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INSPIRING INDIVIDUAL: JEMMA CRAIG

Much like our founder, Shannon Wild, this Aussie babe uses her photographic and filming talent to share the incredible lives of wild animals with the world.

Jemma Craig might as well have gills, considering the amount of time she spends underwater in the world’s most famous ocean paradise: the Great Barrier Reef!

Her love for sea creatures, corals, and marine conservation has its origin in her childhood, which was spent looking after reptiles (read: feeding crocodiles), snorkelling, and exploring both on and off shore. 

Jemma’s ambition is to continue being a voice for Mother Nature and using her work to encourage as many people to make a difference as possible.

Rigged up in fish-scale printed wetsuit and sporting an octopus-like underwater housing for her camera gear, Jemma takes to the ocean multiple times a day, capturing the beauty of the oceanic world.

Her message is one of hope for the future of marine life, and we can’t help but be inspired.

Tell us about yourself.

I'm Jemma Craig, an underwater photographer, videographer and Dive Instructor on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

I grew up on Green island, a tiny sand cay off the coast of Cairns. My family own a reptile and marine life habitat on the island, so my brother and I grew up learning and interacting with animals, exploring the ocean and appreciating nature. There are no schools on the island, so we did distance education, which was two way radio communication with our teachers on the mainland.

Growing up I wanted to spend as much time in the water as possible, my parents can recall me disappearing for hours at a time - snorkelling and exploring the reef.

Can you tell us a little bit about your professional background?

After graduating high school, I worked for my parents at the zoo, feeding the animals and doing the tours. Our zoo primarily has large crocodiles, as my grandfather used to capture them in Papua New Guinea and the Northern Territory of Australia in the 60s. It is pretty terrifying feeding a giant crocodile, but they truly are incredible animals that deserve our respect. We have about 30 crocodiles in total, sea turtles, small sharks and a marine life fish aquarium. Around 10 of our crocs are over 4 metres, and we also have Cassius - the Guiness World Record Holder for the largest crocodile in captivity in the world at 5.5m or 18ft.

He's also thought to be one of the oldest surviving crocodiles in existence, at around 117 years old!

We send crocodiles from the Government to house and look after those that have been removed from the wild because they are too close to people or have a history of attacking someone.

Working for my family and with animals and life on the water led me to wanting to explore more of the oceans, so I left the island and started working as a Dive Instructor on a live-aboard dive boat on the GBR.

This boat does week long trips up and down the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea, diving some of the my pristine and coveted reefs of this part of the World.

What or who in your life influenced you to pursue this route?

Meeting people from around the planet, all I've ever wanted to do is share this incredible place with others.

The best way I've found to do that is through photos and video, which is why I was inspired to get into underwater photography. I've done thousands of dives in total, and taught others to dive as well. As part of my position on the boat as photographer and videographer, I did around 3 solo dives a day, just me and my camera.

I've had countless indescribable experiences with wildlife, especially since I solo dive so animals seem less wary and more comfortable to come close to me underwater.  

Currently, what is the inspiration that keeps you motivated and passionate about your work?

Reef conservation has kept me motivated and passionate about my work, because people need to see and appreciate nature at it's very source in order to decide they want to protect it.

I hope that my video and photo will inspire others to come and see this place for themselves.

In the modern era, we hear too much about the way things are from the media trying to push an agenda, so the only way to know the truth is to see and experience things for ourselves.

Through a lifetime spent on the reef, I have personally witnessed the destruction of this marine environment and the impact of global warming through events such as coral bleaching.

What is the most impactful aspect of your work?

I think the most important message that I can share with others is that the reef is still alive and it is magnificent. Everything here has life, and it wants to survive, it wants to adapt. The questing surrounding global warming and conservation is whether nature can adapt in time to keep up with the mounting pressure that humans are putting on it.

We can help, and there are easy ways to help that won't impact our lives- but people need to know how easy it is, otherwise it can seem overwhelming and impossible to feel like you're making any difference that's worth something.

Any action, no matter how small - put together with every other person doing something small will create something big, and these small actions open the door to one day being able to comprehend how to help on a larger scale. 

A lot of people think it's too late for the reef, so I'm here to tell you that it is not too late. I have seen this level of life through my own eyes and I want you to come see it for yourself, because it will change you.

It's pure magic and there is nothing else like it in the world.    

Why do you feel that conservation is important?

No matter where you are in the world, you can help nature and the reef. Even if you're in the middle of the country, on the other side of the world - you have an impact on the Great Barrier Reef.

Doing something simple such as reducing your use of single serve plastic is an easy way to give back without drastically changing your life or habits at all. It's so important to protect your local environment and especially the local waterways.

Learn about the rivers, lakes or oceans in your area and try to conserve them because every drop of water is connected. Remember that you have a vote, whether it's through politics or through your own wallet.

Support local businesses and those that give back to the environment, and boycott those that don't. And finally, Travel!

Go and see the incredible parts of the world, so you can understand why they are worth protecting. 

Tell us your thoughts about Wild in Africa

Just like me, Shannon Wild has been touched by nature and has become the voice of Mother Earth in an attempt to touch others.

Her work spreads the message of conservation with the only real hope of others understanding. We want you to come and have experiences like this for yourself, because otherwise you'll never know the reason why you should help.

Photography and video is our visual aid on our quest for teaching that message.

Shannon has even gone one step further on to make it easier for others to help through her bracelets.

Each is connected to a part of her life and the environment, each appeals to a different person because just like Shannon strives to protect the wilds of Africa, I strive to protect the reefs of Australia.

The proceeds that go to help her world and spread the message work in the same way our photography has the potential to inspire others to do something, it's a platform for helping the environment around the world.

It's no use protecting the Great Barrier Reef if coral reefs elsewhere wither and die.

Everything is connected, but you can't think about saving the world all at once, because we are just people.

The burden and weight of the state of the environment and the world can be a heavy one, so rather than being overwhelmed and giving up, start small, and start local.

Can you share your future plans and hopes for yourself?

I've learnt a lot and am incredibly interested in video edited and creative directing. My dream is to work on wildlife documentaries, anywhere in the world.

I've had the chance to be involved in a giant screen 3D documentary film based on my life, called The Great Barrier Reef 3D, which made its way through giant screen cinemas in America and Europe in 2019. 

This year I plan to study Communications and Arts - Film and Television at university with the hopes this will help me achieve my dream.

I know it's possible because I have seen the power of nature and the power of inspiration that comes from sharing it's message with others. 

If I inspire one person to learn more about the reef, I will have done my job. I will be the voice of Mother Nature, one photo at a time

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