This one month summer program combines two weeks of hands-on and rewarding service-learning conservation work in some of the New Zealand’s most interesting national parks and reserves, and two weeks of adventurous travel as we road-trip through New Zealand and enjoy the spectacularly beautiful Yasawa Islands in Fiji.
Try mountain biking, rafting, caving, snorkeling and scuba diving. Visit ‘The Shire’ (Lord of the Rings movie set), the incredible Wai-O-Tapu geothermal area, and soak in hot springs. Explore vibrant Auckland and Wellington.
Learn about New Zealand Maori history and culture, and contrast this with indigenous Fijian culture. During your time in New Zealand and Fiji you'll learn an enormous amount about both countries environmental and ecological history and how that has shaped each countries flora, fauna and people.
New Zealand has enjoyed 100 million years of isolation since it separated from the southern super continent Gondwana, sinking into and rising again from the ocean. This sinking, rising and isolation from other landmasses (Australia is 1300 miles away), protected unusual eco-systems where birds filled all the major niches usually taken by mammals. These eco-systems were radically compromised by colonization and the introduction of new animal species - first from the indigenous Maori some 800 years ago and more recently by European settlers. On this program you will get a hands-on introduction to strategies initiated to protect and care for these eco-systems and the plants and wildlife they contain.
Fiji is a ‘tropical paradise’ of over 300 islands with forests, sandy beaches, coral reefs, and gorgeous clear waters. The Yasawa Islands are volcanic in origin and fringed by spectacular beaches and reefs. Fiji is home to people with a vibrant culture rich in music and dance, arts, sports and food.
This summer abroad program is suitable for high school graduates, gap year students, university students and graduates, ideally 18 – 24 years.
This program can be combined with Fall or Spring semester program options in other regions of the world (Southeast Asia, Nepal and Tibet, South America or Central America) for an in-depth and enriching global gap year.
You’ll arrive in Auckland, City of Sails, where bright light and fresh air await you. Your Program Instructors will meet you at the airport and transfer with you to our group accommodation. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, sprawling across a spectacular landscape of harbors, beaches and the eroded cones of extinct volcanoes. It is renowned for having a great quality of living (currently #3 in the world). Program Orientation begins before we head out to explore the city completing a fun Amazing Race-style adventure in small groups.
We make our way north to the stunning Mimiwhangata Coastal Park. The park is home to endangered shore birds and has an abundance of marine life, including whales, penguins, dolphins, gannets and many other species. This area was home to numerous Maori settlements. Mimiwhangata is managed by the Department of Conservation and contains a number of archeological sites. Sub-tropical reef fish and marine mammals are often seen in the waters of the reserve. We are based in a beach-side lodge and will be cooking all meals together. On Friday afternoon we’ll return to Auckland.
Heading south from Auckland we stop at Waitomo to do an adventurous Indiana Jones-style caving trip with rappels and ziplines through the infamous Waitomo Caves, spotting glowworms and incredible formations. Then traversing east we visit Hobbiton, ‘The Shire’ movie set from the Lord of the Rings. We finish up in Rotorua, at the heart of New Zealand’s cultural and geothermal landscape.
Nestled on the shores of Lake Rotorua, the city is world renowned for its geothermal activity (mud pools, geysers and hot springs), and is the heartland of Maori culture. It’s also become something of an outdoors mecca. We spend a day immersing ourselves in these fascinating aspects, visiting Wai-O-Tapu thermal area, and being enthralled at a Maori performing arts village where we take in a show on Maori culture and dance and enjoy a delicious traditional hangi (feast). The next day we explore the natural landscape biking in The Redwoods, a fantastic mountain-bike park set in the forest with trails for all ages and abilities. We then get our hearts racing with a safe but thrilling raft trip on the Kaituna River. We’ll finish up with a well-deserved and relaxing soak in in natural hot springs.
We have one long travel day on the program from Rotorua to Wellington across the Great Desert Road, New Zealand’s volcanic alpine plateau. Wellington, New Zealand’s compact capital city, is really vibrant 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), and gain insight into Maori culture through an intimate Maori educational experience at the National Museum, before giving you free time to explore independently with new friends in the group.
We board a ferry bound for the South Island. After crossing the mighty Cook Strait, we cruise through the twisting arms of the glacial carved Marlborough Sounds, and leap ashore in Picton. A short drive through Marlborough’s vineyards brings us to Kaikoura. A small coastal town on the East Coast of the South Island, it is world renowned for its unique marine environment home to resident populations of whales and dolphins. We’ll take an afternoon hike around the headland, seal and whale spotting. Early next morning we take a sunrise boat trip offshore to get up close with wild dolphins in their natural environment on an incredible dolphin spotting trip. Late afternoon we drive to Nelson.
Nelson is the home of Pacific Discovery, and we can’t wait to share it with you! You’ll have dinner at the home of Pacific Discovery founders, Rachel and Scott, then visit our fantastic local farmers and artisans market, and hike up the geographic Center of New Zealand.
The Nelson Tasman region is home to three National Parks, a large maritime park, a state forest park, and a newly established wildlife reserve…so the perfect place to base ourselves for our second week of volunteer conservation work. Monday to Friday, we’ll be working approximately 9am – 4pm, in the field, contributing to and learning about the valuable conservation initiatives being undertaken to maintain these areas of ecological significance. On Friday afternoon we’ll return to Nelson. We have a free day in Nelson to relax and explore the local markets and parks independently with our group mates.
Fly from Nelson, via Auckland, to Nadi, Fiji. We will stay tonight in a beachfront hostel near Nadi.
We take a ferry trip through the Manumuca and Yasawa Island groups to gorgeous Nacula Island and the Blue Lagoon Resort, where we settle in for several days of exploration, relaxation and reflection. We try scuba diving, where you can see colorful soft and hard corals and an astounding diversity of fish. For those who have never dived before, prepare to have your eyes opened to the amazing world beneath the surface of the ocean. Our professional dive instructors take you through a morning class, teaching all the skills necessary to safely enjoy your introductory dive. While on Nacula we will also visit sea caves, a traditional Fijian village and have time for relaxing on the beach, swimming, snorkeling, reminiscing about our adventures, and preparing for our transition home.
Return on the ferry to Nadi for our final evening together before boarding your flight home (or continuing with independent travel). Depart Fiji with an immense sense of satisfaction from the conservation contribution you've made in New Zealand, challenges you've risen to, adventures you’ve undertaken, and an awareness and understanding of New Zealand and Fiji’s complex biodiversity and cultural heritage.
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.
Open to high school graduates, university students and graduates, ideally 18 – 24 years. This program is suitable for anyone of average fitness with an enthusiasm for conservation and new experiences. You need to be committed to, and prepared for, some physical work whilst on the volunteer component of the program i.e. trail building, tree planting or painting. You don’t need to have had previous experience with travel or 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.
Our accommodation will be comfortable and clean hostels and lodges. Laundry and WiFi facilities will be available most days, except while in the field on the volunteer projects. 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. 85% of meals are included in the program cost. Food preparation, shared by all participants, is fun, social and often a highlight. The remaining few meals are not included to allow a choice of when, where and what we eat. For the meals not included, you will have the option of dining out, or self-catering with others in the group. We recommend you budget the sum of $10 per day for snacks, drinks and meals not included in the program cost (allow $300 for the program).
Program Tuition Includes
Visa on arrival*; All in-country travel and transport (except flights); All accommodation; Most meals; All activities, excursions, entry fees and adventure travel as described in the itinerary; Two weeks of volunteer conservation projects; Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation, history and eco-tourism; Experienced Pacific Discovery Program Instructors and local guides; Online image library for your program. *Note: Free visitor visas for New Zealand & Fiji are issued on arrival.
The Pacific Discovery New Zealand and Fiji Summer Program combines two weeks of hands-on and rewarding service-learning conservation work in some of the New Zealand’s most interesting national parks and reserves, and two weeks of adventurous travel as we road-trip through New Zealand and enjoy the spectacularly beautiful Yasawa Islands in Fiji.