Volunteer for Marine Conservation at the Great Barrier Reef

Cairns, Australia Wildlife & Environmental Conservation



This Oceans 2 Earth Volunteers project ticks so many boxes on your bucket list, including traveling Down Under to learn to scuba dive and helping to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest living structure. Just how large is it? This reef is the most iconic and popular of natural wonders in Australia, and is made up of around 2,900 individual reefs, 900 islands, and is visible even from space!

This marine conservation program puts you at the reef where more than 1,500 species of fish thrive, and is home to sea turtles, giant clams, seahorses, sea snakes, nudibranchs, stingray, and sharks.

O2E teams with scuba diving and outer reef operators in Cairns, Australia, where you'll become a PADI Open Water certified scuba diver within five days. If you're already certified, you'll take advanced courses. Then, you'll join other marine conservation experts, learning firsthand about this endangered natural wonder, and helping with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s monitoring program, Eye on the Reef.


During your stay in Australia, you will contribute to the Great Barrier Reef’s long-term protection by completing underwater surveys to monitoring coral health and collecting valuable information about marine animals. This essential data allows the park to keep up-to-date on reef health and provides early warnings of environmental impacts.

Data collected by marine biologists, park rangers, fishermen, reef tour operators, and volunteers like you for the Eye on the Reef program is used to assess the marine environment and coastal zone, examining how natural values can be protected into the future.

Field conditions

If you’re not a PADI certified, you’ll spend the first five days of your marine conservation adventure learning to dive. You’ll start with two days in a class and in a pool on the dive theory/training portion, followed by three days on the Great Barrier Reef completing your open-water dives and learning about rapid reef monitoring. There isare a total of nine dives you’ll make before heading out to sea, living aboard a ship on the reef for another four days and three nights. You’ll make two dives each day while there, diving in some of the best sites in the world. You’ll also have plenty of time to snorkel, relax, and enjoy the reef experience.

After your training is over, you’ll take a ferry to a nearby tropical island, complete another rapid monitoring survey, and take an educational tour of the turtle rehabilitation center, which has treated more than 170 sick and injured Green, Olive Ridley, and Hawksbill turtles in the past 10 years. You’ll wrap up your trip with a beach clean-up, and if there’s free time, partake of the resort’s amenities, including a restaurant and bar, walking trails, glass bottom tours, kayaking, and snorkeling.

The minimum scuba diving age in Queensland is 12, with a parent’s consent, and there is no upper age limit. A dive requirement is that you be able to swim 200 meters, snorkel for 300 meters, and tread water (or float) for 10 minutes.

You’ll also learn how to use scuba equipment, calculate percentages underwater, master diving skills, identify local fish species, and follow instructions underwater.

Participants who are dive certified also have the option to undertake their Advanced Open Water Certificate, Rescue dive course or Nitrox course for an additional fee.

Arrival and orientation

You'll arrive on a Thursday in Cairns, Australia, where you will make your way to a hostel in Cairns via a free shuttle. You'll participate in an orientation, learning about the rules and recommendations of the project, and you will become acquainted with upcoming training sessions, field equipment, and materials. All volunteers receive a comprehensive information guide upon booking. You’ll spend the next two days in a classroom and the pool for training/dive theory lessons, and then three days of practical training during open-water dives on the reef.

Safety protocols recommend that you do not fly within 24 hours of scuba diving, so your last day will be spent at the turtle hospital, allowing plenty of time should you be departing Cairns by air the day after your program concludes.

Your stay


  • HousingVolunteer house

  • Provided mealsBreakfast, dinner

Accommodation description

You’ll spend 12 nights (six nights if you’re a certified diver), starting with the first week at a hostel in Cairns. Certified divers start the program on Day 6. You’ll spend four nights at a hostel at the Great Barrier Reef, as well as three days and two nights on a liveaboard boat trip with a dedicated Rapid Monitoring guide. Breakfast and some lunches are provided, including vegan and vegetarian options. There also are abundant restaurants in Cairns, where you can dine at your own expense.


Volunteers will stay in a hostel and a liveaboard boat.


from $1645 USDper week

from $1645 USDper week


What’s included

  • Some meals

What’s not included

  • Travel insurance

Start dates

This project is available year-round with the full non-certified dive program beginning on Thursdays once a month. The full course is 12 nights. Certified divers can opt to start the program on Day 7 spending 6 nights with the group or can undertake their Advanced certificate, Nitrox course or Rescue course. For groups of 4 or more, O2E can run this project any time of the year.

Oceans 2 Earth Volunteers sends volunteers on adventure trips that focus on animals, wildlife, and conservation. Founded in Melbourne, Australia by Tracy Leske and Cassie Smith, animal lovers and committed volunteers, O2E facilitates quality travel experiences that are meaningful, safe, and low-cost. O2E promotes the ethical treatment of all animals and living ecology by connecting volunteers wanting a hands-on experience with partner NGOs that offer sustainable projects in Australia, Asia, South America, and Africa. O2E raises funds for animal welfare and habitat protection by providing purposeful experiences for its volunteers.

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