Sustainability Warriors – 5 Days

Having Fun While Serving the Community

On this student excursion in Queensland’s far north, you discover how “sustainability” 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 making crafts with the elderly–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 edible and medicinal plants with an Aboriginal guide, and learn some traditions of the local Yirrganydji Indigenous people and at the Great Barrier Reef you swim among a rainbow of fish and corals.

Areas of Learning:

  • Sustainability
  • Community Service
  • Aboriginal Culture
  • Marine Science


  • Snorkelling and Eye on the Reef service project at the Great Barrier Reef
  • Discovering rainforest bush tucker 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
  • Planting native trees on degraded land
  • Discovering mangroves and helping clean these “nurseries to the reef”
  • Presentations by Small World Journeys owner, 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, Sustainability Talk and Community Service Project for The Homeless

Day 1: Arrival, Sustainability Talk 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.

Sustainability Talk: First activity is an interactive presentation on perceptions and practices of sustainability. This fun activity quizzes students on their current understanding of sustainability and introduces new concepts in a game show-type format.  The game creates thought-provoking concepts as well as plenty of laughs, which is a good tone set for the rest of the trip.

Service Project for the Homeless – Preparing a Meal and Hygiene Packs: Today a commercial kitchen 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 will 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 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.

Accommodation: Cairns Budget Accommodation
Meals Included: Dinner

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

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

Native Tree Planting Service Work: This morning with your guide you discuss loss of biodiversity and habitats for a range of species due to agriculture or development.  Then with shovels and gloves, you plant native trees to moderate temperature and humidity and to create niches for other plants and animals.  This area is a ‘hotspot’ for biodiversity so your service work here is helping to protect a buffer zone to a World Heritage area.  By working with seedlings, digging, planting, and watering today, you get to meet some local volunteers, help the environment and contribute to the community.

Rainforest Waterfalls and Swimming Hole: As a further introduction to the region, your guide takes you to 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.

Damper Making Lesson: For those who are keen, your guide teaches you how to make damper, also known as “Aussie bush bread”.  You learn how to create savoury bread the way the Aussies have been doing it for years.  A yummy treat!  

Aboriginal Bush Tucker Walk: Later you go for a walk with an Aboriginal Yirrganydji elder to see the forest through his eyes. Tracing a route on land that has had significance to the Yirrganydji people, your Aboriginal guide 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.  By participating in this walk, you are helping the community by supporting Indigenous employment and pride in culture, which in turn promotes cultural sustainability.

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

Day 3: Community Service Projects for The Reef & Reef Presentation

Day 3: Community Service Projects for The Reef & Reef Presentation

Mangrove Boardwalk: Your first site today is the Jack Barnes Bicentennial Mangrove Boardwalk. This raised walkway takes you through this critical mangrove ecosystem which is the breeding ground for many important aquatic species.  Your guide teaches you about the interesting aspects of mangrove systems and their importance to the Great Barrier Reef. You learn how mangroves deal with a lot of salt in their diet, how they act as the baby nurseries of the Great Barrier Reef and why both humans and the reef rely on these complex systems.

Creek Cleanup: Next you visit one of the creeks that makes its way to the ocean via the mangrove ecosystems. Unfortunately household rubbish also often makes its way into these creeks and so today you will be grabbing gloves and garbage bags to do your bit to clean up the waterway.  You tally your “rubbish results” at the end and the team with the top results gets a prize.

Service Project for the Reef:  You next 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.

Future of The Reef Talk: In the evening back in Cairns you attend a unique presentation on the future of the Great Barrier Reef.  Your marine naturalist teaches you the facts about the state of the reef, dispelling myths about bleaching and climate change, and relays the good, the bad and the ugly about reef tourism. During this talk, you learn the four key threats to the reef and how scientists are trying “assisted evolution” by breeding corals that are resistant to bleaching under higher temperatures.  Perhaps most importantly, you gain ten tips on how you yourselves can help save the reef and continue campaigning when you return home.

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

Day 4: The Great Barrier Reef – Snorkelling, Data Collection and Community Service

Day 4: The Great Barrier Reef – Snorkelling, Data Collection and Community Service

The Great Barrier Reef:  Today you head off early to the Great Barrier Reef – a UNSECO World-Heritage site and a “must-see” for any student visiting Cairns.  Your boat whisks you to the rainforest-draped island of Fitzroy, where a gorgeous fringing reef is accessible directly from shore.  Your guide gives you an orientation on how to use your snorkel gear, and then you explore the rainbow of life at the reef.

CoralWatch Data Collection:  At the reef you also engage in an activity that addresses concerns over climate change and coral bleaching. During this exercise you find out more about how and why coral bleaches.  You learn how to identify different kinds of coral, match its colours to a waterproof chart, and then record what you observe in teams of two.  The data then goes back to the University of Queensland’s Coral Watch scientists, where they analyse the results over time and look for any long term trends. Your results also go into a database to track bleaching around the world, and your group receives a graph of your results.

Water Quality Testing:  On the island you 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.

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.

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.

Beach Cleanup:  Following your visit to the turtle rehab centre, you comb the beach, looking for the micro plastics that may have washed ashore along with other rubbish that potentially injures or sickens the turtles.  This cleanup helps leave the reef better than when you arrived, contributing to its sustainability.

Accommodation: Cairns Budget Accommodation
Meals Included: Breakfast and Lunch

Day 5: Service Project with the Elderly and Departure

Day 5: Service Project with the Elderly and Departure

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

Craft Project with the Elderly at an Aged Care Facility:  Your last service project honours elderly people in the community who can no longer take care of themselves and must live in a residential centre, which you visit today.  Visits by young people lift their spirits, and the energy and enthusiasm of students is always heartily welcomed.  Together with the elderly folks, you complete craft projects like recycled bead bracelets and/or recycled glass jar candle holders (we show you how!).  The crafts make a lovely keepsake for the residents and you feel good connecting with and sharing stories with your new acquaintances.

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

Meals 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!

Sustainability Warriors School Trip Fees Include:

  • Cairns airport transfers
  • All activities as described in the itinerary
  • Transportation to activities
  • Small World Journeys guide for Days 2, 3, and 5
  • Marine naturalist on Day 4
  • Specialty guides and Indigenous educators
  • 4 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 on Day 4
  • Mask, fins, snorkel, lycra/wet suit hire on reef trip
  • 101 Marine Animals of the Great Barrier Reef field guide for each student
  • Small World Journeys BPA free reusable water bottle and cloth shopping bag
  • National Park and Marine Park taxes and levies
  • Trees for replanting, craft materials & stencil materials for service projects
  • Coral adoption through Reef Restoration Foundation with updates on coral

* Two private rooms (twin or triple) for teachers are included in the price of the trip. If additional rooms are required, a supplement of $184 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 2020:

  • 15+ participants: $989 AUD
  • (Low numbers) 10-14 participants: $1025 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.


All meals except one dinner 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 & 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!

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 Ways We're ''Sustainable''.

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. It is our policy to include a talk or an activity with an Aboriginal person on every trip we offer. 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 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. We also recycle BOTH our hard plastics and soft plastics, and our trip snack wrappers get broken down and made into other things! For more information on how we donate to The Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and other environmental groups, see Philanthropy and Partnership.

OUR OFFICE IS RUN ON SOLAR POWER: Our future is so bright, we gotta wear shades.

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. 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 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.