Aboriginal Culture Discovery – 5 Day Adventure

Introducing Australia’s Indigenous People & Culture

Far North Queensland is rich with indigenous traditions, and a confluence of cultures brings together a striking blend of art, language, dance, food and ceremony. On this educational excursion, you discover similarities in Aboriginal culture as well as vast differences among the Tjapukai, Kuku Yalanji, Jirrbal and Yidinji through talks, walks and fun activities. Authentic interactions with Aboriginal people reveal their respect for land and reverence for traditions long forgotten by indigenous people in other parts of the world. Share in the discovery of a 40,000 year old culture while enjoying gorgeous natural places of the tropics.

Areas of Learning:

  • Aboriginal Culture
  • Art
  • Language
  • Hunting & Gathering


  • Learn basics of the Jirrbal language
  • Create your own dot painting under the tutelage of an Aboriginal artist
  • Search the mangroves with Kuku Yalanji guides for “bush tucker”
  • Discover Indigenous story places on a river kayaking trip
  • Understand rainforest plants used for food and medicine
  • Learn to throw a spear to catch your own food and then cook it
  • See how tradition and modernity combine in Aboriginal peoples’ lives

Benefits & Bonuses:

  • All accommodation, meals, guides and transport to activities included
  • Risk assessment provided
  • Price Guarantee: price will not change once you sign up for your trip
  • Expert guides – not “bus drivers”
  • We cater to student special diets and swimming levels
  • Goodies! Water bottle, field guide, cloth shopping bag and rainforest plot adopted in your name
  • MAKE IT YOUR OWN – This trip is fully customisable.  Ask us for details!
Day 1: Arrival and Aboriginal Culture Park

Day 1: Arrival and Aboriginal Culture Park

Arrival in Cairns: Welcome to the tropics! On arrival you are met by a Small World Journeys staff member and transferred to your accommodation.

Accommodation: Your accommodation is at a comfortable hostel in the centre of Cairns’ restaurant and shopping district, and only a few blocks from the waterfront. The hostel is committed to sustainability and even has their own herb garden for guests use! A lush swimming pool and spa, and large common areas, the hostel also features free internet in common areas and air conditioning in each room.

Aboriginal Culture Park: Today you visit a unique Aboriginal culture park, winner of multiple tourism awards. A perfect introduction to the 40,000 year old aboriginal culture, Tjapukai—named after the local indigenous tribe—showcases Aboriginal rituals, dance and traditional arts. You witness the telling of creation stories, listen to the haunting sounds of the didgeridoo, and learn to throw spears and boomerangs in the care of Tjapukai tribal members.

Accommodation: Cairns Budget Accommodation
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Aboriginal Culture: “Bush Tucker” Walk and Language Lesson

Day 2: Aboriginal Culture: “Bush Tucker” Walk and Language Lesson

Local Aboriginal Culture:  First today you meet an Aboriginal Yirrganydji elder to see the region through his eyes. Having worked with the Historical Society for more than 20 years to research Indigenous artefacts as a “surface archaeologist”, your guide is also an author and a source of many compelling stories. Starting at a local museum, your guide tells of life sanctioned on Aboriginal Reserves in Cairns and about the significance of land and sea country to his people.

Bush Tucker Walk: Tracing a route on land that has had significance to the Yirrganydji  people, your Aboriginal guide also shows you what is currently blooming and in season.  Sweet berries, fruits and other bush tucker becomes central to your discovery today, and your guide also shares with you his personal stories of living his whole life in this area. This is a great way to better understand flora from a traditional owner and get insight into local Aboriginal way of life.

Aboriginal Language Lesson:  Next you travel south to a small community where you have the privilege to meet members of the Grant family who are descendants from the Jabanbarra Jirribal People (coastal plain people).  This morning is a special lesson in learning the basic language skills required to speak a local Aboriginal language – Jirrbal.  You will be taught by an Aboriginal elder who is one of the last remaining speakers of this language.  You learn how the language curiously uses gender markers, what role language plays in stories and a means in preservation of culture.  Using interactive language activities and games, your Aboriginal host teaches you in a fun and dynamic way how a local aboriginal language and culture is delightfully intertwined.  This is a unique indigenous cultural experience.

Accommodation: Set in the heart of the Tully Valley overlooking the picturesque mountains of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area lies Echo Creek, you accommodation for the night.  Cabins are single-gender with all linen provided and separate shared bathrooms.

Accommodation: Tully Valley Cabins
Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 3: Guided River Kayaking, Aboriginal Culture, National Park & Waterfalls

Day 3: Guided River Kayaking, Aboriginal Culture, National Park & Waterfalls

River Kayaking:  Today Bulgan Creek’s pristine wilderness and small gentle rapids treat both first timers and experienced kayakers alike.  First you are fitted with a life jacket and after a safety briefing you are given instruction on paddling skills. You then wind your way down the creek, its banks cloaked in lush green rainforest, and you learn about this special place from your Aboriginal guide.

Aboriginal Plant Uses and Story Places:  As you traverse the river, you start to understand the complexity of Aboriginal belief systems and how sites have memories and meanings.  You learn that spirituality, law, land, social life and care for country are all interconnected.  With your guide you stop to observe significant plants:  trees and plants and vines all have a special name and use.  Animals such as fish and birds also had significance when they appeared.  Your guide also explains the cultural story places of the Jirrbal Aboriginal people, and you learn how they looked to nature for cues on how and when to conduct their daily activities, such as gathering food, preparing for cyclones, and migration. Halfway through your journey, you stop for a swim and a treat of billy tea and damper (homemade bush bread).

National Park: Later you enter Wooroonooran National Park—a diverse part of the UNESCO Wet Tropics World Heritage Area which hosts some of the oldest continually surviving rainforest in the world.

Josephine Falls: One of the most picturesque places in the entire Wet Tropics! You take an easy walk through the jungle, listening for the call of the king parrot and the bowerbird and emerge at Josephine Falls, where Josephine Creek plunges down a gorgeous set of cascades. Below the falls, boulders surround a fun swimming hole and a natural water slide down a smooth sloping rock face.

Accommodation: Tully Valley Cabins
Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 4: Studio Visit & Art Lesson with Aboriginal Artist, Aboriginal-Guided Hunting & Tracking & Beach BBQ

Day 4: Studio Visit & Art Lesson with Aboriginal Artist, Aboriginal-Guided Hunting & Tracking & Beach BBQ

Aboriginal Dot Painting:  Today you tour an art gallery owned by a Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal artist that is filled with paintings, didgeridoos and artefacts.  The Aboriginal artist-in-residence teaches you how to re-create the dot paintings that are a typical aboriginal style and symbolic of Australian art. He explains the meaning behind his paintings and what this art means to his people. You are able to take your small canvas painting home with you – a perfect souvenir for your time in northern Australia!

Aboriginal Culture and Food Gathering: Next you walk with two gentle Aboriginal guides of the Kubirri Warra clan along the coast they’ve called home for thousands of years. Your Aboriginal guides teach you to throw a spear and you try your hand at catching food the traditional way — hunting for fish, mud crabs, mussels and other “bush tucker” (food) along the beach and among the mangroves.  Along the way, your guides share their knowledge of country, wildlife and of local edible and medicinal plants.

Cooking What You’ve Caught: Later you are invited to your indigenous guide’s home where you meet the family, learn more about Aboriginal culture and feast on what you’ve caught.  This is an authentic interaction with Aboriginal people that allows you to see how indigenous traditions are integrated into the modern world.   

Beach BBQ Party: In the late afternoon, you head to the beach for music, games and a classic BBQ dinner.  This is a fun way to end your time in Cairns.

Accommodation: Cairns Budget Accommodation
Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 5: Free Time, OPTIONAL Community Service Project or Aboriginal Culture Discovery and Depart

Day 5: Free Time, OPTIONAL Community Service Project or Aboriginal Culture Discovery and Depart

After breakfast this morning you have free time for last-minute shopping or souvenir purchases.

OPTION – Service Project for the Homeless: This morning you can participate in a service project for the homeless and needy, some of whom include Aboriginal people, by making special bags for a local charity using recycled materials (which helps them save money!).  You then put in the bags food and hygiene items most needed by those living on the street.  Rosies Friends on The Street is a not-for-profit organisation that will then distribute the packs you make.  In addition, a representative from Rosies will speak to you about how members of the Cairns community become homeless, and how your gift will help.  No worries if you aren’t the best at arts and crafts – the bags are easy to make, and you’ll feel good doing it too.  (no extra cost)

– OR –

OPTION – Aboriginal Mandingalbay Yidinji Culture: During this experience, Mandingalbay Yidinji people speak to you about their spiritual and cultural connection to country, which straddles the Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef World Heritage areasA boat ride across the inlet takes you through mangrove and freshwater wetland environments, and an Aboriginal ranger explains how these areas are managed.  With a traditional smoke ceremony, you are then welcomed onto Mandingalbay Yidinji land.  Through a walk and ranger talk you learn how wind is important in hunting, how the Mandingalbay Yidinji people turned poisonous seeds into bread dough, and why and where they migrated with the seasons.  A host of edible and medicinal plants line the pathway, and you can taste the tangy native coriander, smell the sweet scent of coconut laurel and wash your hands with the soap tree.  Later you have time for discussions on totems and the protection of animals, Native Title Acts and biodiversity surveys. (extra cost)

Later your cultural tour ends and you are transferred to the Cairns airport for your flight home.

Included: Breakfast


Small World Journeys reserves the right to change the order of activities for logistical reasons.

Is this  Aboriginal culture program too long or too short? Contact us for custom tour options that match your budget and objectives!

School Excursion Fees Include:

  • Cairns airport transfers
  • Small World Journeys guide days 1-4
  • Specialty guides and educators
  • All activities and entrance fees as described in the itinerary
  • Transportation to activities
  • 3 nights at Cairns budget accommodation (4 or 6 share dorm rooms with private bathroom)
  • 1 night Echo Creek cabins (4 or 6 share dorm-style rooms with shared bathroom)
  • All continental breakfasts
  • All lunches
  • All dinners except on Night 3
  • A hand-painted canvas to take home
  • Pre-trip educational information
  • 5 metres square Daintree rainforest plot adopted in your group’s name through Rainforest Rescue
  • A BPA free reusable water bottle and cloth shopping bag
  • Carbon offsetting through Sustainable Travel International (STI)

*Two teacher rooms (private twin or triple share rooms with ensuite) in Cairns and in the Tully valley  are included in the trip price.  A supplement of $195 AUD is charged if an additional private room is required. If teachers are happy to share a room, no additional costs are incurred.

School Excursion Fees Exclude:

  • Airfare to Cairns
  • 1 dinner
  • Personal expenses (phone, laundry, etc.)


  • Community Service Project on Day 5: no charge
  • Aboriginal Culture Discovery on Trinity Inlet: $97 per person

Land Cost from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019:

  • 15+ participants: $1195 AUD
  • (Low numbers) 10-14 participants: $1265 AUD


All accommodation is included. In Cairns, you stay at a comfortable hostel in the centre of Cairns’ restaurant and shopping district, and only a few blocks from the waterfront. The hostel is committed to sustainability and even has their own herb garden for guests use! A lush swimming pool and spa, and large common areas, the hostel also features free internet in common areas and air conditioning in each room. In the Tully Valley, you stay on a vast parcel of private property, where cabins are set up near a central lake.  Hot showers and delicious meals are part of your stay here.



All meals except one dinner are included. Meals are a combination of restaurant dinners, catered lunches and continental breakfasts at your accommodation. A typical breakfast is a selection of cereals, toast, juice and fruits; lunches are combinations of sandwiches and salads with fruits and a sweet, and dinners are a sample of buffets and BBQs, pastas and pizzas. Ask us about vegetarian, kosher and halal options.

Small World Journeys reserves the right to change the order of activities for logistical reasons.



IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT SCUBA DIVING: In order to participate in SCUBA diving, you will be required to fill out a medical form which can be forwarded to you in advance. Some of the medical conditions that may disqualify you from diving are, but not limited to, the following: Diabetes, Asthma, Ear/Nose/Throat Conditions, Migraine Headaches, Previous Head Injuries, Epilepsy/Seizures/Convulsions, Pregnancy and/or Poor Physical Conditioning. We can forward you this medical form before the start of your trip.  Please plan to depart at 2 pm or after on your last day if you plan to SCUBA dive.


  1. Read our Terms & Conditions and tell us you want to come.
  2. Pay a $200 AUD deposit for the group (not per person – just a flat $200 to secure your booking) via our payment page or by direct deposit/cheque.
  3. Receive a link from us to your special web page that has an electronic booking forms, waivers to e-sign, and more information about the trip.
  4. Have each student sign up via this link and pay you (the teacher) no later than 60 days prior to the trip. You then submit whole payment to us at 60 days.
  5. Enjoy your trip!


  • Upgrade to Cairns HOTEL accommodation: Your hotel is located within easy walking distance to the Cairns Esplanade and offers friendly, personal hospitality. Student rooms are triple share and teachers will enjoy twin share rooms with free WiFi. All spacious rooms feature LCD TVs, air-conditioning and private bathroom. The hotel has 24 hour reception, 2 swimming pools and a restaurant where a continental breakfast is served daily. Add $120 per person.



All meals are included, except for one dinner. You have a combination of catered and restaurant meals. A typical breakfast is a selection of cereals, toast, juice and fruits; lunches are combinations of sandwiches and salads with fruits and a sweet, and dinners are tasty choices at restaurants or old favourites such as lasagne, stir-frys, burgers, and tacos. Ask us about vegetarian, kosher and halal options.

Small World Journeys reserves the right to change the order of activities for logistical reasons.


Question 1: Do I need a visa to visit Australia?

Answer: All visitors to Australia need a visa, with the exception of visitors from New Zealand. In some countries a visa is easily obtained by the travel agent who issues your ticket, and should be free of charge. For more information on getting a visa, please see: Australian Visas. All visitors will also need a passport, valid for at least six months after the planned return date.  

Question 2: How do we arrange airfare?

Answer: We do not arrange airfare in house, however we do work closely with a couple of travel agents who would be happy to help: In Australia, we recommend Kim Salter, our Melbourne-based travel agent. Contact Kim at kims@travelmanagers.com.au or call + 61 0433 324 455 or toll free within Australia 1 300 640 821.   In the US, we recommend: Sandra Marron at Millennium Travel California. You can contact Sandra at milltrav@aol.com or call  1-415-898- 7974.

Question 3: What happens when we arrive at the airport?

Answer: You will be met by a Small World Journeys staff member who will give you an orientation and then accompany you to your accommodation.

Question 4: When is the best time to visit Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef?

Answer: Cairns is a tropical place, and outdoor activities can be enjoyed year-round. In our summer (December-February), the weather is at its warmest and wettest. You can expect hot days with occasional tropical storms, producing lush green hillsides and plenty of waterfalls. Average temperatures are 23-31 degrees Celsius/73-87 Fahrenheit. In our winter (June-August), the climate is at its most mild, with warm days, cool nights, and little rainfall. Average temperatures are 18-26 degrees Celsius/64-78 degrees Fahrenheit. Autumn (March - May) brings unpredictable weather - it can be warm and rainy or hot and sunny. Springtime (September - November) is the most predicable, and days tend to be warm to hot with little rainfall. The visbility at the Great Barrier Reef is at its best September - November, but can be enjoyed year-round. Come June - September for seasonal whale watching.  

Question 5: Do we need to worry about jellyfish?

Answer: The box jellyfish are present in the northern coastal waters from November to April/May. The jellyfish are found close to shore—they breed in estuaries and very very rarely can they make it to the outer Great Barrier Reef. Most of the swimming beaches have “stinger nets” up during this season so people can swim. However, the tiny Irukandji jellyfish has been known on occasion to slip through the nets, and this is most often where people have been stung. It is a very painful sting, but there have been only 2 confirmed deaths in Australia due to the Irukandji jellyfish. The good news is that the jellyfish are rarely found at the outer Great Barrier Reef, where you will be snorkeling and/or diving. Most people swim on the reef without using any protection. According to the CRC Reef Research Centre, “In offshore waters around coral reefs, box jellyfish that cause Irukandji syndrome are usually well dispersed and the incidence of stings is very small.” Nonetheless, reef operators have “stinger suits” as well as wetsuits as an extra precaution.

Question 6: What happens if a student cancels?

Answer: If an individual student cancels from a trip within 30 days of the trip departure, no refunds are given. For this reason, we strongly encourage all parents to purchase trip cancellation insurance in order to protect against unforeseen circumstances which are the main cause for student cancellations. For more details, please see our Terms & Conditions.

Question 7: What is your safety record?

Answer: Our safety record is outstanding. Please ask us for teacher/supervisor references specifically regarding our safety measures and practices.  We do risk assessments for every excursion we run. We carry a first aid kit in our vehicles, as well as on the guide's person when in remote areas.  All guides are certified in first aid and CPR.  We give every student  a card with emergency numbers and safety information on it to carry, and we review safety measures as part of our orientation. 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.

Question 8: Do you do risk assessments?

Answer: 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.

Question 9: Why should we purchase travel insurance?

Answer: We strongly recommend the purchase of travel insurance for your protection. Should a participant need to cancel their trip for any reason, our cancellation policy applies. However, travel insurance protects any loss they may experience should s/he or an immediate family member become ill or sustain an injury that prevents them from going on the trip.

Question 10: What makes Small World Journeys "eco-friendly"?

Answer: An eco tour, in our opinion, is a trip in which everyone benefits: the community, the environment, you and us. Simply by joining one of our trips, you will be supporting carbon offsetting, Rainforest Rescue's Adopt-A-Square initiative, aboriginal cultural ventures and locally-owned businesses who are working towards a more sustainable future in tourism. As our guest, you are supporting us as well. Thank you! For more information, see 10 Ways We're ''Sustainable''.

The World’s Oldest Living Civilisation

The Cairns region is the perfect place to look more closely at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture with the influences of many language groups predominant in the region. On this educational tour  your students learn about the Kuku-Yalanji people who have lived in the rainforest and along the coast for thousands of years. In the south they  learn about the complex social system of the Jirrbal people and in the Cairns region they learn about the Tjapukai people.

Australian National Curriculum – High School

Cross Curriculum Priority: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures

Country/ Place

  • OI.1 Your students will discuss Australia’s two distinct Indigenous groups, Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. They will learn about the similarities and the differences between the two cultures.
  • OI.2 Your students will learn how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities maintain a special connection to and responsibility for Country/Place throughout all of Australia. In the Cairns region there are several different Aboriginal groups all of which have a strong connection to the reef, coast, rainforests and mountains.
  • OI.3 Students will hear from local Indigenous people about their unique belief systems and how they are spiritually connected to the land, sea, sky and waterways.


  • OI.4 Within the Cairns region there are several different Aboriginal language groups. By visiting different areas of the region your students will learn about language from the Kuku-Yalanji, Tjapukai and Jirrbal people.
  • OI.5 Through interacting with Aboriginal people, students will learn that their ways of life are uniquely expressed through ways of being, knowing, thinking and doing.
  • OI.6 The history of Aboriginal people in the Cairns region spans back over 40,000 years. During your visit your students will learn about aspects of this complex history and how this can be influenced by thinking socially or politically.


  • OI.7 After a visiting the Cairns region and learning about the local Indigenous culture your high school students will be able to compare the similarities and differences of the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies encompassed by the diversity of nations across Australia.
  • OI.8 Local Aboriginal guides will explain how their people have sophisticated family and kinship structures.
  • OI.9 After experiencing first-hand the intricacies of the local Aboriginal people your students will be in a better position to acknowledge the significant contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people locally and globally.


Ask us about your specific academic and cultural goals. This educational group tour is appropriate for both high school students and international college students traveling to Australia.

How your trip supports the community

SUPPORTING LOCAL INDIGENOUS CULTURE: We acknowledge  Aboriginal People and Torres Strait Islander People as the first inhabitants of Australia and acknowledge Traditional Owners of the lands where we work and our groups travel. Your trip includes activities and interaction with local Aboriginal people, the traditional owners of the land on which you are traveling. By taking this trip, you are supporting grassroots indigenous tourism ventures and encouraging Aboriginal pride in culture. We are proud to say that in the financial year of 2016-17, we gave over $32,000 in business to Aboriginal-owned ventures.

SUPPORTING LOCAL BUSINESSES: On this educational tour, we use locally owned accommodation, restaurants, and suppliers whenever possible to keep income in the community. This includes supporting farmers by purchasing locally-grown fruits and vegetables for you on your trip. We also give you a list of where to buy locally-made crafts and souvenirs so you can continue this support as well.

SUPPORTING LOCAL HOMELESS & NEEDY PEOPLE: We make both financial and in-kind donations to Rosie’s Friends on The Street, a Cairns-based charity. Rosie’s seeks to provide homeless people and people living rough a hot meal, conversation and a non-judgemental human connection.  Small World Journeys’ staff also volunteer on Rosie’s outreach nights, and many of our students have made comfort packs for Rosie’s patrons! For more information on Rosie’s and other organisations to which we donate, see Philanthropy and Partnerships or ask us how you can incorporate community service with Rosie’s into your educational excursion.

How your trip is “Eco-friendly”

ADOPTING A RAINFOREST PLOT IN YOUR NAME: We pay to have a 5-square metre plot of rainforest is adopted in your group’s name through Rainforest Rescue. On your school excursion, your group will be presented with a certificate detailing the significance of this gift to the environment.

REDUCING WASTE: We give you your own water bottle and cloth shopping bag to eliminate the need for disposable bottles and plastic bags. By reducing our need for plastic bags and bottles, we avoid having these things go into landfills or into the tummies of our native animals. For more information on how we donate to The Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and other environmental groups, see Philanthropy and Partnerships.

CARBON OFFSETTING: Your activities and travel put carbon dioxide into the environment. We calculate the total carbon footprint of your trip. Then we pay Sustainable Travel International (STI) to offset your emissions by investing in environmental and community-based projects. In 2017 we offset 76.72 mega tonnes of carbon dioxide! For more information about our carbon offsetting, see 10 Ways We’re ”Sustainable”.

How your trip is safety-oriented

REFERENCES:  We have had hundreds of students travel with us, and our safety record is excellent.  Ask us for teacher references specifically regarding safety.

VEHICLES: All of our vehicles are equipped with seatbelts for every seat. While this is not a Queensland law, we feel your safety is a priority.  Our guides do safety checks at the start of each day of the trip. In addition, vehicles go through a Department of Transport safety inspection every six months.

RISK ASSESSMENT: We have a complete Crisis Management Plan, we assess risks of the excursion and are happy to complete a risk assessment for you upon request. In addition, students are given a safety briefing during group orientation, along with a card with emergency numbers, accommodation addresses and phone numbers.

GUIDES AND SAFETY: Small World Journeys’ guides hold current Senior First Aid and CPR certificates, along with government-issued Driver’s Authority and Working With Children cards (also known as a Blue Card). For more information on our student tour guides, see The Small World Journeys Team.