Hop onto this gap year program and go canyoning in the Blue Mountains, boating among the Whitsundays Islands, surfing in Bali, and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. Along your journey, you'll hike to the top of a volcano for sunrise, go on a yoga retreat in Bali, and experience life in the Australian desert outback. There’s also time to immerse yourself in Balinese culture and explore vibrant Sydney, Byron Bay and Cairns.
You'll experience so much more than just beaches and ocean fun though, since you will also give a helping hand to various conservation and animal welfare organizations in both Australia and Indonesia. You'll help improve the life of animals in Bali at an animal rehabilitation center, get involved in marine conservation in the outer Great Barrier Reef, help a local food rescue organization, and undertake volunteer conservation work in a National Park. Prepare to be immersed in unique environments and cultures and to learn about sustainability and conservation.
Australia has reopened its borders to vaccinated tourists, meaning our Australia & Bali Students can feel confident that this program is going ahead.
✓ Want to relax on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world
✓ Are interested in immersing yourself in new cultures
✓ Love activities like surfing, canyoning, horseback riding and yoga
✓ Are enthusiastic about conservation and ecosystem enhancement
✓ Want to spot native Australian wildlife like koalas and kangaroos
My Pacific Discovery trip was absolutely a life-changing experience. I not only had an excellent time and made 13 new best friends, but also gained perspective that changed the way I look at the world. Meeting people from local communities and learning about their way of life has inspired me to think differently about my own life and about those I meet. Coming home from this trip, I am more thoughtful, inquisitive, independent, and mature and will be much better prepared to handle what the future brings."
- Emily Bosworth
Our newest Program Quiz can help you find your perfect Program match! Or get the full Fall Program run-down in our catalogue. This catalogue provides information about Pacific Discovery's values and program design, as well as program descriptions and testimonials!
Welcome to Sydney, 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 us comfortable navigating new territory, a big food shop and meal prep sessions so we can start testing our culinary skills, and plenty of exciting exercises to acquaint us 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 town in the area that borders 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 on a day of canyoning. Abseiling, rappelling and climbing through this beautiful park and getting a well earned adrenaline and endorphin kick are what’s in store!
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.
From Byron Bay we drive north into Queensland. 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.
Our next few days are spent on an Outback farm just outside of Rockhampton. This family-owned and operating cattle farm offers 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’.
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 will stay 3 nights on the island giving us plenty of time for hiking, swimming and koala spotting.
We will end our stay on the East Coast of Australia in tropical Cairns. Cairns has a popular waterfront boardwalk and lagoon beach to relax in your free time. While we are here, we spend 3 days getting involved in marine conservation. We will learn all about coral, marine life and sustainability for our oceans, all while out on the outer Great Barrier Reef. Be astounded at the diversity of this World Heritage area – spot sea turtles, myriad tropical fish and marine creatures.
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 a new conservation project in the surrounding National Parks.
We’ll spend several 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.
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 instructor's shoes. The challenge is on, take the bull by the horns and plan an awesome section for the group!
Bali is an Indonesian island known for its forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddies, beaches, and coral reefs. Flying to the island, we will be met with clear water, jungle-covered land, and more islands than we can count. Our first few days will be spent making ourselves 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 at a local charity in Indonesia. 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.
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, we will be feeling confident enough to stand up, turn and even look the part when walking along the beach with our surfboards.
These last nine weeks have been packed and full-on. It is now time to make a bit of time for ourselves. A yoga retreat will open up our eyes to relaxation, meditation, and the need to slow our lives down. As well as enabling self-reflection yoga increases strength, balance, and flexibility.
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. What a journey it has been! We will have traveled through two countries on the other side of the world and learned a lot along the way!
*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.
✓ All in-program travel and transport, excluding flights
✓ All accommodation
✓ All meals
✓ All expeditions, activities, excursions, volunteer projects and entry fees as described in the itinerary
✓ Experienced Program Instructors and local guides
✓ Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism
✓ Experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves
Medium Activity Level: 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.
Medium Camping Level: You will be camping for a couple of nights on this gap year program, but you will spend most of your time in comfortable hostels and lodges.
Medium Service Learning Level: You will be able to make a difference to the local community during your stay. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and do some hands-on learning about local issues.
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:
Camping meals will be adjusted to the cooking equipment at hand
To make things easy for you, we partner with a full service travel agency that can arrange flights, appropriate travel insurance and post program arrangements for our students.
They have access to a "Cancel For Any Reason" or CFAR travel insurance for US citizens in participating states. This optional travel insurance product allows travelers to cancel for any reason whatsoever up to two days prior to departure and still receive a significant refund. This allows you to keep planning for the future while avoiding the stress and the financial worry of canceling a program if you need to.
Our program locations and itineraries have been carefully selected and modified to minimize risk of exposure to anyone outside the group with most being located in rural areas. This allows for a more focused learning environment, as well as a safe haven from the stress of our modern world.
We've been working hard and watching closely to any CDC recommendations about group sizes and testing requirements to come up with options that will allow you to have a safe, healthy, and stress-free Gap Year experience. We do the hard work so you can come and enjoy the fresh air, adventures, and new friends!
We have been running successful international gap year programs in Spring, Summer and Fall 2021. The students shared their experiences in testimonials and wrote their stories down in blog posts - feel free to have a look.
Check out the information on our COVID-19 page to find out more about our Covid-19 policies, procedures and updates.