Confident snorkellers can join conservationists assessing reef health on the Great Barrier Reef with a new tour launched in Cairns by Passions of Paradise.

Passions of Paradise Environmental Manager and Master Reef Guide Russell Hosp said the citizen science tours had previously only been available to experienced divers.

“Our passengers have been choosing to visit the Great Barrier Reef with Passions of Paradise so they can indirectly support our reef stewardship activities and many have been wanting to go that step further and actively participate in an activity to help the reef’s health,” he said.

“We have expanded our Marine Biologist for a Day program to offer an option for snorkellers to participate in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Eye on the Reef Rapid Monitoring.

“People who can snorkel confidently will join one of our qualified staff on two guided snorkelling tours where they will use an underwater slate to record what they see.

“Participants get an unparalleled snorkelling experience in the company of a Master Reef Guide or marine biologist who helps them identify the various species of coral and fish they see.

“One of the strengths of the Rapid Monitoring Survey is it can be used to monitor the same site regularly and get an idea of changes to that site over time. It can also be used to get a basic snapshot of reef health at less frequently visited sites.

“Certified divers join a Master Reef Guide or marine biologist for two scuba dives to observe coral planting either on the reef or at an underwater nursery undertaken through the University of Technology Sydney’s Coral Nurture Program.

“The Coral Nurture Program is a unique partnership between researchers and tour operators to develop stewardship-based management of economically high-value Great Barrier Reef locations.

“Through the program, dive masters employed by Great Barrier Reef tour vessels collect, propagate, grow and plant coral to replenish reef sites and enhance the reef’s resilience.

“Passions of Paradise is one of five operators in Cairns and Port Douglas participating in the Coral Nurture Program with our staff working alongside University of Technology Sydney researchers.

“Over the past two years Passions of Paradise has planted more than 5500 pieces of coral on Hastings Reef.”

The fully-inclusive Passions of Paradise Great Barrier Reef tour and Marine Biologist for a Day program is $350 for snorkellers and $450 for divers including two dives. For more information go to Eco Tour on passions.com.au.