Marine Conservation and Reef Research in Queensland

Experience the beauty of Townsville, Orpheus Island and Magnetic Island in Tropical North Queensland on this 2-week transformative and hands-on Marine Conservation program.

Program Overview

Get ready to help implement innovative solutions to environmental challenges facing tropical marine ecosystems and the people who love and depend upon them! CISaustralia has partnered with a local organisation that brings 40 years of experience at the leading edge of coral reef science, management and policy to secure a more sustainable future in coral reef regions all over the world.

United by their love of coral reefs and a belief that the decisions and actions we all take can make a meaningful difference to the future of coral reefs, this organisation works with individuals, enterprises, governments and NGOs to improve the outlook for coral reefs and communities to create a better planet for all.

Project Details:

  • Program Activities: Reef monitoring and survey techniques, reef restoration, field research, marine species identification, data processing and analysis, report writing, communication, Indigenous engagement
  • Project Availability: Fixed program dates each year – see the program fees and dates tab (below) or contact CISaustralia for upcoming availability. Customised group dates may be available on request – please consult with CISaustralia
  • Project Duration: 2 weeks
  • Working Days: Monday-Friday
  • Location: Townsville (4 nights), Orpheus Island (4 nights), Magnetic Island (5 nights)
  • Support: 24-hour support from Project Leaders
  • A valid Police Check or Working With Children Check is required
  • Minimum Age: 18+
  • Language: English


  • Engage in reef-based activities providing exceptional opportunities for transformative field-based interaction and learning.
  • Snorkel on the reef (all equipment included).
  • Work on real solutions to environmental challenges for a more sustainable future.
  • Gain practical insight into what Marine Scientists are doing to help create a better planet.
  • Get hands-on experience with reef monitoring and restoration.
  • Immerse in a meaningful experiential service learning experience.
  • Explore the beauty of serene and secluded Orpheus Island, Magnetic Island and Townsville with easy access to the central section of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Meet people from all over Australia and possibly the world while expanding your horizons.
  • This volunteer experience is a natural stepping stone to an overseas program that offers a range of additional diverse cultural, environmental, sociological, marine and wildlife scenarios. Students who enjoy this program will naturally progress to the Marine Conservation in the Philippines and Marine Conservation and Dolphin Research in Tanzania programs, or another one of our conservation focused Volunteer Abroad Programs. Contact CISaustralia for more information.

Sample Itinerary

Please note that this itinerary is a sample only and subject to change due to circumstances out of anyone’s control (most commonly the weather). The onsite team will be flexible and adaptive and deliver the program and content to the best of their ability. All activities are guided by risk assessments that determine thresholds for wind speed. Fieldwork does not proceed in winds greater than 15knots and is also dependent on the wind direction as some bays are protected and others are not. 

Note: This is not a scuba diving program. Snorkelling is included as per the itinerary. This program also includes ½ to 1 day dedicated to Indigenous engagement.


  • Arrival to Townsville and check into accommodation (1 night)


  • Orpheus Island (4 nights), including on-site classroom facilities, daily in-water reef based activities and opportunities to snorkel
  • Program activities will be based at Orpheus Island Research Station
  • Return transport to/from the island and Townsville is included


  • Free weekend in Townsville (3 nights)


  • Magnetic Island (5 nights), including on-site classroom facilities, daily in-water reef based activities and one outer reef trip
  • Program activities will be based at Bungalow Bay Koala Village
  • Return transport to/from the island and Townsville is included (20-25 minute ferry)


  • Check out of accommodation, return to Townsville and program departure

Note: As with any experiential service learning experience it is important to remember that things don’t always go to plan. During your placement, we ask that you remain patient, flexible and use initiative while volunteering.

COVID Safe Travel

The health and safety of our students is our highest priority. We take our duty of care for our students, their families and our Australian University partners seriously. For all of our program locations, we have developed a site-specific COVID-19 risk matrix and risk management and emergency response plans so that health and safety response protocols are monitored, managed and communicated.

We have also developed a flexible COVID-19 Refund Policy that limits the financial impact on students should CISaustralia (or one of our program partners) have to cancel or suspend a program due to COVID-19.

In preparation for your Australian volunteer program, it’s important that you carefully read and understand information related to COVID-19 Travel Safety.

The Volunteer's Role

This program has been developed and designed to give volunteers an immersive experiential service learning experience. During the program you may have the opportunity to learn about and work on the following activities:

  • Introduction to marine science, environmental sustainability and collaboration
  • Focus on: 
    • Knowledge (about people, sustainability, reef, restoration, research, risk assessment, communication)
    • Field Research
    • Communication
  • Reef Monitoring – Introduction to Reef Check Australia and Eye on the Reef monitoring programs  
  • Field based practical implementation of reef survey techniques 
  • Marine species identification and interactive learning 
  • Data entry and processing + data analysis and report writing 
  • Reef resilience and restoration techniques


This immersive, educational program offers access to coral reefs for all 10 days while on Orpheus Island and Magnetic Island. Volunteers will also have access to researchers through on-site excursions as part of the in-field activities.

There are many other activities, attractions and things to do in and around Townsville that volunteers can choose to do on their own (at own expense) outside of project hours. Take a look at the North Queensland Tourism website for ideas and suggestions.


The city of Townsville lies on the northeastern coast of Queensland. It is Australia’s largest urban centre north of the Sunshine Coast with a population of around 181,000. Considered the unofficial capital of North Queensland by locals, Townsville hosts a significant number of governmental, community and major business administrative offices for the northern half of the state. It is located in the dry tropics region of Queensland, adjacent to the central section of the Great Barrier Reef. The city is also a major industrial centre, home to one of the world’s largest zinc refineries, a nickel refinery and many other similar activities. The Port of Townsville is also being expanded to allow much larger cargo ships from Asia and the world’s largest passenger ships to visit. It is an increasingly important port due to its proximity to Asia and major trading partners such as China.

Serene and secluded Orpheus Island on the waters of the Great Barrier Reef is located between Cairns and Townsville. The island includes 3,212 acres (1,300 hectares) of national park and is surrounded by coral reefs, making it a haven for snorkeling and diving. It is home to one of the reef’s most diverse ecosystems including 1,100 of the reef’s 1,500 species of fish and 340 of the 359 varieties of hard corals.

Magnetic Island is 8km offshore from Townsville. Palm-fringed beaches, abundant wildlife, koalas, hiking trails and snorkelling are just a few of the things you’ll find on Magnetic Island. The island is home to a thriving community of more than 2,500 people, as well as backpacker hostels, luxury resorts and quaint bed and breakfasts. Magnetic Island’s relaxed tropical lifestyle and easy access to the Great Barrier Reef make it a wonderful place to relax and unwind.


Accommodation is included for the duration of this program (13 nights). While in Townsville and on Magnetic Island, volunteers will stay at a backpackers hostel. Students will share bunk rooms (single beds) in a safe, clean and comfortable location. Note that accommodation could be mixed gender and could be shared with others not on the program. We always try for standalone rooms for program participants, however this cannot be guaranteed.

Students are responsible for their own meals and any associated costs while in Townsville and Magnetic Island. A communal kitchen is available for use at both backpackers. There are also plenty of cafes and restaurants in the area.

Accommodation on Orpheus Island is at the Research Station. Students will share bunk rooms (same gender, single beds) with shared bathrooms. Each room has 6 beds, wall fans, shelves, clothes hanger space and large floor to ceiling louver windows that capture the sea breezes, keeping rooms at a comfortable temperature all year round. Linens, a pillow, mattress protector and blanket are provided for each participant, however students need to bring their own towel. 

Healthy meals (breakfast/lunch/dinner) are included while staying on Orpheus Island and are prepared by project staff. Water, tea, coffee and juice is also available at no cost. Additionally, the communal building has two fully equipped kitchens that are available for student use. Volunteers can also access scuba and snorkelling equipment free of charge while staying at Orpheus Island Research Station, including wetsuits, stinger suits, BCDs, regulators, fins, masks and snorkels.

Program Fee & Dates

2 WEEKS (Set dates only)
This program is available on fixed program dates (only). Programs start on a Sunday and end on a Saturday. Application deadline is 30 days prior to commencement. There is a minimum of 4 and maximum of 15 participants for this program. Please see specific dates below or enquire for upcoming availability.
Application FeeA$ 95
Program Fee A$ 4,599 - 6,947
Note: Places are limited. First in, best dressed. Programs start on a Sunday and end on a Saturday.
Application Deadline14 October 2022
Arrival Date27 November 2022
Departure Date10 December 2022
Application FeeA$ 95
Program Fee A$ 4,599 - 6,947


Program fees include the following:
  • Volunteer placement and supervision
  • CISaustralia support services before, during and after the program
  • Academic advising
  • Financial advice
  • Assistance with travel arrangements
  • Pre-departure guide and session
  • On-site orientation and project induction
  • Accommodation – shared rooms (single bed)
  • Meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner on Orpheus Island
  • Program activities, mentoring and training
  • Reef trips and snorkel equipment
  • Program risk matrix and COVID-19 risk assessment
  • Risk Management and Emergency Response Plan
  • On-site support – Project Leaders
  • CISaustralia Certificate of Participation (available on request)

What is not included:

  • Program application fee
  • Flights (CISaustralia travel support)
  • Airport transfers
  • Medical insurance
  • Travel insurance
  • Police or Working With Children Check
  • Meals
  • Extra travel/excursions (other than those mentioned above)

Dates are for reference only and are subject to change. Please do not book flights until you have received the dates in your acceptance paperwork and you are confirmed on the program.

CISaustralia reserves the right to alter fees at any time due to fee changes made by our partners.

Adventure Awaits

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive the latest updates on all CISaustralia programs, scholarships, news and more!