Great Barrier Reef Marine Conservation

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There is no better place to Learn to Dive than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Combine this with some marine conservation activities and it’s a match made in heaven.

Diving at Great Barrier Reef

The project aims

Volunteers make a difference to this project by contributing to the Great Barrier Reef’s long-term protection by collecting valuable information about reef health, marine animals and incidents and providing this essential data to the ‘Eye on the Reef’ program, while learning how to dive.

The ‘Eye on the Reef’ program’s success depends highly on the monitoring and data collected by marine biologists, marine park rangers, fishermen, reef tour operators, tourists, volunteers and other reef users. The information is compiled in a single data management and reporting system. The assessment looks at the marine environment and adjacent coastal zone, examining how natural and heritage values can be protected into the future.

Local Partners

Volunteer Travels has teamed up with prominent scuba diving and outer reef operators in Cairns to offer volunteers a Marine Conservation program conducted on the Great Barrier Reef. With a high commitment to environmental protection and sustainability, this unique dive program falls under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) powerful monitoring program ‘Eye on the Reef’ and is designed for volunteers interested in scuba diving, marine conservation and spending time on the reef.

Our partner has several years’ worth of experience in receiving volunteers to Australia from many different countries. Thanks to our cooperation Volunteer Travels can offer you as a volunteer a well-organised and safe experience.

How do I book a trip?

You can book your trip with Volunteer Travels by calling us on (+46) 08-23 93 00 or by booking through our website by clicking on “Book a trip”. You can also email us on [email protected] When you have registered yourself we will send you an invoice with a registration fee of £200.00. The registration fee is later incorporated into the trip price and the amount is then deducted from your final invoice. When you have paid the registration fee you are formally registered. You will then receive preparatory information from us in good time to plan your trip.

Your everyday


The adventure begins in Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, where you will become a certified scuba diver by completing the popular 5 Day PADI Open Water Course (Advanced Courses or Nitrox available for participants already certified). Then volunteers embark upon the reef as certified divers and volunteer marine conservationists where they will join the ‘Eye on the Reef’ program and complete 8-10 underwater Rapid Monitoring surveys monitoring coral health. The information gathered provides managers and researchers of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) with up-to-date information on reef health status and trends, the distribution of protected and iconic species, and early warnings of environmental impacts.

Volunteers will also have the unique opportunity to spend 4 days with a reef expert on the Great Barrier Reef, to learn and experience firsthand, this endangered natural wonder, the Great Barrier Reef. Volunteers will undertake a minimum of 17 dives for the duration of the project. Certified divers start Day 6 and complete a 7 day, 6 night program.

Volunteers will undertake a 12 day, 10 night adventure, arriving on the Friday and spending the next two days learning how to dive. The 5 Day PADI Learn to Dive Course comprises of two days of classroom and pool and training/dive theory, then volunteers get out to the reef for three days of practical training and rapid reef monitoring, a total of 9 dives. Head out to sea again with 3 nights and 4 days spent living aboard a vessel on the reef completing 2 dives each day.

There are loads of opportunities to dive on some of the best dive sites the Outer Great Barrier Reef has to offer, completing rapid monitoring, as well as plenty of time to snorkel, relax and really enjoy the reef experience.

To finish off, take a ferry ride to a tropical island off Cairns where participants will spend the day completing another rapid monitoring survey, an educational tour of the turtle rehabilitation centre and a beach clean-up if there’s time. Island facilities include a resort, restaurant, bar, walking trails, glass bottom tours, kayaking and snorkelling.


Day 0: Welcome to Cairns (Thursday)

Arrive to tropical Cairns and transfer to you hostel. Enjoy your day discovering Cairns by foot. Points of interest include a stroll along the Esplanade, the Botanic Gardens, a swim in the Lagoon, the port and the CBD. Dinner is served at your hostel. (D)


Day 1 – 2 : Open Water Course – Training Center

(Certified Divers have the option of doing their Advanced Course)

 Over the next 2 days you will do the first part of your scuba diving adventure. Get picked up by the dive school early morning and transfer to the training center, where you will commence your theory on scuba diving with your qualified instructor. Put all the theory into use in the pool during your practical sessions where all your underwater skills are honed under the watchful eyes of your instructors. After lunch on day 2 it is time for your theory test and a briefing of the upcoming days out on the Great Barrier Reef. Transfer back to the hostel late afternoon each day. (B,D)


Day 3 – 5 : Great Barrier Reef

Depart early morning on day 3 on your Great Barrier Reef dive adventure. Travel time to the first dive site is approx. 3 hours. After arriving get briefed by your dive instructor and begin exploring the underwater world on this magnificent natural wonder. Over the 3 days you will do a total of 9 dives out of which 4 will be your final step to becoming an Open Water Diver along with 4 fun dives and 1 night dive. Return to Cairns late afternoon on day 5. Transfer to your hostel and free time. (B,L,D)

(Advanced Open Water students will do their course during this trip).


Day 6: Cairns (Wednesday)

Rest day. Enjoy a day off from the water. Optional activities in Cairns include rainforest tours, extreme activities like skydiving, bungy jumping, jet boating or Mountain Biking tours. Alternatively, just relax by the pool at the hostel or at the Lagoon. We highly recommend a trip to the Daintree National Park, discovering the waterfalls in the Cairns Highlands or some of the suggested extreme activities.

At 18:30 you will attend the Reef Teach presentation, an insight into the magical world of the coral reef. (B,D)


Day 7 – 10: Great Barrier Reef Day trip – Reef Conservation tasks

***This is when snorkelers and PADI qualified divers join the program.***

 Over the next 4 days you will be onboard Passions of Paradise, a locally owned premier operator promoting sustainable day trips to the Great Barrier Reef to enhance your marine conservation experience. Under the guidance of your reef expert you will undertake a selection of activities each day while diving (2 x dives per day). The activities are Rapid Monitoring surveys and a species count to be entered into Great Barrier Reef Marine Park’s Eye on the Reef Sighting’s Network. The number of activities could vary depending on conditions. As a PADI dive centre, Passions of Paradise can offer divers and snorkelers special recognition for their conservation efforts during your conservation experience. Utilising the Project AWARE foundation, you will receive a certificate of recognition for your contributions to protecting the world’s marine environment with an AWARE Coral Reef Conservation recognition and/or a Project AWARE Specialist recognition. Each day you will need to check in at the Reef Fleet Terminal by 0730am and return to Cairns late afternoon. Free time each afternoon. (B,L,D)


Day 11: Tropical Island

This morning you transfer by ferry to a tropical island, 45 minutes from Cairns, where you will meet other international and local volunteers working at the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on the island. You will assist the team with a Rapid Monitoring Survey on the local reef and then learn about the work done by this organisation and meet some of the turtles in care. On occasion, participants get to go behind the scenes to lend a helping hand. Free time in the afternoon to do one of the walks on the island, relax on the beach or swim and snorkel. Return to Cairns approx. 17:45 and free time. (B,D)

Day 12: Cairns (Tuesday)

Today is the end of your tour. Check out and transfer to the airport for your onward or homeward journey. Safe Travels! (B)


Accommodation and food 

The accommodation is split between Cairns and a boat on the reef. While on the mainland, volunteers will stay in a hostel in Cairns. Breakfast and some lunches are provided for with vegan and vegetarian catered for. Volunteers have the choice of an abundance of restaurants to eat at in Cairns at their own expense.

Location of project

Cairns is a regional city in the far north of Queensland. It is a popular travel destination for foreign and local tourists because of its tropical climate, and serves as a central point for people wanting to visit the Great Barrier Reef and Far North Queensland. It is also a major port for exporting sugar cane, gold and other metals, minerals and agricultural products from surrounding coastal areas and the Atherton Tableland region.

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on the planet. Stretching 2300 kilometres, this natural icon is so large it can be seen from outer space. It’s known mostly for its colourful reefs, providing a home for a huge number of fish, plants and animals, including turtles and crocodiles who have been around since prehistoric times and have changed little over time.

The breathtaking collection of marine creatures includes 600 types of soft and hard corals, 1625 types of fish, 133 varieties of sharks and rays, more than 100 species of jellyfish, 3000 varieties of molluscs, 500 species of worms, and more than 30 species of whales and dolphins. The reef is full of a unique range of ecological communities, habitats and species, all of which make it one of the most complex and intricate natural ecosystems in the world.

Leisure Time

There is plenty to do in this vibrant part of Australia so take some time out before or after your placement to explore some of the surrounding areas.

Cairns and the surrounding areas have it – dive sites, Fitzroy Island National Park, off road driving, ballooning, canoeing, cruising, scuba-diving, kayaking, sailing, scenic flights, shopping, skydiving, snorkelling, swimming, bush walking, rock climbing, wildlife spotting, markets, hot springs, beaches, lakes/rivers/dams, nightlife/clubs/pubs/casinos, roadside stalls, cellar doors, scenic railway, canopy walk, tea plantation, coffee plantation, wineries, sky high cable car, lava tubes, kayaking, spas and galleries.

Cairns is the best place to soak up the tropical lifestyle.swim at the Esplanade lagoon, sample local produce at a farmer’s market, enjoy free entertainment, shop for a summer wardrobe, visit some caves, National Parks or Falls, or cruise around the marina and check out the night markets. Take a cool dip at a secluded freshwater swimming hole, jump on a bike for a sightseeing tour along the city’s network of cycle paths or experience the unique rainforest.

After dark choose a lively bar for drinks, taste local seafood at an award-winning restaurant, party on a dance floor, discover treasures at the markets or watch a local cultural show.

This compact city is easy to get around and has the reef, rainforest and outback on its doorstep. With the Cairns International and Domestic airports only 10 minutes from the Central Business District, Cairns is the ideal entry point for a Tropical North Queensland adventure.


Volunteers will need to learn how do calculate percentages underwater, master their diving skills, identify different fish species, identify impacts on the coral reef and follow instructions underwater.

Scuba diving is one of the most popular recreational water sports in the world and is enjoyed by people of all ages. Fantastic coral reefs, wondrous shipwrecks and unique and interested marine life are the major attractions for people. But it’s important to remember that scuba diving poses unique challenges. Common conditions include ear and sinus injuries or a sting or bite from venomous marine life. In addition, serious conditions can occur, such as decompression illness (Pulmonary Embolism) which can occur due to expansion of gasses with rapid ascent, Oxygen Toxicity which is only a problem for deep divers who go below 135 feet, Nitrogen Narcosis which is the effect of extra nitrogen in the body and malfunctioning equipment.

About Australia

Australia is a very big country, larger than Europe and nearly as large as the United States. Arriving in Sydney followed by a programme in Australian nationalpark is the perfect way of starting your Australia adventure. If you have more time make sure to travel the East Coast in order to experience rainforests, Frasier Island and little sleepy villages where surfers are enjoing life. Combine this with metropolitan cities like Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Also there is interesting ancient history to learn more from in Uluru, Ayers Rock and the home of crocodiles in the Northern terrotories to explore. Don’t miss out experiencing Australia!

Practical information


Flight tickets are not included in the price. You should book your ticket so that you arrive to Cairns on a Thursday, on the project’s starting day. Your last working day will be 11 days later. If you are planning to go home right after the end of the project, you should book your return ticket on the 12th day (Tuesday). Make a point of checking that the arrival and the departure dates are correct according to your time at the project.


It is your responsibility to apply for a visa. Please contact us at Volunteer Travels for further information.


It is your responsibility to make sure that your insurance covers illness, injury and theft whilst you are volunteering. Most travel agency’s sell a travel insurance that is valid for volunteer work, so be sure to enquire about it when booking your flight tickets. Volunteer Travels does however, supply liability insurance and is included in the price. Liability insurance applies to instances when compensation for damages is demanded of you, as a private person, for unintentionally hurting someone or for unintentionally damaging someone else’s property.

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