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.
for 15 or more students (Add $50 per person for peak time of 15 June – 15 July)
for 10-14 students (Add $50 per person for peak time of 15 June – 15 July)
- Collect primary data on Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching as a service project
- On a tropical island learn about traditional and contemporary protected area management
- Visit a turtle rehabilitation centre
- Participate in the Eye on The Reef program
- Snorkel in small groups with an expert marine biologist
- Test water quality and learn how this predicts reef health
- Evaluate human impacts in a national park
- OPTION: Aboriginal ranger discusses sea country & traditional management
- Risk assessment
- All activities as described in the itinerary
- Cairns airport transfers
- Ground transportation where required
- Marine naturalist / biologist on Days 1, 2 and 3
- 3 nights at Cairns budget accommodation (4 – 6 share dorm rooms)*
- All continental breakfasts
- All lunches
- 2 dinners
- Mask, fins, snorkel hire, lycra or wetsuit hire on reef trips
- 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 for each participant
- National Park and Marine Park taxes and levies
- Coral adoption through Reef Restoration Foundation with updates on coral
*Two teacher rooms (private twin or triple share rooms) are included in the trip price for groups of 15 students or more. For trips with low numbers (10-14), one teacher room is included. A supplement of $240 AUD is charged if an additional private room is required for the trip. If teachers are happy to share a room, no additional costs are incurred.
Prices are valid for travel until 31 March, 2022. Small World Journeys reserves the right to change the order of activities for logistical reasons.
- Airfare to Cairns
- Dinner on arrival day
- Personal expenses (phone, souvenirs, laundry, etc.)
- Aboriginal Ranger Talk on Protected Area Management: please ask us about price
- Evening Activities: like ten-pin bowling, laser tag or for team-building: The Escape Room! Please ask us about price
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: 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.
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. You also learn how Indigenous people have traditionally managed the reef, and how it’s managed today. Along the way, you discover weird and wacky things about the reef, such as the role of parrot fish poop, an example of mutualism that makes Nemo happy, and the most dangerous things in the sea that are not what you expect. Your naturalist prepares you to identify biogeographical interactions at the reef, how geomorphology changes the reef and how scientists are trying “assisted evolution” with corals. You are also introduced to the CoralWatch program using a “virtual reef” banner and how to measure coral bleaching tomorrow on your reef trip.
(Please ask us about doing the service project today instead of as listed on Day 4 if you arrive early)
Accommodation: Cairns budget accommodation
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 kaleidoscope of marine life: colourful corals, parrot and lionfish, turtles, cuttle fish, rays and giant clams.
Guided 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. Your marine naturalist leads you to underwater examples of biodiversity and indicator species as well as examples of the reef’s most interesting features.
Activity Addressing Contemporary & Traditional Protected Area Management: A lunchtime mapping activity also helps students with their geography skills and to understand management strategies for the reef, both present and past. Students are led into a discussion about how the area has been traditionally managed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people for over 60,000 years, addressing topics such as sustainable fishing, use of totems and Traditional Owner stewardship. Students are encouraged to consider and discuss what challenges there might be in using only traditional management practices today, considering the present day uses of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Contemporary management of the area is also looked at in detail, as well as the zoning plan released in 2003 by the Australian Government.
CoralWatch Data Collection: In the afternoon you collect primary data in an activity that addresses 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.
Reef Restoration Project Overview: Reef Restoration Foundation is a not for profit social enterprise that is establishing offshore nurseries at Fitzroy Island. The project aim is to accelerate the recovery of damaged reefs, and strengthen resilience to future bleaching events. The process mimics nature and allows damaged reefs to re-open faster. Today you are given an overview of how the project has been established at the island and the success story so far. Small World Journeys has sponsored one of the ‘coral trees’ that is a part of the coral nursery, and is proud to be involved with this first of breakthrough solution within Australia.
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.
Human Impacts & Water Quality Testing: Students are introduced to an activity that has them evaluating the island’s human impacts throughout the day, and are asked to fill in a “report card”. Finally, 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.
Cuisine & Culture: This evening you have a special treat: a migrant now living in Cairns shares her story and her love of cooking with you. You learn how to prepare a delicious meal from her home country, and armed with the recipe you can also re-create this meal when you return home. In a time when the plight of migrants is widely discussed, this activity will allow you to understand circumstances in the world that cause people to flee their countries and will humanize this struggle. You gain some culinary skills, feast on a fantastic meal, and perhaps make a new friend. (Please inform us if you wish to have a restaurant dinner instead of this activity)
Accommodation: Cairns budget accommodation
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Boat Ride to Reef: Your day begins with an air-conditioned catamaran ride to the outer Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World-Heritage site and one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet. Your marine biologist presents what you are likely to see at the reef and introduces the Eye on the Reef program, which involves instruction on how to complete the Rapid Monitoring Survey.
Snorkeling and Data Collection: Upon arrival, you dock at a floating pontoon, and an underwater universe greets you. During a guided snorkel tour with your marine biologist, you can expect to see a rainbow of hard and soft corals, turtles, and a variety of fish species including butterfly fish, giant Maori Wrasse, parrot fish, and the ever-popular clown fish, also known as “Nemo”.
Data Collection & Service: Next you receive in-water training on how to conduct the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Rapid Monitoring Survey. Your marine 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.
Other Activities: Semi-submarine and glass bottom boat tours, underwater observatory, and marine life touch tank are all available for you to enjoy. The double-storey pontoon also has something that no one else does….. a long and fun slide that finishes in the waters of the reef. Lunch today is a tropical buffet served on the boat.
Each student receives a certificate of participation at the end of the day.
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. Before the trip, we’ll also give you information about downloading an app with which you can log in sightings of reef fauna and flora and your data is then sent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA).
Optional Evening Activity – Documentary Film: Documentary films can inspire discussion and action, in addition to complementing the content of your trip. Tonight you have a choice to view one of several optional documentary films that relate to the reef and the environment (no extra cost).
Accommodation: Cairns budget accommodation
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Service Project: Part of being a “sustainable” tourist is helping the community in which you are travelling. This morning you exemplify sustainable tourists by participating in a service project for people that come to Cairns from remote Indigenous communities. These people come to Cairns for medical reasons, and often do not have anything with them. You learn to make special bags using upcycled materials, and then create packs with hygiene items they most need. 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. (An hour and fifteen minutes in duration)
If you leave later in the day, you can choose to add on the following option:
*Optional Aboriginal Ranger Talk: 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. (On request, extra cost. One hour in duration)
Later you are transferred to the Cairns airport for your flight home.
Meals Included: Breakfast
How Your Trip Makes The World A Better Place
We’re not talking rainbows and unicorns. We’re talking about how we have put significant thought into how to make our student tours as safe as they possibly can be while still being fun; encouraging students to learn about and contribute to the community they are travelling in; and teaching them what “sustainability” really means.
SustainabilityAlthough we wear bras and brush our teeth, you could say we are a team of hippy tree-huggers. This is why we run our office on renewable energy, voluntarily offsetting our carbon emissions, and fulfilling our policy to give at least 5% of our annual net profits to local environmental and community organisations and charities. Here’s what else we are doing:
SUPPORTING OUR INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY: It is our policy to include a talk or an activity with an Aboriginal person on every trip we offer. 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 2018-19, we gave over $43,000 in business to Aboriginal-owned ventures.
SUPERB SAFETY RECORD: We’ve had thousands of students travel with us, and our safety record is excellent. Ask us for teacher references specifically regarding safety.
We do custom trips!
Still haven’t found exactly what you are looking for? All our tours are fully customisable and can be catered to suit your time-frame, student interests and budget. A geography excursion to the Great Barrier Reef? A biology excursion to the Daintree Rainforest? An Aboriginal culture excursion? Our educational trips in Queensland and New South Wales are hand-crafted for those who cannot find exactly what they want from the inflexible set itineraries of large tour operators.
If you are looking for a science trip, ecology trip, Aboriginal culture, or just a sample of the best of Australia – we can help.