Make the outdoors your classroom. Breathe in the salt air and watch the sunrise as you get ready for a day of sea kayaking. Listen for the call of the kea mountain parrot as you backpack through rugged mountains and lush valleys. Sail along the South Island’s stunning coastline and camp on sandy beaches under the stars. Paddle a canoe through whitewater rapids and spectacular river gorges.
On this semester you’ll learn to live and travel outdoors with minimum impact while exploring New Zealand’s rich variety of landscapes, from high mountain passes and craggy peaks to lush rainforests and quiet coves.
This semester has four sections: cultural, backpacking, sea kayaking and either sailing or whitewater canoeing.
During the cultural section of this course you'll meet members of the local Maori community and learn about the Maori world view and tikanga (customs). You'll learn some basic te reo maori language, have the opportunity to paddle a traditional waka-ama (canoe), learn mau rakau skills (traditional martial art), or play some traditional instruments.
On the backpacking section you’ll hike through New Zealand’s ancient forests and along open alpine ridges with views in all directions. Your course may summit a peak or two! You’ll learn off-trail navigation, Leave No Trace camping skills, and how to cook and bake on a camp stove. Your course might even get a re-ration of food via helicopter delivery.
Photo credit: Nick Garrett
During the sea kayak section you’ll travel in the Marlborough Sounds, an area known for its incredible wildlife, like penguins, whales, and dolphins. You’ll learn paddle strokes, rescues, and rolling, and hone your ocean navigation skills. Practice rough water boat handling techniques, and perhaps even a little kayak surfing! At night you’ll camp on secluded beaches bordering dense forests and fall asleep to the sound of small waves lapping the shore.
Photo credit: Vivian Merrill
If your semester has a canoe section you'll paddle the mighty Waiau Toa / Clarence River from high in the mountains all the way to the Pacific Ocean, managing the river as it builds in volume as tributaries add to the flow of the main stem. You'll learn how to expedition travel in open canoes—running, portaging, and lining rapids—and develop technical river skills. Along the way you'll visit and do a service project at Muzzle Station, a remote high country farm, and learn about the way of life the owners experience.
If your semester has a sailing section you'll live aboard a 37-39 foot keel boat. You and your coursemates will learn boat handling skills in Queen Charlotte Sound, including navigating with charts and using communication devices including VHF radios. Sleep aboard while anchored or moored up in secluded bays. Marlborough Sounds is rich with wildlife such as seals, fish, and sea birds. Perhaps you will try your hand at fishing for kawhai or blue cod to eat for dinner. As you sail you'll interact with the the myriad other users of the Marlborough Sounds, including remote farmers, mussel farms, tourist operators, and recreational boaters.
Photo credit: Vivian Merrill
As you gain confidence on the water and in the mountains, identify and hone your personal leadership style. Trying an activity like sea kayaking for the first time might be your opportunity to develop self-awareness and discover a lifelong love of the ocean. Leading your team across challenging mountain terrain might be a pivotal moment in learning effective communication and tolerance for adversity. At the end of your course, head home with deep friendships, lasting memories, and the skills to lead in the wilderness and beyond.
“The semester was life changing to say the least...I learned valuable life skills. I learned how to make important decisions, deal with conflict in a constructive way, give feedback, lead my peers, and many other critical lessons.”