Living and working on Green Island as a Park Ranger on the Great Barrier Reef sounds like the ideal job.
Ben Solowiej is the Ranger for Parks Queensland and lives with his family on Green Island. A teeny coral atoll off the coast from Cairns, it’s smack in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. Ben could well hold the best job in Queensland. Formerly from Melbourne, he loves his tropical island life, particularly the opportunity to share his knowledge of the island’s nature. We asked him about life for him and his family and what makes Green Island so special.
How long have you been on Green Island?
Almost three years
You mention that island life is a privilege – what are some of those privileges?
There are only about eight of us who live on Green Island permanently so waking up every day to a peaceful tropical island and having around eight hectares of vine thicket rainforest National Park to enjoy and look after is a huge privilege. Not to mention having the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef only meters from my doorstep.
What’s an average day for the Green Island Park Ranger?
Looking after Green Island comes with many different responsibilities and every day can be different as the Ranger. I could be conducting research activities like monitoring sea bird populations or coral reefs to performing educational programs for students. Maintenance of the islands park facilities like boardwalks, picnic tables and interpretative signage for visitor use is also a major responsibility as we have over 300,000 visitors a year.
How do you switch off from work when there is no physical escape? Or don’t you?
It can be extremely difficult to switch off from work, as the island ranger can be contacted whenever an issue or concern may arise.
Where is your favourite spot on the island?
Relaxing at the water’s edge in front of my house looking over to the mainland.
What about your family – where do they like to hang out?
A lot of our time is spent in the water swimming, snorkelling and exploring nature.
Where else have you worked as a Park Ranger and how do those parks compare to Green Island?
I have worked at Longreach and Winton in the Queensland outback for 6 years looking after very different types of National Parks! I also spent a short while at Gold Coasts Daisy Hill National Park before being lured back to Cairns and Green Island. Every place I have worked has had its own beauty and experiences to enjoy.
When it comes time to say goodbye to Green Island what will linger most in your memory?
Definitely the time I have spent with my family here. Showing my young girls how to explore and imagine, in a time when something so simple and necessary can be so difficult to accomplish.
Green Island is a special place for visitors too!
Known as Wunyami by traditional owners Guru-Gulu Gungandji people, you could walk around the island in about the same time it takes make a cup of tea. But we’d suggest you take much longer in order to absorb the tranquility of being on a coral atoll 27 km off the coast of Cairns.
Take a stroll along the boardwalk through tropical vine forest. Wander the beach looking for treasures washed ashore – maybe you’ll find a message in a bottle! Snorkel the fringing coral reef or arrange a scuba dive further afield. Board a glass bottom boat or descend the stairs to an underwater observatory to view the coral reef without getting wet! Or for the ultimate underwater tour without ruining your makeup, take a Seawalker seabed walk across the sand a few metres below the surface. A word of warning: beware of parrot fish Gavin – he’s a serial photo-bombing offender!