Places still available for July & August - book now
Great Barrier Reef Marine Conservation Volunteer Program in Australia - Cairns

Great Barrier Reef Marine Conservation Volunteer Program in Australia - Cairns

Protect & preserve precious marine life
Start dates
Programs start the first Monday of the month
Choose from 1-4 weeks
Volunteer hours
Up to 6 hours a day
Volunteers aged 18+
Dormitory-style hostel
Program fees
From £861 for 1 week
What's included
Find out here
Apply for free
'Who is going' users image
Who is going?
Group video calls

Once you have secured your place, join regular video calls to meet your Program Manager and other volunteers before your trip.

This program is ideal for:

Volunteers who are happy and confident in the ocean and able to comfortably swim at least 50 meters. No other experience is needed as comprehensive training will be provided so you’re prepared for carrying out research-based activities at sea.

Project details

Ready to strap on your snorkel and splash into a new adventure as a Marine Conservation volunteer in Australia? International Volunteer HQ’s Marine Conservation project at the spectacular Great Barrier Reef gives volunteers the opportunity to help address the effects of development and climate change on the world’s largest coral reef system. Volunteers will gain experience in reef monitoring, marine debris data collection and sea turtle conservation.

What to expect and how you'll make an impact

The wondrous Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia has been under threat from the effects of development, deforestation, and climate change for decades, but progress has been made to help it recover. These efforts continue with a number of different groups working towards keeping the reef healthy and strong for years to come.

With IVHQ’s Marine Conservation project you’ll get trained to be able to volunteer with oceanographic organisations to gather data and support the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. These initiatives include:

  • Reef Monitoring: You’ll be snorkeling to observe and collect data on the species living around the Great Barrier Reef. A full-length lycra suit will be supplied, but you’ll need to bring your own snorkel and waterproof watch.
  • Marine Debris Collection and Research: Marine debris represents a significant threat to the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem and is having a devastating impact on marine life. You’ll be assisting with marine debris data collection and mapping which can then be categorised and shared with conservationists to assist with their research.
  • Sea Turtle Conservation (for volunteers staying 2 weeks or more): Learn to identify turtle species, catalogue distinguishing features and track individual animals and their behaviour. A unique experience swimming with wild and free turtles.
Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #14: Life Below Water

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #14: Life Below Water

The ocean regulates and drives global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. Marine biodiversity is critical to the health of people and our planet. Preserving threatened ecosystems, as well as tackling marine pollution and overfishing through conservation activities is key to saving our ocean.

Why do Marine Conservation volunteering in Australia with IVHQ?

When you’re volunteering in Marine Conservation at the Great Barrier Reef, you’ll be assisting local groups to protect the extraordinary natural environment while getting hands-on conservation experience and achieving personal growth by:

  • Helping keep irreplaceable marine life safe and healthy
  • Snorkeling around the world’s largest coral reef
  • Gaining experience in marine conservation, data collection and turtle care
  • Learning about the effects of climate change
  • Discovering Australia’s stunning beaches and coastline

Volunteer requirements

  • You need to be competent in the ocean, able to float and swim at least 50 meters for this program. Please be sure to rate your swimming ability and confidence level in the ocean when you apply to volunteer in Australia. All volunteers will be tested upon arrival to the program.
  • Volunteers must be aged 18 or over to participate in this program.
  • All volunteers are required to provide a criminal background check to IVHQ prior to departure.
  • All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance
  • All volunteers must speak fluent English.
Are you eligible to volunteer?

Submit a free application so we can confirm your eligibility and check availability for your preferred dates.

Apply for free

Not sure which program to join?

Get personalized recommendations >

'Who is going' users image
Who is going?
Group video calls

Once you have secured your place, join regular video calls to meet your Program Manager and other volunteers before your trip.

What recent volunteers said about their IVHQ experience

Georgia Conde
07 Feb 2024

I feel grateful and satisfied about what I did and learned everyday. I learnt a lot about the marine life, aboriginal culture and it made me grow as a person.

Corynne Sarrett
24 Jan 2024

Everyone I met and everything I was able to do to support the marine conservation efforts of the Great Barrier Reef was incredible. I absolutely love the team! I feel so motivated to keep supporting the cause and keeping the reef as safe as possible.

Isabella Peralta
16 Jan 2024

Through my experience I feel I gained more knowledge about the underlying issue of climate change and how it not only effects the earth but the indigenous people that rely off it. I gained many amazing memories and friendships, that I couldn’t be more grateful for!

Grace Tidy
19 Dec 2023

Gained more knowledge about myself, the indigenous people and way of life in Australia. Learnt about corals and met some cool people!

Sophie Kenney
13 Jul 2023

Volunteering through IVHQ, and with the local Australia team was the best decision I have made. This experience challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone, which allowed me to grow so much as a person and gain so many skills! Volunteering is such a great way to travel and save money, whilst also being able to learn from locals about the culture and environment you are in. IVHQ has high standards regarding the ethicality of projects and meets UN goals which was something I really looked for to start off my volunteering journey.

Jenna Cej
27 Jun 2023

The checklist provided on my IVHQ account provided structure and clear direction, which helped me prepare for the trip. The local team was absolutely fantastic. They were caring, helpful, and extremely knowledgeable; I always felt safe and welcome.

Expanding my worldview and giving me the opportunity to see firsthand and to understand how I can positively or negatively influence the world around me in various ways, to varying degrees, had the biggest impact on me. Volunteering abroad will push you out of your comfort zone, but in doing so it will show you how magnificently expansive the world is beyond that bubble.


To read all reviews, visit our reviews page.

Academic course credit

Academic course credit through International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ.

Academic course credit

Gain course credit from your college or university and meet your academic requirements when completing a volunteer abroad program with International Volunteer HQ!

Learn about course credit


Volunteer Abroad in Australia with IVHQ


Set at the Great Barrier Reef, volunteers at IVHQ’s Marine Conservation project will have the opportunity to get to know the remarkable coral reef well. You’ll be based in the city of Cairns in Far North Queensland and take a 45-minute ferry to Green Island and Fitzroy Island each day to volunteer. Your ferry tickets are included in your Program Fee.

Cairns itself is a modern city set in the tropical north of Australia. It’s one of the country’s top tourism destinations thanks to the reef and other outstanding natural features. It’s also an excellent place to learn about the unique cultures and environments in the surrounding area.

Arrival and orientation

The Australia volunteer program orientation begins on the first Monday of every month and volunteers need to arrive in Cairns on the day before orientation.

After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at the Cairns International Airport (CNS). You can catch an Uber from the airport to the volunteer accommodation for approximately £8.

If you are travelling in Australia prior to your volunteer program, you will need to arrange your own transport to the accommodation in Cairns the day before your program orientation.

Orientation is hosted by the team in Cairns. It begins the morning of your chosen start date and lasts for a full day, with a break in the middle for lunch and a walking tour. The orientation covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Australia – an introduction to Australia, culture and customs, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities, an introduction to your project and placement and a tour of the local area. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socialising.

Volunteer schedule example

Weekdays: Please note that this schedule will vary depending on the volunteer work requirements. There will be some days where you will have the opportunity to stay on the island until 4:00 PM to relax and sightsee.

An example schedule is as follows:

7:00 AM Depart hostel and head to the port where you will take the ferry to one of the islands (the ferry ride takes approximately 45 minutes)
9:00 AM Volunteer work begins on the islands
12:00 PM Break for lunch and catch the return ferry to Cairns
1:00 PM Ferry arrives back in Cairns and you have the rest of the afternoon to spend your free time as you wish

Weekends: With your weekends free you’ll be able to explore the breathtaking scenery, cultural diversity, unique wildlife, adventure sports and relaxed lifestyle that Australia is famous for.

Discover Cairns’ beaches, nearby islands, the charming coastal town of Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest - Australia’s largest tropical rainforest. Marine lovers have an extensive selection of coastline and beaches to enjoy and the opportunity to dive, surf, kayak, swim and snorkel in some of the most beautiful spots in the world. Adrenaline junkies can enjoy bungee jumping, gorge swinging, white water rafting, parasailing and mountain biking.

Those who prefer city scenes have easy flight access to Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne so you can explore popular Aussie attractions including Bondi Beach in Sydney, Great Ocean Road, Noosa or the Gold Coast.

Accommodation and WiFi

Volunteers will stay in a dormitory-style hostel in central Cairns, close to cafes, restaurants, a shopping mall, the esplanade and tourism operators. The hostel is about a 20-minute walk from the Port of Cairns where you will catch your ferry to and from the islands each day.

You’ll be sharing a bedroom with 1-8 others of the same gender. There is air-conditioning in each room but it must be turned off when the room is empty. The bathrooms are communal but separated by gender and are equipped with toilets and hot showers.

Bedding is provided, but you’ll need to bring your own towels and toiletries. Lockers are available in each bedroom if you bring your own padlock. There are staff who clean the accommodation throughout the week, including your sheets, however, volunteers are required to keep their rooms tidy.

WiFi is available within the hostel at all times, at no extra cost. There are also multiple shared communal spaces such as a kitchen, outdoor dining area, lounge and pool.

Accommodation upgrades to private rooms or smaller rooms are available at an additional cost, as well as extra nights of accommodation for before or after your program. It is best to arrange accommodation upgrades or extensions with the local team at least 3 weeks prior to your program start date. Please note that these upgrades are subject to availability.

Please note that any independent 17 year old’s are required to obtain a private room upgrade, as per accommodation rules. This is an additional cost and will be confirmed via the local team once you have registered onto the program.


A variety of lunches are provided on week (work) days such as: sandwiches, Vietnamese paper rolls, burgers. The menu will depend on the location of the day’s activities.

Tap water in Australia is safe to drink in most areas and we strongly recommend bringing a reusable water bottle with you as single-use plastic is strongly discouraged on this program. We also recommend bringing a reusable cutlery set, coffee cup and straw as you will be eating lunch on the island most days.

You will need to purchase your own lunch on the weekends and you can expect to budget $10 - $15 for each lunch. Volunteers are also responsible for purchasing their own breakfast and dinners, either from one of the nearby eateries or by purchasing groceries to prepare in the hostel’s communal kitchen.

Supermarkets are a short walk from the volunteer hostel, along with a fruit and vegetable market. A night market operates every night where you can buy cheap dinners. There is also an extensive food court in the mall opposite the hostel and a wide range of restaurants in the surrounding streets.


  • USD

Spots are limited. For a Registration Fee of just US$329 (approximately £273) you secure your spot and unlock all our preparation and training tools.

You don't need to worry about paying your Program Fee until you get closer to your start date.

Program Fee
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
  • USD
1 week $1,035 Equivalent to $148/day
2 weeks $2,065 Equivalent to $148/day
3 weeks $3,045 Equivalent to $145/day
4 weeks $4,025 Equivalent to $144/day
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately £273) in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services.
  • A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Australia generally find US$250 per week to be sufficient for expenses, such as all breakfasts, weekend lunches and all dinners, and local tours and activities.
  • Any changes or cancellations within 30 days of the program start date are subject to a US$430 late change/cancellation fee.
  • Weekday lunches
  • Ferry rides to and from your placement each weekday
  • Accommodation
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • In-country program orientation
  • Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
  • Personalised preparation tools, guides and check lists
  • Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
  • Certificate of International Volunteer Service

Learn more about what's included in your IVHQ Registration Fee and Program Fee.

  • Dinner
  • Breakfast
  • Weekend lunches
  • Airport pick-up
  • Return to the airport when your program finishes
  • Flights
  • Visa (if required), travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check.
  • Personal spending money for snacks, laundry, public transportation, drinks and leisure activities during your free time.

Check what's required to visit Australia

Safety and support

Safety and support with IVHQ

Safety and support

IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.

  • All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
  • All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
  • All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
  • All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Learn more about IVHQ's safety

Essential country information

Essential country information

Capital Canberra
Population 25 million
Languages English
Currency Australian Dollar (AUD)
Time zone UTC+8:00

Weather and climate: Cairns is considered to have a tropical climate and is warm year round. The hot season lasts 4-5 months from November to March. During this time, the daily high is often around 86°F (30°C). The cooler season runs from June to August and the daily high is around 79°F (26°C). Being a monsoonal climate, most rainfalls occurs between January and March.

Apply to check if you're eligible!
Apply for free

Other projects you may be interested in

How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
Meet your personal volunteer travel expert
Pay the Registration Fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
Get ready to volunteer abroad, we’ll support you every step of the way!