Ecosystems at Risk: Coral Reefs Study – 4 Days
Great Barrier Reef School Excursion in Style
For those with limited time, this is a perfect opportunity to explore the Great Barrier Reef in a compact excursion. Learn more about biophysical interactions, biotic and abiotic factors, and human and natural impacts on the reef with fun, dynamic activities. Led by a knowledgeable marine scientist, your geography and marine studies trip explores the wonders of this World-Heritage site that hosts some of the planet’s best biodiversity.
- Learn from a marine biologist/naturalist with mini-lectures and hands-on assignments
- Visit a turtle rehabilitation centre
- Collect data on coral predators and bleaching as a service project
- Discover marine life at Fitzroy Island and an outer reef sand cay
- Test water quality and learn how this predicts reef health
- Snorkel in a dazzling show of colour and life at the outer Great Barrier Reef
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 Geography Presentation
Arrival: Welcome to the tropics! You arrive in Cairns and are warmly greeted by one of our staff members at the airport. (Arrive before 4 pm today).
Accommodation: You stay at a breezy award-winning hostel in the centre of Cairns’ restaurant and shopping district, and only a few blocks from the waterfront. Well shaded by tropical trees and plants, the hostel features an outdoor pool and free internet and WiFi. Student rooms are 6-share with ensuites while teachers stay in private ensuite rooms. (Hotel upgrade available, see inclusions tab)
Geography Presentation: We know people have nervous breakdowns, but what happens when a reef gets too stressed out? During this lively presentation taught by a marine naturalist, you learn more about how The Great Barrier Reef evolved and about how natural and human impacts are causing it stress. Your naturalist helps you understand myths versus reality, how to recognise coral bleaching and how scientists are trying “assisted evolution” to help the reef survive. Additionally, you learn what the scariest things are at the reef (not sharks or jellyfish!) and what its biggest threats are. You leave with some practical tools on how you can help the reef and with a greater appreciation of the natural wonder you are about to experience.
OPTIONAL ADD ON: Protected Area Management Talk – Traditional & Contemporary from Indigenous Ranger. Learn some of the ways Traditional Owners have SUSTAINABLY managed both marine and terrestrial environments during a talk by a Yirrganydji ranger. He speaks about traditional use of marine resources, agreements relating to “sea country” (TUMRAs), and the significance of totems and being stewards of the Great Barrier Reef (this day or last day – extra cost)
Accommodation: Cairns Budget Accommodation
Day 2: The Inner Great Barrier Reef & Fitzroy Island with Marine Biologist
Ferry Ride: This morning you are ferried to the pristine Fitzroy Island. A fringing coral reef surrounds the island, part of the inner Great Barrier Reef, providing a sheltered home for a variety of fish and coral species.
Snorkelling: With full use of snorkel gear for the day, you can walk right into the water to explore the magnificent reef system that surrounds the island. Just offshore a kaleidoscope of marine life beckons to be discovered: colourful corals, parrot and lionfish, turtles, cuttle fish, rays and giant clams.
Marine Biology & Mapping Activity: With our marine biologist/naturalist you review some basics before engaging in guided snorkel sessions. Using a life ring, she leads you to underwater examples of some of the reef’s most interesting features. A lunchtime mapping activity also helps students with their geography skills and to understand management strategies for the reef.
Fish Population Survey and Water Quality Testing: Students also discover reef biodiversity with our marine biologist/naturalist and use the waterproof SWJ Fish ID & tally slates that has them identifying & recording the number of specific indicator species that exist at Fitzroy Island. You also learn to measure water quality using chemical tests. Small World Journeys collects these tallies from each group that visits Fitzroy Island so we can log this data, analyse the results over time, and look for any long term trends.
Turtle Rehabilitation Centre: During your visit you also visit the island’s Turtle Rehabilitation Centre where a collection of volunteers help save sick and injured sea turtles by looking after them until they are ready to be released back into the ocean.
Field Guide: 101 Animals of The Great Barrier Reef, written by Dr. Martin Cohen, helps you to better understand the underwater world and is yours to keep.
Accommodation: Cairns Budget Accommodation
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3: Great Barrier Reef Snorkelling, Data Collection & Community Service
Biodiversity at The Outer Reef: For students, the outer Great Barrier Reef is perhaps the world’s best classroom in which to witness the interconnectedness of species and biodiversity. Today at the outer Barrier Reef you witness why this is one of the most complex natural systems on Earth.
Eco-Friendly Reef Boat & Exclusive Eco-Guide: Early this morning you travel to the outer Great Barrier Reef on a sailing catamaran that has been awarded an Advanced Ecotourism certification. You have an accredited EcoGuide/sustainability expert devoted exclusively to your group for today’s experience as well.
Snorkelling: Snorkelling can be done right off the back of the boat. For snorkelers, giant clams, angel, butterfly and parrot fish, turtles, sea stars and corals of a thousand hues are all within reach. Among the 1,800 species of fish and 450 species of coral, you can expect to see Wally the giant wrasse, fan corals, sea cucumbers and just about the entire cast of “Finding Nemo”. You also may see beauties such as luminescent parrot fish, the chocolate-dipped damsel, the Picasso triggerfish and several species of turtles.
Buffet Lunch: Lunch is a tropical buffet of delicious hot and cold items, including prawns, pasta salads and fresh fruit.
Data Collection: At your first location, you receive in-water training on how to conduct the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Rapid Monitoring Survey. Your guide will point out key features of the reef ecosystem, answer any questions, and conduct a practice survey with group. Then during a timed snorkel session, you record your underwater findings. Your guide and waterproof slates help you identify a host of marine life and calculate benthic zone coverage. Most importantly, you look for signs of coral bleaching and coral predators which greatly affect the health of the reef. Your data is then collected and contributes to the central reporting system used by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) to manage the long term sustainability of this UNESCO World Heritage area.
Water Quality Sampling: As you train to measure water quality, you also learn how consistent measuring at the reef shows long term trends, which in turn is a good predictor of overall reef health. This involves training in taking water temperature readings and vertical visibility readings using a Secchi disc.
Coral Predator Eradication & Community Service: Having students cover a large area of the reef site greatly increases the chances of coral predators being discovered. Once you identify coral predators such as the Crown of Thorns starfish, you then accompany your guide to learn the careful process of eliminating these harmful creatures from the reef.
Field Guide & Sightings Ap: 101 Animals of The Great Barrier Reef, written by Dr. Martin Cohen, helps you to better understand the underwater world and is yours to keep. You also learn how to log in sightings of your reef fauna and flora using an ap downloadable to your phone or tablet, and your data is then sent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA).
You return to Cairns late this afternoon and you have dinner at a restaurant in town and can explore the Night Markets.
Accommodation: Cairns Budget Accommodation
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 4: Free Time OR Optional Debate OR Optional Urban Challenge and Depart
After breakfast this morning you have free time for last-minute shopping or souvenir purchases.
Optional Environmental Debate: You can participate in an environmental debate which centers around issues of management and planning of Australia’s marine future. Students are given background information about a major development proposed for Cairns and then given different roles to play of community members. They then argue for or against the dredging of Trinity Inlet to convince “council” (teachers). This requires evaluating current and proposed future port use as well as human alteration of biomes, taking into consideration biotic and abiotic factors. This is a fun way for you to get involved with all sides of an environmental debate with a current real-life issue. (on request, no extra cost)
Optional Urban Challenge: If you have an afternoon flight, you can choose to spend the morning souvenir shopping, swimming at the lagoon or participating in Small World Journeys’ Urban Challenge! The Urban Challenge is a fun team-building exercise that allows students to learn more about the history, nature, art and culture of Cairns. Small group teams compete against time in this treasure hunt-type activity in Cairns’ central business district. This is a popular activity for students and the winning team gets a prize! (on request, no extra cost) .
Later you are transferred to the Cairns airport for your flight home.
Is this geography-focused program too long or too short? Contact us for custom tour options that match your budget and objectives!
School Excursion Fees Include:
- All activities as described in the itinerary
- Cairns airport transfers
- Transportation to activities
- Marine naturalist on Days 1 & 2
- Eco-Certified marine naturalist on Day 3
- 3 nights Cairns hostel (4 or 6 share single-gender rooms with ensuites)*
- All continental breakfasts
- All lunches
- All dinners (except on arrival day)
- Mask, fins, snorkel hire on Fitzroy Island and reef trip
- Stinger suit hire during the wet season
- 101 Marine Animals of the Great Barrier Reef field guide for each student
- Small World Journeys reusable water bottle and cloth shopping bag
- National Park and Marine Park taxes and levies
- Carbon offsetting through Sustainable Travel International (STI) for a carbon-neutral trip
*Two teacher rooms (private twin or triple share rooms with ensuite) 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
- Dinner on arrival day
- Personal expenses (phone, souvenirs, laundry, etc.)
- Optional add on of Indigenous ranger presentation on Day 1 or Day 4 (ask us about pricing)
Land Cost to 31 March 2018:
- 15 + participants: $749 AUD
- 10-14 participants: $818 AUD
All accommodation is included. In Cairns you stay at a breezy award-winning hostel in the centre of the restaurant and shopping district. Students like the tropical swimming pool, lounging in the hammock and playing billiards at the free pool table, while group leaders love the private ensuite rooms, air conditioning, laundry facilities and free internet/WiFi (Upgrade to hotel accommodation available, see inclusions tab)
- 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 $98 per person
All meals are included, except dinner on arrival day. On this geography camp 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 fruit and a sweet, and dinners are a sample of BBQs, all-you-can-eat pasta and pizza, seafood treats and local favourites. Ask us about vegetarian, kosher and halal options.
Small World Journeys reserves the right to change the order of activities for logistical reasons. Prices for travel up to 31/3/2018.
HOW TO BOOK A TRIP WITH US (It’s easy!):
- Read our Terms and Conditions.
- 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.
- Receive our Confirmation Pack which includes forms parents must sign.
- Have each student sign up via our Booking Form and pay for their trip by 60 days prior to the trip.
- Enjoy your trip!
Question 1: 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-415-898- 7974.
Question 2: 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 3: 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 4: What if I wish to SCUBA dive (intro or certified)?
Answer: Medical standards differ from country to country, certain medication / medical conditions may preclude you from diving in Australia (EVEN IF YOU ARE ALREADY CERTIFIED)
Certified DivingIf you are a certified diver, you will still be asked to fill out and sign an Advice to Divers Form. To be "certified" means you have taken a course (typically about 4 days long) and you now hold an Open Water Diver certification card from PADI, SSI, NAUI or other internationally recognized SCUBA diving organisation.If you answer Yes to any of the questions below, further medical clearance may be required. (This must be organised at least the day before your trip start date). In some circumstances you may be able to dive, with a certified professional (dive guide), at an additional cost.
Sample Medical Questionnaire For Certified Divers
- Are you currently suffering from any illness or injury? Yes or No
- Are you currently taking any prescription medication (excluding oral contraceptives) Yes or No
- Since your last dive medical have you suffered from any conditions that may affect your fitness to dive? Yes or No
Introductory DivingIntro Diving is also called "resort diving". You can do this kind of diving with a dive instructor even if you are not certified (see above). Doing an Intro Dive does NOT certify you to dive on your own in other places.If you are doing an introductory dive on a live aboard or day boat, you will be asked to fill out and sign a medical form. This form can be emailed to you prior to your trip if you are interested in Intro Diving. If you answer YES to any of the medical questions (for example, do you have asthma or take medication for migraines?) further medical clearance may be required. This must be arranged PRIOR to day of departure.
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 Reasons Why We're Eco.
School Excursion to the Great Barrier Reef – Educational Outcomes: NSW Stage 6 Geography & Biology
Marine Biology Presentation: (Geography H1, H2/Biology H1, H4, H10) This two hour presentation is a fantastic introduction to the spatial patterns and dimensions of the Great Barrier Reef whilst providing students with the knowledge of the species that make coral reefs unique. There will be a focus on species identification and how to recognise major fish families and coral types.
Fitzroy Island Day Trip & Turtle Rehab Centre: (Geography H1, H2, H5/Biology H7, H8, H10) On the day trip to Fitzroy Island students will be able to closely examine the inner Great Barrier Reef. The island is a continental island that was once attached to the mainland, which gives you opportunity to discuss marine geomorphology (the study of marine landforms and the processes that shape them).
With our marine biologist, your day is designed to incorporate fieldwork, biology and geographic skills including exploring relationships between biophysical components, highlighting the vulnerability and the resilience of the reef.
Students will have the opportunity to examine the positive and negative human impacts on the island (which is also a national park) and the Great Barrier Reef while also looking at the contemporary management strategies put in place to keep the island in a pristine condition.
You also have the opportunity to visit the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and see management strategies in action while contributing to the worthwhile cause.
Outer Reef Day Trip: (Geography H1, H2, H5, H6, H7, H8, H10/Biology H6, H7, H8, H12, H13, H14, H15, H16 ) Your student excursion to the outer Great Barrier Reef and Michaelmas Cay gives you another opportunity to discuss marine geomorphology with your marine naturalist. On your journey out, students will learn more about ecotourism, ecosystem management and both what a specific tourism operator is doing as well as what operators nationwide are doing to protect the reef. Students will understand indicators of reef health and examine the factors that place ecosystems at risk.
Students explore the cay’s fringing reef and the outer reef system and in teams perform different data collection techniques, including species counts, calculating benthos coverage, and identifying coral predators. Students will then learn how coral predators negatively affect the reef system, and then learn in the water how these predators are eradicated.
As you do water quality measurements, you also discuss the ecosystem holistically, discussing for example how farmers in the Tablelands affect the water quality at the reef.
On this great Barrier Reef school excursion, data collected by the students can then be taken back to the class room where it can be analysed and synthesised for a geographical enquiry. You will also receive a Great Barrier Marine Park Authority report that includes your data; these statistics will also help students with their geographical analyses.
Australian National Curriculum- Geography
While this school excursion to the Great Barrier Reef has been designed to cater for the NSW Senior Geography course, in essence a “geography camp”, its delivery can be tailored to geography students in junior years studying the Australian National Curriculum. The trip can also be designed to incorporate fieldwork to cover Geography Inquiry Skills outcomes.
Year 10 Unit 1: Environmental Change and Management:
- ACHGK070: The human- induced environmental changes that challenge sustainability.
- ACHGK071: the environmental worldviews of people and their implications for environmental management.
- ACHGK073: The application of human-environment systems thinking to understanding the causes and likely consequences of the environmental change being investigated.
- ACHGK074: The application of geographical concepts and methods to the management of the environment change being investigated.
- ACHGK075: The application of environmental economic and social criteria in evaluating management responses to the change.
Year 8 Unit 1- Landforms and Landscapes:
- ACHGK048: The different types of landscapes and their distinctive landform features.
- ACHGK050: The geomorphic processes that produce landforms including a case study of at least one landform.
- ACHGK051: the human causes and effects of landscape degradation.
- ACHGK052: The ways of protecting significant landscapes.
- ACHGK053: The causes impacts and responses to a geomorphological hazard.
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 an optional presentation by an Aboriginal ranger. By taking that option trip, you are encouraging Aboriginal pride in culture. We are proud to say that in the financial year of 2015-16, we gave over $28,000 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”
HELPING SAVE THE TURTLES: We make a donation to the Fitzroy Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on your group’s behalf. So by participating on this trip, you are helping save green, olive ridley and hawsbill turtles that swim in the waters where you are doing your marine studies. For more information on how we donate to The Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and other environmental groups, see Philanthropy and Partnerships.
REDUCING WASTE: On this great Barrier Reef school excursion, 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.
CARBON OFFSETTING: 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. For more information about our carbon offsetting, see 10 Reasons Why We’re Eco.
How your trip is safety-oriented
REFERENCES: We have had hundreds of students travel with us on school excursions, 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 tour and are happy to complete a risk assessment for you upon request. In addition, students are given a safety briefing during 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 guides, see The Small World Journeys Team.
"Overall this trip is amazing and the best thing I have done as a teacher. Thanks so much for all your hard work. Honestly the organisation was outstanding! So I thank you for that and making the trip so easy for us teachers. Russell was exceptional and the kids loved every minute if his presentations and in water activities. It was great to give free time at the second dive site but have a structured activity at Michaelmas Cay. Don't change a thing in terms of this whole day. The fact that students all got to see a COT starfish and it being removed was a great experience. Credit to Small World Journeys! We are booked in for next year already and will have a big group again."
Find a trip
Small World Journeys offers a variety of trips, select above to find others on offer.