GET ON BOARD WITH TRIPLE J BOAT TOURS
At the Kununurra Show a few weeks ago I bumped into Jeff Hayley who I had only met once down south late last year, when he joined the Margaret River VMR Group. I gladly accepted Jeff’s invitation to check out his Triple J Tour Boat operation the following Monday, as I never miss an opportunity to talk boats.
Jeff was originally from Margaret River, part of a dairy farming family, so many of you ‘old time’ locals may remember him well. In his younger days he was a jack of all trades, with boats always being the common factor- either fixing them or working on cray boats out of Geraldton. Buying a crayfishing boat and working the Abrolhos Islands very nearly became a reality for Jeff, but he was drawn to the Kimberley West region. We are talking the late 1980’s when crayfishing was paying big money and no-one believed setting up a tour boat on the Ord River was a viable operation. No boats back then were venturing the 56 kilometres from Kununurra to Lake Argyle and there were plenty of doubters that it would ever be possible as a commercial venture. In his own words, the first year of the Triple J Boat tour was hard work, financially draining and almost over before it started. The isolation of the area and perceived inherent danger meant getting bums on seats was not easy to achieve at first. However, once the bank manager provided much needed support and people started to experience the spectacular scenery and wildlife, as they say, the rest is history.
Jeff now leases land adjoining the Ord River where the boats are penned and also has large premises in the centre of town. After touring both facilities it was soon obvious that this is a very professional operation and that Jeff and his partner have an excellent rapport with their staff. The business fleet includes three very comfortable vessels capable of seating 128 people and 4 buses with a capacity of 140 people. In order to keep all this equipment running efficiently, especially on days like this when there was not one empty seat, there is also a large workshop with a full time mechanic. These guys leave nothing to chance and so do all their own maintenance and repair work. The 350hp Yamaha is Jeff’s motor of choice and there are eight of them churning away at up to 50km per hour every day. You soon understand that having an outboard repaired or changed over in a matter of hours, especially up in this part of the world, means minimum down time and happy customers. The town facility also boasts a commercial kitchen to cater for customers meals during either full day or sunset cruises.
However, as any tourism business knows, you can have all the fancy gear, but if people don’t enjoy the experience, then you are in big trouble. No problems here in that regard as Triple J Tours has won numerous Tourism Awards and holds a 5 star rating with Trip Advisor as the No 1 tour operator in Kununurra. So while my sister was over from the eastern states we decided we had better ‘get on board’ and it lived up to all expectations as easily one of the best boat cruises I have ever experienced.
To answer last week’s question, Ern Grant describes a Mangrove Jack in his book “Fishes of Australia” as, “… not one of my favourite fish. It is a violent ruffian; a hooligan; a thug”. This week’s question is, ‘Which town is closest to Kununurra, Darwin or Broome’.
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