Local Tourism Icon changes ownership

The board of management of Little Desert Nature Lodge advises that on Monday the 7th November 2011, the Little Desert Flora and Fauna Foundation held its Annual General Meeting, at which time Conservation Volunteers Australia took over management and ownership of the Foundation which operates the Little Desert Nature Lodge.

Conservation Volunteers is Australasia’s largest environmental volunteering organisation, with offices across Australia and New Zealand and attracting over 12,000 volunteers each year on important conservation projects. The addition of Little Desert Nature Lodge to their conservation and land management portfolio will assist in the ongoing conservation initiatives established on the property and enable volunteers to engage and enjoy meaningful experiences in Victoria’s west.

“This is a very exciting opportunity and we are thrilled to be involved in the ongoing conservation and protection of the biodiversity and wildlife at Little Desert Nature Lodge and the surrounding area,” Colin Jackson, CEO at Conservation Volunteers announced.

“The property is also a safe haven and breeding site for the endangered Malleefowl, one of the focus species of our Wild Futures threatened species program. We hope to bring more people from Melbourne and across Australia to appreciate the value and beauty of the remarkable Wimmera region.” Mr Jackson added.

Staffing will remain the same with the partnership being great benefit to both the Little Desert Nature Lodge and Conservation Volunteers. Volunteer working parties will assist with ongoing conservation efforts at both of their two properties and within the Little Desert National Park.

Over time, a number of ongoing projects will be carried out by Conservation Volunteers to secure the unique habitat on both properties as well as an expansion of the current native species on the properties.

“It is an exciting time for the Lodge.” Mark Fletcher, General Manager at Little Desert Nature Lodge said.

The property is a fantastic location for people to connect to the environment through volunteering, a place where corporate teams and groups can be directly involved in important conservation initiatives and provides beautiful accommodation for groups, families and individuals to enjoy.

Anyone interested in getting involved with Conservation Volunteers activities at Little Desert Nature Lodge should call 1800 032 501.

Graeme Creek 25th Anniversary

Graeme began employment with Little Desert Tours on the first of July 1985. Prior to this Graeme was employed on a casual basis.  In the early years Graeme lived on site in addition to his daily role.

Over the years Graeme has been an integral part of the company, working in Grounds Maintenance, Vehicle Maintenance, Tours, Animal Management and of course coordinating school camp activities while schools are on site. Graeme is the king of the kids, especially with the primary school kids and is often found helping them to learn how to kick the footy in their free time.

Graeme has great knowledge of the Little Desert region and loves to share his knowledge with guests, adult and school students alike. Ask him almost any question about the birds, plants and animals calling the little desert home and Graeme would most have the answer.

During his time at the Lodge Graeme has been involved in almost every aspect of the Lodge in one way or another using a diverse range of skills.

More recently, Graeme has become the main animal handler at the Lodge, and this has driven his passion for the Lodge even further. With the stepping back of Whimpey over the last few years, Graeme has thrown himself into the animal management side of things even more, undertaking daily visits to the Sanctuary to make sure our guests have the opportunity to share his knowledge about these special birds and see them in the wild.

Graeme has seen many staff come and go during his time at Lodge  and has worked with them all at some stage or another.  Many things have changed, people, activities, the Lodge itself and the many guidelines and standards and Graeme has adapted to these and continually made improvements to the areas that he oversees.

On behalf of the Foundation Council, Board of Management and the Team at the Lodge congratulations Graeme on 25 years of service. Graeme, you have the respect and admiration of all of the staff for your knowledge, work ethic and friendliness.

Master Plan Released

LITTLE Desert Nature Lodge's board has plans for a multi-million dollar overhaul to the tourist attraction and educational site.

Chairman John Magrath released details yesterday of a master plan outlining a new direction for the centre.

"This is a massive overhaul. It hasn't been fully costed, but I know it is well over $5 million," he said.

Mr Magrath said the board commissioned Third Ecology and Conservation Enterprises Unlimited and Coumans Chartered Accountants and Warne Marketing to assess options and provide direction for a master plan.

"The aim of the master plan is to produce an enterprise which is long term sustainable both financially and environmentally," Mr Magrath said.

"The plans outlined mean a massive overhaul of the site.

"The master plan will transform the site and operations currently known as the Little Desert Nature Lodge into an in-demand nature-based tourism and education destination that is operationally self-sustaining."

Mr Magrath said some of the changes highlighted in the master plan were to devise and include new value- adding products and infrastructure such as a pool, walking tours, on-site interpretation and seasonal food and beverage options.

"Another part of the plan is to upgrade existing accommodation to meet and exceed contemporary standards," he said.

"This means creating luxury tent accommodation on a separate part of the site, superior tent accommodation and self-contained cabins. Currently there are ensuite rooms and bunk rooms - we are looking to get into the higher end of the market."

Mr Magrath said the master plan meant a new direction for the lodge.

"It was deemed time to look at it, time to do things differently," he said.

JOHN Magrath said the Little Desert Nature Lodge's purpose and existence was for education.

"So the new accommodation and all the other pieces are being done to generate funds so we can continue to further education," he said.

Mr Magrath said the board had not placed a time frame on when work would begin to implement the changes highlighted in the master plan.

"We have been working on it, looking around and discussing who we might work together with. These are plans, they are not prescriptive but it is a concept that has been developed," he said. "The whole overhaul will be separated into smaller projects.

"We are excited; this could make it the premier tourist attraction in the Wimmera. But the aim of that is so the education component can grow and get better."

The plan also recommends an overhaul of the administration building, discontinuing any activities that do not generate surpluses and staff retraining to ensure commitment to standards in food style and quality and customer service and developing and restyling the personality of products and operations.

New Manager Appointed

The Board of Management of the Little Desert Nature Lodge is delighted to announce that Mr. Mark Fletcher has been appointed Manager of this iconic facility. The role of the Manager is to oversee the day to day affairs of Little Desert Nature Lodge and to provide leadership in planning and implementing the strategic priorities of the Board.

Mark moved to the district from Whyalla in South Australia in 2006, with his wife Kelly, a former Dimboola girl and son Dylan. Mark has worked at the Lodge for the past 4 years as Marketing & Promotions Manager. The board fully supports Mark in his new role as Manager and is excited to work with him as he proceeds to develop his team.

The last 12 months have been a period of great change for the Lodge with a complete review of its operations resulting in a high quality Master Plan for the business to be implemented in the future. This transition period has also seen the retirement of the founders Whimpey and Maureen Reichelt.

Whimpey and Maureen’s 40 years of tireless efforts have created a project which we desire to ensure continues long into the future. We trust that over time many more people will come to appreciate what this unique couple have strived to preserve for future generations. Whimpey’s contributions have been recognized by “Living Treasure” status and an OAM for Conservation, in addition to many other industry and regional awards. Maureen has been an amazing support for Whimpey over the years, as well as an integral part of the business. The Board of Management and Staff wish Whimpey and Maureen a long and happy retirement.

The new Master Plan will now be utilised to focus the organisation on the future and to seek and attract funding and partners to ensure its implementation.

The Board is excited about the level of change taking place and look forward to utilizing the new Master Plan to focus the organisation on its future, to attract funding partners and ensure its implementation.

Whimpey Retires

After more than 30 years at the Helm, Ray 'Whimpey' Reichelt retires from the Little Desert Nature Lodge.  Originally founding Little Desert Tours in 1969, Whimpey and ever supportive wife Maureen have retired to enjoy time with their family and grandchildren.  The Little Desert Nature Lodge was purchased by the Little Desert Flora and Fauna Foundation in 2000, since which time, Whimpey has been the Managing Director.  There have been many highlight for Whimpey and Maureen over the years and many great friendships formed.  He will be missed by all the staff and many returning guests.

the Foundation, Board of Management and team at the Lodge wish Whimpey and Maureen and long and happy retirement.

Consultants Appointed

Third Ecology Consulting from Geelong has been appointed to develop Master Plan for the Little Desert Flora and Fauna Foundation. This will see many plans to take the Little Desert Nature Lodge into the future. Watch this space for further updates

RACV Rewards Little Desert Nature Lodge

Recently the RACV ran a promotion to identify Victoria’s Top 101 Destinations. The team at the Little Desert Nature Lodge is pleased to announce that it finished in the top 101 coming in at 73. A lot of this can be attributed to the teams ongoing commitment to product development and building on our unique environmental education program on offer.

Little Desert Tours commenced business by Whimpey & Maureen Reichelt in early 1970 with tours into the Little Desert National Park followed in 1975 by the first stage of our accommodation complex on our 117 hectare property. The Lodge now consists of 24 ensuite rooms, 16 bunkrooms and a campsite. Our accommodation complex also houses a fully licensed dining room able to cater for up to 150 people and regularly host weddings, conferences and functions. The Lodge also has another property known as the “Malleefowl Sanctuary” which is part of our Malleefowl captive breeding program.

In 2000, the Little Desert Flora and Fauna Foundation acquired the assets of the Little Desert Tours and both properties were feral proof fenced. The Little Desert Flora and Fauna Foundation is a ‘Not for Profit Environmental’ organisation. The Foundation is now embarking on a course of action to secure the financial and environmental sustainability of the Lodge. The Foundations aim is to promote the appreciation of the Little Desert region and promoting environmental research into the flora and fauna of the region.

Malleefowl Chicks Released

*Parks Victoria Press Release* Five-rasied Malleefowl are being released on Friday 4 July at Wyperfeld National Park near where they were collected as eggs some seven months ago. My Whimpey Reichelt form the Little Desert Nature Lodge collected the eggs last November in the wake of the 4000 ha bushfire in the Wathe Reserve. "there was no prospect of the Chicks hatching from nest that had been burnt in the fire," Mr Reichelt said. "With consent from Parks Victoria, we were able to collect 10 eggs at the time. of these, seven were hatched in our incubators at the Little Desert Nature Lodge. "Five birds are being returned to Wyperfeld, while the other two will be translocated to Wychitella reserve near Wedderburn." Mr Reichelt said that the chicks had grown rapidly in captivity and were now at the optimal stage for release back into the wild.

Wyperfeld Ranger in Charge, Mark Mellington said that the release area in eastern Wyperfeld had been chosen because of its proximity to Wathe reserve. "There is a corridor linking Wyperfeld and Wathe,"Mr Mellington said. "The birds cannot be released into Wathe because of the reduced area of suitable habitat following the bushfire." The released birds have been banded and the release site will be periodically surveyed to check for the prescence of birds. Mr Mellington said that the release area will be searched for Malleefowl nests as part of ongoing monitoring. "In this way it may be possible to detect any future activity by the released birds," he said.

2008 Powercor Awards Hall of Fame

The Little Desert Nature Lodge was recently inducted in the Powercor Wimmera Development Associations "Hall of Fame at the Business Achievement Awards Gala Dinner. Congratulations to all of the team at the Lodge on this award and to our many local supporters and suppliers. To receive this award is a great honour and a huge team effort.

Helen's Corner

Thanks to the Hindmarsh Landcare Network, Little Desert Nature Lodge has a new garden in honour of Helen Handbury, which was planted as part of its eighth annual Hindmarsh Landcare weekend. Helen was a great supporter of both the Hindmarsh Landcare Network and also Little Desert Nature Lodge. 2700 indigenous seedlings were planted by volunteers in a section of the Little Desert Nature Lodge now known as "Helen's Corner". Federal member for Mallee John Forrest unveiled a memorial for mrs handbury, joined by Mr. Handbury.

Bandicoots thriving

Numbers have increased rapidly after two pairs of endangered species, the Southern Brown Bandicoot wre released into a 1.5 hectare breeding compound at Little Desert Nature Lodge just over a year ago. As the adults breed the young move out of the breeding compound and into the 120 hectare vermin proof Sanctuary. The dispersal of the young is quite a natural process and it emulates what happens in the wild. The Bandicoot's distinctive tracks have been found in all parts of the property.

The Southern Brown Bandicoot is a small marsupial that was once widespread across southern Australia. Its range is now restricted to a few isolated populations. Predation by foxes and feral cats weere the major cause of their decline, but given a bit of Australia free from foxes and cats, the Bandicoots reproduce very quickly.

Bandicoots are capable of breeding three times a year and can produce a litter of 4-6 young. They eat insects and grubs as well as seeds and tubers. The bandicoots are easily seen on the nocturnal walks that the lodge offers each night at sunset.

2006 Powercor Wimmera Business Achievement Award

On May 5th 2006, the Little Desert Nature Lodge was awarded the Powercor Wimmera Business Achievement Award in the category of Tourism Attractions. Congratulations to all staff and supporters of the Lodge, who helped acheive this success.

Whimpey’s World 2 Video/DVD

Following the success of the first Whimpey's World Video, we have recently produced a new video & DVD titled "Whimpey’s World 2". The video portrays in detail the facinating life cycle of the unique Malleefowl or Lowan Bird, the culmination of over 30 years of field observation by Whimpey Reichelt (16 minutes, $35).

Whimpey Awarded Order of Australia Medal

On June 9th 2003, Whimpey Reichelt was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) from the Australian Government for his service to nature conservation and in particular protection of the Malleefowl. The OAM is a formal recognition of Whimpey’s many years of dedication towards conservation of the Little Desert and sharing his appreciation of the region’s natural value to people of all ages and from all parts of the world.