Gapforce

Gapforce

About

Founded in 1989, Gapforce is a leading provider of structured adventure travel programs, volunteer projects and outdoor training courses. Our wide wide range of global adventures includes marine conservation, wildlife protection, expeditions, and leadership training. Whether you're looking for a short or long break, our programs combine everything we do best - conservation and project volunteering, adventure travel, and outdoor training courses - all in exotic destinations around the world.

For over thirty years, Gapforce has been running safe, unique and rewarding programs to some of the world’s most exciting and exotic locations. Our Gapforce overseas staff are some of the most experienced in the industry and are committed to exerting a positive impact on the regions, countries and communities in which volunteers and travellers explore. You have a choice of group start dates throughout the year – your adventure starts here!

Founded
1989

Reviews

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Ruby
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I couldn't recommend this trip more highly. I was so nervous to go previously as I didn't know what to expect with the people and dynamic of the trip but I can definitely say I have made some friends for life. The trip is well organised with a high standard of accommodation (all the hostels/ hotels were fun and good quality). The trip was a lot less regimented than I expected which was good, there was the perfect amount of free time for you to go and do your own thing and the group leader was reasonable but not strict. All the activities we did were so worth it and were all very well organised. The leader was friendly, fun and organised and kept everyone in the loop about what we were doing or where we were going. South America is a beautiful continent and the experience was made better by the opportunities that SA explorer gave us.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
As much as it is a trip where you could definitely go with a friend, don't worry about going alone. You'll meet the most amazing people who you'll create bonds with for life.
Don't worry too much on the physical aspect, as much as it was challenging at some points like on the trek to Machu Picchu, it was easy to get through with friends by your side and was so rewarding and worth it by the end.
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Ben
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This program is a great introduction to long-term traveling, as you are in a group of people with planned activities most days. You see the best of what Australia has to offer on the east coast, my favorite city being Byron Bay. The Whitsunday Islands and the Atherton Tablelands in Cairns were also highlights. There are many scenic and gorgeous overlooks for pictures and you get to see the diversity of wildlife and climate that Australia has to offer. After 4 weeks there is a volunteering segment, which can be challenging, but is rewarding in the end. Around this portion of the trip there are less activities and a lot of free time, as you are in Cairns for a little over three weeks. There is an excellent extra activity called Green Island tour, which is a beautiful area with snorkeling. There is also skydiving, bungee jumping, and white water rafting (these all cost extra $). Be sure to bring enough if you want to do these, and for food in general because Australia is expensive in certain areas. You get a good mix of free time and planned activities throughout the time you're there. It's an amazing trip and you get to know the people you're traveling with very well and become like a big family. You will get a lot of it and learn so much about an amazing country with many experiences to offer.

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Jess
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This was my first time travelling alone without my family, which was a daunting experience in itself. That's why I chose to do a guided trip with other people, this was definitely the right decision and it is a great way to start off your travelling in a safe way, it eases you in and makes you so much more confident to go and travel by yourself.

The trip itself was jam-packed with activities and you definitely got your money's worth for 7 weeks of travelling with accommodation and activities included. However, I did find that there were quite a few 'free days' which sometimes was a little frustrating as you just ended spending money for the sake of it. On the topic of money, I should have taken double what I did. The Gapforce website advised that you take approximately £750 for food for the whole trip, this was definitely not enough as Australia is really expensive!! A lot of others on the trip also recognised this, and some of us had to go into extra money or contact our parents because we hadn't brought enough with us. I think it might have been helpful to have known how expensive Australia was and how much money per day you would need (I'd advise £25-35).

The highlights of this trip are definitely the Whitsunday Islands and the trip to the Atherton tablelands in Cairns. Everywhere here is beautiful and therefore your camera roll will be filled with scenic views and many waterfalls! The best times that I had were actually the extra activities that you could pay for like Green Island and Skydiving! (I would recommend taking at least an extra £500 to be able to have the freedom to enjoy these activities if you'd like to) a lot of people also got the opportunity to get their PADI diving certificates over 4 days which I would highly recommend as it is much cheaper than England!

The volunteering section in the last couple of weeks was definitely harder than expected, a lot of us were a little disappointed as on the Gapforce website it states that the volunteering would involve animal conservation such as Koalas and Wallabies. However, we only got told a couple of weeks into the trip that we were actually going to be spending 4 hours in 35ºc heat weeding and planting trees, not what we had expected. Despite this, we all learnt a lot and very much appreciated the week after volunteering where we could relax and catch up on some sleep!

This trip was honestly some of the best weeks of my life and I met some wonderful people. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone who hasn't travelled before and finds it hard to meet new people. You get a wonderful tour of Australia and I don't think anywhere was missed out on the trip at all, the itinerary was great and the Gapforce leaders were even better, they were so supportive and got to know all 23 of us individually, you really felt like a big family only after 1 week of knowing each other. I would highly recommend a Gapforce trip but brace yourself for 7 weeks of beautiful views, unforgettable experiences and lots of partying!

I vlogged my 7 week experience - if you want to know exactly what we did check out the video below!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
- Make sure that you take enough money, Australia is expensive!

- Ask what the volunteering is before you go

- Have the flexibility to be able to travel elsewhere afterwards (chances are you'll want to travel with the new friends you've met)
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Alexander
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I chose this program because I wanted to travel through South America, see a lot but also do some volunteering work. This program combines these two aspects very well, with the first three weeks consisting of a lot of travelling, the next three weeks a lot of working and the last week travelling again. You see a lot of both Peru and Ecuador and get a great feeling for each country. The volunteering work was very interesting and you definitely learn a lot. In general the atmosphere on the trip was great, the travel group was pretty small and very nice. I think that this trip definitely helped me growing as a person and learn a lot of new things

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Jumping down eight meters into a tiny pond while doing canyoning
Default avatar
Alice
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Travelling halfway around the world for 2 months is never going to be easy, but the Gapforce trip makes it an incredible experience. The trip is packed with different experiences, from the fast paced city of Sydney up to the serene Fraser Island, this was a truly unique and fun way to experience the east cost of Australia. It’s daunting travelling thousands of miles to spend 7 weeks with people you’ve never met, but after a while you forget that you only met recently, as you’ve made friendships that will last. I even decided to remain in Australia for another few months, to live and work with some of the people I’ve met on this trip.
The volunteering portion of the trip was difficult, 4 hours of hard work daily in the heat planting trees and weeding areas of land. This was a different experience to what was described on the website, and it was a little disappointing that we weren’t working with the amazing wildlife and animals found in Australia. It was overall a rewarding experience to have done, but not my first choice when it comes to voluntary work and something to consider when planning this trip!
The leaders provided fantastic support, and their advice on what to do, where to visit and the extra activities available was very helpful. Their interaction with the group made it a better experience, and it was clear they loved what they were doing.
The optional activities are definitely worth it, from bungee and skydiving, to spending a day relaxing on Green island there is definitely something you’ll want to do, and no doubt they’ll be one of the most memorable parts of your trip.
If you’re looking for a tour of the east coast that captures a bit of everything, whilst giving you some freedom to choose what you’d like, this trip is a fantastic opportunity in an incredible country.

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose CLI for two main reasons: 1) its structure, and 2) its flexibility.

1) Structure: The classes are entirely 1-on-1 tutoring. This has a lot of critical implications. Firstly, you can enter the program at any level of existing knowledge. You can be a complete beginner, or you can have any level of proficiency beyond that: even if it's lopsided proficiency (e.g. being able to read well but needing more work on speaking/listening). Furthermore, there's no opportunity to hide at the back of a big classroom from a mispronunciation or a lack of understanding: if you aren't grasping a concept, it will be immediately obvious and your teachers will guide you & work with you until you get it. On one hand, this may seem intimidating (and it certainly can be!), but on the other hand, this is exactly the kind of structure that will guarantee thorough, effective learning.

2) Flexibility: Because of CLI's 1-on-1 structure, there are no pre-set "classes" -- you can start whenever you want, and study for as long as you want. I had an existing 60-day Chinese visa and a limited amount of time I could take away from my job, so I chose to stay at CLI for 8 weeks. However, I made friends who studied anywhere from 2 weeks to a full year.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

CLI is so incredibly thorough! Their welcome packets (the documents sent prior to your arrival as well as the physical welcome packets you receive on your first day) include all the information you could possibly need about the surrounding area and more. They arranged my pickup from the airport, and the interns who greeted me when I arrived at CLI helped me with everything I needed on my first day: getting a meal, getting a new SIM card, and touring the school.

Beyond that, anytime I had a question or needed help, the staff and interns were there to assist. This was especially critical when I got very sick during my 6th week and needed to be taken to the doctor. Two very kind and helpful interns escorted me to the doctor, helped me pick up my medicine, and even made sure I got lunch afterward.

To be honest, I can't think of anything that they wouldn't have helped me with if I needed it. I would never take advantage of their kindness (as I saw some other students do: effectively treating the interns as personal servants) but the staff and interns are truly exceptional in this regard.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

SPEAK CHINESE. SPEAK CHINESE ALL THE TIME. Because there is no enforced language pledge, many, many CLI students fall into the trap of only speaking Chinese in the classroom and when interfacing with locals.

I know it's hard to express what you want to say in Chinese when you're first starting out, and I know that it's mentally tiring. But that's the point. This is the only thing that will make you better. And when you start setting the example of speaking Chinese outside the classroom, you'll be helping your fellow students, too.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

In total, you'll have three different teachers (one Speaking/Listening, one Reading/Writing, one Comprehensive). Each day will consist of two 2-hour classes: typically, you'll see your Comprehensive teacher each day, and then either have Speaking/Listening or Reading/Writing as your second class. Lunch is provided at CLI for a fee, which I highly encourage: the meals are delicious and the pricing is extremely reasonable.

After classes, you'll spend some time doing homework (a healthy balance is about 2 hours, in my opinion). Most days, CLI has activities you can sign up for. Some are as simple as playing volleyball together, while others are as involved as weekend trips to the rural rice terraces. I especially enjoyed the activity where we made moon cakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival, not to mention the awe-inspiring trips to Yangshuo and Longji.

There are many great dinner options nearby if you prefer to eat out (shout-out to the local 拌面 [ban4mian4: mixed noodles] restaurant with the amazing 荞麦 [qiao2mai4: buckwheat] tea!), though you can also use the CLI kitchen if you prefer to make your own food. Then, you can chat with interns, continue studying, play mahjong in the activity room, use the CLI computers, or explore downtown Guilin!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was not being good enough: not progressing fast enough, not learning as much as I wanted to, etc. I overcame this by realizing that I'm not a machine. I can't just cram a bunch of inputs and expect perfection immediately. Language learning, especially Chinese, takes time.

I learned how to be patient with myself. I learned how to forgive myself for missteps. And I learned how to swallow my pride and communicate with my teachers honestly about my shortcomings and where I needed more work.

What's something that surprised you about your stay in China?

I'm a big PC gamer, and I expected to spend a fair amount of my spare time in a local 网吧 (wang4ba1: PC cafe). However, after going to a Jimmy's exactly once and experiencing the cigarette haze (despite smoking being "forbidden"), grimy equipment, and less-than-kind employees, I ended up becoming a full-on mobile gamer during my stay.

As a researcher in video games, I gained a deep, tangible empathy for mobile gamers in China, and learned to love many new games! :) (Although it was a real pain to get a QQ account to verify my age...).

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Sophie Aspden

Did you participate in a program abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Sophie Aspden GapForce Volunteer Coordinator

Sophie: Not yet, but I plan to after I finish my degree as I would love to explore different dive sites around the world such as Fiji and Australia and also visit Costa Rica and Madagascar.

What aspect of working at Gapforce inspires you the most?

Sophie: The aspect that really drew me to working at Gapforce was the Greenforce foundation the company has set up, which highlights the importance of conservation not only on land but also with marine life.

As the Volunteer Coordinator, I think that its great to be able to send volunteers out to have an amazing time and also expand their knowledge on the aspects of conservation in the country they go to.

If you had to choose one, what destination would you recommend to gap year travelers?

Sophie: If I had to choose one destination I would recommend the South America Explore program as you get a taster into different areas such as Ecuador, Peru and the Galapagos and you also have a chance to learn some Spanish and take in different cultures.

Also, you are able to help out at an animal sanctuary and a street children's project. Also I would recommend it due to it being an easy area to carry on your travels from.

What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering going abroad?

Sophie: One piece of advice I would give would to be to have fun and enjoy your experience to make it unforgettable!

Professional Associations