research at Green Island.  Back on land, his terrestrial wildlife monitoring included flying foxes, frogs and wallabies.  David is the former president of Students for Sustainability as well as a tutor of Aboriginal students, both at James Cook University. His travels have taken him to the sun-splashed shores of southern France to the back corners of New Orleans, and around the world on a yacht race. David’s publications include How to be A Star…fish, Life on Green Island, and The Restaurant Below, and he was a major contributor to the outstanding electronic field guide Atlas of Living Australia.

 

Bess Murphy - Guide

Bess Murphy - Guide

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

Leanne Hayter - Sydney Guide

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.

Russell Wolman - Guide

Russell Wolman - Guide

Russell is the quintessential outdoorsman.  Having cycled solo around both Tasmania and the entirety of Australia, he can claim intimate knowledge of the country’s cities and bushlands.  Russell is also an expert on the water: he has guided kayaking tours in Byron Bay and the Daintree’s Cape Tribulation and established a new sea kayaking operation on Hayman Island.  Russell’s love for working with young people manifested in his eight year position at Bialik College as the Outdoor Education and Recreation Officer.  He taught students from 10 to 17 years old about camp preparation and bike riding skills while keeping them safe and motivated.  Russell can boast about his Bachelor of Science AND Bachelor of Commerce degrees from Melbourne University. He also holds a Certificate IV in Personal Training, a Certificate III in Fitness Instruction, and both Bronze Medallion and pool lifeguard certifications.  Russell is happiest outside and when he is spending time with his partner Deborah.

Angelika Volz - Guide

Angelika Volz - Guide

Angie” has proudly completed a Masters Degree of Science, with a focus on biology, chemistry as well as a degree in education. Angie is also an accredited Wet Tropics tour guide, and has introduced hundreds of curious tourists to the Daintree Rainforest via a jungle zip line.  She began her work with young people in Germany, teaching martial arts and working as a project officer to organise environmental and science-based events for kids and families around Europe. Then in Australia, Angie spent time alongside rangers in six different national parks in Victoria, recording data on macropods and trapping marsupials, along with managing weeds and revegetation projects.  Most recently, Angie worked as a project coordinator for the Tangaroa Blue Foundation, organising and leading clean up events, delivering presentations and educational talks as well as processing scientific data about marine debris. She continues to organise and conduct educational presentations and film screenings on environmental issues in the local community and collaborating with students from James Cook University to promote sustainable solutions. In her free time, Angie volunteers for both Plastic Free Port Douglas and the Fitzroy Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. 

Adam Barnett - Marine Biologist Guide

Adam Barnett - Marine Biologist Guide

We believe Adam is an amphibian.  Having completed his undergrad and Masters degrees in Marine Biology at James Cook University, as well as his PhD in shark ecology at The University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Science, Adam has spent half of his life underwater. Presently Adam is a research fellow at JCU as well as a principal scientist and production assistant for Biopixel, one of Australia’s premier filming companies of animal behaviour with a particular focus on aquatic life.  His work with young people has included talks to high school students on shark biology, conservation and the role of research, as well as being a tutor to university students on biogeography and the evolution of marine organisms.  Adam is passionate about sustainability, and doing research for his publications has taken Adam to far flung destinations in Africa, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and remote areas of Australia.

Elise Chatterton - Guide

Elise Chatterton - Guide

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.

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 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.