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Oceans 2 Earth

Great Barrier Reef Marine Conservation

Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Help to collect important data to protect and conserve the worlds biggest coral reef.

The program

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.

Oceans 2 Earth Volunteers 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.

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 5 day, 6 night program.

The location

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. 

Our volunteers

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. 

Conditions on site

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.

Please note

The first installment of your project fees is due within 1 week after you paid the deposit on Volunteer World. This is a total of $495 AUD and comes off your balance. The balance is due 90 days prior to travel. For all further information about the fees, please scroll down to the section „Program Fees“.

Typical day

Volunteers will undertake a 12 day, 11 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. 

Details on Arrival

This program has a set duration as well as set starting dates.

The duration is 12 days, 11 nights (6 days, 5 nights for Certified Divers) and the start dates are 13/04/17, 25/05/17, 29/06/17, 21/09/17, 9/11/17, 7/12/17. Please get in touch via the blue "message us"-button to learn more about available spots. 

Free-time activities

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.

Water Sports

Program Requirements

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s). Of course, there is an exception for children that are accompanied by their parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (basic level)
Health Declaration
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
The minimum age to learn to dive in Queensland is 12. There is no maximum age. (Younger divers can undertake a snorkelling program where they can complete the Project AWARE Certificate as snorkelers). It is a dive course requirement that participants are able to swim 200 m or snorkel 300 m and tread water/float for 10 minutes. O2E recommends that you do not fly within 24 hours of diving. This means that the earliest you should fly is 12 pm (midday) on the day after your program concludes.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Suitable for


Any questions? Just ask. We at Oceans 2 Earth are happy to help you.

Contact Project Coordinator
Contact & Reservation

Included Services

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Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by Oceans 2 Earth.
Services by Oceans 2 Earth
  • Pre-departure support
  • Project Information Booklet
  • Project orientation
  • Training
  • Field equipment and materials
  • All Transfer
  • 7 night’s hostel accommodation in Cairns
  • 4 night’s hostel accommodation on the Reef
  • All meals
  • 2-hour Reef Teach educational session
  • 5-day PADI Open Water Dive course OR Advanced Open Water OR Advanced Open Water + Nitrox course incl. 3 day/ 2 night live aboard reef trip (2 x Nitrox fills included with Nitrox course only)
  • 3 day/ 2 night reef monitoring live aboard trip with a dedicated Rapid Monitoring guide
  • 21 dives total on the Great Barrier Reef
  • Project AWARE Certificate
  • Day trip to Fitzroy Island
  • Day trip on an 82 foot catamaran with a dedicated reef conservation guide, Project AWARE Specialist
  • Conservation program participant certificate and t-shirt
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • 24-hour O2E emergency phone
  • Certificate of Participation, if requested
  • O2E T-shirt
  • Marine conservation T-shirt

If you already have a PADI open Water Certificate the fee reduces to $1510 to undertake the 6 day program.

Please note that the first installment of your program fees ($495 AUD) is due within one week after having paid the deposit on Volunteer World.
Airport Pickup at Cairns Airport

The accommodation is split between Cairns and a boat on the reef. While on the mainland, volunteers will stay in a hostel in Cairns.

Youth Hostel
Food & Beverages

Most meals are provided with vegan and vegetarian catered for.

Internet Access
Good access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Cairns Airport (CNS) in Cairns. We assist you to find cheap flights to Australia.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Australia provides security and is a plus to have.
If you are intending to volunteer in Australia you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Australia.
Costs (Prices in USD)
12 days (min. stay)
12 days (max. stay)
Average fees

You can volunteer at the project site in Cairns, Queensland/Australia between 12 days and 12 days. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Oceans 2 Earth will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Crowdfunding Service
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Australia.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment must be made up to 30 days before to the volunteer program starts. This payment is also securely handled by PayPal or credit card.

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