The Role of Emotional Experiences on a World Heritage Reef in Facilitating Conservation Outcomes

Miss Freya Croft1

1University Of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia


In the face of anthropogenic climate change and other environmental pressures, the world’s coral reefs are in a particularly vulnerable state. Despite its complexities, coral reef tourism has the capacity to facilitate conservation outcomes. As previous research has shown, after undertaking nature-based tourism experiences, tourists often display (at least) an intent to engage in pro-environmental behaviour. Emerging geographical research aims to further understand how emotions function within such nature-based tourism. Ningaloo Reef, on Australia’s West Coast, is a World Heritage listed protected area that draws in diverse visitors – many of whom seek the experience of swimming with iconic animals including humpback whales and whale sharks (an often very emotional experience). This paper will explore the kinds of emotions that take place while people are having an ‘in-water’ experience with these large marine animals and it will look at the role that these emotional experiences play in encouraging individuals to engage with the reef as a protected area. It will explore tourist experiences of Ningaloo as a ‘fragile’ place rather than just a tourist site and will assess if any in-situ conservation benefits are reflected in the behaviour choices and everyday practices of individuals after their visit.


Freya is a PhD candidate at the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities at the University of Wollongong. She is affiliated with the Australian Centre for Culture, Environment, Society and Space. Her research interests are broadly based around human connections with the ocean. Areas of interest include marine tourism, emotional geographies and the social science of marine conservation.


The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

IAG Website

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