Australia, New Zealand, & Fiji | Cultural Exploration

Adventure in the South Pacific

Immerse yourself in the culture and adventure of the South Pacific on this summer program for high school students to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. Experience the rugged Australian outback and spectacular coral reefs, the alpine winter landscapes of New Zealand, and the island paradise of Fiji. Go beyond the typical tourist itinerary and experience these unique places and cultures in engaging and exciting ways.

  • June 26, 2017  –  July 27, 2017
  • July 6, 2017  –  August 6, 2017
Completing grades 9 – 12
US Gateway City:
Los Angeles
Cultural Exploration
32 days
Typical Group:
16 – 18 students, 2 leaders
$ 9,790 + airfare
  • Spot red kangaroos and thorny devils in the remote Australian outback
  • Ski the light powder snow of New Zealand’s Southern Alps
  • Observe sea turtles up close as you scuba or snorkel the Great Barrier Reef
  • Participate in a traditional Fijian kava ceremony with our local hosts

Leader Profile: SEAN O’CONNOR

Education: University of California, Santa Barbara, B.S., Geography; Georgetown University, M.A., Communication, Culture & Technology

While at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Sean studied the physical world through the lens of geography, which took him to the mountains of… read more

While at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Sean studied the physical world through the lens of geography, which took him to the mountains of South Africa, the desert ecosystems of the American Southwest, and beyond. After graduating, Sean moved to Washington, D.C., to work for the National Geographic Society where he conducted research for the magazine, designed maps, and created interactive mapping technologies for use in classrooms. Sean also founded and helps direct a nonprofit organization called FUEL Youth, which builds schools in Liberia. Sean now works as a certified life and leadership coach, supporting people and businesses to create outstanding results in their lives and organizations. He hosts a radio show and podcast called Joy Riders that explores all the ways that joy is created in the world. Sean has led a National Geographic Student Expeditions program in Fiji as well as the Putney Student Travel Cultural Exploration program in Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji.   


Departure • Travel Day • Join the group to begin your adventure Down Under. Meet your fellow high school student travelers and one or more of your leaders in Los Angeles, and fly together to Sydney. One day is lost while crossing the International Date Line. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Australian Outback • 5 days • Fly to the town of Alice Springs, Australia and begin your adventure across the Outback towards Uluru, the largest monolith on earth. Camp out in “the bush” and sleep under the stars. Listen to Dreamtime stories told by Aboriginal guides, catch a sunrise over this otherworldly landscape, and learn about the cultures that have lived here for over 40,000 years.

Sydney • 3 days •. Experience life in lively Sydney. Take in a rugby match, explore the city by bike, visit the world famous Taronga Zoo, and have a picnic lunch down on “The Rocks.” Visit the Sydney Opera House, go surfing, and enjoy cafes and galleries as you explore the streets and “laneways” of this thriving, cosmopolitan city.

Sail the Whitsunday Islands • 5 days • Fly to Airlie Beach and board a yacht for a multi-day sailing trip through the spectacular Whitsunday Islands. Snorkel or SCUBA dive on the Great Barrier Reef, sleep on deck under the brilliant Southern Hemisphere stars, and relax on white-sand beaches. Lend the crew a hand as you learn the basics of sailing. Spot whales, dugongs, and dolphins from the ship as you make your way among the islands.

Christchurch and the Maori Experience • 3 days • Bid goodbye to Australia and fly across the Tasman Sea to the gothic city of Christchurch, New Zealand on the ruggedly beautiful South Island. Explore this medieval city and spend two days in a Maori village learning the ancient traditions of New Zealand’s oldest surviving culture. Dance the haka, the fierce Maori war dance, discover how local artists represent Maori mythology in their art, and participate in a traditional Maori hangi ceremony.

New Zealand Homestay • 5 days • Join Kiwi host families for a five-day homestay. Learn how to shear a sheep, watch a rugby match with homestay brothers and sisters, help make a traditional New Zealand meal, or take a “tramp” with your Kiwi family. Both leaders stay in town during the homestay, and the group gets together for excursions throughout the week.

Skiing in New Zealand • 4 days • Visit a selection of New Zealand’s most famous “ski-fields” where adventurers of all abilities ski or board in snow-filled basins above the timberline. Lessons are available for beginners. Explore the Alpine town of Wanaka and break into cooking teams to prepare group dinners while residing in a rustic ski lodge.

Fiji • 5 days • Wrap up your adventure at a beachfront eco-lodge in Fiji, a tropical paradise in the South Pacific. Visit an elementary school in a nearby village, spend an afternoon learning about Fijian culture, and participate in traditional Fijian ceremonies. With its white-sand beaches and opportunities to snorkel, SCUBA dive, canoe, surf, horseback ride, and play volleyball, the lodge is an ideal place to relax with new friends before your journey home.

Return • Travel Day • Fly from Nadi, Fiji to Los Angeles with your group and a leader, then continue on to your final destination. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.


Due to the traveling nature of this student program abroad, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day in the Whitsunday Islands.

7 AM • Wake up and enjoy breakfast on the deck of your sailboat
8 AM • Join the crew as you help sail across the Coral Sea
10 AM • Port on a nearby island and hike to a cave containing ancient Aboriginal art
12 PM Make your own sandwich from a spread on board your sailboat for lunch
1 PM • Throw on your wetsuit and explore the Great Barrier Reef while snorkeling or SCUBA diving
4 PM • Beach time
6 PM • Eat dinner on the deck of your sailboat and enjoy the sunset
8 PM • Group meeting to discuss the day and plans for tomorrow
10 PM • Gaze at the stars with friends before heading to bed in the berth of your sailboat

Galen’s homestay was a blast! He loved every minute. He said his host family was warm and welcoming and very, very fun.

— Andrea & James Hogan, Johnsburg, NY

What to Expect

Independent Project • During your travels, pursue an independent project and explore an aspect of local culture of particular interest to you— learn about the impacts of coral bleaching as you explore the Great Barrier Reef, master the rules and culture of Rugby in the South Pacific, or create a recipe book with authentic Fijian recipes.

Physical Activity • This is a physically active summer program and you should be enthusiastic about outdoor exploration and varied daily activities. Experience in skiing is not required, and beginners can take lessons, as a range of terrain is available. If you are SCUBA certified, you will have an opportunity to take multiple dives in Australia and Fiji. During your homestay and throughout the program you must be willing to contribute to daily chores that are a part of living cooperatively.

Accommodations • Accommodations range from small family-run inns to campsites in the Australian outback, and berths on a sailing yacht to refuges high in snow country. Rooms are separated by gender. Students have access to common and outside space at our accommodations for community meetings, working on projects, socializing, etc. Leaders reside together with students throughout the program.

Meals • We experience many different types of cuisines throughout our adventure that are culturally specific. We form cooking and cleaning crews for the skiing and outback portions of the itinerary, and eat most other meals at restaurants, as picnic lunches, or in the homes of our Kiwi, Aussie, and Fijian friends.

Our goal for the this trip was for Fiona to visit and experience different parts of the world and their cultures. We could not be happier with Putney, its programs, and its leaders

— Ron & Ann Brock, Indianapolis, IN


Ask Us

Call Heather at 802.387.5000 or email

The Cultural Exploration Australia, New Zealand, & Fiji summer program is directed by Heather Weas. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school student travel summer programs, please get in touch!

Heather Weas

Montana State University, B.A., Global Multicultural Studies and Francophone Studies

While at Montana State University, Heather studied abroad in Morocco and France and worked in the study abroad office as an advisor to outgoing exchange students. Before she came to work for Putney, Heather lived and worked in China and the U.S. leading outdoor education programs. Heather has led Putney’s Cultural Exploration Australia, New Zealand, & Fiji program, as well as a custom program to Morocco. She organizes programs in China, Morocco, Australia, and Europe. Heather enjoys rock climbing, running, long backpacks in the woods, and spending as much time outdoors as possible.