Join us on an epic journey recreating the path our Polynesian ancestors traveled through the Pacific! Our 70 - day semester offers you an enriching and insightful fusion of environmental service projects, cultural immersion, personal development, and, of course, non-stop adventure!
You will learn all about the varied Polynesian culture,from the origins of Hawaii’s Aloha spirit to the modern-day villages of Fiji and cities 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 project work, connecting with locals during village stays, camping under the stars, and seriously healthy doses of mountains and beaches.
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. Considering the lack of maps and sailing routes, it was likely they used the stars as navigational devices, and the trade winds as natural support. Over the course of the next 800 years, they explored and settled every single habitable island in the Pacific, including Hawaii, and Fiji. Their final destination brought them to the shores of Polynesia’s largest land mass, New Zealand.
The program is open to high school graduates, university students and graduates, ideally 17 - 22 years. Optional transferable academic credit is available to all participants.
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 week two we will take part in an Imu Feast which is a traditional way in Hawaii to cook using an underground oven!
We’ll also 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. You'll discover towering Akaka Falls which plummets 442-feet into a stream-eroded gorge. Beautiful Akaka Falls is perhaps the island of Hawaii's most famous waterfall. Green sand beach is officially known as Papakōlea. The 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.
Time to get our hand’s dirty! While the 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. Picking projects that really make a difference and this volunteer project is always changing depending on the needs of the island which makes it exciting and rewarding.
Moving on from our foundation work we move to Aunty K’s. A legend in the community here. While camping at this stop off we will learn more about sustainable farming in Hawaii.
We will learn when we are successful, the communities will appreciate the scope, diversity, and global significance of Hawaiian agriculture as it was practiced before European contact. We will understand that Hawaiian agriculture arose from a populous, organized and innovative society, and that the society in turn was shaped by its interactions with the land. We will build on that understanding to create an innovative and dynamic modern society that has a deep understanding and connection to its land.
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!
It is time to fly to the land of the long white cloud, New Zealand. Here we will spend the day exploring New Zealands capital city before heading to Paihia where we will take a deep dive into the countrys history and how it came that people lived on the island in the middle of the ocean. The Waitangi treaty grounds are the perfect place to immerse ourselves in Maori culture and history.
Often called the ‘Birthplace of the Nation’, Waitangi weaves together the strands and stories of many people, events and places to reveal the rich cultural history of Aotearoa New Zealand, offering an inspiring and meaningful experience for every visitor.
While here we will also explore the stunning Bay of Islands by boat.
We make our way to the beautiful Tawharanui Regional Park for our first volunteer conservation project. The area is home to many endangered species and has an abundance of marine life. While we’re here we camp and will be cooking all meals together. Our days are spent participating in volunteer conservation initiatives working alongside park rangers and a local group of community volunteers.
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. Spouting geysers, bubbling mud pools, steaming vents, boiling lakes and colourful sinter terraces are just about everywhere in and around Rotorua.
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.
From Rotorua, the capital of New Zealand awaits, Wellington. We will take a tour of the parliament building, otherwise known as the Beehive.
Wellington is also home to New Zealands largest and most famous museum, Te Papa. The te reo Māori name, ‘Te Papa Tongarewa’, translates literally to ‘container of treasures’. A fuller interpretation is ‘our container of treasured things and people that spring from mother earth here in New Zealand’.
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 on 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 our Fijian family hosts and locals. Our days will be a mix of project service 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 and the afternoon is dedicated for local craft making, plating 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 2 days of rest and relaxation. We’ll take a private tour out to Cloud 9 floating island in the morning. This is a floating island with just a restaurant and jetty for sunbathing, snorkeling and kayaking on it. A total rarity!
We say ‘vinaka’ and goodbye to Fiji and a farewell to our program friends.
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.
*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.
This gap year program is perfect for high school graduates, college students and graduates, and non-students, ideally 17-22 years old. 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. As a guideline, you should aim to be comfortable hiking 4-6 hours with a backpack, but you don’t need to have had previous experience with any of the activities offered.
The program is a shared group experience. Join this 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 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