Volunteer in Australia – Great Barrier Reef Conservation
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Australia has always been somewhere that I wanted to visit. I was so excited when I found the Great Barrier Reef Conservation project through GoEco because it paired my love for the ocean with an amazing destination.
After arriving in Cairns, we had a meeting the night we all arrived with our local contact. He gave us more detailed schedules of the trip and answered any other questions that we had. He was also available for the rest of the time we were there and answered any questions that came up the rest of the trip.
I was getting my Open Water Certification in Cairns along with two other people on the trip. This meant we were spending the next two days at a pool learning about scuba diving and doing the necessary tasks involved. We were picked up early from the hostel in the morning, and dropped off in the afternoon.
During these days, our breakfast and dinner were provided, lunch we had to figure out on our own. The easiest for our group was to just bring snacks along to the dive center because we had a short lunch break. These days at the dive center were what I expected and the center and staff were great in terms of training, equipment, and making the most of the time we had.
On the third day, our first boat trip began. We checked out of the hostel and were picked up again by the diving company. We brought our luggage with us and were taken to a transportation boat. This was big enough to carry a large amount of people along with scuba equipment for many of them. Myself and the two other people getting our Open Water did a couple more certification dives on this boat, and then after lunch we were taken to the boat where we would stay overnight. Once we were on that boat, we were given rooms and did another dive. At this point, all of the people in this program were doing training dives, it just depended on what certification you were working to get. The next morning I completed my certification and the rest of the dives on this trip were fun dives. There was also the option to snorkel if you wanted to take a break from scuba diving. The dives were unbelievable; being able to learn to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef was an incredible experience.
All of the staff on the boat was very friendly and helpful. You could tell this is something they all really enjoy and love to share with others. They made sure to let us know where the coolest things to see were and if there were any special things in our dive sites. There was one fish that was a regular visitor. His name is Wally and we saw him most days out on the reef. He swims right up to divers and it is definitely an experience to see how much he likes to hang out with people. Turtles were another really exciting part of diving on the Great Barrier Reef. It was more common for me to see them on the surface while I was on the boat, but I did get to see two turtles on one dive! It is unreal seeing these creatures in such an amazing place, it was hard to believe I was actually diving on the Great Barrier Reef.
During the day, sharks were not a common site, but at night some reef sharks would gather around the boat. There were night dives available so you could see what the reef looked like at night. In addition to that option, you could also “snorkel with the sharks”. This was definitely one of the coolest parts of the trip for me. Snorkelers would lie on the metal platform on the back of the boat while wearing a mask and snorkel. The platform would be lowered into the water so your body was covered. Because we were not swimming in the water, the sharks would not be scared away. It was amazing being so close to the sharks while they were swimming around. It was moments like this where it became clear how extraordinary the trip was.
After lunch on the third day on the boat, we were taken back to the transportation boat and then back to Cairns. We checked back into the hostel for the next two nights and then went into the town where we attended the Reef Teach. The man who lead the Reef Teach was so much fun and taught us a lot of cool information about the coral and other animals we were seeing in the reefs. This presentation really helped me understand more about what dangers the reefs are hiding and also what dangers the reefs face.
We had one full day between trips and we spent that day on the Fitzroy Island trip that was planned for us. When we arrived to the island we found the Turtle Rehabilitation center. One of the volunteers gave us a tour of the center and told us about all of the turtles. We were there for about thirty minutes. Once we left there, we spent the rest of the day relaxing on the beach and exploring the island. I enjoyed seeing a different part of Australia and having a day to relax between boat trips.
The next morning we were picked up again by the dive company and taken to the boat. We met up with the marine biologist that we would be working with to get briefed on the conservation work. We were taken to the live aboard boat right away this time. We went over the surveys we would be doing and then did a practice run to make sure we understood how to fill it out and what to consider. That night we watched a power point to learn more about the different species on the surveys, what the different tasks were that we had to complete, and other necessary information. We continued to do surveys on dives and snorkels the next two days. I enjoyed having a purpose on these dives and the surveys were simple enough to work with the rest of the team. These dives consisted of a smaller area so we were able to spend more time looking closely at the coral and creatures that lived there.
Our marine biologist was amazing and so great to work with. She made sure everyone knew what we were doing and was so eager to teach us and show us new things.
Once we made it back to Cairns we had two more nights before leaving. The next day was a free day and I ended up spending the day on another island. Overall, I had an unforgettable time volunteering in Australia for Great Barrier Reef conservation. – Lea