Steven Thomson – or Thommo to his mates – knows a thing or two about oysters. He’s also the only oyster farmer in the Eyre Peninsula who takes guests to his oyster lease as a side gig. “I don’t run a full-time tourism operation,” he says. “What I offer Australian Coastal Safaris’ guests is a front row seat to the business of oyster farming.”
Australian Coastal Safaris guide David 'Lunch' Doudle. Image: Australian Coastal Safaris
The way Thommo operates is a big plus for those hopping on board, as they get to discover how the oyster farming industry works with a big dose of wildlife thrown in. “We visit my oyster lease, but the tour is also as much about the surroundings,” Thommo says.
“On the way to the lease we pass through local farm districts and see kangaroos, other native wildlife, and a huge amount of birds. The pods of dolphins that we see are a huge highlight, too. We have more dolphins in Coffin Bay per square metre than anywhere else in Australia.”
Oysters. Image: Australian Coastal Safaris
Thommo goes on to explain that the tour also provides an ideal opportunity to educate guests about various conservation efforts. “I fostered a close connection with the wildlife when I moved to the area in 1995 and I’m passionate about advocating care for both the environment and wildlife,” Thommo says. “Awareness is the first step, and we try to keep our impact and direct contact with nature as minimalistic as possible.”
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Everyone on board can become involved in oyster collecting and shucking, and Thommo loves seeing guests’ expressions when he pulls out an oyster to sample. Coffin Bay is renowned for its quality oysters, and Thommo explains that a superior oyster will feature a hard-edged smooth shell and plenty of meat inside. “The oysters here have a high meat-to-shell ratio and taste like the sea,” he says. “When pulled straight out of the water you get a big salt kick first, then comes the oyster complexity.”
Oyster Lease. Image: Australian Coastal Safaris
Wine tastings can be a part of the experience, too, with three different wineries in the area that can weaved into the itinerary. Thommo says: “It’s about tailoring the experience to guests’ interests. Some guests might be drawn only to the oysters and want to spend all their time on the water, while others might want a 10-minute tour of the leases and then spend their time enjoying wine tastings and a long lunch.”
Eyre Peninsula Wildlife & Ocean Encounters
This three-day adventure combines the best terrestrial and marine protected areas across the region including the opportunity to swim with wild Sea-Lions and Bottlenose Dolphins, see Emus, wild Koalas and Kangaroos and the Rosenbergs Goanna!