Australia Mini Semester

START Sydney, Australia |
FINISH Cairns, Australia |
DURATION 6 weeks |
AGES 17 - 22 |

Marine Conservation & Ocean Adventures

Protect marine wonders and explore Australia's stunning coastlines on this gap program!  Become an ocean champion by supporting coral conservation and caring for injured turtles. Dive into adventure with snorkeling, whale watching, and epic surf camps. This program blends conservation efforts with unforgettable experiences, all while learning from Aboriginal communities. It's your chance to make a difference and discover the magic of Australia's land and sea.


Unleash your inner explorer and conquer the breathtaking Blue Mountains on our heart-pounding Canyoning adventure! This Australian summer program isn't just about thrills – it's about pushing your limits, discovering hidden gems, and forging unforgettable memories.  You'll be swimming through crystal-clear pools, feeling the rush of adrenaline with daring jumps, and rappelling down cascading waterfalls, all within ancient chasms sculpted by nature for millennia.  Beyond the excitement, canyoning builds confidence, strengthens teamwork, and deepens your connection with this iconic Australian landscape.  Each exhilarating swim, jump, and abseil becomes a testament to your courage and a celebration of the Blue Mountains' raw beauty.

This once-in-a-lifetime snorkeling adventure goes beyond the breathtaking sights. With a flick of your fin, you might encounter a majestic sea turtle gliding effortlessly by or a colorful cluster of tropical coral. By snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, you'll gain a deeper understanding of this fragile ecosystem, fostering a sense of responsibility and inspiring you to become an advocate for its preservation. Join us in exploring the underwater world and create memories that will stay with you forever, all while becoming a champion for our precious oceans.

Volunteer at a turtle rescue center, providing vital care for sick and injured marine turtles. Contribute to their rehabilitation, witness their resilience firsthand, and play a role in their return to the ocean. This heartwarming experience allows you to make a positive difference for these endangered animals, creating lasting memories while fostering a deeper appreciation for the delicate balance of marine ecosystems.


This is a guide to what you can expect to do on program. The order in which the activities occur might vary.

Click download to view the full 6 week sample itinerary.

Download Sample Itinerary

Sydney, Aboriginal Culture & Canyoning in the Blue Mountains

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, where the first European settlement in Australia was established over 200 years ago. 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.

After a few days of orientation, we get a first look at Australia’s aboriginal culture with a cruise around the Sydney Harbour. Jump aboard a Mari Nawi, or big canoe, and listen to stories of the Cadigal, Guringai and Wallumedegal people of Sydney Harbor. We will learn the Aboriginal names and meanings of significant Sydney landmarks, step ashore on Be-lang-le-wool (Clark Island) to learn about life pre-colonization and traditional fishing methods, and even get to enjoy a traditional cultural performance!

Just two hours from Sydney but a world away, are the rugged sandstone cliffs of the Blue Mountains National Park. Based from the main township, Katoomba, we will get outdoors to discover for ourselves what makes ‘the Blueys’ so special. We explore the famous Three Sisters rock formations and spend a day canyoning - a unique adventure involving hiking, scrambling, and rappels through sculptured rock canyons.

Surf Camp & Conservation Project

We journey north to an isolated section of the coast where we learn to surf from our surfing-guru instructors during a three-day surf camp. We will learn to laugh at ourselves as we no doubt tumble into the water and we’ll learn to trust ourselves as we slowly develop the skills and strengths needed to master this graceful art. Whether it is your first time on the water or you have a few days under your belt, the instructors will cater to everyone. Our 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 get to experience this in a hands-on way by undertaking volunteer conservation work of bush regeneration and dune conservation in some of the most beautiful coastal landscapes on the East Coast of Australia. Our project aims to secure as much of the native plants and species that can be secured in the wild as possible for the next 100 years.

Byron Bay & Australia Zoo

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. You will dive into the art scene by exploring the artisan markets, and appreciate all the beautiful beaches. While here, we also snorkel with a range of friendly sea creatures, go for a walk around Cape Byron to try and spot humpback whales, and rent surfboards for a day to put our new skills to the test.

From Byron Bay, we drive north into Queensland. We head into Queensland’s capital Brisbane and will spend some time exploring the South Banks Parkland and taking in all the history and culture that Brisbane has to offer.

On our way further up to the Sunshine Coast, we will spend a few hours exploring Australia Zoo to learn about the zoo’s wildlife and the conservation initiatives of its late founder Steve Irwin, a famous conservationist that is also known as the Crocodile Hunter.


Program Details

What's Included?
  • 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


For full program details, please request the information booklet.

Request Information Booklet

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 mini semester! You will need to be prepared for some physical work during the volunteer projects on the program.

Low Camping Level

You will only be camping for a couple of nights on this gap year program during the canoe expedition, 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.

Have you got any questions before applying?

Australia Mini Semester