The who, what, and why of the Polynesian journey is not entirely understood by historians, although there are some agreed-upon facts that have established a rough picture of the narrative. Polynesians are primarily from Asian descent, and despite there being conflicting reports as to why they embarked on their original journeys, we now recognize that they were most certainly intentional and not accidental. Explorers took enough mating pairs, plants, and animals needed to establish sustainable colonies. Over the course of the next 800 years, they explored and settled every single habitable island in the South Pacific, including Hawaii and Fiji. Their final destination brought them to the shores of Polynesia’s largest land mass, New Zealand.
You will recreate this journey and learn all about the varied Polynesian culture, from the origins of Hawaii’s Aloha spirit to the modern-day villages of Fiji and Maori indigenous culture of New Zealand. You will absorb, explore, interact with, and understand the beautiful diversity and development of culture throughout the region. Your days will be as varied as the countries you visit, with a fusion of hands-on volunteer work, connecting with locals through interactions and workshops, unforgettable outdoor adventures, and seriously healthy doses of beaches.
New Zealand has announced the reopening of its borders to vaccinated tourists from Visa Waiver Countries (this includes the USA, Canada, UK and most of Europe) in July 2022, meaning our Polynesian Journey 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 Polynesian culture
✓ Love activities like rafting, mountain biking and snorkeling
✓ Are enthusiastic about conservation and ecosystem enhancement
✓ Want to enjoy the ultimate combination of beach time, culture and nature
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!
Aloha and welcome to Hawaii! On arrival in picturesque Hawaii, you’ll be met by your program leader. After a comprehensive program briefing, we’ll immerse ourselves in the epic nature surrounding our new home base. Our days will be spent hiking the local tracks for panoramic views, exploring the local town and its exotic fruits and veggies, and getting to know our fellow participants.
We’ll spend the next few days being introduced to the culture and history of the Hawaiian people. We’ll learn what life for this Polynesian tribe was like hundreds of years ago, and what it’s like today.
In our second week, we will embrace one of the oldest Hawaiian traditions, the Imu, a form of underground oven. We’ll spend a full day harvesting, collecting and preparing produce to create our own Imu and get to work creating a feast. We’ll ground taro leaves, set the stones and prepare the food whilst sharing stories with our local hosts and when it’s ready, we’ll get to work taking the food from the ground to the table, ready to feast!
We’ll spend the next few days observing the variety of flora and trying to spot the native fauna, and we’ll even venture out to Akaka Falls and visit Green Sand Beach. Beautiful Akaka Falls is perhaps the island of Hawaii's most famous waterfall and Green Sand Beach itself is carved in a 49.000 years old cinder cone belonging to the Mauna Loa volcano that contains the green crystals (olivines) that give the beach its name. Time to disconnect from the online world and reconnect with the outside world.
Afterwards, it’s time to get our hands dirty! While our first service learning project revolves around food harvesting, dam reconstruction, and border stone building, we’ll also be learning about the legends of the island, the local medicinal plants, and even take a workshop or two in lei- and dye-making!
We start the week working for a foundation that gives back to the community in Hawaii. This volunteer project is always changing depending on the needs of the island which makes it exciting and rewarding.
We will also roll up our sleeves for three days and get involved in the efforts of a non-profit while learning all about the legends and land from Aunty K! This hands-on non-profit was founded for research and educational purposes to discover and understand how Hawaiians sustained rain-fed intensive farming for centuries; and how it may inform our current efforts to live sustainably.
Our time in Hawaii is coming to an end. But not before a few days of adventure. We will be snorkeling in the crystal clear waters off the coast and also joining a manta ray boat charter!
Afterwards, it is time to fly to the land of the long white cloud, New Zealand. Here, we will spend the day exploring New Zealand's capital city before heading to Paihia in the jaw-droppingly beautiful Bay of Islands. We’ll discover this island paradise of golden, sandy beaches and charming small towns while we’re here, and even explore the Bay of Islands by boat. It’s also home to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the birthplace of New Zealand. Here, we'll learn how New Zealand's history was shaped, marvel at cultural Maori (indigenous) performances in the Maori Meeting House, discover the world’s largest waka (canoe) and walk through native gardens with spectacular views of Paihia and the many islands.
We'll make our way to the stunning Tawharanui Regional Park for our first conservation volunteer project in New Zealand. Tawharanui boasts some of New Zealand’s most beautiful white sandy beaches, rolling pastures, shingled bays, native coastal forest and regenerating wetlands. The sanctuary is a unique blend of conservation, recreation and sustainable farming within Tawharanui Regional Park. Our days here are spent participating in volunteer conservation initiatives working alongside park rangers and a local group of community volunteers, and our nights are spent under the starry night sky as we camp in this beautiful location.
While this week will be focussed on a conservation project, the area we are working in is stunning and there will be time to swim, surf and snorkel. This is one of the best surf spots in the North Island of New Zealand and if you are lucky you might see the elusive Kiwi!
Heading south, we travel to the geothermal and cultural heartland of the country - Rotorua! You’ll smell it before you see it… the distinctive egg smell is there because of the amazing volcanic vents, boiling hot mud pools and natural geysers all over this area!
Besides taking advantage of our glorious hot pools, we will visit the spectacular geothermal parks – each one so different from the others – in and around the city. These incredible, surreal places will leave you in awe and provide the most amazing backdrop for your photography.
We will also get the opportunity to mountain bike in Rotorua. The world-renowned network of nearly 200 kilometres of mountain bike trails in Whakarewarewa Forest consists of expertly built trails crafted to suit everyone, from absolute beginners through to extreme downhill competitors.
It’s time to bring this Polynesian journey full circle with an in-depth learning experience about the Maoris and their discovery of the last – and largest – land mass within Polynesia. You will learn about their days spent on the water before landing on its shores, as well as how they developed and settled amongst its majestic and challenging mountainous landscapes.
Wellington, New Zealand’s compact capital, is a vibrant city with great shopping, cafés and nightlife… and well worth the drive! We’ll visit Parliament to learn about New Zealand’s political system (way more interesting than it sounds, we promise), and gain insight into Maori culture through an intimate Maori educational experience at the National Museum.
A flight to the Coral Coast on the island of Fiji means we are off to our next adventure and destination. The Coral Coast in Fiji begins 15kms south of Nadi Town with beautiful scenery of sugarcane fields, pine forests and amazing views of the South pacific Ocean. The coastline is a combination of bays, beaches, rocky outcrops and mangrove forests – from these, steep hills rise sharply into the nearby mountain ranges.
We start off in Fiji by getting our hands dirty with sand dune conservation for two days. Don’t worry though there will still be plenty of time to explore the white sandy beaches and mangrove forests. We will also be led like a local through a Kava ceremony, Tapa making and a fishing trip. These activities will introduce you to life in Fiji. Activities that you wouldn’t see if you were to just visit here as a tourist.
Today we head to the Nasautoka village to spend a week with a local Fijian community. Our days will be a mix of volunteer work and cultural experience. Aided by locals, our mornings will be spent helping out around the village with any construction or maintenance work and after lunch, our projects will be set aside. The afternoon is dedicated to local craft making, planting local crops, collecting firewood and playing local sports. Don’t forget the delicious local meals from breakfast till dinner.
We will then head to Nadi, with a stop off on the way at some local hot springs and mud pools for a bit of relaxation after a tough week or volunteering.
We end our stay in Fiji with a few days of rest and relaxation. We’ll take a private tour out to Cloud 9, Fiji’s floating paradise. This is a floating island with just a restaurant and jetty for sunbathing, snorkeling and kayaking on it. A total rarity! We’ll be surrounded by turquoise blue water, a kaleidoscopic reef to explore, and picturesque views.
Sadly, the time has also come to begin processing the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that the last 70 days have taken us on. We are sure that you will reflect on how amazing it was to have a chance to take a break from everything, learn about ourselves, but also prioritize time to experience and have gratitude for our own beautiful and historic culture and environment. We say ‘vinaka’ and goodbye to Fiji and a farewell to our program friends.
*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.
High Camping Level: You will spend some nights in Hawaii camping, staring at the camp fire, breathing in fresh air and stargazing the night away. In New Zealand and Fiji, you will mostly stay 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.