Founder Amanda Fry is a force of nature in her own right with a veracious passion for conservation. It all began with Wildfest, Australia’s first Wild Nature Festival, a game-changer yet the vision for this mammoth undertaking was conceived from the most unremarkable of beginnings.
For Amanda, the ‘aha’ moment that ultimately set her nature tourism business in motion was seeing the wonder in her niece and nephew’s faces following an encounter wombats, joeys and koalas at her wildlife rescue friends sancutary. It was a real eye opener for Amanda who spent most of her adult life in the heady world of International celebrity but having grown up in Sydney was always off enjoying weekends in country NSW or travelling to wilderness destinations around the globe chasing wildlife encounters from Rwanda to Galapagos. Buying a house in the southern highlands 8 years ago it reminded her just how beautiful NSW was and how rare such connections with nature had become for the digital generation.
One of Amanda’s celebrity assignments saw her trekking in Vietnam to experience an encounter with the endangered Black Gibbons and this ignited Amanda’s heart for conservation so much so, that it became the driving force in her professional and life path. “the group I worked with in Vietnam felt it was too late to influence the baby boomers on mass with the strong medicinal culture wildlife represented and that the best hope for these magnificent creatures and other endangered species in the region was to engage up-and-coming generations. So, they started a program in the wild in a way that got millennial’s connected at a deep level to change the culture of wildlife protection. I knew then and there that I wanted to play a part in making that happen in some way and the best place to start was at home in Australia”
That passion ultimately landed Amanda at a conference for Change Makers Rule Breakers with Richard Branson on Necker Island, along with a host of other entrepreneurs and trail-blazers. Honouring her heart for wildlife Branson arranged for Amanda to accompany his zoology team visiting another of his islands, dedicated to re-populating several endangered species of Lemur. “It’s an indescribable feeling to trek into raw forest and be swarmed by these beautiful, playful creatures that come out of nowhere at the game keeper’s call. Just a magical moment. That feeling of absolute awe for the wonder of nature is what I want people to experience with any of our brands in the group.”
Returning home with an overwhelming sense of the profound possibilities for a wilderness experience unique to Australia, Amanda unplugged from her fast-paced professional life path and made the permanent move to the NSW Southern Highlands where Wildfest became her raison d’etre. “Being in the Highlands there are great pockets of wilderness with no wifi reception to speak of, outside the towns and historical villages, which became a necessary imposed stillness for me.” She says. “I needed to un-plug, re-boot and re-connect with the wild by immersing completely in the environment and it showed me how many places there are just 2 hours from Sydney to get lost in nature.”
New connections with equally wild-at-heart individuals ensued and the group grew from a festival to day tours, private retreats and dinners. And that growth does not look like it is about to slow down any time soon. With a 30-year professional career in global Event Management and Public Relations having worked with names like Jackson, Kardashian and Presley as well as some of the largest events in Australia such as the ACCTA. MTV and Logies Awards, Amanda understands the high demands of the luxury and celebrity market which has only strengthened the customer service her nature tourism business offers.