For the love of a lady
When Peter Gash first snorkelled off Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef, he was "blown away" by the experience. "I fell in love with that whole place. To me there is really no more beautiful place on the reef.
"I just thought: how can I find a way to get other people to experience what I just have? It's a unique place with an amazing ecosystem. It was the smell, the feel, the touch, the unspoilt beauty of the place and its remoteness which stayed with me. Yet at the same time Lady Elliott had an airstrip on it, so it was easily accessible from the city."
On this trip, he met Julie Grey, whom he later married, cementing the place in his heart.
Lady Elliot is one of only four true coral cays where visitors can stay at the Great Barrier Reef. Close to the coastal shelf, it has exquisite corals and a huge variety of fish. Turtles lay their eggs on its beaches and about 100,000 rowdy seabirds nest onshore.
Transformed by his experiences, Gash learned to fly so he could ferry people out to the two "Southern Ladies" - Lady Elliot and nearby Lady Musgrave Island. He flew guests to the islands for 20 years, becoming managing director and chief pilot of Seair.
In 2005, Gash, his wife and two partners secured the lease for Lady Elliot Island and its eco resort. He was excited and daunted at the responsibility.
"I want to turn the ecotourism resort into a working model for a self-sustaining, environmentally friendly community," Gash says. "I see it as a vital educational resource - a place where young people can experience reef life at its best and be educated about climate change.
"It's the most stunning place to snorkel, see marine life and mega fauna. In the middle of the year we had an invasion of manta rays. We counted over 125 in a three-week period. It was amazing. We are talking about babies that are only a metre wide up to massive ones with seven-metre wing spans."
Gash takes his job seriously. "I don't see myself as the owner of the island or proprietor. I see myself as a steward. I've been given a task to look after it, so it is preserved for future generations, but preserved in the right way."