Service Learning Adventure – 6 Day Adventure

Having Fun While Serving the Community

On this student excursion in Queensland’s far north, you discover how “community service” takes many forms.  Hands-on activities on this trip include native tree planting, assembling hygiene packs for the homeless, monitoring coral bleaching at the Great Barrier Reef and learning to construct aquaponics systems you can duplicate at home–all projects that help people and the planet.

You also have fun discovering the natural beauty of two UNESCO World Heritage areas–The Wet Tropics and The Great Barrier Reef–and why local people are making such an effort to protect them.  In the Wet Tropics you encounter endemic wildlife like the tree kangaroo with an Aboriginal guide, and learn some traditions of the local Ngadjon-Jii Indigenous people and at the Great Barrier Reef you swim among a rainbow of fish and corals.


  • Snorkelling and Eye on the Reef service project at the Great Barrier Reef
  • Discovering the rainforest with an Aboriginal guide
  • Cooking a meal for Cairns homeless and needy people
  • Swimming under tropical waterfalls
  • Participating in a community stencil project to help the reef
  • Visiting a sustainable timber farm
  • Learning how to create aquaponics systems to help with global food security
  • Presentations by researchers, marine biologists and community leaders

Benefits & Bonuses:

  • Finally! Volunteer projects high school-age students can do!
  • 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, Orientation and Community Service Project for The Homeless

Day 1: Arrival, Orientation and Community Service Project for The Homeless

Arrive in Cairns: Welcome to the tropics! You are met at the airport by one of our staff and given a safety talk and orientation on what to expect on your trip.

Service Project for the Homeless: Preparing a Meal and Hygiene Packs: Today a café opens its doors to you to give you space to prepare a meal for the homeless.  With Small World Journeys staff guidance, you use donated food to prepare a meal that will be served to needy people tonight.  During food prep, staff teach you how to make special bags using upcycled materials (which helps them save money!) You then put food and hygiene items into the bags you’ve made–items most needed by those living on the street. In addition, a representative from the charity will speak to you about how members of the Cairns community become homeless, and how your gift will help.

Accommodation: Your accommodation is 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, pool table, and free internet and WiFi.

Accommodation: Cairns Budget Accommodation
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Native Tree Planting, Waterfalls Swim and Aboriginal-Guided Rainforest Walk

Day 2: Native Tree Planting, Waterfalls Swim and Aboriginal-Guided Rainforest Walk

Sustainable Timber Farm: Business sustainability is about helping people and the planet while still making a profit. In a time when deforestation is a major global problem, you meet business owners who are working on a solution with a sustainable timber farm.  Touring the tropical property which was once a degraded dairy farm, you witness how the owners have used mixed plantations to promote biodiversity and to emulate a lush native rainforest. You discuss planting and harvest strategies, see how the wood is milled, and trace a trail among multiple stages of forest regrowth.

Tree Planting and Waterfall Swim: Then you get the opportunity to contribute to the environment by planting some native trees yourselves. Afterwards you walk through the rainforest–keeping an eye out for the resident endangered cassowaries and an intricately hollowed out giant tree–to a nearby private waterfall for a dip in its refreshing pool.

Aboriginal Guided Rainforest Walk:  You continue on to a special swathe of rainforest an area important to the Ngadjon Indigenous people. This highland rainforest boasts a rainbow of bird life and mammals, and is one of the best places in the world to spot the elusive tree kangaroo, or mupee.  Your local Ngadjon Aboriginal guide takes you into his country, and you listen to the lively stories of his ancestors, discover an explosive volcanic history and learn the regional “bush tucker” (food) that was yummy to eat.   By participating in this walk, you are helping the community by supporting indigenous employment and pride in culture. This in turn promotes cultural sustainability.

Afterwards where the cool fresh waters of the North Johnstone River tumble over basalt lava flows at Malanda Falls, a freshwater pool beckons you for a swim.

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

Day 3: Sustainable Timber Farm, Tree Planting, Aboriginal Guided Rainforest Walk and Reef Presentation

Day 3: Sustainable Timber Farm, Tree Planting, Aboriginal Guided Rainforest Walk and Reef Presentation

Aquaponics Activities: Today’s activities center around global themes of agriculture, food security and sustainability. You gather at the property of an “aquaponics gardener” for a fun and intensive look at how to produce organic fruits, herbs, veggies AND fish in a sustainable way in your school or back yard.  Through hands-on activities, you learn how fish poop makes veggies develop, how things like sweet tomatoes, crunchy lettuce and fragrant mint grow without soil and how the icky-sounding but effective “worm tea” keeps insects away. Native bees on the property produce honey for collection, a breeding box makes fish food, and solar power keeps all systems running.

Make Your Own Sustainable System: The best part of the day is learning how to make your own mini-aquaponics system that you can easily and cheaply re-create at your home or school to produce your own food.  This is a creative exercise to show students how, through principles of permaculture, anyone can be self-sufficient.

Rainforest Waterfalls and Swimming Hole: Later you visit a secluded freshwater swimming hole hidden in the tropical rainforest.  A series of small waterfalls flow into large pools surrounded by boulders, and rainforest trees hang over the water, keeping it cool and refreshing.  This is largely a locals-only spot, unreachable by public transport, and a perfect place to soak up the beauty of the tropics.

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

Day 4: Community Service Project for The Reef and Reef Presentation

Day 4: Community Service Project for The Reef and Reef Presentation

Service Project for the Reef:  You last service project involves working together to protect waterways, ocean and reef.  By stencilling messages on drains, you contribute to raising awareness of urban stormwater pollution and its impact on the local marine environment.   The colourful and creative designs are a pleasant way to remind the community that all rubbish drains to the ocean.

Marine Biologist Reef Presentation: In the evening back in Cairns you attend a unique presentation taught by a marine biologist, in which you learn more about biodiversity and the significance of the Great Barrier Reef.   From colourful corals that take whimsical shapes like broccoli, brains and baskets to a host of fish such as the chocolate-dipped damsel, the Picasso triggerfish and the giant Maori wrasse, you learn how to identify the most common creatures at the reef.  You find out about threatened species and coral predators–such as the Crown of Thorns—and the consequences of climate change and human activity on the reef.  More importantly, you learn about the real hazards at the reef (like the innocent-looking cone shell) versus the imagined ones (like scary sharks) fueled by Hollywood myths.  You leave with a greater understanding of the reef environment and an appreciation of the natural wonder you are about to experience.

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

DAY 5: Snorkelling and Eye on The Reef Service Project

DAY 5: Snorkelling and Eye on The Reef Service Project

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 and an award in sustainability. You have an accredited eco-guide/sustainability expert devoted exclusively to your group for today’s experience as well. On your trip out to the reef he covers topics of your choice such as coral bleaching, agricultural runoff to the reef or effects of climate change and human impacts.

Data Collection: At your first location, you will receive extensive 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 App: 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 app downloadable to your phone or tablet, and your data is then sent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA).

Day 6: Sustainability Amazing Race and Departure

Day 6: Sustainability Amazing Race and Departure

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

Sustainability Amazing Race: Totally optional but totally fun is Small World Journeys’ Sustainability Amazing Race. Students break up into small teams and they are given clues about different sustainable sites or aspects of Cairns city. They must find the next clue and answer questions based on what they learned on their trip. Questions are tailored to younger and older students and this is a good way to test students’ retention of the material taught on the program. This is an action-oriented activity that is fun for everyone, and the winning team gets a prize!

Depart: Later you are transferred to the Cairns airport for your flight back home.

Included: Breakfast

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

Is this community service trip in Australia  too long or too short? Contact us for custom tour options that match your budget and objectives!

School Trip Fees Include:

  • All activities as described in the itinerary
  • Cairns airport transfers
  • All activities as described in the itinerary
  • Transportation to activities
  • Small World Journeys guide for Days 1-4
  • Eco-certified marine naturalist on Day 5
  • Specialty guides and Indigenous educators
  • 5 nights central Cairns budget accommodation (6- share rooms with ensuite; teachers in twin or triple share with ensuite)*
  • All breakfasts
  • All lunches
  • All dinners (except one on last night)
  • Mask, fins, snorkel hire on Fitzroy Island reef trip
  • Stinger suit hire during the wet season
  • 101 Marine Animals of the Great Barrier Reef field guide for each student
  • 5 metres square of Daintree rainforest adopted in your group’s name through Rainforest Rescue
  • 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
  • Trees for replanting
  • Contents of hygiene packs to be distributed to local homeless and needy people
  • 5 metres square of Daintree rainforest adopted in your group’s name through Rainforest Rescue
  • Carbon offsetting through Sustainable travel International (STI) for a carbon-neutral trip

* Two private rooms (twin or triple) for teachers are included in the price of the trip. If additional rooms are required, a supplement of $325 AUD is incurred.  If teachers are happy to share a room, no additional costs are incurred.

Trip Fees Exclude:

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

Land Cost to 31 March 2018:

  • 15+ participants: $1448 AUD
  • (Low numbers) 10-14 participants: $1545 AUD


All accommodation is included. In Cairns you stay at a breezy award-winning hostel in the centre of the restaurant and shopping district (option to upgrade to hotel accommodation). 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 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 $163 per person.


All meals are included. 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 a sample of BBQs, all-you-can-eat pasta and pizza, seafood treats and local favourites. Ask us about vegetarian, kosher and halal option.

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



  1. Read our Terms and Conditions.
  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 our Confirmation Pack which includes forms parents must sign.
  4. Have each student sign up via our Booking Form and pay for their trip by 60 days prior to the trip.
  5. Enjoy your trip!

Question 1: What will we eat whilst on tour?

Answer: We understand how important food is to young people – and heaps of it! A typical breakfast will be a continental breakfast including juices, cereals, toast & jams (and optional vegemite!) and a typical packed lunch will be a meat and salad sandwich, drink, chips, biscuits and a piece of fresh fruit. Café lunches and restaurant dinners will vary, such as pastas, pizzas, steak and salad, but we place a big emphasis on variety and healthful options. One night we have a typical Aussie BBQ and other nights we eat in restaurants. Best of all, we carry our snack box when we travel to ensure that no one is ever hungry.

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: 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 4: 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 5: 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 6: 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 7: 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.

Question 8: How does Small World Journeys incorporate our educational objectives?

Answer: We work directly with the teacher organiser or group leader to understand the goals of the trip. Then we suggest activities and learning opportunities to match these objectives. For example, a group may be interested in learning more about marine biology. In this case we will facilitate some fun classroom time dedicated to marine science in Cairns, then a couple of days at the Great Barrier Reef with our marine biologist guide. We can include such things as waterproof fish and coral ID cards for each student, and mini-lectures after snorkel time. A SCUBA certification course may also be appropriate. Alternatively, we might suggest a few days at an island research station, during which students have classroom and snorkel time, as well as a service project monitoring coral bleaching on the reef. Whether it is marine science, aboriginal culture, rainforest ecology or another topic, we will work with each group to ensure an educational yet fun experience for all.

Question 9: What kind of insurance do you have in place?

Answer: Small World Journeys has public liability insurance up to $20,000,000 and is required for us to maintain our commercial permits for the national parks.

Question 10: What qualifications do your guides have?

Answer: Our guides have a government-issued approval that is only given after an extensive background check, and allows them the ability to work with children. Guides also have a Senior First Aid and CPR certification and government-issued Driver's Authority if they are driving a vehicle. 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.

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 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.

ropy and Partnerships.

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 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 Partnership.

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, 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.