• Witness the eclipse from an island at the Great Barrier Reef
• Marine science and snorkelling with a marine biologist
• Eye On The Reef community service project and data collection
• Meals, accommodation, snorkelling gear & all activities included
• Special presentations by Dr. Brian Schmidt and Duane Hamacher on Aboriginal astronomy
Overview - 5 Days / 4 Nights
Nobel Prize Winner
The total solar eclipse of November 14, 2012 is the perfect opportunity for students to witness the celestial magic of a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Astronomer and Nobel Laureate Dr. Brian Schmidt will speak in simple terms about the expanding universe and what to expect during the eclipse. Dr. Duane Hamacher will also dazzle you with his knowledge of aboriginal astronomy.
The next day you visit the area's best-loved rainforest, complete with a natural waterslide! Then with a marine biologist, you are ferried out to an exclusive campsite on Fitzroy Island, located on the inner Great Barrier Reef. There you snorkel the reef, expand your knowledge of marine science, and particpate in valuable research for the Eye on The Reef program.
Your island campsite is only steps from the water, and you wander the island's lush rainforest protected in a national park. A vigorous hike to the island summit provides a spectacular view over the ocean of the early-morning eclipse.
This is a unique and hard-to-find opportunity offered only to student groups. Join us for an unforgettable educational adventure on this very special occasion!
Click on an image to view the gallery
Click for more eclipse pictures
Day 1 (12 Nov): Arrival and Nobel Laureate Astronomy Presentation
Welcome to Cairns! One of the Small World Journeys staff members will warmly greet you at the airport when you arrive this afternoon and you will be transferred to your accommodation.
Your hotel won Trip Advisor's Traveller's Choice Award for 2012, and continues to rank as one of Cairns best rated hotels. You will enjoy the complimentary WiFi in your room, while all rooms have ensuites and air-conditioning, flat screen TVs with Austar and tea & coffee making facilities. The hotel also has guest laundry, a tropical pool and spa. It is also easy walking distance to shops and restaurants, and two blocks from the Esplanade and waterfront.
In the afternoon you meet with your marine biologist guide who will give you an overview of what will be covered during your trip, and what to prepare for tomorrow. You will then have a little time to explore the Esplanade and swim in the giant swimming lagoon.
As a special treat tonight, you have Nobel Laureate Dr. Brian Schmidt introducing you to total solar eclipses. By studying exploding stars, astrophysicist Dr. Schmidt helped discover the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, for which he won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2011. He has extensive public speaking experience, having given last year's Halley Lecture (named after Edmund Halley, as in the comet) at Oxford and appearing occasionally on ABC Television's Catalyst. Speaking only to Small World Journeys' guests, Dr. Schmidt will cover a variety of topics, conversing in layman's terms about astronomy and the significance of total solar eclipses. There will also be time to chat with Dr. Schmidt after the presentation about your eclipse-related questions.
In addition, Dr. Duane Hamacher, an astronomer and research Fellow in the Nura Gili Indigenous Centre at UNSW, will explore the role of eclipses in the Indigenous Cultures of Australia during a brief presentation. Dr. Hamacher will share stories handed down by elders and present beautiful Indigenous artwork representing this rare phenomenon.
Accommodation: The Tropical Heritage Cairns
Day 2 (13 Nov): Rainforest, Waterfalls and Fitzroy Island with Marine Biologist
This morning with your guide you visit Wooroonooran National Park--one of the most diverse places in the UNESCO Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and host to some of the oldest continually surviving rainforest in the world. Your guide will take you for a walk through the lush rainforest, pointing out the unique species that comprise lowland tropical rainforests and explaining what they do to survive. You then arrive at Josephine Falls, where Josepine Creek plunges down a gorgeous set of cascades, Belwo the falls, boulders surround a fun swimming hole and a natural waterslide down a smooth sloping rock face --always a hit with young people!
Back in Cairns, in the mid-afternoon you are ferried from the marina to the pristine Fitzroy Island – a green gem in a turquoise sea. The island was once connected to the Australian mainland before being separated by rising waters. Over time a fringing coral reef surrounded the island, providing a sheltered home for a variety of fish and coral species. The island is now protected as a national park, with 94% of the island covered in lush rainforest and surrounded by waters ripe for discovery.
With a prime spot on the inner Great Barrier Reef, Fitzroy Island and the surrounding reefs support some of the world’s greatest biodiversity. Your marine biologist will spend the next three days with you, alternating between mini-lectures and practical hands-on assignments in the water. Mini-lecture topics will be tailored to students’ current base knowledge (to be determined by the Engadine HS teacher) and will build on each other as the trip unfolds. Lecture tropics include, but are not limited to: introduction to the Great Barrier Reef and tropical marine biology, corals & ecosystems, fish populations, invertebrates, endangered species, coral diseases, coral predators, and threats to the reef.
When snorkelling, you can expect to see a variety of hard and soft corals, turtles, lionfish, rays and a variety of other species. Waterproof fish and coral ID tiles will help you identify what you are seeing underwater.
Your campground is beautifully situated only steps from the water, and the entire campground is reserved exclusively for Small World Journeys’ guests. There is a BBQ and sink for food preparation, a toilet block and both indoor and outdoor showers. At night you can retreat to Foxy’s – an open air restaurant with a games area and nightly music.
Your camping equipment will be loaded onto the ferry, along with fresh food for you to prepare your meals whilst on the island.
Accommodation: Fitzroy Island Campground
Included:Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 3 (14 Nov): Total Solar Eclipse from Island Summit and Fitzroy Island with Marine Biologist
In the early morning, you prepare for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - the chance to see a total solar eclipse as the shadow of the moon passes over you. The Cairns region will be the best place in the world to witness this exciting event, and your position on a Fitzroy Island will allow for the best line-of-sight of this early morning eclipse.
For the best views, you can walk a gorgeous but steep rainforest track—keeping an eye out for the elusive yellow-spotted monitor—to the summit of the island for a 360-degree panorama, or to where a historic lighthouse stands and views of the Coral Sea are magnificent. Special solar eclipse glasses will allow you to view the eclipse when it commences. Totality will last around two minutes after which the shadow will move out across unpopulated areas of the South Pacific. Special solar eclipse glasses are provided for the occasion.
Afterwards you continue your marine studies with your marine biologist. Today you will perform underwater transects, in which you identify fish and coral populations, and check the reef for bleaching and coral predators. Your data will then be collected and sent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s non-profit organisation, Eye on The Reef. This information will then serve as valuable data in determining the overall health of the reef.
You spend another evening out under the stars at your island campsite.
Accommodation: Fitzroy Island Campground
Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 4 (15 Nov): Outer Barrier Reef Marine Studies and Snorkelling
Today your day begins with a pickup from your island camp and an air-conditioned catamaran ride to the outer Barrier Reef.
Upon arrival, you dock at a floating pontoon, and an underwater universe greets you: clear turquoise waters host a 1,800 species of fish and 450 species of coral. With full use of snorkeling gear, you can expect to see giant Maori Wrasse, coral gardens, giant clams, turtles, and a variety of fish species including butterfly fish, parrot fish and the ever-popular clown fish, also known as "Nemo".
Today’s activities also include comparing while snorkelling, a managed site versus an unmanaged site and evaluating the differences in biodiversity, impact, and coral predators. A semi-submersible craft, glass bottom boat ride and underwater observatory allow your marine biologist to further explain species specific to this site and waterproof slates aid in your data collection. You also discuss management strategies of both the tourist boat operator the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA).
At the end of the day, you travel back to the mainland where a Small World Journeys staff member will collect your equipment and you return to your Cairns hotel.
Accommodation: The Tropical Heritage Cairns
Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 5 (16 Nov): Free time and Departure
After breakfast this morning you have some free time to do some swimming or souvenir shopping. You are then transferred to the Cairns airport for your flight home.
- Cairns airport transfers
- Return ferry transfers
- Small World Journeys marine biologist guide & instruction
- Presentation by Nobel Laureate Dr. Brian Schmidt and Dr. Duane Hamacher
- 4 breakfasts
- 3 lunches
- 4 dinners
- 2 nights Cairns 3.5 star hotel
- 2 nights Fitzroy Island camping
- Tents and sleeping pads
- Portable gas stove for cooking (BBQ available on island)
- Cooking equipment
- Esky and ice
- Mask, snorkel and fins hire
- Small World Journeys reusable water bottle for each student
- Waterproof fish and coral ID tiles
- Special eclipse-viewing solar filter glasses
- Local 24-hour emergency local assistance
- Pre-trip educational information
- 5 metres square adopted in your group’s name through Rainforest Rescue
- ClimateCare™ carbon offsetting for a carbon-neutral trip
What's Not Included:
- Airfare and travel insurance
- Optional activities on Fitzroy Island
- Personal expenses (phone, internet, laundry, etc.)
PLEASE NOTE: students should have at least a moderate level of fitness in order to ascend the track to the lighthouse or summit on Fitzroy Island. Walk is 1.8 kilometres one way --approximately 30 minutes with some steep sections to the lighthouse, and an additional .4 kilometre to the summit.
What is a total solar eclipse?
A total solar eclipse happens during the day. When the moon passes between the earth and the sun and covers the sun, a solar eclipse occurs. This creates a shadow on the Earth, which moves in a narrow path across the planet. When a solar eclipse begins, it appears as though a bite is being taken out of the sun. In the last few minutes before the total eclipse, points of light around the moon appear, which are called Bailey's Beads. When the eclipse finally occurs, the sun is completely blocked out, with only a ghostly corona visible. This occurrence has been described as eerie and unearthly—animals become quiet, the temperature drops, and you are shrouded in darkness. It is truly one of nature's greatest spectacles.
Where will be the best place to view the eclipse?
Our research has concluded that a viewing spot over the ocean at the Great Barrier Reef will provide a location with the least likelihood of coastal cloud cover and a direct line-of-sight of the eclipse.
In Cairns, warm winds from the Coral Sea (the SE tradewinds) carry moisture-laden air towards the coast, and clouds form when it hits these mountains. Therefore, a viewing spot free from these coastal mountain effects is highly desirable.
It is fortunate that the eclipse occurs in the early morning when the least build up of cloud has occurred.
According to The Astronomical Society of Australia, “The best places to view are likely to in the vicinity of Cairns in North Queensland. From Cairns any viewing spot selected should have an unobstructed view over the ocean so that a clear view of totality can be obtained with the Sun low in the eastern sky.”
Australian veteran eclipse chaser and climate researcher Joe Cali recommends, “Locate as far off the centre line as possible on the 2m 01-04s isochron, e.g. Fitzroy Island, to maximize the potential length of the diamond ring and Baily's Beads without any loss of eclipse duration.”
WARNING: Do not look directly at the sun. All Small World Journeys guests will be provided with special eclipse-viewing glasses. The only time that the Sun can be viewed safely with the naked eye is when the moon completely covers the disk of the Sun during the total eclipse.
What will the weather be like?
It will be impossible to predict the weather or cloud cover for the day of the eclipse. However, we can consider seasonal averages. Cairns has a tropical climate, and it is highly likely there will be scattered to broken clouds on the morning of the eclipse. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s climate statistics for Cairns, in November the mean number of clear days is 7.9, while the mean number of cloudy days is 7.6.
Taking into account the eclipse occurs in the early morning, chances are greater that the skies will be clear at that time of day. Please note that while we can hope for sunny skies, we cannot guarantee them!
Is the eclipse on November 13th or 14th?
Both are correct. In Universal Time, the total eclipse begins in northern Australia at 20:35:08 UT on November 13 (which is November 14 Australian time), and ends in the South Pacific at 23:48:24 UT on November 13.
Do teachers travel free?
Yes. For every eight paying participants, one teacher travels with us for free (airfare not included). This is our way of saying thanks for your hard work.
What is your safety record?
Our safety record is immaculate. Yes, we have had students receive minor cuts and bruises, but no injury requiring a hospital visit. We carry a first aid kit in our vehicles, as well as on the guide's person when in remote areas.
We have a 24-hour mobile number that parents may ring at any time during their child's trip if there is an emergency, and we will also provide the group coordinator with contact details of where the group is staying each night.
Safety is absolutely our number one concern at all times. We do everything in our power to make sure each trip is as safe as it can possibly be.
Do you do risk assessments?
Yes. We evaluate and re-evaluate the safety of each of our destinations and activities, and we always reserve the right to modify or cancel an itinerary if the guide feels that conditions are unsafe. We will gladly provide a risk management assessment specific to your trip on request.
Small World Journeys' staff also adhere to a comprehensive Risk Management Strategy.
What qualifications do your guides have?
Our guides have a government-issued Queensland "Blue Card" that is only given after an extensive background check, and allows them the ability to work with children. Each guide also has a Senior First Aid and CPR certification and government-issued Driver's Authority.
Many of our educational adventures guides have higher degrees in environmental science, marine biology or experiential education, and there is one thing which unites them: a love for teaching young people about the outdoors.
We choose guides with extensive experience having worked with young people. We will take into consideration your educational objectives and assign one of our guides who will be the best match for your group.
What kind of insurance do you have in place?
Small World Journeys has public liability insurance up to $10,000,000 and is required for us to maintain our commercial permits for the national parks.
What should I bring with me?
We will provide you with a suggested packing list in your Confirmation Packet. Some important things to remember to bring are lightweight clothes for the tropics, sunscreen, hat and a swim suit.
What about sharks or jellyfish?
The ocean is home to sharks, but the ones you may encounter at the Great Barrier Reef are small and pose little threat to swimmers. In fact, divers and snorkelers often consider themselves lucky to spot one of these shy, magnificent creatures. Australia's famed Great White sharks prefer cold water, and therefore are not found at the Great Barrier Reef.
Box jellyfish, irukandji and other jellyfish, collectively known as "stingers" breed along the coast in estuaries and are not commonly found at The Great Barrier Reef. Therefore, they do not pose a major threat to snorkelers or divers at the reef. However, as a precaution you can use a full body lycra suit from the reef boat (provided free) so that you may still enjoy snorkeling and/or diving. Stingers are only a consideration between November and April/May.
Do I need to bring my own snorkelling equipment?
You may bring your own equipment if you wish; however mask, fins and snorkel are provided on the outer Barrier Reef trip for snorkelers.
Why should I travel with Small World Journeys?
LOCAL SUPPORT & KNOWLEDGE
Our office is in Cairns – this means we are right around the corner for 24-hour support, to answer your questions, or if you have an emergency in the middle of the trip.
Local knowledge means we know the restaurant owners who catch their own fish (and then deliciously prepare it for you!), where to buy the real indigenous-made souvenirs, and where the mobs of people will be on the morning of the eclipse (hint: we’re not going there.)
Being an “eco” tour operator means more to us than just offering walks outdoors. It means we pay to offset the carbon emissions from your trip, give a percentage of profits to local environmental and community organizations, plant trees, recycle, and participate in Rainforest Rescue’s Adopt-a-Square program. See 10 Reasons Why We’re Eco for more on what we do for our environment and community.
HUNDREDS OF HAPPY STUDENTS
We could tell you that we provide highly professional customer service, respond attentively and consistently exceed our guests’ expectations. But don’t believe us! Read some of our testimonials or ask us for references from teachers who are willing to tell you all about their experience with Small World Journeys.
You get a Small World Journeys water bottle, a cloth carry bag, a regional field guide, eclipse-viewing glasses, and a 5 square metre of Daintree rainforest adopted in your group's name. Plus you get an unforgettable trip too.
Once you book your trip, we will send out a Confirmation Packet to you with detailed information that should answer most of your questions. In addition, you can feel free to email us anytime at: email@example.com