Australian Tropical Biology – 13 Day Adventure

Marine and Terrestrial Biology Tour in the Tropics

Australia’s Far North Queensland is also a celebrated eco-destination with myriad opportunities for students studying biology. The outback, Great Barrier Reef and tropical Daintree Rainforest become your classroom on this ecology tour in the Land Down Under – Australia. Focusing on rainforest ecology and marine science, this course gives you access to some of the most bio-diverse and magnificent ecosystems on the planet.

On this tropical biology trip to Australia, a local biologist and marine biologist introduce you to the biological complexities of tropical ecosystems through lectures and hands on practical field experiences. Under these experts’ instruction, you learn to identify a host of plant and animal species, understand field techniques and sampling, and discover two UNESCO World Heritage areas. With a thorough investigation of multiple terrestrial and marine environments, you return from Australia having a broad understanding of biology, ecology, field techniques and Aussie culture.

Areas of Learning:

  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Marine Science


  • Explore the undersea world of The outer Great Barrier Reef
  • Set up camp on a tropical island for marine studies
  • Walk with an Aboriginal guide to discover rainforest plants and animals
  • Soar high above the jungle in James Cook University’s canopy crane
  • Visit a turtle rehabilitation centre and a bat hospital
  • View unique Aussie wildlife while nocturnal spotlighting
  • Tour massive underground lava tubes in the arid outback
  • Stay overnight in a rainforest research station
  • Learn both marine and terrestrial data sampling techniques
  • Contribute to both reef and rainforest tree health research

Benefits & Bonuses:

  • All accommodation, most meals, guides and transport to activities included
  • We plan everything–making it easy for you
  • Price Guarantee: price will not change once you sign up for your trip
  • Expert local 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, Orientation and Ecosystems/Biodiversity Introduction

Day 1: Arrival, Orientation and Ecosystems/Biodiversity Introduction

Arrival in Cairns: Welcome to Cairns! You are met at the airport by one of our staff and transferred to your award-winning hostel in the town’s restaurant and shopping district.

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.

Biodiversity Presentation:  Depending on where your group’s interest lies, speakers may include Professor Steve Turton (Climate scientist), Terry Carmichael (consultant to The Wet Tropics Management Authority) or Gavin Singleton (Aboriginal Traditional Owner, Yirrganydji) to provide insight on global and regional issues such as preserving biodiversity, traditional Indigenous management techniques, climate change and human impacts.

Before dinner, you can explore the nearby Esplanade – a lively stretch of waterfront with night markets, occasional performers and an expansive swimming lagoon. This evening you enjoy a welcome dinner at one of Cairns’ waterfront restaurants.

Accommodation: Cairns Budget Accommodation
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2:  Biology Field Techniques & Transects, Bat Hospital and Outback

Day 2: Biology Field Techniques & Transects, Bat Hospital and Outback

Introduction to Field Work & Species Transects: Today with your guide you discuss biologists’ field techniques and interpretation.  The setting for today’s field work is the Cairns Highlands, which protects swathes of emerald rainforest. Dividing into small groups, you learn how to set up a vegetation/habitat transect, and then you collect data on rainforest species within a defined area.

Researchers Techniques: During your transect exercise, you keep an eye out for the red-legged pademelon, the Eulamprus Tigrinus skink – a rare reptile – and the endangered and giant flightless bird, the cassowary.

Bat Hospital: Later you visit the Tolga Bat Hospital to discover the cuddly side of bats.  Fruit bat pups are brought in when they are afflicted by tick paralysis or when their mothers have died or become too ill to feed them. Volunteers at the hospital nurse the bat pups back to health and then release them into the wild. The hospital also serves as a sanctuary for bats who have retired from zoos.

Savannah Lands and Outback: Then you head west through a changing landscape of different geological and rainfall patterns, and see how this changes the biota. You cross over the Great Dividing Range and the rainforest gives way to the arid outback where giant termite mounds dominate the landscape and kangaroos roam freely.  Late in the day you arrive at Undara National Park. You set up camp tonight in Undara (an Aboriginal word meaning ‘long way’) National Park, where you have access to toilets and hot showers.

Accommodation: Undara camping
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 3: Field Techniques, Ecosystem Comparisons, Undara Lava Tubes & Sunset Tour

Day 3: Field Techniques, Ecosystem Comparisons, Undara Lava Tubes & Sunset Tour

Undara National Park: Today you spend the day discovering Undara National Park and Lava Tubes — one of Australia’s great geological wonders. They are the largest, longest and most accessible lava tubes on earth. The tubes and a cave network formed from an eruption by Undara 190,000 years ago and its resulting lava flows. While the geology is fascinating, equally as interesting is the unusual flora and fauna that have evolved in the depressions caused by collapses in the tube roofs as well as in the tubes.

Lava Tubes Tour: This morning the focus turns to geology- on a 2 hour tour that winds through the cool underground lava tubes, tunnels and caves, a local guide discusses the shield volcano origins, the unusual “granitic basement” and why this site was of great interest to NASA.

Field Work: In the park with your guide you continue your field work, comparing soils, vegetation and fauna in the tubes and depressions that vary greatly to the surrounding woodland. You encounter a kaleidoscope of bird life –of which over 150 species have been recorded—and discover creatures previously unknown to science, including two new snail varieties and two species of insect-eating bats.  You also discuss unique blind insects, colourless shrimp and beetles which have evolved without the need for a sense of sight or colour camouflage in the black basalt tubes.

Wildlife at Sunset Tour: Late in the afternoon you discover iconic Australian wildlife, like kangaroos and wallabies, colourful cockatoos and other wild creatures in their natural environment. At dusk you are then taken to the entrance of a lava tube where thousands of tiny insect eating micro-bats emerge from the darkness to find food, which attracts pythons and brown tree snakes that hang from the trees and strike out at the bats to capture a meal.

Accommodation: Undara Camping
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 4: Field Studies at Forty Mile Scrub and Nocturnal Spotlighting

Day 4: Field Studies at Forty Mile Scrub and Nocturnal Spotlighting

Field Work and Vegetation Studies: Today you explore Forty Mile Scrub National Park – a unique “dry” rainforest.  Known for its rainfall extremes, the park boasts semi-evergreen trees that soak up the considerable rainfall in the summer months, and then drop their leaves in the exceptionally dry winters.  Through a walk under a closed canopy packed with vine thickets, Burdekin plums, lemon-scented gum trees and broad-leafed bottle trees with massive trunks, you discover a bizarre landscape that straddles the line between outback and the Wet Tropics. Your studies of the ground cover, soil type, vegetation and fauna will reveal red-necked pademelons found nowhere else in this climate, flying foxes that set up seasonal camps, and the near-threatened white flowered onion vine.

Wet Tropics and Glowworms: This afternoon you return to the Wet Tropics. After dark you walk a path through the rainforest to view some of Australia’s most unusual creatures – glow worms – that attract mates through bioluminescence and make tiny twinkles in the night.

Nocturnal Wildlife Spotlighting:  Later tonight you head to Mt. Hypipamee National Park to explore a rare type of volcanic pipe – a.k.a “the Crater”- and the abundance of wildlife that appears in the rainforest once the sun sets. Your guide will present a spotlighting exercise, during which you look for crepuscular and nocturnal species, focusing on endemics such as Lumholtz’s Tree-kangaroo, Green Ringtail Possum, musky rat-kangaroo, and numerous other marsupial, reptile and mammal species that live in the forest.

Accommodation: Highlands Cabins
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 5:  Presentations, Aboriginal-Guided Rainforest Walk, Croc-Spotting Cruise & Daintree Rainforest

Day 5: Presentations, Aboriginal-Guided Rainforest Walk, Croc-Spotting Cruise & Daintree Rainforest

Platypus Spotting: Early this morning with your guide you look for the unique and elusive platypus–without question the most unique mammal on earth–in its natural habitat. Seeing a platypus in the wild is a truly fascinating experience and your guide describes the habits of these creatures. The unique features of the platypus (an egg-laying mammal) make it an iconic symbol of Australia.

Data Interpretation and Presentations: After breakfast you gather together as a group to discuss your findings over the past few days.  You also have a chance to present the data you have collected and discuss and interpret your results.

Aboriginal-Guided Rainforest Walk:  Next you discover a swathe of rainforest special to the Ngadjon jii Aboriginal people. This is also one of the best places in the world to spot the elusive tree kangaroo, or mupee.  You learn how Aboriginal people found their way through dense rainforest and learn what native plants were used for food, shelter, fire, weapons and medicine. Your guide also explains what animals are sacred, how seasons dictated life and how modern life has affected their spirituality.   This is a positive interaction with traditional owners during which you learn how they survived on this land for thousands of years.   Afterwards where the cool fresh waters of the North Johnstone River tumble over basalt lava flows at Malanda Falls, a freshwater pool beckons you for a swim.

Croc-Spotting Cruise: Then you board a solar-powered boat on the Daintree River for a discovery tour in search of the estuarine crocodile and other wildlife. Without the noise or fumes of a regular boat, you travel quietly up the river in the care of a wildlife guide, spotting an array of snakes, frogs, fish, and the infamous “crocs” of the tropics. An on-board “croc-cam” lets you also see these magnificent creatures up close on a screen, as well as hard-to-see animals.

Daintree Rainforest: Later you enter the magical Daintree Rainforest – the oldest continually growing rainforest on earth. For tropical biology students, this is an important area for study: this area of the country has the highest concentration of primitive flowering plant families in the world, Australia’s rarest mammal (the Murina florious bat) and 13 species of birds found nowhere else on earth.

Daintree Rainforest Observatory & Research Station: Next you arrive at the Daintree Rainforest Observatory, an eco-monitoring site and research station with wet and dry labs. It lies in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest, and claims the highest biodiversity of anywhere in Australia! You get a safety orientation and then a presentation about the significance of this rainforest and about the important research happening here.

Accommodation: Your lodging for the night is in the brand-new facilities at the station.  Rooms are single gender, four- and six-bed rooms.  These have access to a communal industrial kitchen, and an amenities block nearby provides laundry, bathroom and shower facilities.  Tonight your JCU researcher also takes you around the station to look for Australian frogs and you finish up the day with a bonfire and stargazing (weather depending).

Accommodation: Daintree Rainforest Research Station
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 6: Environmental Debate, JCU Rainforest Canopy Crane, Service Project and Insect Activity

Day 6: Environmental Debate, JCU Rainforest Canopy Crane, Service Project and Insect Activity

Environmental Debate: This morning you participate in a debate which focuses on issues of development and effects on biodiversity. Students are given background information and a summary of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) about a major resort development proposed for Cairns and then given different roles to play of community members.  They then argue for or against the building of the resort. This requires evaluating projected economic, social and environmental impacts as well as proposed sustainability efforts. 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 national media attention.

James Cook University Canopy Crane: Next you have the extraordinary opportunity to visit the canopy crane operated by James Cook University which is not open to the general public. The unique canopy crane in the Daintree rainforest is the only research station of its kind in the country and is an important link in an international network that monitors both tropical and temperate forest canopies around the world.

After a safety orientation and a discussion about the significance of this rainforest by an on-site expert, you climb into a suspended gondola in threes with the crane operator. The crane then ascends over the rainforest and can swing 360 degrees over the canopy, surveying the incredible biodiversity that has earned this UNESCO World Heritage status. Like the visiting researchers, you as students can prepare hypotheses to test whilst in the crane. (Students must be at least 16 years old to go up in the Daintree canopy 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.

Insect Traps and Visit to the Lab: The on-site  JCU researcher/guide helps you construct insect traps, which are used to assess the biodiversity of the invertebrate population of the area. You discuss the various adaptations each insect species has evolved to allow them to thrive in the rainforest environment. Students engage in hands on practical experiences which complement their studies particularly in biology and ecology.

Water Quality Measurements:  With your guide you discover the language of water and what it says about the creatures that can survive in it. You take water quality measurements involving indicators like pH, nitrate, dissolved oxygen and phosphate levels.  Testing for these elements may reveal the presence of fertilizers or biological extremes, which will also aid in your discussion about species survival rate and eutrophication.

In the late afternoon you return to Cairns for a group dinner.

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

Day 7: Free Time and Optional Koala Cuddle

Day 7: Free Time and Optional Koala Cuddle

Free Time and Optional Koala Cuddle: Today you have the day to finish your notes and findings for your terrestrial portion of your tropical biology trip. You can relax at the public swimming lagoon, shop for souvenirs at the Night Markets, and sample some local fare. You can also choose to get an iconic photo with a koala in your free time – we’ll tell you where to get one! (*extra cost)

Day 8: James Cook University Seminar – Marine Systems

Day 8: James Cook University Seminar – Marine Systems

Marine Science Seminar: Today you head to James Cook University for a marine-focused seminar. JCU is Australia’s highest-ranked university in environmental science and offers marine biology studies not found anywhere else. Through a custom-designed interactive workshop today you have the opportunity to engage with world leading researchers like venomologist Dr. Jamie Seymour and Richard “The Shark Wrangler” Fitzpatrick.

Mangrove Biome: On campus you investigate a working model of a mangrove biome—with a resident crocodile—which is an important tool for studying effects on water quality and salinity as well as climate change mitigation.

Venomous Creatures: You also have access to samples of some of the world’s deadliest marine creatures:  the Stone Fish, Cone Shell, and the Box Jelly Fish, and you discuss the progress of JCU researchers are having in developing anti-venoms.

Observation of Marine Animals: Sophisticated camera equipment placed in the tanks let you observe animals up close, such as sharks, rays, cleaner wrasse and clownfish and you learn about the role of the university in creating films and documentaries. You have access to animals such as the rare lung fish that until now have not been successful in captivity.

Perhaps most importantly today, in a controlled environment you closely view elements of the underwater world with which you will be interacting over the next week.

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

Day 9: Fitzroy Island Barrier Reef Marine Biology and CoralWatch Program Data Collection

Day 9: Fitzroy Island Barrier Reef Marine Biology and CoralWatch Program Data Collection

Ferry Ride to Fitzroy Island: This morning you meet your marine biologist guide and you are ferried to the pristine Fitzroy Island – a green gem in a turquoise sea.  Over time a fringing coral reef surrounded the island, providing a sheltered home for a variety of fish and coral species. The island is now protected as a national park, with 94% of the island covered in lush rainforest and surrounded by waters ripe for discovery. With a prime spot on the inner Great Barrier Reef, Fitzroy Island and the surrounding reefs support some of the world’s greatest biodiversity.

In-Water Assignments and Island Lectures: On the island you alternate between mini-lectures and practical hands-on assignments in the water. Your first discussion with your marine biologist focuses on Major Fish Families on The Great Barrier Reef and Fish Identification. You can apply this knowledge to other regions, as this lecture is relevant to all coral fish around the world.  Afterwards you collect your snorkel gear and head out to Welcome Bay with the goal of spotting cuttle fish, parrot fish, wrasse and lionfish, among others.

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. You also learn how to log in sightings of your reef fauna and flora using an ap downloadable to your phone or tablet, and your data is then sent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA).

Island Camping & Evening Lecture: Following your snorkeling session, you return to your campground, which is beautifully situated only steps from the water.  Here you can set up your tents (provided) and there is a BBQ area for preparing meals (we give you the food), and both indoor and outdoor cold showers. Your evening lecture addresses human impacts on the reef and protected area management, after which you can enjoy the island resort’s games area and nightly music.

Accommodation: Fitzroy Island Campground
Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 10: Fitzroy Island Marine Biology, Sea Kayaking and Turtle Rehabilitation Centre

Day 10: Fitzroy Island Marine Biology, Sea Kayaking and Turtle Rehabilitation Centre

Lighthouse Hike: This morning for a challenge, you can walk a gorgeous but steep rainforest track—keeping an eye out for the elusive yellow-spotted reptilian monitor—to the island lighthouse for a 360-degree panorama.

Guided Snorkelling: Using a life ring and a floating bar this morning, you swim along with your marine biologist who leads you to underwater examples of some of the reef’s best examples of camouflage, symbiosis, mimicry and conspicuous colouration.

Field Techniques and Sampling:  Later your discussion centers on Field Techniques and Sampling, followed by instruction on how to perform an underwater transect. This involves a 50-metre transect line and waterproof data collection sheets; each person in the group has a job which is vital to the research but it is teamwork that makes it happen.

Turtle Rehabilitation Centre: Later you visit the island’s Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, where a collection of volunteers help save sick, injured or stranded sea turtles.  During your visit, you learn about the feeding and mating habits of turtles, the major causes of their deaths and the process of rehabilitating them.   This afternoon you return to Cairns by ferry.

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

Day 11: Marine Biology at The Outer Great Barrier Reef with Snorkelling on Liveaboard Boat

Day 11: Marine Biology at The Outer Great Barrier Reef with Snorkelling on Liveaboard Boat

Boat Trip to Outer Reef: No trip to Cairns is complete without a visit to the outer Great Barrier Reef–a UNESCO World Heritage Site and easily one of the world’s top natural wonders.  This morning you transfer from Fitzroy Island to the outer reef. Your captain then heads toward Moore Reef and you will have fantastic access to this underwater universe. Upon arrival at the reef, snorkellers will delight in viewing the incredible array of life and colors that exist just below the surface.

Live Aboard Boat: In the afternoon you transfer to your live aboard boat. While on board you enjoy freshly cooked meals with accommodation in quad or twin-share cabins with own bathroom and air conditioning.

Snorkelling: During your two days exploring the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef you see how the coral thrives in this clear water, creating spectacular gardens and drawing a mosaic of marine life.  Among the 1,800 species of fish and 450 species of coral, you can expect to see turtles, Wally the gigantic wrasse, giant clams, fan corals, sea cucumbers, stag horn coral gardens, and just about the whole cast of Finding Nemo.

While at sea, hearty buffet meals keep you well fed, twin/quad-share cabins and fresh water showers keep you comfortable and a lounge and sundeck give you space to relax.

Accommodation: Live aboard boat
Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 12: Marine Biology, Snorkelling OPTIONAL SCUBA Diving and Presentation of Findings

Day 12: Marine Biology, Snorkelling OPTIONAL SCUBA Diving and Presentation of Findings

Coral Predators and Bleaching: Today is your final day at The Great Barrier Reef, and today you can look for both coral predators and signs of coral bleaching.

Sightings App: With the help of a downloadable application, you can take a photo, identify the species, and then send the GPS coordinates to the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) non-profit organisation, Eye on The Reef. This type of data then helps this government organisation better understand the overall health of the reef and catch potentially devastating outbreaks of predators such as Crown of Thorns starfish.

OPTIONAL EXTRA- Scuba Dive: Snorkelers can also opt to learn about SCUBA diving one-on-one from the dive instructor—intro diving (also known as “resort diving”) is a fantastic way to see the reef without having a certification (extra cost)

Seasonal Whale Watching: If you join this trip during the months of June, July or August, you may be lucky enough to spot the Dwarf Minke Whales or the Humpback Whales that migrate here in the winter.  Both whales tail-slap the water, jump out of the water (a.k.a. breaching) or “spy hop” where they lift their head out of the water and observe the boats above the surface.

Data Presentation: In the afternoon, you come together as a group to present your data, wrap up your discussions, and make conclusions about your findings.  Late this afternoon you return to Cairns and enjoy a final celebratory dinner in town.

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

Day 13: Optional Service Project and Departure

Day 13: Optional Service Project and Departure

After breakfast this morning you have free time for last-minute shopping or souvenir purchases.  If you leave later in the day, you can choose one of the following options:

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. (*extra cost)

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.

– OR –

Service Project for the Reef:  The second 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. (*extra cost)

Eventually all good things must come to an end. You are transferred to the Cairns airport for your flight home.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Want to Visit New Zealand Too?

Want to Visit New Zealand Too?

Ask us about options in Sydney or to New Zealand for a combined trip to both of these lands Down Under.

Is this biology-focused program too long or too short? Contact us for custom tour options that match your budget and objectives!

 School Trip Fees Include:

  • All activities as described in the itinerary
  • Cairns airport transfers
  • All transportation
  • Small World Journeys naturalist guide for terrestrial segment
  • Small World Journeys marine biologist guide for inner reef segment
  • 6 nights at a central Cairns hostel (4-6-share rooms with ensuite)*
  • 2 nights Undara camping (tents, sleeping bags and pads provided)
  • 1 night Cairns Highlands cabins (students in single-gender cabins with ensuite)*
  • 1 night island camping (tents and sleeping pads provided)
  • 1 night Daintree eco-lodge (students in single-gender 4-6 share cabins)
  • 1 night live aboard boat (students in single-gender quad- or twin-share cabins with shared bathrooms)
  • All continental breakfasts
  • All lunches (except on Free Day 7)
  • All dinners (except on Free Day 7)
  • 101 Animals of the Wet Tropics, 101 Plants of the Wet Tropics,  and 101 Animals of the Great Barrier Reef  field guides for each student
  • Mask, fins, and snorkel hire
  • A Small World Journeys reusable water bottle and cloth shopping bag
  • 5 metres square of Daintree rainforest adopted in your group’s name through Rainforest Rescue
  • Coral adoption at the Great Barrier Reef through Reef Restoration Foundation with updates on coral

*Two teacher rooms (private twin or triple share rooms with ensuite) in Cairns and the Cairns Highlands are included in the trip price.  A supplement of $276 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 is no single supplement at the Daintree Rainforest research station, the Cairns Highlands cabins or the live aboard boat.

Trip Fees Exclude:

  • Airfare to Cairns
  • One lunch and two dinners
  • Personal expenses (phone, internet, laundry, etc.)

Pricing to 31 March 2020:

  • Land Cost, 15 + participants: $2968 AUD (add $50 pp for 15 June – 15 July)
  • Land Cost, 10-14 participants: $3135 AUD (add $50 pp for 15 June – 15 July)


  • Photo cuddling a koala ($25 AUD)
  • Certified SCUBA dive package – 5 dives + 1 night dive ($75 AUD including equipment)
  • Introductory SCUBA dive package – 2 Intro Dives ($120 AUD including equipment)

Ask us about a Sydney or New Zealand Add-On!


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) plus $45 AUD per person for accommodation deposit 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) less the $45 paid for deposit no later than 60 days prior to the trip. You then submit whole payment to us at 60 days, less the $200 deposit
  5. Enjoy your trip!

Question 1: Do I need a visa to visit Australia?

Answer: All visitors to Australia need a visa, with the exception of visitors from New Zealand. In some countries a visa is easily obtained by the travel agent who issues your ticket, and should be free of charge. For more information on getting a visa, please see: Australian Visas. All visitors will also need a passport, valid for at least six months after the planned return date.  

Question 2: 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 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 or call  1-415-898- 7974.

Question 3: 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 4: 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 5: What if I wish to SCUBA dive (intro or certified)?

Answer: Medical standards differ from country to country, certain medication / medical conditions may preclude you from diving in Australia (EVEN IF YOU ARE ALREADY CERTIFIED)

Certified Diving

If you are a certified diver, you will still be asked to fill out and sign an Advice to Divers Form. To be "certified" means you have taken a course (typically about 4 days long) and you now hold an Open Water Diver certification card from PADI, SSI, NAUI or other internationally recognized SCUBA diving organisation. If you answer Yes to any of the questions below, further medical clearance may be required. (This must be organised at least the day before your trip start date). In some circumstances you may be able to dive, with a certified professional (dive guide), at an additional cost.
Sample Medical Questionnaire For Certified Divers
  • Are you currently suffering from any illness or injury? Yes or No
  • Are you currently taking any prescription medication (excluding oral contraceptives) Yes or No
  • Since your last dive medical have you suffered from any conditions that may affect your fitness to dive? Yes or No

Introductory Diving

Intro Diving is also called "resort diving". You can do this kind of diving with a dive instructor even if you are not certified (see above). Doing an Intro Dive does NOT certify you to dive on your own in other places. If you are doing an introductory dive on a live aboard or day boat, you will be asked to fill out and sign a medical form. This form can be emailed to you prior to your trip if you are interested in Intro Diving. If you answer YES to any of the medical questions (for example, do you have asthma or take medication for migraines?) further medical clearance may be required. This must be arranged PRIOR to day of departure.

Question 6: 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 7: 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 8: 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 9: 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 10: 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''.

Taking Learning into the Field

This tropical biology trip to Australia is the ultimate fieldwork induction for your university students. Combining biology, ecology, environmental management and marine science this is the perfect in depth study of Australia’s environments. Your students will be taught by experts in the regional environments and taught a variety of scientific fieldwork skills that can be applied to a range of disciplines across their studies.

  • Compare tropical environments- from dry eucalypt woodlands to lush wet tropical rainforests
  • Create hypothesis to be tested in the field
  • Conduct fieldwork including species counts, nocturnal species identification and vegetation measurements
  • Present group research findings
  • Access the James Cook University’s world class Daintree Rainforest canopy crane research station
  • Learn about the complex Great Barrier Reef ecosystem
  • Participate in marine fieldwork and data collection
  • Experience snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef
  • Test your sense of adventure by learning to SCUBA dive (optional)

How your trip supports the community

SUPPORTING  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 2017-18, we gave over $34,000 in business to Aboriginal-owned ventures. Additionally, our new 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: 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.  In 2017-18, three quarters of our expenses were paid back into the local economy.

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”

HELPING THE REEF: In addition to the coral tree we sponsor, we pay to “adopt” coral at Fitzroy Island through our partner Reef Restoration Foundation.  The coral propagation happening there is unprecedented and is being celebrated as a significant project 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.

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 our company’s carbon emissions. 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”.


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.