Learn to SCUBA Dive – 6 Day Adventure

SCUBA Diving in an Underwater Wonderland

As one of the world’s premier diving locations, The Great Barrier Reef begs to be explored by SCUBA. First a marine biologist introduces you to the planet’s greatest biodiversity, and then you spend two days in the classroom and pool, learning the theory and fundamentals of SCUBA diving. Professional dive instructors will help you feel calm and safe.Then you experience world-class diving from a liveaboard boat, plunging into a dazzling show of colour and life in warm tropical waters. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore one of the earth’s greatest natural wonders.


  • Learn from a marine biologist about the creatures you’ll see at the reef
  • Understand SCUBA basics in the pool and classroom
  • Complete 4 open water training dives and one “fun” dive
  • Dive the outer reef from a live aboard boat
  • Earn a PADI Open Water certification
  • Confidently dive anywhere in the world

Benefits & Bonuses:

  • All accommodation, most 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 donation made to the Turtle Rehab Centre in your name
  • MAKE IT YOUR OWN – This trip is fully customisable.  Ask us for details!
Day 1: Arrival, Orientation and Reef Presentation

Day 1: Arrival, Orientation and Reef Presentation

Arrival: On arrival to Cairns you are met by a Small World Journeys staff member and transferred to your accommodation.

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, large kitchen for self-catering meals and free internet and WiFi.

Marine Biologist Reef Presentation: During this unique presentation taught be a marine biologist, you learn what you are likely to see during your time at 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 underwater world you are about to experience.

Accommodation: Cairns Budget Accommodation
Meals Included: Dinner

Days 2 & 3: PADI Open Water SCUBA Certification Theory & Pool Training

Days 2 & 3: PADI Open Water SCUBA Certification Theory & Pool Training

Knowledge Development: Over the next two days you will learn the basics about SCUBA diving from your instructor at a purpose built dive training facility. During your two days you will cover 5 theory sessions including things like how pressure affects your body, how to choose the best scuba gear and what to consider when planning dives.

Confined Water Scuba Skills: During your days in the classroom you will also hit the pool and try breathing underwater for the first time! During this time you will learn everything from setting up your scuba gear to how to easily get water out of your mask without surfacing and practicing some emergency skills. In each pool session you will build your skills so that you are ready when it comes to diving in open water.

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

Days 4 & 5: Earning SCUBA Certification at The Great Barrier Reef

Days 4 & 5: Earning SCUBA Certification at The Great Barrier Reef

The Outer Great Barrier Reef: For the next two days you explore the undersea world of the outer Great Barrier Reef—a UNESCO World Heritage Site and easily one of the world’s top natural wonders. On this voyage, you get an intimate experience of the reef while on a live aboard boat.

Open Water Training Dives: Whilst at the Great Barrier Reef you will have the opportunity to complete 5 dives- 4 training dives as part of your course and 1 fun dive as a certified scuba diver! Upon completion of your training dives you will have attained the skills like buoyancy control, mask removal and what to do in the event of an emergency which will let you dive up to 18 metres deep anywhere in the world.

Dive the Best Sites: Among the 1,800 species of fish and 450 species of coral, you can expect to see a hard and soft corals, angelfish and starfish, elusive white-tipped reef sharks, and giant turtles. Within reach are butterfly and parrot fish, sea cucumbers, starfish and virtually the whole cast of Finding Nemo.

Live Aboard Boat: You enjoy sumptuous buffet meals on your live aboard boat. Accommodation is in air conditioned twin share cabins with ensuite bathrooms. This is a perfect way to experience the reef on a very deep level.

Journey to Cairns: On the way back to Cairns, keep an eye out for dolphins swimming and playing in the wake, while in the winter season (June, July and August) both humpback and minke whales often make appearances.

Accommodation: 1 night Liveaboard boat, 1 night Cairns Budget Accommodation
Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 6: Free Time and Depart

Day 6: Free Time and Depart

After breakfast this morning you have free time for last-minute shopping or souvenir purchases. Then you are transferred to the Cairns airport for your flight home.

** Please note rules of flying after diving require you to wait 24 hours after completing your last dive before you fly. Please book your flight out to depart after 2pm.

Included: Breakfast

Land Cost, 15 + participants: $1045 AUD

Land Cost, 10-14 participants: $1085 AUD

Trip Fees Include:

  • Cairns airport transfers
  • All activities and entrance fees as described in the itinerary
  • Transportation to activities
  • 4 nights at Cairns budget accommodation (4 or 6 share dorm rooms with private bathroom)*
  • 1 night live aboard boat (twin share cabins with ensuite)
  • All breakfasts
  • 4 lunches
  • 5 dinners
  • 101 Marine Animals of the Great Barrier Reef field guide for each student
  • All SCUBA gear including mask, fins, snorkel, wetsuit, BCD and regulator hire on the reef trip
  • Small World Journeys reusable water bottle and cloth shopping bag
  • Carbon offsetting through Sustainable Travel International (STI) for a carbon-neutral trip

Trip Fees Exclude:

  • Airfare
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Levy ($40 paid directly to reef operator)
  • 2 passport-sized photos
  • Medical exam (if required – approx. $75 AUD)
  • Personal expenses (phone, laundry, etc.)

Free teacher is included to accompany students and does not include certification costs. If your teacher would like to be included in scuba certification please contact us.

*Teachers/Organisers have a private twin or triple share rooms with ensuite in Cairns. A supplement of $260 AUD is charged if an additional private room is required. If teachers are happy to share a room, no additional costs are incurred. Sorry, there are no single rooms on the live aboard boat.


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. At the Great Barrier Reef, you stay in twin or quad share cabins with ensuites, air conditioning, hot showers, and the option to sleep out on deck under the stars.

  • Upgrade to hotel accommodation in  Cairns: (adds $130 per person to trip)


Most meals are included. Meals are a combination of restaurant dinners and ship-prepared meals and some options for you to sample local fare. A typical breakfast is a selection of cereals, toast, juice and fruits; lunches are combinations of sandwiches and salads, and dinners are a sample of buffets and BBQs, pastas and pizzas. Ask us about vegetarian, kosher and halal options.

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


Special Notes on SCUBA Diving:

  • To participate in this Open Water Course you must pass a swim test. This involves swimming 200 metres, and treading water for 10 minutes.
  • Currently the rules state that for a single no decompression dive, you should not fly/go to altitude for at least 12 hours. For multiple dives you should not fly/go to altitude for at least 18 hours.
  • We recommend waiting a minimum 24 hours whenever possible. These are guidelines only, there is no guarantee that these recommendations will prevent decompression sickness.
  • In order to participate in SCUBA diving, you will be required to fill out a medical form which can be forwarded to you in advance. Some of the medical conditions that may disqualify you from diving are, but not limited to, the following: Diabetes, Asthma, Ear/Nose/Throat Conditions, Migraine Headaches, Previous Head Injuries, Epilepsy/Seizures/Convulsions, Pregnancy and/or Poor Physical Conditioning. We will forward you this medical form in your confirmation email.


  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: 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 kims@travelmanagers.com.au 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 milltrav@aol.com 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 or first activity. Please note if you select flights that arrive or depart outside of the hours requested we can not guarentee supervision, or a staff memeber to meet you until the requested times.

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: Where is the nearest hyperbaric chamber?

Answer: The nearest recompression chamber is in Townsville, 450km to the south of Cairns. We recommend all passengers to carry insurance to cover for a medivac from the reef. DAN Travel Assist will cover emergency evacuations and time in the chamber.

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: 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 8: 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''.

Gain a PADI Diving Certification

Until recent times the underwater world was almost impossible for people to explore. This is your chance to learn the skills necessary to breathe underwater and set off to explore the world’s largest living organism- the Great Barrier Reef!

  • Learn the basic principles of scuba diving
  • Discover the skills necessary to dive in a safe pool environment
  • Practise your new skills in the clear, warm open waters of the Great Barrier Reef
  • Earn your internationally recognised PADI Open Water SCUBA Qualification

How your trip supports the community

SUPPORTING LOCAL BUSINESSES: 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 YOUTH: We donate to Harold’s House for homeless and disadvantaged youth in Cairns. For more information on Herald’s House and other organisations to which we donate, see Philanthropy and Partnerships.

How your trip is “Eco-friendly”

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.

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 2018 we offset 76.72 mega tonnes of carbon dioxide! For more information about our carbon offsetting, see 10 Ways We’re ”Sustainable”.

HELPING SAVE THE TURTLES: For more information on how we donate to The Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and other environmental groups, see Philanthropy and Partnerships.

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 do a risk assessment for every student tour we run. That risk assessment then gets sent to the 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.

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.