Hop onto this gap year program to 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 Ubud, and experience life along the Gold Coast. There will be time to immerse yourself in Balinese culture with traditional cooking and dance workshops, interact with the local communities, and of course, explore the vibrant cities of Sydney, Byron Bay and Cairns.
You’ll experience both adrenaline and tranquility through your adventures down under and the relaxing vibes of Indonesia’s most famous island. Learn about marine conservation in the outer Great Barrier Reef, help a local food rescue organization, and undertake volunteer conservation work in National Parks. Prepare to be immersed in unique environments and cultures and learn about sustainability and conservation.
✓ 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, snorkeling, hiking and yoga
✓ Are enthusiastic about marine 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 Program Quiz can help you find your perfect Program match! Or get the full 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!
**This is a guide to what you can expect to do on Program. The order in which the activities occur might vary**
Welcome to Sydney, Australia! On arrival, you will be met by your Pacific Discovery Program leader and transferred to our accommodation in the heart of the world’s most vibrant city. A comprehensive program briefing takes place where we get to know each other before we explore Sydney’s famous harbor and beaches, the Opera House, and Australian Museum. 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 are here we have time to explore the area, check out the famous Three Sisters rock formations, and take on a day of canyoning. Getting a well-earned adrenaline and endorphin kick is what’s in store in this beautiful National Park when we go abseiling, rappelling and climbing!
We journey north to an isolated section of the coast where we learn to surf during a three-day surf camp. Whether it is your first time on the water or you have a few days under your belt, our surf instructors will cater to everyone. Evenings are spent relaxing at the campground and playing games before a great sleep in preparation for another day’s worth of riding waves!
At the heart of surfing is a connection-to-nature philosophy. We experience this in a hands-on way by undertaking volunteer conservation work alongside National Parks staff in a coastal National Park. The project revolves around bush regeneration and dune conservation near Crescent Head on the East Coast of Australia. This program aims to secure as many of the native plants and 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 to take advantage of its beautiful beaches, boutiques, cafes, and an epic snorkel trip. After relaxing in Byron Bay we will head to Stradbroke Island, also called Straddie by the locals. We will gain an understanding of Australian history with an informative walking tour where we explore the shore of Dunwich, a place of cultural significance for the aboriginals. We will also snorkel around the rock walls and the fantastic reefs of Stradbroke Island, which is known to inhabit six of the world’s seven marine turtle species!
From Byron Bay, we drive north into Queensland. Here we stay on the Sunshine Coast near another gorgeous beach and try whale and dolphin spotting again as we walk around the national park headland. We will also spend several hours exploring Australia Zoo, learning about the zoo’s wildlife, and the conservation initiatives of its late founder Steve Irwin, a famous Australian wildlife conservationist that is also known as the Crocodile Hunter.
Our next few days are spent on an Australian farm a few hours south of Brisbane. This family-owned and operating cattle farm offers people from all over the world the chance to experience outback life in a beautiful part of Australia. We’ll explore the outdoors by taking walks around the farm grounds for epic sunsets and 360-degree views, and enjoy open fire BBQs.
On departing Alkoomi, we will 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.
During the first few days of this week, you will take the reins as a group and decide what to do with Pacific Discovery's unique self-led section, which has long been ingrained in our DNA. As a group, you will take the time to look at the budget and timings to see how you spend your days. This means the power is in the group's hands!
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'll learn all about coral, marine life and sustainability for our oceans on the outer Great Barrier Reef. A visit to the Great Barrier Reef isn’t complete without doing some underwater exploration ourselves of course! We are lucky to have a personal marine biologist guide us around the reef on an unforgettable snorkeling expedition! Be astounded at the diversity of this World Heritage area – spot sea turtles, a myriad of tropical fish, and other marine creatures.
In Cairns, we will also take the reins as a group and decide what to do with Pacific Discovery's unique self-led section, which has long been ingrained in our DNA. As a group, we will take the time to look at the budget, and timings to see how we spend our days. 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 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!
Afterward, it is time to fly to the Island of Gods, Bali. 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 the island life in the seaside town of Sanur.
This week, we will get hands-on with valuable volunteer work at a local charity organization that aims to reduce food waste. They do this by rescuing good condition excess food from hotels and cafes and turning it into delicious, nutritious meals for orphanages and other people in need. We will help them by packing and distributing these meals, supporting efforts to ensure no one in Sanur goes hungry. We have one more day of volunteering ahead of us - this time helping on a mangrove and coral regeneration project nearby.
We then make our way to the rolling rice paddies of Tabanan on the Southwest Coast. We stretch our legs in the middle of these rice fields hidden from the rest of the world and stumble upon local villages, a honey farm, and friendly locals along the way. Aside from some of the most beautiful natural scenery on the island, Tabanan also hosts a lot of spiritual and cultural heritage like the local royal palace, which was built in 1343 and is open for us to explore.
We'll continue to immerse ourselves in the rich Balinese culture by getting hands-on making various Balinese cakes and flower arrangements, learning how to prepare our favorite Balinese dish, and might even get an introduction into Balinese traditional dance!
It's time to head to Padang Padang to improve upon our surfing skills. This won’t be just a throwaway surf lesson, but a 4-day surf camp. We spend our days learning about the perfect body positioning and techniques and we’ll be catching waves again in no time. When not on our boards, we will have time to relax by the pool, catch epic sunsets, and join in on some yoga practices offered by the camp. 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.
At the end of the week, we say goodbye to the beaches of Uluwatu and hello to the rice paddy fields of Ubud! Ubud is located in the mountainous area of Bali and is well known as a spiritual hub, making it an appealing destination for yoga practitioners. We will take in the unique atmosphere, wander past Hindu temples and markets, and visit a monkey forest that houses more than 300 long-tailed Macaques!
These last eight weeks have been packed and full-on! Now it's time for a little self care. 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. We will spend our days nestled into the rice paddy fields of Ubud - a great oasis away from the lively city center. Here we will spend 4 days practicing different styles of meditations and yoga poses while learning about how to incorporate these practices into our daily lives.
We will also manage to fit in a sunrise hike up to Batur Volcano. Mount Batur is an active volcano located northwest of Mount Agung and is considered to have some of the best views on Bali. We will meet our guides for an evening overnight hike to get us a bit closer to the summit, and away from the crowds as we set up our little camp for the night. The next morning we will wake before the sun and get to the rim of the volcano for a gorgeous sunrise view over the surrounding countryside, lakes, and crater at the summit.
Last on the program is a community focused trip to the Instafamous Nusa Penida. The beaches and the views on this tiny island just off the Bali coast are incredible - make sure to have your camera handy! Here, we work with an organization called Friends of the National Parks Foundation (FNPF) that manages holistic conservation & community development programs on the Balinese Hindu island. They'll teach us about the Bali starling conservation work being done on the island, build nests, weave baskets, and give our time helping out amongst the local communities that call this island home. In our free time we will relax into "island time", explore the scenic sites, and wade in the crystal blue waters.
It's time to head back to the mainland where we will spend our last few days enjoying what Bali has to offer and start program wrap. What a journey it has been! We will have traveled through and gotten to know two countries on the other side of the world, learning more about the world and ourselves.
*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
✓ Certificate of Program Completion
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 only be camping for a couple of days on this gap year program, and 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.