Follow the path of migrating whales along the East Coast of Australia, on a journey of exploration, adventure and insight.
Hop onto this 4-week summer abroad program and you’ll go canyoning in the Blue Mountains, surfing in the dazzling NSW National Parks, hiking on the huge sand island of Fraser and Magnetic Islands, boating among the Whitsundays, and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. 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 two coastal National Parks. The project is a three-way collaboration between Pacific Discovery, Surfaris, and the New South Wales National Parks & Wildlife Service. Remember Steve Irwin? You’ll learn about the epic conservation initiative he left behind at The Australia Zoo, and have a go at boomerang throwing and didgeridoo at a fantastic Aboriginal cultural center.
You’ll try whale-spotting at numerous headland walks along our journey. There’s also time to explore vibrant Sydney, Byron Bay and Cairns. Throughout your time on the east coast, you’ll learn an enormous amount about the environmental and ecological history and how that unique history has shaped Australia’s flora, fauna and people. The warm climate, friendly people, unusual wildlife, and dramatic natural beauty make it a fantastic place to experience.
This summer program is perfect for high school graduates, college students and graduates, and gap year students, ideally 18 to 22 years old.
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 Cove, where the first European settlement in Australia was established, over 200 years ago. A comprehensive program briefing takes place before we explore Sydney’s famous harbor and beaches, visit the Opera House and Australian Museum.
Just two hours from Sydney but a world away, are the rugged sandstone escarpments 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.
We will also journey north to an isolated section of the coast where we stay at a surf-camp and learn to surf from our surfing-guru instructors on the myriad breaks in the area. Spend evenings relaxing at camp, playing games, debriefing each day, and hearing the instructor’s wild stories, before a great sleep in preparation for a sunrise surf!
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 two coastal National Parks. 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. Project work is supervised by National Parks staff.
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 tourists, there to enjoy its beaches, boutiques and cafes. While here, we’ll do a half-day walk around Cape Byron to try and spot humpback whales on their migratory route.
From Byron Bay we drive north into Queensland. We’ll spend several hours exploring Australia Zoo, learning about the zoo’s wildlife, and the conservation initiatives of the late founder, Steve Irwin - the Crocodile Hunter. We stay on the Sunshine Coast near another gorgeous beach and try whale and dolphin spotting as we walk around the national park headland.
We also head off on a three-day 4WD trip across Fraser Island - seeing turtles, dingoes, diverse forests and stunning freshwater lakes lapping white sand beaches. Our favorite place in Australia! Fraser Island is the largest sand island on earth. We’ll take hikes through beautiful forests and stay in cabins near the coast each night.
Next, we join the Eeather family to learn about life on an outback station (farm). Myella is a 2600 acre cattle station and has been farmed by the Eather family for 80 years. During our stay you’ll get to work with animals and experience the families deep connection to the land. From Myella, we make our way north to the Great Barrier Reef.
From the township of Airlie Beach we spend an action-packed day island hopping among the Whitsunday Islands aboard an ocean raft. Enjoy snorkeling and visiting spectacular Whitehaven beach, often voted ‘best beach in the world’.
A travel day brings us to Magnetic Island, where the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area meets the rainforests of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Over half the island is a bird sanctuary and national park with a large koala population. We stay 3 nights on the island giving us ample time for hiking, swimming and koala spotting.
Our final stop in Australia is tropical Cairns. The highlight of our time here is a day trip to the outer Great Barrier Reef to snorkel over coral reefs and be astounded at the diversity of this World Heritage area – spot sea turtles, myriad tropical fish and marine creatures. We also visit Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Center and have a go throwing a boomerang, playing a didgeridoo, and learning about the richness and diversity of Aboriginal culture. Cairns has a popular waterfront boardwalk and beach to relax at. You’ll have time for last minute souvenir shopping before a program wrap on our final days.
*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.
Open to high school graduates, university students and graduates, ideally 18 – 22 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 a mixture of comfortable and clean hostels and lodges. Laundry, postal, telephone and email facilities will be available most days. 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