A Lake Conjola business has been awarded 'Best local experience in NSW' at the 2019 Travel and Hospitality Awards.
Kiwis with a passion for history, Melinda Loe and Hohepa Ruhe made the move to Fishermans Paradise when they found it increasingly difficult to leave their holiday home and head back to Sydney.
They were about to turn 50, and hoped to fulfill a lifelong dream of starting their own business.
With a background working in museums in both New Zealand and Australia, the dynamic duo decided to let their love of storytelling shine.
Their business - Kotahi Tourism - unites their passion for culture, history and the environment, providing guided tours in Sydney, Lake Conjola and Narooma.
At Lake Conjola, they provide walking tours that explore the built and natural history of the area.
Kotahi means to be united, or to be one, in the Maori language.
"The philosophy behind our tourism and education business is to connect people with the natural environment and cultural heritage," Ms Loe said.
"A lot of our visitors come from New Zealand, and we wanted them to connect with Aboriginal culture as well, so they can book cultural tours run by Aboriginal people through Kotahi tourism as well.
"Combining tourism and education helps small business be more sustainable."
Endangered birds, kangaroos, and the odd shark are just some of the local treasures they enjoy sharing.
Mr Ruhe has also researched the 226-year history of Maori in Australia, which forms the backbone of their Sydney tours.
"When I found solid information about our arrival in 1793, my historic bubble burst," he said.
"I thought we all turned up with the Maori show bands in the 1950s and 60s.
"It was the first trade relationship after colony, and the first official visitors to come [to Australia] after colony were Maori."
Later, in 1888, the predominantly Maori 'New Zealand Native' football side toured Australia and thrashed NSW in several matches.
Although the Lake Conjola tours don't include Maori history, they are infused with manaakitanga - the Maori word for hospitality.
"It underpins everything we do - there is no point offering an experience if people aren't taken care of," Mr Ruhe said.