UPDATE: Pacific Discovery will not be offering any programs in Summer 2018, Fall 2018, or Spring 2019. After 18 years of running programs, we will be taking a gap year ourselves to focus on time with family and our own adventures. We will continue to offer our custom faculty-led high school and university trips.

New Zealand and Australia are two of the most ecologically intact and diverse countries in the world, and this experiential travel semester offers an amazing immersion during the temperate southern hemisphere spring and summer months.

It combines three week-long service-learning conservation projects in diverse national parks and marine reserves; five multi-day outdoor expeditions including backpacking, canoeing, rock climbing and surfing; and educational adventure travel through New Zealand and Australia’s stunning mountain, forest and beach environments.

Facilitated by our supportive and experienced Program Instructors, this is an excellent study abroad or gap year option for students wanting to develop personal and leadership skills, have new experiences and challenge themselves, be immersed in unique environments and learn about sustainability.

The program is open to high school graduates, university students and graduates, ideally 18 – 24 years. Optional transferable academic credit is available to all participants.

This program can be combined with Summer, Fall, or Spring program options in other regions of the world (Nepal and Tibet, Central America, South America, Southeast Asia) for an in-depth and enriching global gap year experience.

 

"You told us at the beginning of our journey that Pacific Discovery was created with the hope of impacting people's lives. After two months in New Zealand and Australia, we all agree that the program has affected us all in a positive and unforgettable way! Together we have felt what it is like to be physically and mentally pushed, we have witnessed incredible sights, and reaped unbelievable rewards, overcoming our fears and learning so much on this journey. Thank you so much!"
New Zealand Australia Semester group 2009

Check out amazing photo presentations from Spring 2017 of the Whanganui River, Marlborough Sounds and Kahurhangi National Park portions of the program.

  • Rewarding volunteer conservation projects in National Parks and wildlife reserves, partnering with New Zealand’s Department of Conservation and Australia’s Parks and Wildlife service
  • Multi-day adventure expeditions:
    • Whanganui National Park, NZ, 4-day self-sufficient river canoe journey
    • Kahurangi National Park, NZ, 4-day self-sufficient tramping (backpacking) trip
    • Rock-climbing skills camp, 3 days, on the shores of Lake Wanaka, NZ
    • Surf camp, 4 days learning to surf on Australia’s East Coast
    • Great Sandy National park, 3-day self-sufficient canoe journey in the Noosa Everglades, Australia
  • Enjoy a week of environmental immersion at The Crossing - a permaculture, outdoor and environmental education center - time is spent on land-care work and connecting with the natural world.
  • Snorkeling with turtles and tropical fish in Byron Bay
  • Canyoning in the spectacular Blue Mountains
  • White-water rafting on the Kaituna River
  • Mountain bike in Rotoura, New Zealand’s mountain biking mecca
  • Enjoying culture in the friendly cities and towns of Wellington, Nelson, Queenstown, Byron Bay, Sydney
  • Visiting Parliament and the National Museum in Wellington, New Zealand’s vibrant capital
  • Traveling the West Coast of NZ’s South Island – one of the top-ten road trips in the world – stopping overnight at Punakaiki and Franz Josef Glacier
  • Informal lectures and discussions on history, culture, society and environment
  • 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.
  • Very personalized and supportive small group experience – maximum 12 students
  • Two experienced and inspiring Pacific Discovery Program Instructors supported by local guides
  • Can be combined with Summer, Fall, or Spring program options in other regions of the world (Southeast Asia; Central AmericaSouth America; the Himalayas) for an in-depth and enriching global experience.

Week 1. Program Orientation and Noosa Everglades canoe expedition

On arrival in Brisbane you’ll be met at the airport by your Program Instructors and transferred to a location outside the city where we commence with an in-depth 3-day program orientation to focus on getting to know each other and create a positive and reflective group culture to support us in realizing our program goals.

We then head off on a self-supported canoe journey into the Noosa Everglades, part of Great Sandy National Park. Canoeing, camping, swimming and hiking.  Great Sandy National Park is a UNESCO Biosphere reserve and is home to almost half of Australia’s bird species.

Week 2. Byron Bay and Surf Camp!

We make our way south towards Byron Bay, via Australia Zoo (established by Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter). We visit the on-site animal hospital before exploring the extensive zoo.

On a sensational section of coastline, Byron Bay has been a hippy 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. It’s a great place to relax. While here, we’ll take a boat trip out to the Julian Rocks to snorkel with turtles and tropical fish – dolphins and whales are also regularly seen in the waters around the headland. This is the place to try an optional scuba dive if you really want to immerse yourself in this amazing underwater world.

Heading south to an isolated section of coast, we stay at surf camp and learn to surf from our surfing-guru instructors on the myriad breaks in the area. Spend evenings relaxing at camp, debriefing each day and hearing the instructor’s wild stories before a great sleep in preparation for a sunrise surf!

Week 3. Conservation service learning and the Blue Mountains

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 a coastal National Park. The project is a three-way collaboration between Pacific Discovery, Surfaris, and the New South Wales National Parks & Wildlife Service.

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.

Continuing our southward migration, we skirt Sydney and head inland to experience the wonder of the Blue Mountains National Park. Based from the main township, Katoomba, we'll get outdoors to discover for ourselves what makes the ‘Blueys’ so special. We spend a day canyoning – a unique adventure involving hiking, scrambling and rappels through sculptured rock canyons.

Week 4. The Crossing, and Sydney

The Crossing is an outdoor education center, which involves young people in positive environmental projects, inspiring them to conserve. We learn about permaculture and sustainable living. Project activities include site landscape work for sustainability education, tree planting to regenerate a key wildlife river corridor, and habitat survey expedition days to identify forest vegetation communities and koala territories.

Bold, brash and beautiful, Sydney is arguably the world’s most vibrant city. Settle into our downtown accommodation near Sydney Cove, where 200 years ago, the first European settlement in Australia was established. Explore Sydney’s famous harbor and beaches by ferry, visit the Opera House and Australian Museum, check out the local beaches and shopping areas. On the last day we’ll farewell Australia and fly across the Tasman sea to New Zealand.

Week 5. New Zealand arrival and conservation service learning

Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, sprawling across an incredible landscape of harbors and the eroded cones of extinct volcanoes. We make our way north to the stunning Mimiwhangata Coastal Park for our first volunteer conservation project. The area is home to endangered shore birds and has an abundance of marine life, including whales, penguins, dolphins, gannets and many other species. Mimiwhangata is managed by the Department of Conservation and contains a number of archaeological sites - it was home to numerous Maori settlements. While here we camp, and will be cooking all meals together. Our days are spent participating in volunteer conservation initiatives, exploring this spectacular area, and getting to know our group mates really well.

Week 6. Rotorua and Whanganui River Expedition

Heading south we travel to the geothermal and cultural heartland of the country. In Rotorua we stay in a Marae, the traditional village meeting hall and spiritual home to Maori belonging to that Marae and the home to the spirits of their ancestors.  We whitewater raft the Kaituna River, mountain bike in the the Redwoods Bike Park, and soak in natural hot springs. We’ll also relax, catch-up on email and laundry, and explore this lakeside town, before we plunge into our next expedition.

Our four-day canoeing journey takes us through the heart of the Whanganui National Park – pristine native forest and an area rich in Maori history. We will be self-sufficient on the river, canoeing with our clothing, food, tents etc. with us. It’s a great journey on a safe river and you’ll enjoy river life – paddling, splashing, swimming, camping and evenings around a campfire. We’ll spend our last night along the river in a beautiful Marae – a traditional Maori village.

Week 7. Wellington and Marlborough Sounds Project

Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, is vibrant - great cafés and nightlife. We’ll visit Parliament to learn about New Zealand’s political system (more interesting than it sounds), and gain insight into Maori culture through an intimate Maori educational experience at the National Museum, before giving you free time to explore independently.

From Wellington, we board a ferry bound for the South Island, cruise through the twisting arms of the glacial carved Marlborough Sounds, and come ashore in Picton. We have four days in the Marlborough Sounds area, camping and assisting on volunteer conservation projects under the guidance of fantastic Department of Conservation biodiversity rangers. On our final day we continue to Nelson, where we have a day to relax and prepare ourselves for the next expedition.

Week 8. Kahurangi National Park Expedition and Nelson

The next four days will be spent in a remote section of Kahurangi National Park, hiking/backpacking, camping, and exploring our way through spectacular wilderness. On our last day we return to civilization for some well-earned rest in Nelson.

Enjoy some free time to catch up on the last week. There are great swimming beaches and rivers nearby, a weekend market to explore, and no doubt a mountain of laundry to catch up on. Nelson is also a popular place to try tandem skydiving, stand-up paddle boarding, and mountain-biking – which you can do independently if you wish to.

Week 9. West Coast Road Trip and Wanaka Climbing Camp

Voted one of the top ten road trips in the world, we travel the length of the South Island’s West Coast from Nelson to Wanaka. Enjoy rugged coastlines, beautiful rainforest and spectacular glaciers. We spend a night at Punakaiki to view the impressive blow holes, then two nights at the tiny settlement of Franz Josef, close to the glacier. We’ll explore and learn about the mighty glaciers.

From a simple lodge at Glendhu Bay on the shores of Lake Wanaka, we learn how to rock-climb – our fantastic instructors introduce us to climbing technique, belaying, rappelling, and take us safely through 2 ½ days of climbing instruction, tailored to all levels of climbing ability and fitness. There’ll also be time for swimming in the lake, walking and hiking on the hills around Wanaka.

Week 10. Queenstown and program wrap

Queenstown is the world’s adventure capital. We have some free time here to try some of the options on offer – bungy jumping is a popular choice. In the evenings you’re sure to enjoy the celebratory atmosphere in town.

We then make our way to an isolated eco-lodge, the perfect spot to reflect, process and celebrate over two months of incredible personal growth and impactful experiences. We work on how to carry what we’ve learned during the program to our lives at home.

On the last day, we’ll farewell New Zealand and each other, with a departure from Christchurch. You’ll return home with a lifetime of memories, experiences and bonds formed during this program.

Note: Each week there will be some designated free time in a town or city so that you can catch up on email and laundry, relax and have your own independent experiences with others in the group.

For full program details, please request the information booklet

Suitability

Open to students, graduates and non-students, ideally 18-24 years. This program is suitable for anyone of average fitness with an enthusiasm for the outdoors, conservation and new experiences. You need to be committed to, and prepared for, some physical work whilst on the volunteer components of the program i.e. trail building or the removal of invasive plants and while on the outdoor activities, be prepared to give-it-a-go. As a guideline, you should aim to be comfortable hiking 4-6 hours with a backpack. You don’t need to have had previous experience with any of the activities offered.

The program is a shared group experience. We expect you to join the 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.

Accommodation

Our accommodation will be a mixture of camping (tents supplied) and comfortable and clean hostels and lodges. Laundry and WiFi facilities will be available most 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

Meals are fresh, tasty, healthy and varied. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. All meals are included in the program cost. Food preparation, shared by all students, is fun, social and often a highlight.

Program Tuition Includes

  • All in-country travel and transport including a mid-program international flight between New Zealand and Australia
  • All accommodation
  • All meals
  • All expeditions, activities, excursions, entry fees and adventure travel as described in the itinerary
  • Environmental education and service learning 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
  • Experienced Program Instructors and local guides
  • 1-3-week optional extensions if you wish to continue travelling independently after the program
  • Pre-departure web-page 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, water bottle stickers and a buff
  • Online image library for your program

The Pacific Discovery New Zealand and Australia Gap Year semester combines conservation volunteering, adventure travel and experiential learning through the North and South Islands of New Zealand, and East Coast of Australia.

Spring Dates (A) 29 Jan - 8 Apr, 2018
(B) 5 Feb - 15 Apr, 2018
(C) 12 Feb - 22 Apr, 2018
Duration 70 days
(plus independent extension options)

Program Tuition $10,750 USD Estimated Flight Cost $1,600 USD $200 discount for applications before Jun 1 (Fall) & Oct 1 (Spring)
Availability Closed
Group Size 12 Students & 2 Instructors Ages 18 - 24 ideal
Optional College Credit Yes Start/Finish Brisbane, Australia / Christchurch, New Zealand
(we assist with flight arrangements)