Pacific Discovery has been running immersive experiential education programs for over 20 years, with over 3000 students accompanying us to all corners of the globe and returning safely home to their families. First and foremost we prioritize student safety while also teaching them about risk and equipping them with the life skills to assess it themselves.
With our 20 years of operation and more than 100,000 student days in the field, we have an excellent safety record. We have had our safety management systems assessed and accredited by the Gap Year Association, the Year Out Group(UK) and OutdoorsMark (New Zealand). Assessors have commented that our systems are among the best they have observed.
Prior to students coming on a Pacific Discovery program, we have done years of work to plan the best and safest program, balancing the best student experience with the safest possible options. We do this through thorough operator vetting and annual auditing, detailed planning of our itineraries around travel durations and destinations.We closely monitor developments in countries in which we run programs, and if we perceive an increase of risk in an area, we would not hesitate to re-route, curtail, postpone, or cancel the program.
An advantage of being a small organization is that we have a strong personal relationship with every local organization and operator we work with. This ensures we get the best possible experience by utilizing unique and local knowledge sources, as well as providing our groups with exceptional on-the-ground support.
We recommend that Pacific Discovery students take heed of CDC recommendations about the area of travel, and consult a medical practitioner to find out which vaccinations might be suitable. As a minimum, Pacific Discovery recommends that students ensure all of their routine immunisations are up-to-date (such as tetanus, measles, covid and polio vaccinations).
We require all students to have a comprehensive medical/travel insurance policy to cover them in the unlikely event that they need medical attention while abroad. If anyone on a program gets sick or injured, there are good medical facilities and doctors in most towns and cities.
All of our instructors have a Wilderness First Responder or equivalent Pre Hospital Emergency Care first aid qualification, and prior experience leading in the field. We select instructors who are in their late twenties and thirties, so are at a relatable age to the students while also having prior personal international travel experience. They offer challenge by choice, teach by progression, and pitch challenges at the appropriate level for the group. Our instructors actively work at really getting to know each individual within the group to assist students in gaining the most from their experience.
Our instructors go through an in-house training on our safety management processes and policies, and run through various emergency scenarios. They have access to a hazard register for the region they’re leading, to communicate the likely hazards to the students and open discussions about how those hazards can be mitigated.
We have a 24/7 emergency number while our programs are on the ground which Instructors can call at any time if they have an emergency. This number can also be used by parents in an emergency to connect with their student.
Pacific Discovery has an umbrella medical and political evacuation insurance policy for all group members. In the unlikely event of an emergency, we are able to access this insurance and evacuate the whole group from any life-threatening scenarios.
Our instructors also have access to 24/7 advice from a medical doctor. We have a comprehensive safety plan in place for each program. Our program instructors carry a cellphone and have contact information for medical evacuation and medical facilities, as well as students' travel insurance details, on them at all times. Our program instructors and entire team work with students to ensure their health needs are met.
All students take part in a comprehensive orientation when they first arrive in-country. This covers how the program will run, cultural information, personal safety and health, and healthy group dynamics. We also believe this is a life skill, so over the duration of the program, students are brought into the conversations around risk assessment, and start to implement it themselves. We don’t try to wrap our students in cotton wool, hiding risks from them. Instead, we disclose the risks and give students the knowledge and tools to assess and make good decisions around risk and safety themselves.
We insist upon a few simple rules to ensure student safety on the program. For example, students are required to be with at least one other group member at all times and to always carry their program instructors' mobile phone number and travel insurance card on them. Throughout the program, students are then given region and activity-specific briefings and instruction prior to relevant experiences.
Pacific Discovery prides itself in safety operating semester programs during the pandemic while safely managing student health with the use of our strict covid protocols. We strongly recommend that students on our programs are vaccinated for Covid-191, to minimise their risk of infection while traveling. If infection occurs, we implement our social distancing protocols to minimise the risk of spread to the rest of the group.
Any illness, injury or incident on Pacific Discovery programs is recorded and kept on file, and all incidents are analyzed at the end of each season to assess patterns and if any extra precautions or changes to itineraries need to be implemented.
In addition to our instructors on the ground, our HQ staff undergo emergency response training bi-annually, so they can react, support and assist in an emergency situation. Our Operations team has undergone Viristar Risk Management for Outdoor programs training so they can assess the risks and hazards presented on the programs.
Pacific Discovery has a comprehensive safety management plan which is focussed on running safe programs, identifying and minimizing risks to students and staff, and using ‘industry best practice’ and complying with relevant country laws and standards, including the New Zealand Health and Safety in Employment Act 2015. All staff are trained to use and continue implementation of the safety management plan which covers all programs and countries in which Pacific Discovery operates.
HQ management staff receive daily travel updates which notify of global political unrest, demonstration events, weather and environmental impacts, and assess this information in areas that Pacific Discovery programs are traveling to, giving us the information to enact contingency plans if needed.