Australia & NZ | Cultural Immersion, Service Learning, Adventure

Video and Photos

Fun on the sand dunes on Fraser Island
Surf Camp!
Dropbear Adventures on Fraser Island
Lightpainting fun with our headlamps as a full moon rose over the water at Mimiwhangata Coastal Park, NZ.
Our PD Crew, the Doozy Croozy Crew!
Stargazing in New Zealand!
Day 3 of Surf camp in Australia
Hiking on the South Island

About

Engage your passions! Join us for a life-changing, overland journey through the heart of New Zealand and Australia.

10-week program for ages 18-24. Fall and Spring departures. Scholarships and academic credit available.

Develop a global perspective, independence, leadership and communication skills through outdoor expeditions, service learning projects, and authentic cultural immersion. Pacific Discovery programs foster empathy for other cultures, ethical and sustainable travel practices, and awareness of international issues. Students leave with a deepened sense of their identity, passion, and purpose.

Pacific Discovery is a global leader in experiential education, offering inspiring summer, semester, and gap year programs abroad since 2001, and is an inaugural member of the American Gap Association.

- Visit our website to request a detailed information booklet for this program.

Highlights
  • Develop skills in independent travel, leadership, communication, rock climbing, surfing, canoeing, canyoning, mountain biking, trekking, snorkeling.
  • Get to know the real culture and people of New Zealand and Australia.
  • Volunteer in service learning projects with National Parks in New Zealand and Australia.
  • Explore New Zealand and Australia’s highlights – The Noosa Everglades, Sydney, The Blue Mountains, Brisbane, Auckland, Kahurangi National Park, Queenstown, Rotorua, Frans Josef Glacier, islands, beaches, national parks
  • Experience transformative personal growth that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves, working towards a deeper understanding of their values, identity, passions and purpose.

Questions & Answers

My trip was also ranging between 18-22 years old. Most of the people were 18, but I was 22 at the time, done with college, and was the oldest besides the trip leaders. I wasn't bothered by this though because it was still awesome to hang out with such outgoing and motivated people!

Reviews

9.63 Rating
based on 38 reviews
  • Housing 9.3
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.7
  • Value 9.4
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 1 - 8 of 38
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Emily
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Adventure!

Visiting Australia and New Zealand had always been on my bucket list, and I couldn't be happier that I got the opportunity to experience it with Pacific Discovery. You can tell how much meticulous planning they put into curating each program's itinerary and making sure that you'll see as much of Australia and New Zealand as possible in your 70 days there. On the program, you'll embody the traveler's spirit, always on the move and never staying in any one place for more than a couple of days. Looking back, the breadth and depth of activities you get to partake in on this program are amazing. From surfing on Australia's pristine beaches to taking in New Zealand's most famous glacier, your experience with PD will leave you with memories that last a lifetime.

I am really so grateful to Pacific Discovery for giving me the ideal start to my gap year. I can't think of a better way to have spent the last 3 months. I want everyone to be able to have the same life-changing experience I did, so I highly recommend Pacific Discovery if you are taking a gap year! You'll learn about sustainability, culture, and the unique environment on these islands, but more importantly, you'll learn so much about yourself. If you're like me and haven't made up your mind about what you want your future to look like, this program will help give you clarity on what truly drives you to be who you are.

Once again, thanks to PD for this incredible experience!!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
By the end of the program, you'll have caught the travel bug and be well equipped to set off on your own travels, so make sure to leave some time for a program extension if you can! Planning your own travels and living independently is such a rewarding experience. Plus, you're not going to be ready to say goodbye to New Zealand!
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Eva
2/10
No, I don't recommend this program

fairly disappointed

I never took the time to leave a review from my semester in Australia and New Zealand last year. I decided I would share what I wish I had known beforehand, as it may help someone who is on the fence about deciding on this program. Honestly, I know several people who have had amazing experiences with PD. The trip had really amazing moments and lessons, but overall, to me it was absolutely not worth the price and the stress. I had no idea that the program was going to be so strictly structured- from assigned rotating seats/ rooms in the van, not being allowed to spend time with other people in the group without inviting the entire group, extremely little free time and uncomfortably forced 'sessions" (basically group therapy.) The volunteer work was lengthy and impersonal- usually it consisted of fence clipping, weed-poisoning, and cleaning. Most of the time it felt all too much like a children's summer camp plus intense labor. The food was so limited that our group would get into fights about someone getting seconds or eating the last ricecracker. It was ridiculous, such a drama scene.
Aside from the negatives, I ended up growing a lot from the experience. Months after reflecting on the trip, it has made me aware of my faults and I have learned to become a more open-hearted and flexible person. I also saw some of the most beautiful places of my life, and pushed my comfort zones to new levels. After the trip, I travelled independently in Asia and gained SO much more from my experience. If you are the type of person who likes structure and the convenience of a planned-out schedule, this may be for you. If you are a nonconformist, do NOT chose this trip.

Response from Pacific Discovery

Dear Eva, we really appreciate you submitting a review, and are sorry to hear that the group-focused and structured elements of the program were not what you were looking for in your semester abroad experience. We applaud you for taking the learning from this semester and subsequently travelling independently in Southeast Asia...it's what we hope for all of our participants...that they will learn and grow from their time with us and carry that over into their own lifelong adventures! Wishing you all the best, Rachel and Scott, Founding Directors

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Sky
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Experience of a Lifetime

After searching through countless gap year programs, I had finally settled on one - Pacific Discovery Australia & New Zealand. I loved the balance it had between service projects and adventure activities. Going into it, I knew I was about to have a great adventure, but I could have never expected the extent to which the program would impact me. It wasn't just seeing new places and meeting new people - it was being in awe of places you couldn't have imagined, finding connections to different cultures, and becoming more aware of yourself in the process. And there would be no better way to experience all this than with the group of people you come to call your closest friends. Going through all these experiences together, growing together, allows you to become connected on a whole other level. The mission of Pacific Discovery really does come to life as the program fosters awareness for yourself and the world around you.

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Ashley
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Inspirational Learning Outside of My Comfort Zone

I had always wanted to go Australia and New Zealand, and this program gave me the amazing opportunity to do so! Going into the program, I wasn't really sure what to expect. The website and pictures I had seen looked amazing, and I expected and wanted to grow as a person from this experience, but how and by how much, I had no idea. From the very start, Pacific Discovery taught us that the greatest learning comes from outside of our comfort zones. This trip was the first time I was continuously pushed out of my comfort zone, whether it was being away from home for 2 months, being with 13 other people from all different backgrounds, abseiling down a 30m waterfall with my heart pounding outrageously in my chest, jumping out of a plane from 13,000 ft and soaring like a flying squirrel, and countless other occasions. I learned that to really make the most of an experience, I have to take what I experienced and internalize it so that I can learn from it and come back to it for future reference. There were ups and downs and ins and outs, but at the end of the day, I'm a physically and mentally stronger person than I was at the beginning of the trip - because I internalized and learned the lessons from experiences outside of my comfort zone, thanks to the way that PD runs the trip.There is so much emphasis on personal growth, learning more about your own identity, and getting the most you as yourself can get out of the trip. Along the way, I met incredibly wise and incredibly eccentric people; I learned about genius designs that revolutionized my view of "eco-friendly," I became aware of so many other lifestyles than mine own, I developed and grew as a photographer, and most of all, I came out of this program with a stronger sense of who I am and how I want to live my life. All of this personal growth in a land that some people only dream of coming to, the beautiful vistas and great cities of Australia and New Zealand. Gazing up at the millions of stars visible in the night skies there, I was reminded of just how large the world is, and how much we all have to learn from different places and from each other, something that this Pacific Discovery program definitely emphasized very well. For that, I am very thankful to PD.

With love,
-Ashley Yu

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Margaret
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Experience of a lifetime

I booked PD online from my home in Toronto Canada and it was the first site I looked at. It had everything I wanted out my New Zealand/Australia experience. When I retell my stories people are so jealous - you can't book this type of travel just anywhere and trust me I know - I am now a travel agent.
One of my favorite memories is participating in a 5 night canoe week and staying at local Maori camps or just our own sites. We decided to have a theme day where we dressed up as pirates (pre planned prior to canoe trip) and hung Skull and bones flags from our 'ships'. We didn't encounter anyone else on the river until we stopped at the, bridge to nowhere, when we ran into some people just coming up from the river, when they saw us in our costumes they laughed and said they wondered who the pirates were. We had so much fun as group laughing and pretending to be pirates, it really made me realize what incredible people I was with and it is all because of PD that we were brought together.

What would you improve about this program?
I don't think it can. I love that I was challenged on the hikes and made to carry my own backpack. It was tough and some days tougher than others but you had a true sense of satisfaction and exhaustion when you went to bed. I had never truly canoed before and the 5 day trip was a highlight for me. PD thinks of everything, I can't even imagine trying to do anything like that on my way. They have an insurmountable knowledge and still make it loads of fun.
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Nicholas
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Pacific Discovery Australia / New Zealand

If you're looking for an exciting yet meaningful semester on your gap year, look no further. I have just returned from Pacific Discovery's trip to Australia and New Zealand, which was by far the highlight of my entire gap year. I originally liked this program for the adventure aspect, and saw the community service projects just as a little something extra but honestly, everything was a highlight looking back.
One thing I will say about this program, though, is that it is fast pace (which I like). This program is for the person who wants to get the most out of their time abroad, who doesn't mind waking up early to catch the sunrise (always worth it) or who doesn't mind leaving their comfort zone (Bungee Jumping, in my case). I am this type of person, and so it turns out that Pacific Discovery was one of the best parts of my life so far.
If you are the adventurous and active type, I couldn't recommend this program to you more.

What would you improve about this program?
I can't really think of anything specifically, to be honest. If I had to say something, though, I would say the logistics of the itinerary. There were days that had some really long car rides that I felt could be avoided with a slight switch around of the days; that would have been helpful.
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Seth
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best Travel Experience of my Life

Hiking to Tongariro Crossing was epic. Hot in the morning and freezing cold on the top of the volcano in the afternoon! The landscape changed dramatically and our leaders had arranged for their local friends to join us so that we could learn about the history and ecology of where we were. On the way back down, we swam in some natural pools by the trail that were the most refreshing and beautiful experience of the trip. Our leaders were great, always well prepared and their love of life was second to none! This was one of many great moments from the trip. While you can find out about the Tongariro in guide books, our leaders took us on so many other excursions that you can only get my being with locals willing to share their favorite places.

What would you improve about this program?
Potential work opportunities in country to extend the trip!
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Katie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An organization I can't recommend highly enough!

We began our ascent up Mt. Cook early on a cloud-covered day. The steep incline progressed and our view was limited due to the conditions, but the environment around us was beautiful and our spirits were high. Suddenly, the leaders in our group stopped in their tracks and called down to us. We soon caught up to them, breaking through the cloud cover and to see an incredibly clear view of Mt. Cook. It was breathtaking. We continued our climb until we had reached the upper campsights where we would stay for the night. We spent the evening listening to the rumblings of snow falling far off in the distance and admiring the beauty that surrounded us. This was one of many breathtaking moments that we experienced as a tight-knit group.

I feel so lucky that I came across this program and took the chance in setting out into the unknown. I experienced so much personal growth and discovered a new inspiration for adventure in life.

The organizers of these programs are incredibly warm and passionate people. They have a strong desire to learn, grow, engage, connect with others, and make a difference in their worlds. Their thirst for adventure is contagious.

These trips are so well planned and organized in order to maximize the experience for all of the participants, and constantly evolving to incorporate new experiences.

There are few organizations I hold in such high regard.

What would you improve about this program?
I am racking my brain to come up with something here, but I'm drawing a blank.