Meet 10 women leading inclusive nature experiences across Victoria

Tuesday 8 March, 2022

Active participation in outdoor recreation has direct links to your social, physical and mental wellbeing. However, women and girls often remain underrepresented in participation statistics across the world.

We know there can be a range of barriers and stigmas that prevent women and girls from exploring the great outdoors.

Spending time in nature can often feel like a privilege and, for beginners, it takes courage and vulnerability to put yourself out there. Scheduling time to sometimes feel cold, sweaty, wet, tired or hungry can feel counterintuitive to investing in yourself and creating balance. But challenging yourself, allowing yourself to experience those feelings of imperfection or doubt while you conquer your latest walk, swim, climb or ride can feel entirely freeing and empowering in the wild.

Two women enjoying a hike

Adventurers need to feel encouraged and safe in their desire to get outdoors or connect with nature.

Supporting women and girls in their efforts to be physically active and experience nature is a priority for Parks Victoria. Whether you’re trying something new, upping your skill level or returning to that activity you love, we want to see you out there.

So, let’s level the playing field and break the bias.

If you need support planning your next adventure, we’ve created a list of 10 licensed tour operators led by women who are leaders in their respective fields, working to champion inclusive nature experiences across Victoria.

1. Women Want Adventure

As the Founder of Women Want Adventure, Monique Farmer wants to encourage women to find their “inner wild”. She believes all women are capable of getting outdoors and, through her business, works to make adventure accessible, connective, supportive, empowering and fun.

With a fabulous team of qualified outdoor guides, Monique helps women hike, kayak, camp, canyon, swim and, best of all, try new things. Moving away from well-known tourist locations and big groups, Monique encourages female participants to feel happy, to belly laugh and make lasting friendships with like-minded women.

2. Girls On Board

Jess Laing is the Owner and Head Coach of Girls on Board, which is a unique surf school that prides itself on creating safe and inclusive learning environments for anyone that wants to conquer the ocean and ride some waves.

From learning to surf as a beginner to improving your skills, taking up an opportunity to make new friends, build up your fitness level or keep your mind healthy, Jess loves seeing participants break out into a salty smile once they’ve accomplished their goals. Regardless of your reason to join, Jess aims to provide a welcoming and personalised experience for people of all ages.

3. In My Nature

Susan Joachim offers regular nature immersion walks, guided forest bathing sessions and exclusive forest bathing weekend retreats as the Director of In My Nature.

Forest bathing is a medically proven and internationally recognised therapeutic approach that can provide a wealth of health benefits. These include a boosted immune system, reduced blood pressure, reduced stress, improved mood, increased creativity and ability to focus, accelerated recovery from surgery or illness, increased vitality and energy levels, as well as improved sleep.

Since migrating to Australia, Susan has thrived in environments that put people at the forefront of her mission – doing awesome things for the greater good.

4. Get Lost Travel

With more than 12 years of experience in the tourism industry, Caitlin Sewell’s passion for facilitating life-changing travel experiences in a responsible and sustainable way has led her to Get Lost Travel. As Director and Partnerships Manager, Caitlin works to support people’s dreams for adventure.

Get Lost Travel is Australia’s largest collective of niche touring brands (Autopia Tours, Wildlife Tours Australia, Melbourne Boutique Tours, Australian Bus Charters) carrying more than 100,000 passengers each year. Their inspiring range of tours throughout Australia feature a mix of nature, wildlife, adventure, culture and foodie delights. All year round, they will allow you to explore every corner of wilderness in Victoria.

5. Polperro Dolphin Swims

With Judy Muir at the helm, Polperro Dolphin Swims has become a premier provider of marine education in Victoria with more than 25 years of service in this field.

Explore the underwater world at Port Phillip Bay with a dolphin and seal swim or snorkelling experience. For those who would prefer to stay dry, you can sightsee from aboard Polperro while learning about marine conservation.

6. Kingfisher Cruises 

Making a childhood dream come true, Benita Cox provides expert commentary on the natural beauty and peace of the World-Heritage listed Barmah Wetlands aboard the MV Kingfisher.

Benita will steer you along the narrowest section of the Murray Rive - between Albury and the ocean - called the ‘Narrows’ or the ‘Barmah Choke’, where the river travels at almost twice the normal speed. It is a wildlife haven for 236 bird species, 50 mammals and more than 500 plant species.

7. Lantern Ghost Tours

As the Director and tour operator of Lantern Ghost Tours, Jacqueline Travaglia provides a unique experience for people seeking to discover the darker side of Victoria's most historic properties and locations.

Including exploration of visitor sites such as Point Gellibrand, Heritage Park and Point Cook Coastal Park, Jacqueline hosts a unique set of tours including heritage tours, vehicle-based sightseeing and night-time spotlight tours. If you’re after a unique nature experience, this one might be for you.

8. The Lady of History

As Director and a performer at The Lady of History, Janice Haynes offers heritage tours at much-loved Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve on the Mornington Peninsula.

For those looking for a truly immersive experience, or an opportunity to go back in time, this experience will not disappoint. With Janice’s experience as a Performing Arts Centre Manager and trained performer, she currently performs and writes her own shows as 'The Lady of History'. Janice also makes costumes and reproduction dressmaking and has a vintage clothing business called Vintage Silhouette.

9. Essence Productions

Founder of Essence Productions, Alain Beek employs a core group of professional actors and crew who focus on bringing Australian stories to life through performance. Their dedication to this art is highlighted through Werribee Park, where they perform as the resident theatre company each weekend and have done since 2003.

Alaine has also written the award winning ‘The Scrunch Test’, a black comedy based on her Scottish parents living in Australia.

10. Big Heart Adventures

Lisa Jane Murphy is the Chief Adventurer at Big Heart Adventures. Her tours are not just about getting fit and active but giving back by raising funds for charities and not for profits both in Australia and abroad.

Big Heart Adventures offer themed, culturally authentic, guided and self-guided walking adventures that are designed for beginners, intermediate and experienced trekkers. Their awesome hiking tours, inspiring walking experiences and events are created to encourage your wellness, fitness, and confidence.

They also offer specialised trips for women at popular sites such as the Grampians Peaks Trail, which was launched in November of 2021.

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