Hero Treatment


Who: Upper School students interested in Marine Biology and Conservation | When: March 14, 2020 - March 24, 2020


Who: Upper School students interested in Marine Biology and Conservation
When: March 14, 2020 - March 24, 2020
Trip Leaders: Dr. Fiorica-Howells, Mr. Brad Turner, Dr. Milinkovic, Mr. McCormick

As the climate warms, how much and how quickly will Australia’s Great Barrier Reef change? During spring break, students with an interest in marine biology and conservation will have an exciting opportunity to visit the island continent to conduct their own research. This educational adventure will include seminars of biodiversity, data collection on coral bleaching, water quality measurements, and more. This 10-day adventure will feature a myriad of opportunities to snorkel and enjoy Australia’s wildlife, natural wonders, and dazzling beaches.

Full Itinerary

Day 1 - Departure from Newark

  • Relax and enjoy our scheduled flight from Newark to Cairns, Australia

Day 2 - International Date Line

  • Today we will pass through the International Date Line. We will lose a day at the beginning of our trip but will gain it back during our return home.

Day 3 - Arrive Cairns (2 Nights)

  • Our 24-hour Tour Director will meet us at the airport and remain with us until our final airport departure.
  • We will have use of a private coach and driver, while touring for the next eight days.
  • Our base for the next two nights will be Cairns, where daily breakfast will be included.
  • Cairns, considered the gateway to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, is a city in tropical Far North Queensland. Its Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park tells the stories of indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with music and dance. Northwest of the city, Daintree National Park spans mountainous rainforest, gorges and beaches.
  • We will enjoy dinner in a local restaurant.

Day 4 - Cairns - James Cook University Workshops

  • Today you head to James Cook University for the first of your subject-focused seminars. JCU is Australia's highest-ranked university in environmental science and offers marine biology studies not found anywhere else. Through custom-designed interactive workshops students have the opportunity to engage with world leading researchers and equipment. JCU Speakers may include famous venomologist Dr. Jamie Seymour, whose recent discovery that vinegar is not the best treatment for jellyfish stings has turned science on its head, or Richard Fitzpatrick - "the shark wrangler" - a marine biologist and Emmy Award-winning cinematographer with more than 50 films for the BBC, National Geographic and Discovery Channel.

  • Following on, you have a guest speaker from the Wet Tropics Management Authority (WETMA) introduce you to the significance of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Wet Tropics. Students learn about the superb biodiversity in this region, what animals are endemic and have adapted to climate change, and why this region is an anomaly in Australia. The guest speaker also provides insight on global and regional issues such as protected area management, geography and human impacts.

  • Later we will visit a world class herbarium. Books upon books of pressed and preserved plant species decorate JCU's Tropical Herbarium, where you are invited in as privileged guests. The Herbarium is a biologist's delight; it boasts over 160,000 specimens, cutting edge facilities for processing and curation, as well as research. Highlights include viewing the Spirit Room, do-it-yourself area for plant enthusiasts, and the very special specimens collected by Sir Joseph Banks aboard Captain Cook's first voyage to Australia. 

  • Next, you step into a 'green-house' style laboratory designed to replicate the preferred Australian breeding ground of the mozzie! You peer into microscopes to investigate larvae, and discover from scientists what experiments they are performing to control the spread of tropical diseases, such as dengue fever and malaria. You also learn how volunteers offer themselves up as "meat" for science.

  • This afternoon we will visit the marine labs at JCU. Boasting one of the world's best sites for capturing marine creatures on camera. Sophisticated equipment placed in the tanks allows for observing and filming animal behaviour up close. Additionally, JCU's unique circular tank allows for a simulated current and the careful study of jellyfish. You meet staff who are on the cutting edge of marine science research, learn how they 'milk' fish for venom, and about the latest findings in the development of anti-venoms.

  • At the Venomous Creatures and Mangrove Biome you will meet unusual and deadly creatures such as sea horses, baby crocodiles, cone shells, the lethal chironex jellyfish, and the extremely rare lung fish, found in captivity only at JCU. The cast members of Finding Nemo live here too. You also investigate a working model of a mangrove biome, an important tool for studying effects on water quality and salinity as well as climate change mitigation. Perhaps most importantly today, in a controlled environment you closely view elements of the underwater world with which you will be interacting during your trip.

  • We will enjoy dinner in a local restaurant.

Day 5 - Cairns - Fitzroy Island (1 Night)

  • 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 variety of fish and coral species.
    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. Just offshore a kaleidoscope of marine life beckons to be discovered: colourful corals, parrot and lionfish, turtles, cuttle fish, rays and giant clams.

  • Your marine biologist discusses basic fish and coral types, as well as other marine biology themes. Topics can include, but are not limited to: coral biology, fish populations and behavior, invertebrates, endangered species, coral diseases, coral predators and threats to the reef, human impacts on the reef and climate change.

  • In the afternoon you engage in an activity that addresses concerns over 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 colours 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.

  • 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, analyze the results over time, and look for any long term trends.

  • For the next evening we will camp at Water's Edge. Breakfast will be included at camp.

  • This evening we will have dinner as a group at the camp.

Day 6 - Fitzroy Island - Marine Biology and Sea Kayaking

  • This morning if you rise early and are up for a challenge you can choose to walk a gorgeous but steep rainforest track that gives way to dry open forest and scenic vistas. At trail's end stands a historic lighthouse where views of the sparkling Coral Sea stretch to the horizon. For an extra challenge, push on to the summit of the island for 360-degree views.

  • 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. Today, lunch is included.

  • In the company of your sea kayaking guide, you explore fringing coral reefs and private beaches accessible only by boat. With full use of snorkeling gear as well, you can expect to see hard and soft corals, turtles, and a variety of fish species on this inner Great Barrier Reef location.

  • At the end of the day, you may love to go for a swim, bounce on the giant marine trampoline, or try out a paddle board in the shallow Welcome Bay.

  • Our base for the night will be Cairns, where daily breakfast will be included.

  • This evening we will have dinner as a group in a local restaurant.

Day 7 - Cairns - Port Douglas and Daintree Rainforest (1 Night)

  • This morning we will meet crocodiles in their natural habitat as well as a crocodile farm at Hartley's. This multi-award winning eco adventure attraction is the best place to see crocodiles in Australia. You learn why saltwater crocodiles were almost hunted to extinction, and their importance in ecosystems today. Lagoon boat rides enable safe, guaranteed viewing of giant saltwater crocodiles in a natural setting. Hartley's is famous for its crocodile feeding, snake and wildlife presentations. In the Gondwana Gateway you also meet animals of far north Queensland, like monitors, snakes and the giant endangered cassowary.

  • 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. As a recipient of a 2016 QLD Excellence in Tourism Award, the lodge also uses grey water for irrigation, locally- sourced food for its restaurant, and recycles 80% of its waste. Students sleep in dormstyle cabins with ensuite, and the sounds of the jungle surround you. A highlight each night here is sunset volleyball and a beach bonfire! If you choose your guide also takes you on a walk to spot nocturnal creatures.

  • Our base for the next evening will be Cape Trib Beach House. Breakfast will be included in our stay.

  • This evening we will have dinner as a group in a local restaurant.

Day 8 - Daintree Rainforest - Cairns (1 Night)

  • After a night of immersion in the rainforest, you wake to birdcalls and the chatter of the jungle. After 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 dredging of Trinity Inlet, still in the planning stages for Cairns. 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.

  • The James Cook University 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.

  • 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.

  • Nearby is a crystal-clear rainforest swimming hole used by locals and a perfect place to cool off. You return to Cairns in the late afternoon.

  • Our base for the next one night will be Cairns, where daily breakfast will be included. We will enjoy dinner in a local restaurant.

Day 9 - Great Barrier Reef - Live Aboard Boat (1 Night)

  • 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 Cairns 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, snorkelers will delight in viewing the incredible array of life and colors that exist just below the surface. Today, lunch is included.

  • In the afternoon you transfer to your live aboard boat- your home for the next two days! Your boat is a comfortable 25 meter catamaran specifically designed for Queensland cruising. While on board you enjoy freshly cooked meals with accommodation in quad or twin-share cabins with own bathroom and air conditioning.

  • 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.

  • This evening we will have dinner as a group.

Day 10 - Great Barrier Reef - Cairns (1 Night)

  • After an incomparable night out at the reef, you wake to the sunrise, a hot breakfast and plenty of time for snorkeling.
    Using your personal field guide, you can identify a host of hard and soft corals, such as the whimsical elephant ear, broccoli, and spaghetti corals as well as helping you recognize beauties such as luminescent parrot fish, the chocolate-dipped damsel, and the Picasso triggerfish.

  • Today, lunch is included.

  • Today giant clams, angel, butterfly and parrot fish, turtles, sea stars and corals of a thousand hues are all within reach.

  • You may be lucky enough to interact with Dwarf Minke Whales that migrate here in the winter. The inquisitive nature of the Minke Whale brings them close to boats. Minkes display some extraordinary behaviour such as spy hopping, where they lift their head out of the water and observe the boats above the surface. Often they are seen tail-slapping the water, which may be an acoustic signal to other whales in the vicinity. Minkes are known to breach, but not quite as the Humpback Whale, which are also seen on the Great Barrier Reef in the winter months. You return to Cairns late this afternoon.

  • Our base for the next one night will be Cairns, where breakfast will be included. We will enjoy dinner in a local restaurant.

Day 11 - Departure From Cairns

  • Our rewarding and enjoyable tour comes to an end as our Tour Director accompanies us to the airport on our final day.

Please note that all itineraries are subject to change.



Students must see the trip leader in person by Friday, May 3rd to have their name placed on the initial list.

Participants will be selected for the trips from that list based on the following criteria: 

  • Juniors and Seniors will have priority
  • Sophomores and Freshmen will be selected via a lottery
  • Space is limited. No more than 20 students will be on each trip.

Have Questions?

Write Dr. Fiorica-Howells at

Please Note: Trip Full