The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is the world’s largest coral reef. It is probably one of, if not the most iconic natural wonder of the world, and yet there is so much more we need to learn about the ecosystem. This statement could not be more true now-a-days with the GBR showing the impacts from cyclones, Crown-of-Thorns and coral bleaching from climate change.

Reef Teach has been operating for 25 years educating people about the GBR and when/where possible performing some opportunistic research. At the start of 2017 we made the decision to commit more time to researching the GBR and have designed a one stop research, education and conservation program that we call the Marine Discovery Program (MDP). So if you want to do your part for the GBR, help us do our part, become a Marine Discoverer on the GBR.

See enquiry form below for availability

Reef Teach’s Marine Discovery Program (MDP) was launched in January 2017 and is the only program of its kind on the Great Barrier Reef. It is a multi-faceted internship program aimed to increase the amount of research, education and conservation on the Great Barrier Reef. This is a paid for program which enables the projects to be self funded. Having this financial independence allows us the freedom to run projects that are important and that will have meaningful impact on the GBR. It also gives us the ability to run all year round. These facts will therefore enable us to achieve our commitment of producing more research, education and conservation.


MDP is not only designed to help raise valuable funds for our projects (see MDP schedule and Project details tab) and man power, but it is designed to also educate its participants to a much higher level than those visitors heading out to the GBR as a tourist for a day or so. One of our main strong points to achieve this is that you are with one of our marine biologist’s every day. We, as marine biologists, will train you in reef ecology and reef survey techniques together with accompanying you to the GBR during data collection trips, education and conservation events. The reason for running the MDP like this has many benefits, two in particular. Firstly, you get more from the experience and secondly, we get greater results and outcomes for the reef. Win Win for everyone.

Now you don’t need any previous experience in marine biology or similar field. The MDP is well designed to offer complete novices to qualified marine biologists  a fulfilling experience. The only thing we ask is that you are a minimum age of 18 years old. We do prefer candidates with moderate to good swimming abilities, as all Reef monitoring data collection is done by snorkelling. A dive certification is not required. The MDP does not accommodate diving currently.

For more detail on the research, education and conservation activities please go to the projects detail tab to the right. But for an overview see below.

The program runs for 2 or 4 weeks. Areas that are covered by the program include***
• Reef ecology training
• In water Reef monitoring data collection
• Data input
• Community engagement projects
• Reef education program
• Reef Teach designed research program

Customers are welcome on a gap year, or a career/life/study break.

The program runs Monday to Friday with weekends free for you to explore the beauty of Tropical North Queensland.

Accommodation for the duration of your stay (2 or 4 weeks).
Transfers to and from the airport
Transport to and from accommodation and Reef Teach
All Reef trips (up to 7 Reef Trips)*
All snorkelling equipment.
All equipment and resources necessary to perform duties
Breakfast everyday (light continental which includes cereal, toast, tea, coffee)
Lunch on the days you go to sea**
Reef ecology training – dry and in water

Flights to and from Cairns
Meals not mentioned above, self catering facilities are available**
Weekend transport
Dive courses (course can be arranged and charged separately)
Travel insurance

* Reef trips are dependent on weather and availability. No refunds for less or no reef trips beyond the control of Reef Teach management and staff.
**Dietary requirements will be catered for as far as reasonable. Please inform Reef Teach management of any dietary requirement prior to arrival
***not all these projects are covered in every 2 or 4 week program. Volunteers may only work on a few areas as some of these programs are seasonal  

Currently we run a 2 and a 4 week program. The 2 week program is run at the same time as the first two weeks of the 4 week program. Due to practical reasons we start all programs on the first Monday of every month. Currently we accomodate a maximum of 12 participants per period.

Next available start dates are                                               

2019 Program Dates
Mon 4th Feb 2019
Mon 4th March 2019
Mon 1st April 2019
Mon 6th May 2019                                                                    Program cost is quoted as cost per week
Mon 3rd June 2019                                                                                 2 weeks             4 weeks
Mon 1st July 2019                                                                                     $1650                $1450
Mon 5th Aug 2019                                                                for details on what your fee is used for and why we charge for see below.
Mon 2nd Sep 2019
Mon 30th Sept 2019
Mon 4th Nov 2019
Mon 2nd Dec 2019 (3 week program only)

2020 Program Dates
6th Jan 2020 
3rd Feb 2020
2nd March 2020
6th April 2020
4th May 2020
1st June 2020
6th July 2020
3rd Aug 2020
7th Sept 2020
5th Oct 2020
2nd Nov 2020
30th Nov 2020 (3 week program only)

Where does your money go? Reef Teach is a private organisation that has been running for 25 years with no funding. We get all our funding from products that we provide, such as evening GBR information sharing sessions (talks), private guiding of tourists visiting the GBR etc. This financial freedom has the great advantage of allowing us to focus on meaningful work and not work that grants (grants are often topic specific, so to be awarded them you often have to design projects that fit the grant desired outcomes) often force you into. Our MDP is a new aspect of our organisation that we have developed. It is a formal structure that will allow us fulfil our commitment to performing more research, education and conservation. Unfortunately the MDP can only be successful with interns help, both though the time and skills you bring and the funding we can raise through your fees. To summarise where the money goes; 100%  goes back into Reef Teach so that we can cover our costs. Your fee goes towards your accomodation and sea time, runnings costs of the business and the majority goes towards the research, education and conservation project costs! And also feeding us poor staff members!

Project Details We have many projects on the go and in the planning stages. This is one of the main reasons for developing the Marine Discovery Program. With our MDP participants Reef Teach will be able to perform more of these projects at one time and more often.  See details below.  


Eye On The Reef: -Sightings Network -Rapid Monitoring -Weekly Monitoring -Reef Health Impact Survey This is a government run (through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority) program. It is a very good program that operates at many different levels of complexity. One way Reef Teach can achieve its goal of committing more time and resources to researching the GBR is to assist this already well established methodology. It is a fantastic survey to get you involved and learning different methods.

AIMS Collaboration Program Reef Teach has recently started working in partnership with the Australian Institute of Marine Science in assisting their longterm monitoring project. Through a combination of the Eye on The Reef program and a new photo monitoring program, you will be assisting the top researchers in Australia in the collection of data.

Marine Mammal (Dolphins and Whales) Photo-identification: Although we do not see marine mammals all the time, there are often opportunities that present themselves whilst we are on the reef. During these amazing chances, we are beginning to collect photo-identification data that will give us a critical piece of the puzzle that we need to understand these amazing creatures, nothing of this type currently exists in Cairns. Having an extensive database will eventually help to understand how the different species and communities use the GBR as part of their lives, which in turn, will help us understand their importance to the biodiversity of the reef. More eyes on the water, the bigger the database will become!

Manta Ray Photo-identification: This is also a research project dependant on those chance opportunities. However there is no methodology in place in Cairns region for manta rays. We wish to cement that methodology by working with Project Manta and have a dedicated team that is ready. As we will be out there, when we see the manta rays we can switch from coral monitoring to manta ray data collection just like a manta ray response team. This will have a significant positive affect on the database for Project Manta who are currently working world wide to help protect these majestic creatures.

EDUCATION: Lots of our education programs are only in the early stages of planning so you will be an integral part of creating and implementing these into local schools and communities. Some of the projects that we have beginning are:

  • School marine display competition. There are two versions of this project. This can be done in a school between classes or/ and  between different schools in the area.
  • Design and create resources for schools. The two main mediums we like to focus on is the print resources and video resources.
  • School presentations: We go to local schools and deliver fantastic reef information sessions for them; working with the next generation to create those future marine biologists!

School Reef Trips: In the near future we are aiming to grow this education section to be able to take school groups to the reef. You will be instrumental in achieving this. School outdoor environmental activities: We would like to get schools out in the ecosystem and get them engaged in the amazing world around them. One such activity is to take them to a mangrove and through that excursion educate the children on the importance of mangroves to the reef. This is another future project that you will be central to building and implementing. Other activities is to do litter pick up excursions which we are aiming to tie into Tangaroa Blue Foundations great work. All these programs need your help from fundraising side, and a man power side. Come and make a difference. CONSERVATION: This area of work is where we like to engage with the community. This side of the program is totally reliant on your help and therefore projects that we can do are dependent on how many participants we have at the time.

  • Comedy for coral evening
  • Guest speaker evening
  • Littler pick up events
  • Reduce plastic campaign

This area of the project is only limited by volunteers imagination, we are open to suggestions and ideas and look forward to working not only with you, but with the local communities.


I have had the incredible pleasure of being an intern for Reef Teach during the summer period of 2017-2018. My initial intent was to find a site or a company that would form the basis of a three-month fieldwork period that would inspire the trajectory and the larger source of data input of my Master’s thesis in Social Anthropology.
Unsure of how the Reef Teach team would see the potential in my proposed research project based in the social sciences, I was taken aback by the extremely warm welcome I received and in the infectious positive attitude, Gareth and Natalie had to my partaking in a slightly altered version of the Marine Discovery Program. I was guided by Abby through the relevant aspects of the Marine Discovery program and am entirely grateful for her patience with me through the entire experience. Her pedagogical supervision and fortitude will not soon be forgotten and have shown me example qualities that make an excellent educator.
No day was like any other at Reef Teach. The extensive efforts, passion humour and incredible knowledge base shared among the staff at Reef Teach is seemingly boundless. Their nightly information sessions are unforgettable and rank as some of the most enjoyable lectures/information sessions I’ve ever attended. I am now entirely inundated with fantastic data for my research, more than I could have foreseen and am entirely grateful for having been given the chance to work with such incredible individuals as Gareth, Natalie, Abby, Eric and Kat. I was entirely envious of the new intern who had just commenced their internship as I was about to return to my university city, as working with Reef Teach has been a highlight in both my professional/academic career as well as in my own personal development.
– Emma, Nov 17 – Jan 18
I initially booked with Reef Teach because I needed somewhere to work for 1 month in Australia before I went back home but it turned into something much more than that.
My first contact with Abby was that of a woman standing outside my hostel with a smile that was unnaturally large. This smile only got bigger once I got her talking about all the amazing marine life that she loves so passionately. The following presentations were exactly what I had come away to learn about and to make it better, were packed full of enthusiasm and positivity. I’m very glad to have come to Reef Teach, even if it was only for the knowledge that I now have about the reef. Amazingly, it was more than that, with regular reef trips to the Great Barrier Reef and so much more to learn in the field.
One of the best parts about the MDP is the people you get to meet, whether thats the hilarious owner of Reef Teach, Gareth, or the PhD student Eric that has so much knowledge its scary. Undoubtedly, the best part is getting to go out on the boats 2 times a week to film footage for the documentary that we thought up in the first week. To see the progression of the film from an idea all the way to a fully formed documentary was great.
Through Abby’s guidance, I can now use different survey techniques that will no doubt help me in my University course, plus, see the positives and negatives of each survey method. Im really glad to have come to Reef Teach because Ive learnt so much about the marine ecosystem, had loads of fun and got to go to the Great Barrier Reef!
– Peter Malorey January 2018
Ever since I graduated with a Degree in Marine and Freshwater Biology I had a hard time choosing a career path to follow. I have always loved the ocean and been interested in getting to know more about it. I was searching to gain knowledge as well as obtain experience in the Marine field. I knew I wanted to go to Australia so I was searching online for places where I could do this, and I came across Reef Teach. I overviewed their Marine Discovery Program and sent them an email right away! When I got a personal rather than automated response I immediately I knew this is where I wanted to go! Leading up to the program, both Natalie and Abby were super helpful with all my question about the program and other things I could do around beautiful Cairns while I was there. 
The Marine Discovery Program has been an amazing experience and I have learned more about coral reefs than I ever could have imagined. Reef Teach being a small organization, you get to meet everyone along the way and really see their passion for the marine world. Every single trip to the reef was a new experience and Abby tried to show me as many things she could while we were out. Reef trips were never a dull moment, both in the water and on the boat, I felt like a true Marine Biologist! 
The educational resource aspect and getting to finish the video the last intern Peter started was very rewarding and also a lot of fun. Abby and I had a good laugh while doing the narration recordings when I kept messing up the words. I wish we had kept the bloopers! Many people will get to see this video and increase their knowledge about the Great Barrier Reef just like I did, and its a very cool experience getting to be apart of that!
This experience not only got me closer to choosing a future career it was also about personal development, going somewhere new on my own and meeting lots of new people! I would hands down recommend this program to anyone, no hesitations! 
-Ashley Bachert April 2018
When I came to Australia, I never imagined I would get the opportunity to work on one of the most iconic natural wonders in the world. Not only that but getting to work for and alongside an amazing team of people bursting with knowledge. I originally found Reef Teach through their nightly reef talks at which point I was introduced to their internship through one of their resident Marine Biologists, Abby. The enthusiasm and organisation from the get go was incredible and so friendly. I never felt a burden when I had questions leading up to and throughout the internship, or when I needed a prescription snorkel mask, which may seem a small detail but made a huge difference to my experience. During my month with the Marine Discovery Programme, I got to learn about the world of the Great Barrier Reef in a variety of environments, from out on the reef itself, at the University helping PhD student Eric to projects in the office; not forgetting to mention getting to sit in on talks by leading marine experts. As I’m interested in a career within environmental education, I loved the opportunity to work on and develop educational and community projects as well as build on my knowledge of survey techniques. Days spent out on the Reef were a definite highlight as well. Getting up close with the coral and marine life, including getting to see some Turtles as well, was a surreal experience I can check off my bucket list! After originally starting with a limited knowledge on marine biology, I’ve definitely left with a new understanding and an extensive list of facts and skills. If you are considering the MDP with Reef Teach, do it you won’t regret it. Thank you again to Gareth, Natalie, Abby and Eric for all you’ve taught me and for such an unforgettable experience!
Anne-Marie Rogers – May 2018


I had the great opportunity to be an intern for Reef Teach during October of 2018. Seeing as this was my first international travel, I thought I was a little crazy to travel 14 hours to be apart of such a great conservation group. Having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology I was excited to get to explore and learn about a different type of ecosystem than the typical kelp forest in my area. Abby was very knowledgeable on the typical flora and fauna found in a tropical reef system and had many ways to help learn the differences between what may seem like the same thing.

Some of my more adventurous days were when I was able to go out to the reef on Passions of Paradise with Abby, Gareth and the wonderful boat crew. There was no feeling more satisfying than correctly identifying the many different fish species to make for an accurate survey. My favorite part of the day was when we finished all our surveys and Abby and I got have our “for fun” time. I will never forget seeing a green turtle within arms length of me and a manta ray from the boat.

This internship not only taught me knew information about a new ecosystem but gave me some personal insight and development. I will never forget my time with Reef Teach and will certainly be back soon for some for great work! 🙂

Mary Shay – Oct 2018

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