Dave Doudle is a charming, passionate ambassador for the Port Lincoln area of southern Australia. This autumn I had the pleasure of spending a sunny afternoon pulling up lobster pots with him in Coffin Bay as he recounted his 11 year journey as a guide in this beautiful wilderness, a region he refers to as the ‘real Australia’. As afternoon quickly became evening, our lobster became dinner at the exquisite 1802, with a chilled bottle of Boston Bay.
Where do you guide?
Around Port Lincoln, Eyre Peninsula South Australia. It’s known locally as the ‘Seafood Capital of Australia’.
What led you to become a guide?
Too many drinks at a cards game whilst I was visiting friends on Fire Island, New York! After informing my American mate that we had bought a 4000 acre coastal property, he suggested that I look seriously into developing a tourism product based on what we had in the backyard. As I was dipping my toes into the world of tourism, I was still running our grain farming business and before too long, I was up to my neck with work on both fronts. I was born and bred in the area, had been farming for 26 years and been suffering with a long term back complaint. I couldn’t keep sitting on machinery all day everyday so decided on a career change and we now look after guests from all over the world, showcasing one of Australia’s best kept secrets.
Describe a typical day with clients?
It really does vary. I can have a kangaroo eating out of your hand within 15 minutes of picking up clients from the airport. Or give me another 30 minutes and you will be swimming with and feeding 80kg wild tuna in the world’s largest fish bowl! We forage for our own seafood: we have the world’s best oysters in Coffin Bay, gather cockles from the shallows, snorkel for abalone in crystal clear rock pools but my favourite is taking people to one of the very best beaches in Australia to beach fish for fighting salmon.
Interacting with our native wildlife is also a large focus of ours – koalas, kangaroos, emus, various bird life – and then in the water we can get a bit more adventurous and cage dive with Great White Sharks, or get really up close and personal swimming with sea-lions & dolphins.
The day doesn’t quite finish there as we then accommodate guests in our five bedroom beach house and look after the catering arrangements with local food and wine, including the day’s catch.
What experience has made you happiest?
Every day is a happy day. Seeing people with beaming smiles when they have just caught their first ever fish or the shrieks of laughter from children as they are patting koalas in the wild at eye level for the first time.
Letters from clients after their visits are always a really nice experience but one highlight was a large thank you card that was sent to me by a group of Canteen members. (Canteen is an organisation supporting teenagers who either have cancer or are affected by a family member with cancer). That day was very emotional and to see these young kids who suffer daily, just forgetting about their troubles for a day and having so much fun was just beautiful. I’m welling up again now…
If you hadn’t become a guide, what other profession would you have followed?
I would still be farming, which is something that I still am very passionate about as a fourth generation farmer.
Have you guided any famous people?
I think everybody is famous to some degree as everyone has their own stories to tell. Though saying that, we have had Sir Ian Botham and the Deputy Minister of Education of Colombia. The most interesting was the head surgeon of the Adelaide’s Burns Unit, Dr John Greenwood AM, who saves lives on a regular basis, including people that I personally know.
What makes you sad?
On a sporting front, Australia losing the Ashes away all the time! How does that keep happening? On a tourism front, the number of travellers who come to our country who just see the big cities instead of the real, authentic Australia (that’s where we live…!). They’re missing out!
What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?
I would strongly advise myself to take a gap year or two in my early 20s to really experience working and living in another country.
What are your plans after guiding?
Retirement, fishing and travelling.
Where in the world would you like to travel?
All over. Africa, Iceland and Ireland where my ancestors come from. And I would love to visit the many clients who have become friends who have invited us to their world to see how they go about their lives.
What inspires you?
Those who doubted what I was doing. I had plenty of people saying that my change of profession would never work but we are now successfully showcasing our backyard to people all over the world. Also seeing how other people have achieved success when they have started something up from nothing and lastly, seeing our progression and growth through the last 10 years.
Although it’s generally assumed that the Australian summer (December – February) is the best time to go, Rachel visited during the autumn (March – May) when temperatures in South Australia are comfortably warm for travelling, and visitor numbers are reduced. The Australian spring season (September – November) is also a great time to go.