Ecosystems at Risk: Reef & Rainforest

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 In Aboriginal Culture, Biology, Cairns & The Great Barrier Reef, Community Service, Ecosystems, Environmental Studies, Geography, Marine Science, Sustainability, Tours

Ecosystems at Risk: Reef & Rainforest

Far North Queensland is blessed with two UNESCO World Heritage areas — The Wet Tropics (of which the Daintree Rainforest is a part) and The Great Barrier Reef–both of which contain some of the planet’s best biodiversity.

On this excursion, you learn about traditional land management from Aboriginal guides in the lush Daintree Rainforest, and about contemporary land management from a marine biologist at the Great Barrier Reef.

You see first-hand the impacts of both natural and human activity on these two ecosystems, and you meet people who are striving to protect both flora and fauna in these special areas. This is perhaps the best way to get your students involved in hands-on activities with two case studies: two exceptional tropical biomes.

Length
6 Days/5 Nights
Location
Cairns, Australia
When
Year-round
Size
Minimum 10 paying participants
Price
$1596 AUD per person (including GST)
for 15 or more students (Add $50 per person for peak time of 15 June – 15 July)
Price
$1649 AUD per person (including GST)
for 10-14 students (Add $50 per person for peak time of 15 June – 15 July)

Details

  • Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef with a marine biologist
  • Soar high into the Daintree rainforest in JCU’s canopy crane
  • Participate in CoralWatch service project and collect primary data on coral bleaching
  • Glide over the rainforest canopy on Cairns premier eco-attraction: The Skyrail
  • Discuss traditional land uses with Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal guides
  • Explore the mangroves and give back to the community with a service project
  • Learn about protected area management from experts
  • Visit a Turtle Rehabilitation Centre run by volunteers

  • Risk assessment
  • Cairns airport transfers
  • All activities as described in the itinerary
  • Transportation to activities
  • Naturalist guide on Days 1-3
  • Marine naturalist/marine biologist on Days 4 and 5
  • 4 nights central Cairns budget accommodation (4 or 6 share single-gender rooms – upgrade to hotel accommodation available, see below)*
  • 1 night Daintree rainforest lodge on the beach (4 share single-gender cabins)*
  • 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 Animals of the Wet Tropics and 101 Marine Animals of the Great Barrier Reef field guide for each student
  • Coral adoption through Reef Restoration Foundation with updates on the progress of the coral
  • Small World Journeys reusable water bottle and cloth shopping bag
  • National Park and Marine Park taxes and levies
  • Prize for the winning team of mangroves clean up

 

*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 $425 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.

Small World Journeys reserves the right to change the order of activities for logistical reasons. Prices are valid for travel until 31 March, 2021.

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

 

 

  • Choose between case study of an economic enterprise OR introduction talk to the biodiversity of the World Heritage Wet Tropics/Daintree Rainforest on Day 1

Itinerary

Arrival: Welcome to the tropics! You arrive in Cairns and are warmly greeted by one of our staff members at the airport. (Arrive before 1 pm today).

Case Study:  Small World Journeys serves as good case study of a local economic enterprise conducting a global economic activity (ecotourism) as has been featured in a Victorian geography textbook as such. The business has won a Queensland gold tourism award and a coveted Wet Tropics Management Authority (WETMA) Cassowary Award, and it focuses on sustainable development within tourism. Today Small World Journeys’ owner speaks to you about both positive and negative impacts of tourism on a local and international scale and how climate, location, and global economic activity affect the business.  You learn how the company works to reduce its carbon footprint and waste, and how it is ironically using technology to promote “nature” tourism.  This is an upbeat and fast-paced presentation that gets the students involved and participating.

–OR—

Intro to The UNESCO World Heritage Wet Tropics:  Before you encounter the rainforest, you first learn from an expert at the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WETMA) just what makes this region so special. Researchers, scientists and tourists alike come from all over the world to discover the supreme biodiversity in this World Heritage area, a region that came to be against all odds. You learn why this corner of Australia–with its jade mountains and lush emerald rainforests—is a geographical anomaly. By luck of shifting tectonic plates, the Wet Tropics earned the longest continually growing rainforest in the world.  Plants that ruled alongside dinosaurs still stand today. More than 100 animals are rare or threatened here and dozens of species live nowhere else in the world. Your expert discusses climate change protected area management and how different methods are used in the Wet Tropics.  You leave with insight about and appreciation of this globally significant area you are about to visit.

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 environment (no extra cost).

Accommodation: Cairns budget accommodation

Mangrove Workshop:  Today your guide teaches you about the interesting aspects of mangrove systems and their importance to the Great Barrier Reef. You walk along a critical mangrove ecosystem which is the breeding ground for many important aquatic species.  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.

Optional Mangrove Cleanup: Unfortunately household rubbish also often makes its way into these mangroves systems and as a community service option this morning you can do your bit to clean up the waterway and help the reef.  You tally your “rubbish results” at the end and the team with the top results gets a prize.

OPTIONAL–Skyrail Rainforest Cableway:  This morning you experience Cairns’ premier eco-attraction and winner of numerous ecotourism awards – the Skyrail. Your guide takes you to this unique rainforest cableway for a fantastic journey over Australia’s World Heritage listed tropical rainforest canopy and deep into the forest. Spanning 7.5 kilometres over Barron Gorge National Park, the Skyrail experience includes a scenic cableway ride and stops at two rainforest mid-stations (extra cost of $53)

Aboriginal Guided Rainforest Walk: Next you discover the Daintree Rainforest at Mossman Gorge, an area important to the Kuku Yalanji. Beginning with a traditional smoking ceremony, you wander rainforest paths, discovering with your guide how these Aboriginal people found their way through dense rainforest, made shelter and learned which native plants were tasty to eat.  As your guide shares his stories, you learn how the seasons dictated life, what falls under men’s and women’s “business”, how to make fire in the rainforest and how to make fish very easy to catch.

Field Guide: 101 Animals of The Wet Tropics, written by Dr. Martin Cohen, helps you to better understand animal species in the region and is yours to keep.

Daintree Rainforest & Beach Eco-Lodge: Later you enter the magical Daintree Rainforest – the oldest continuously growing rainforest on earth.  Your Daintree lodge boasts an attractive swimming pool, guest laundry, BBQ area, and a superb location in the rainforest but directly on the beach. The lodge uses grey water for irrigation, locally-sourced food for its restaurant, and recycles 80% of its waste. Students sleep in dorm-style cabins with ensuite, and the sounds of the jungle surround you.

Accommodation: Daintree Rainforest Cabins
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Environmental Debate: After a night of immersion in the rainforest, you wake to birdcalls and the chatter of the jungle. Then following a hearty breakfast, you participate in a debate in which each small group takes on a role and presents their argument either for or against the expansion of a port in Cairns. Detractors say it will negatively affect the Great barrier Reef; others say not. This is a fun way for you to get involved with all sides of an environmental debate with a real-life example that has gained significant media attention.

JCU Canopy Crane: The James Cook University Daintree research station is home to their canopy crane. After a safety orientation and a discussion about the significance of this rainforest by an on-site expert, you climb into a suspended gondola with the crane operator. The crane then ascends over the rainforest canopy, and can swing 360 degrees, surveying the incredible biodiversity that has earned the Daintree UNESCO World Heritage status. (Students must be at least 16 years old to go up in the crane)

Service Project: Whilst not in the crane, the group participates in an important service project at the research station. Hundreds of trees have been planted for re-growth on site, and students are taught how to do condition assessments of the trees as biologists and botanists do in the field. Students learn about pioneer species, herbivory, and how to use a clinometer and DBH tapes to measure tree growth. The results of the condition assessments are then contributed to the ongoing research on the success of “pioneer species” used by JCU staff.

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.

Accommodation: Cairns budget accommodation
Meals Included: 
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

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, cuttlefish, rays and giant clams.  Your marine naturalist gives you some background about island and reef geomorphology before reviewing use of your snorkel gear.

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, parasitism, and commensalism 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 pigments 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.

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.

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.

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.

Back in Cairns, you have a dinner in town tonight with an optional visit to the Night Markets.

Accommodation: Cairns budget accommodation
Meals Included:
Breakfast, Lunch, 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.

Snorkelling and Data Collection: Upon arrival, you dock at a float

ing 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.

Underwater Viewing: You also have access to the underwater world by way of a semi-submarine, glass bottom boat and underwater observatory (perfect for non-swimmers). A touch tank allows your marine biologist to give you a “hands-on” experience of some marine creatures.

Waterslide: The double-storey pontoon also has something that no other boat has….a long fun slide that finishes in the waters of the reef. Lunch today is a tropical buffet served on the boat.

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.  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).

Each student receives a certificate of participation at the end of the day.

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 tell us if you wish to have dinner at a restaurant instead of doing this meal).

Accommodation: Cairns budget accommodation
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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

OPTIONAL 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).

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

Meals Included: Breakfast

Check out this tour's educational outcomes
An outstanding trip where every need and want was catered for. Left no stone unturned. All of the guides were fantastic but pay a special mention to Pablo, whose enthusiasm and expertise really rubbed off on the boys. The level of expertise that was constantly around us made the trip extremely educational and immersive.”
–Justin Verco, geography teacher, Newington College, Sydney NSW (November ’18 and ’19)

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.

Sustainability

Although 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:

HELPING THE REEF: In addition to the coral tree we sponsor, we pay to “adopt” coral at Fitzroy Island through our partner. The coral propagation happening there is unprecedented and is being celebrated as a significantproject to help save the reef. Each of our groups that visit the reef receives a certificate on the tour and later receive updates on the coral.


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. In 2018-19, we purchased more than 100 square metres of rainforest adopted in our groups’ names.

CREATIVE WASTE REDUCTION: We give you your own water bottle and cloth shopping bag to eliminate the need for disposable bottles and plastic bags (and saves them from going in landfills!) We also recycle BOTH our hard plastics and soft plastics (through RedCycle) and have transitioned into NO WASTE snacks and NO WASTE lunches. Our food scraps get composted and put into our community garden, our bin liners are paper (not plastic) and we even wipe our bums with Who Gives a Crap 100% recycled toilet paper!

Community

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.

Additionally, our student community service project involves students in making “Moon Sick Care Bags” which supply re-usable sanitary products to Aboriginal women in remote communities — this helps both Indigenous women AND the environment! (Ask us how your group can do this on their tour)


SUPPORTING LOCAL BUSINESSES: It is our policy to use locally owned suppliers and businesses unless their standards are not up to par (for example, if they have a bad environmental record). In 2018-19, three quarters of our expenses were paid back into the local economy.

VOLUNTEERING IN OUR COMMUNITY: Small World staff are incentivised to volunteer in the community, and are given time to do so during work hours. As a team, we also clean up our local mangroves once a quarter, recognising their importance at the nursery to the Great Barrier Reef.

Safety

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.

RISK ASSESSMENT FOR EVERY TRIP: We do a risk assessment for every student tour we run, and is sent to your organising teacher. We have safety protocols for our activities and a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Manual that documents these protocols. We also have a complete Crisis Management Plan. In addition, students are given a safety briefing during orientation that addresses hazards and risks for this region.


SAFE BUSES: All of our buses are equipped with seatbelts for every seat. While this is not a Queensland law to have them, 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.

SAFE GUIDES: Small World Journeys’ guides hold current Senior First Aid and CPR certificates, along with government-issued Driver’s Authority (if driving) and Working With Children cards (also known as a Blue Card) after passing a thorough background check. For more information on our guides, see About Us.

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.

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