Long before holidaymakers and highrises, the Sunshine Coast was home to the Kabi Kabi – or Saltwater people. The ocean, beaches and estuaries were the source of both their sustenance and their stories.
To learn more about their rich indigenous culture, you can join a 2-hour sunset cultural cruise with Saltwater Eco Tours, onboard their century-old sailing ketch, “Spray of the Coral Coast” – departing from Mooloolaba Wharf.
Even before you step onboard, there’s a traditional smoking ceremony and welcome at the jetty. Proud Kabi man, Kerry Neill, also anoints passengers with clay paint markings – to symbolize a connection with the earth.
But it’s the water, not earth, that’s at the centre of this fascinating journey.
Cruising up the Mooloolah River, Kerry points out seabirds – Ospreys, Sea Eagles – that reflect his personal totem and hold significance for the Kabi people.
Once beyond the river mouth and into open waters, sails go up – and the “Spray” takes flight herself.
Owner of the business and skipper, Simon Thornalley, is an indigenous man too – though he grew up in the Torres Strait, spending his childhood on a mission sailing boat.
Passionate about both sailing and his culture, Simon was inspired to offer a tourist experience combining both.
The cruise includes Kabi stories of the landscape and prominent coastal landmarks, like Mount Coolum – plus drinks and a selection of bush tucker treats.
In the peaceful glow of sunset, it’s easy to feel the powerful cultural pull of the waters off Mooloolaba.
A cruise with Saltwater Eco Tours is a great way to better appreciate the coast’s first nation people and their past.
Why not connect with culture during the Year of Indigenous Tourism?