Hike, kayak and surf your way through Australia and Bali on this exciting and fulfilling 10-week gap year program!

Learn about marine and beach conservation on the beautiful Great Barrier Reef, work with New South Wales Parks to learn about sustainability, discover Australia’s beautiful beaches and desert outback, immerse yourself in Balinese culture and go on a yoga retreat in Bali. You will explore incredible National Parks, islands, beaches, waterfalls, gorges and geographical sites, as well as gain skills with lessons in marine conservation, snorkeling, surfing and canyoning.

This 10-week gap semester program combines volunteer service-learning, marine conservation and amazing educational adventure travel. Prepare to be immersed in unique environments and cultures and to learn about sustainability and conservation with projects on the East Coast and in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Who is this gap semester for?

This gap semester program is perfect for high school graduates, college graduates, and gap year students, ideally 17 to 22 years old. Optional transferable academic credit is available to all participants.

  • Rewarding conservation volunteer project in National Parks
  • Exploring Sydney - harbor, beaches, museums
  • Try boomerang throwing and didgeridoo at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Centre
  • Canyoning day trip - rappelling, scrambling and hiking in the Blue Mountains
  • Surf camp at secluded coastal National Parks
  • Soaking up the ambiance of Byron Bay, Noosa and Cairns
  • Visit amazing Australia Zoo and learn about wildlife and the conservation initiatives of the late founder, Steve Irwin, the 'Crocodile Hunter'
  • 3-day 4WD-safari exploring Fraser Island National Park
  • Horseback riding on an outback farm
  • 3 nights on Magnetic Island – koalas, day hikes and beautiful beaches
  • Island-hopping day trip and snorkeling in the spectacular Whitsunday Islands National Park
  • Marine conservation and scuba diving on the world-famous Great Barrier Reef
  • Exploring the spectacular Rottnest island just off Perth city
  • Snorkeling and scuba diving in the ocean in Australia
  • Yoga retreat in Bali’s tropical Ubud
  • Learn traditional Indonesian crafts and try your hand at authentic activities with a local village community in Bali
  • Choose to mountain bike, snorkel or raft whilst relaxing on the Bali sands
  • Very personalized small group experience, maximum of 12 participants

**This is a guide to what you can expect to do on Program. The order in which the activities occur might vary**


Week 1. Sydney & the Blue Mountains

Welcome to Australia! Bold, brash and beautiful, Sydney is arguably the world’s most vibrant city. On arrival you will be met by your Pacific Discovery Program leader and transferred to our downtown accommodation near Sydney Cove, where the first European settlement in Australia was established, over 200 years ago. A comprehensive program briefing takes place before we explore Sydney’s famous harbor and beaches, visit the Opera House and Australian Museum. We’ll do an Amazing Race around all the major sites to get you comfortable navigating new territory, a big food shop and meal prep sessions so you can start testing your culinary skills and plenty of exciting exercises to acquaint you with one another. Roll on the next 10 weeks!

We’ll leave Sydney for the Blue Mountains. Our base for the next 3 days will be Katoomba, a major town in the area which borders the Blue Mountains National Park and its bushwalking trails. Whilst we’re here we’ve got time to explore the area, check out the famous Three Sisters rock formations and take a day canyoning with the Australian School of Mountaineering. Abseiling, rappelling and climbing through this beautiful park and getting a well earned adrenaline and endorphin kick are what’s in store!

Week 2. Byron Bay and Surf Camp!

We journey north to an isolated section of the coast where we stay at a surf camp and learn to surf from our surfing-guru instructors. Spend evenings relaxing at camp, playing games, debriefing each day and hearing the instructor’s wild stories before a great sleep in preparation for a sunrise surf!

At the heart of surfing is a connection-to-nature philosophy. We get to experience this in a hands-on way by undertaking volunteer conservation work alongside National Parks staff in two coastal National Parks. The project revolves around ecosystem enhancement in Arakoon National Park. And is connected to a state-wide program called ‘Saving our Species’ which aims to halt and reverse the growing numbers of Australian animals and plants facing extinction. This program aims to secure as many threatened species that can be secured in the wild as possible, for the next 100 years.

After some rewarding volunteer work, we head to Bryon Bay. On a sensational section of coastline, Byron Bay has been an alternative hang-out since the 1970s and is today, the quintessential surfing town. Tie-dyed hippies mix with bronzed surfers, artists and large numbers of local and international tourists, there to enjoy its beaches, boutiques and cafes. While here, we’ll do a half-day walk around Cape Byron to try and spot humpback whales on their migratory route.

Week 3. Australia Zoo & 4WD-Trip on Fraser Island

From Byron Bay we drive north into Queensland. We’ll spend several hours exploring Australia Zoo, learning about the zoo’s wildlife, and the conservation initiatives of the late founder, Steve Irwin - the Crocodile Hunter. We stay on the Sunshine Coast near another gorgeous beach and try whale and dolphin spotting as we walk around the national park headland. We also head off on a three-day 4WD trip across Fraser Island - seeing turtles, dingoes, diverse forests and stunning freshwater lakes lapping white sand beaches. Fraser Island is the largest sand island on earth. We’ll take hikes through beautiful forests and stay in cabins near the coast each night.

Week 4. Outback Life & Island Hopping

Our next few days are spent on an Outback farm just outside of Rockhampton. Family-owned and operating cattle farm, offering tourists from all over the world the chance to experience outback life in a beautiful part of Australia. We’ll get to work exploring the outdoors by horseback riding, open fire BBQs, and taking walks around the farm grounds for epic sunsets and 360-degree views. 

On departing Alkoomi, we’ll drive up the coast until we reach the gateway to The Whitsundays, Airlie Beach. From the township of Airlie Beach, we spend an action-packed day island hopping among the Whitsunday Islands aboard an ocean raft. Enjoy snorkeling and visiting spectacular Whitehaven beach, often voted ‘best beach in the world’.

Week 5. Great Barrier Reef & Marine Reserve Conservation

A travel day brings us to Magnetic Island, where the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area meets the rain forests of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Over half the island are bird sanctuaries and a national park with a large koala population. We stay 3 nights on the island giving us ample time for hiking, swimming and koala spotting.

We end our stay on the East Coast of Australia in tropical Cairns. We visit Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park and have a go at throwing a boomerang, playing the didgeridoo, and learning about the richness and diversity of Aboriginal culture. Explore the rich history of the world’s oldest living culture, dating back over 40,000 years. 

Cairns has a popular waterfront boardwalk and lagoon beach to relax at in your free time. While we are here, we spend 3 days exploring marine conservation. We will learn all about coral, marine life and sustainability for our oceans, all while out on the outer Great Barrier Reef snorkeling and scuba diving over coral reefs. Be astounded at the diversity of this World Heritage area – spot sea turtles, myriad tropical fish and marine creatures.

Week 6. Darwin, Wildlife volunteering & Northern Territory  

Heading further north, we fly into Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory of Australia, situated on the Timor Sea. We spend a few days exploring the city and looking around Parliament and the gardens, then we head off to our second conservation project in the surrounding National Parks. 

We’ll spend 4 days volunteering with park and campground hosts learning about nature and wildlife and contributing to conservation management. We’ll spend our time working outdoors with park rangers and in our free time we’ll cook under the stars, enjoy cultural experiences and reflect on our experiences so far. 

Week 7. Student-Led Section to Katherine and Relaxing in Darwin

The student-led section has always been ingrained into the DNA of a Pacific Discovery program. As a group, we will take the time to look at the budget, and timings to see how we can travel between A and B. This means the power is in the group's hands. You can choose which activities to do, how to get between activities and which accommodation to stay in. This week will help you gain independence and step into the instructors shoes. The challenge is on, take the bull by the horns and plan an awesome section for the group!

Week 8. Flying to Bali and Sunrise on a Volcano

Bali is an Indonesian island known for its forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddies, beaches, and coral reefs. Flying on the island you will be met with clear water, jungle-covered land, and more islands than you can count.

Our first few days will be spent getting to know your travel companions by playing games, introducing our core values, and also making yourself familiar with island life in Bali. We will also manage to fit in a sunrise hike up to Batur Volcano and a day snorkeling near Ubud.

We will also start our first volunteer project here. Since the start of this charity, they have rescued and served the surplus food to the community in need of more than 11 million meals, equivalent of 4,216  tons worth of food surplus not going to landfills.

Week 9. Surf Camp and Yoga Retreat

We will be heading to Uluwatu for our Surf Camp. Perhaps the most legendary of Bali’s best surf spots, Uluwatu is located on the southwestern tip of the Bukit Peninsula, under a spectacular 11th-century Hindu temple.

This won’t be just a throwaway surf lesson, but a 5-day surf camp. Whether it is your first time on the water or you have a few days under your belt we will cater for everyone. By the end of the week, you will be feeling confident enough to stand up, turn and even look the part when walking along the beach with your surfboard.

These 8 weeks have been packed and full-on. It is now time to make a bit of time for yourselves. A Yoga Retreat will open up your eyes to relaxation, meditation, and the need to slow our lives down. As well as enabling self-reflection yoga increases strength, balance, and flexibility.

Week 10. Volunteer Project and Snorkelling

Our partner for the animal conservation project we carry out is a non-profit organization. Here they work to save, protect and improve the lives of all animals in Bali and beyond.

The organization directly relieves the suffering of animals by providing emergency response and rescue, food and medication, rehabilitation, and adoption. It practices humane population control, disease control and runs intensive education and advocacy programs for sustainable improvement to animal welfare now and into the future.

This organization is funded entirely by donations and relies heavily on a staff of dedicated volunteers. This is where we will come in and really make a difference with the 4 days we are here.

We will spend our last few days snorkeling, enjoying what Bali has to offer, and also unfortunately it is time to start program wrap. We will reflect on how we spent the last ten weeks and what we have learned on this incredible journey.


*Each week there will be some designated free time so that you can catch up on email, laundry, rest, and explore independently with others in the group.
**Pacific Discovery reserves the right to alter and/or change the order of the itinerary, the focus of the projects or the activities themselves due to dates, availability, and safety precautions.

For full program details, please request the information booklet


This gap year program is perfect for high school graduates, college students and graduates, and non-students, ideally 17-22 years old. Anyone with an average fitness level and an enthusiasm for the outdoors and new experiences will have a great time on this gap semester! You will need to be prepared for some physical work during the volunteer projects on the program, like trail building or the removal of invasive plants. As a guideline, you should aim to be comfortable hiking 4-6 hours with a backpack, but you don’t need to have had previous experience with any of the activities offered.

The program is a shared group experience. Join this program with an open mind and a willingness to work together with your group mates to make the program an amazing experience for the whole group. Additionally, the program will be as much about the inner journey of personal growth and learning about yourself as it is about what you will experience in the outer physical journey. We expect you to be open to learning and challenging your ideas and assumptions.


Our accommodation will be a mix of camping (tents supplied) and comfortable, clean hostels and lodges. Laundry and Wi-Fi facilities will be available some days, except during the weeks in the field on the volunteer projects and on expeditions. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.


Meals are fresh, tasty, healthy and varied. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are included in the program cost. Any snacks are at an additional cost, which we recommend budgeting around $10 per day for.

Food preparation responsibilities are shared by all students. It’s fun, social and often a highlight. An average day on program would consist of the following:

  • Breakfast: cereals, toast, eggs, fresh fruits, yoghurt, tea and coffee
  • Lunch: wraps, sandwiches, salads, dinner leftovers
  • Dinner: barbeque meats, vegetables, lots of fresh salads, pasta, wraps, chicken schnitzel

Camping meals will be adjusted to the cooking equipment at hand

Included in the tuition

  • All in-program travel and transport (not including flights)
  • All accommodation
  • 3 meals a day (not including snacks)
  • All expeditions, activities, excursions, entry fees and adventure travel as described in the itinerary
  • Experienced Program Instructors and local guides
  • Environmental education and volunteering projects
  • Experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves - working towards a deeper understanding of their values, identity, passions and purpose
  • Individual mentorship from program instructors, supporting you in your personal goals for the program
  • Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism
  • 1- to 3-week optional extensions if you wish to continue traveling independently after the program
  • Pre-departure booklet with all information you need in one place to prepare for the program
  • 24/7 emergency contact number for students and parents
  • Global medical rescue and political evacuation insurance
  • Instructors have 24/7 access to a physician and a psychologist for advice and support
  • Pacific Discovery T-shirt

Fall Dates 1 Sep - 9 Nov, 2022
Duration 70 days
Program Tuition $13,500 USD Estimated Flight Cost $1,400 USD
Availability Open
Group Size 12 Students & 2 Instructors Ages 17 - 22 Ideal
Optional College Credit Yes Start/Finish Sydney, Australia / Bali, Indonesia
(In program flights NOT included)