Philosophy Of Travel
Our mission is to inspire the next generation to become global leaders by taking an active interest in the world around them. With a dedication to learning, along with an enduring passion for exploring the world, Smithsonian Student Adventures designs transformative and meaningful travel programs that uncover the authentic culture of each destination and inspire students to take action in their local and global community.
Smithsonian Student Adventures stands for a more open, curious, and compassionate approach to travel. We partner with select schools around the world to provide memorable small-group experiences, and invest in cultivating and maintaining longterm relationships with our partner communities. If you are interested in our organization and philosophy of travel, click here to learn more about us.
SSA partners with locally-operated, three star or equivalent hotels that are clean, safe, centrally located, and provide modern amenities. Below are a few examples of our partner hotels. Although these are our preferred providers, they are subject to change based on availability. Your final itinerary will provide complete information on your accommodations in the cities you will be visiting.
Roar and Snore at Taronga Zoo
Moreton Bay Research Station
Surfers Paradise YHA
Hervey Bay YHA
Lady Elliot Eco Resort
Cape Tribulation Beach Guest House
Catamaran at Sea
On the Wallaby Lodge
Standards of Behavior
SSA provides fun, safe, and meaningful programs for our travelers. In order to achieve this goal, it is important that we create an environment of trust, security and respect. All individuals participating in our programs are required to take responsibility for their actions and adhere to a high standard of behavioral conduct. Any of the following are grounds for early dismissal or in-country consequences at our discretion.
- Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
- Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
- Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety. This includes consistently displaying a negative attitude, intimidating or excluding other participants, sneaking out, disobeying group leaders, and any other behavior that is not conducive to an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.
GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL OR IN-COUNTRY CONSEQUENCE
- Getting a piercing or tattoo
- Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials
- Threatening with or using weapons such as firearms, knives, explosives, etc.
- Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle
- Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew
- Breaking group rules
These standards of behavior are essential for the successful completion of a travel program. Please take the time to review these rules as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them before choosing to travel with SSA.
Tuition & Fundraising
International airfare, baggage fees, airline minor fees, personal shopping, passport or visa fees, and activities not listed on the itinerary.
We believe that cost should not prevent enthusiastic students from having the opportunity to join an SSA program. We are pleased to offer opportunities for fundraising and payment plans to help make this goal a reality. Please visit our Tuition and Funding page to find out more about tuition, fundraising, payment options, referral discounts, and more.
Visit Tuition & Funding
Passport & Visa Check
Passport must be valid for six months after the final day of your travel program, including one open visa page.
No Visa Requirements for US Citizens traveling to Australia/New Zeland.
NON US CITIZENS OR THOSE TRAVELING FROM A COUNTRY OTHER THAN THE USA
Non US citizens should check with their country’s embassy abroad to verify vaccination and visa requirements.
US citizens traveling from a country other than the United States should check the State Department website (www.travel.state.gov) for more information regarding additional visa or vaccine requirements.
Please contact us for further information regarding vaccination and visa requirements.
Health and Safety
We strongly recommend visiting the CDC Australia website to get the most updated information on health and vaccination considerations in your destination country. In addition, we encourage you to consult with your personal family physician so you can be as informed as possible when making important decisions about vaccinations and other necessary health-related preparations before travel.
Our in-country staff prepare meticulously for all programs. SSA will register our programs and travelers with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in case of emergency. In country staff also verify the safety records of our partner organizations, vendors, and transportation providers, thoroughly vet homestay families via in depth interviews and home visits, and keep up on important current events in the region.
Program Leaders are seasoned travelers who are CPR and First Aid certified, undergo thorough training in crisis management, and participate in a multi-day leadership training retreat. We do our best to prepare for any eventuality and have detailed emergency protocols for our leaders, in-country staff and U.S.-based staff.
We receive medical disclosures from all participants to ensure we are able to meet every students’ needs during the program. Please inform us immediately of any additional health issues that you did not list during your initial registration process. Program Leaders will also hold an online information session before your departure, as well as an arrival orientation in-country, in order to give participants important instructions on food safety, hygiene and preventing injury and illness. Leaders and in-country staff always respond immediately to any mental, physical or emotional health issues and follow comprehensive emergency protocols.
Vaccination information and requirements can change frequently. Because of this, and for more information, we suggest that you consult your local travel clinic and/or family physician for specific details.
Our experience has taught us that international travel can sometimes be unpredictable. As such, SSA will purchase basic secondary travel and medical insurance for all SSA travelers via Travel Insured International. This service provides the following coverage at no additional cost to our participants:
$500 Return Airfare for Trip Interruption
$750 ($150 per day) Trip Delay of six hours or more
$500 (Three or more hours) Missed Connection
$1500 ($250 per article) Baggage/Personal Effects
$300 Baggage Delay – 24 hours
$25,000 Accident & Sickness Medical Expense
$100,000 Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation
Emergency Assistance Non-insurance Worldwide Emergency Assistance Services Included
Once you have been accepted onto your program, SSA will be in touch regarding this insurance and other additional options (see below).
ADDITIONAL OPTIONAL COVERAGES
The following additional optional coverage upgrades are available upon request for an additional premium charge to the traveler. For further information on the premiums associated with these optional coverage enhancements, please email your inquiry to our travel insurance program administrator, Hayashi Insurance Solutions: email@example.com
– Trip Cancellation Coverage – Reimburses the traveler up to the trip cost insured up to a maximum of $10,000 per person if the trip must be cancelled for unforeseeable life events including but not limited to; medical/health reasons, bereavement, etc.
– Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) – Reimburses the traveler for 75% of the non-refundable trip cost. Cancellation must be made 48 hours or more prior to scheduled departure. Must be purchased at the same time as initial plan purchase and prior to final trip payment. *This benefit is not available to residents of New York State.
The Plan is administered by Hayashi Insurance Solutions (CA DOI 0F61680) a licensed Insurance Agency authorized to transact this insurance under the express authority of Travel Insured International, Inc. and its representatives, and on behalf of Walking Tree Travel, Inc. The Plan contains insurance benefits underwritten by the United States Fire Insurance Company. Fairmont Specialty and Crum & Forster are registered trademarks of United States Fire Insurance Company. The Crum & Forster group of companies is rated A (Excellent) by AM Best Company 2015. The Plan also contains non insurance Travel Assistance Services that are provided by an independent organization, OnCall International, and not by United States Fire Insurance Company or Travel Insured International. Review the Plan Document for complete terms, including benefits, conditions, limitations and exclusions that apply. Coverages may vary and not all coverage is available in all jurisdictions.
Global Leadership Curriculum
Walking Tree Travel has developed a curriculum that helps SSA travelers mature as global leaders before, during, and after their travel program. These simple, engaging tools are meant to spark discussion, frame their experience, and prepare them to travel ethically and effectively both on our programs and in the future. For more information about student learning objectives and the format of the Walking Tree Travel Global Leadership Curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.
Want to learn a new language and be better prepared for your travel program? Duolingo is the easiest, most entertaining way to start learning and using a new language right away! The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to communicate with locals in your host country and help your fellow travelers navigate a foreign environment.
Tap the Duolingo owl to get started, or download the app to your mobile phone.
Group Flight Information
In an effort to make the flight booking process as smooth as possible, we have partnered with STA Travel. This partnership provides our participants with discounted fares through STA’s contracts with the top airlines to help our travelers get the best possible rates. To learn more about STA as an organization, please check out their website at www.statravel.com.
STA Travel will help our families and travelers book their round trip travel between their home city and our host countries. We are excited to offer this premium service to our participants so that we can focus on what we do best – providing meaningful adventures around the world.
Open Enrollment participants are responsible for booking and paying for their own international flights. You have two options for making your flight arrangements:
1. (Preferred) Book a seat on the chaperoned international group flight.
Each Open Enrollment program has a suggested, chaperoned, group flight that will depart from a designated departure city in the United States and arrive to the destination country. Participants on these flights will have the support of our on-scene Airport Liaison as well as an accompanying Program Leader, on-flight. The Airport Liaison will help gather, coordinate and direct the arrival and departure of our participants in the airport and the Program Leader will accompany the group to and from the host country while on the flight. The vast majority of our travelers choose this option.
2. Book your own flight to the host country.
For this option we require travelers to arrive at the same time, or earlier (no more than 3 hours), than the suggested group flight’s planned arrival. We ask participants not to arrive later than the suggested group flight’s time of arrival. If travelers arrive on their own prior to the rest of the group we will arrange to have the second Program Leader or the Country Director meet them as they land in the host country.
With either option, we strongly encourage you to book your flights through STA, but it is not required.
Please wait to make any flight arrangements until we have sent you our chaperoned group flight information by email, which we will post by April 1, 2018 with instructions on how to proceed.
A NOTE ON FLIGHTS
Air travel is unpredictable. Although we can ensure that our groups arrive to the airport with ample time and follow all airline instructions, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to weather, mechanical problems, labor strikes, etc. Please note that in such an event SSA is not financially responsible for unexpected costs incurred by travelers. Our programs officially begin and end in our host countries. Notwithstanding, our travelers’ well-being and safety is always our number one priority in all facets of our operations and programming, so please know that in case flight delays or cancellations occur we will do everything we can to get travelers home in a timely manner and will keep family members updated on developments as we are able.
Important note: Please make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the final day in country.
SSA is not responsible for fees associated with checked baggage or for lost or stolen luggage. We strongly encourage all travelers to pack a carry-on bag if possible, or to at least put all valuables and a change of clothes or two in a carry-on along with all important medications and basic toiletries such as a toothbrush, deodorant, glasses, contacts etc.
Please confirm with your air travel provider as some airlines may require that travelers under a certain age have completed an unaccompanied minor parental consent form. Please consult the airline website to confirm whether this is required on your flight.
SSA will send a minimum of one experienced Program Leader on every program. In addition to this Program Leader, we also have a support staff in our host countries and 24/7 support from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado that are available to the group for additional help when necessary. Below you’ll find a list of the Smithsonian Student Adventures staff involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program.
The University of Sydney- BSc. (Hons), PhD. Marine Biology
William’s love of Nature began in Malaysia where he was born, and nurtured in Australia where he grew up from the age of 13. Since graduating from Sydney University, he has worked as a national park officer, research station officer, marine biologist, geneticist, microbiologist and an educator. William has published research papers on corals, sponges, seagrass, algae, fishes, sea-slugs, clams and the effects of climate change on coral reefs. He has a passion for being a hands-on, knee-deep in mud teacher and has led field programs in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji for students from Australia, the USA, Germany and Japan. He has traveled extensively in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Japan, the USA, South East Asia, southern Africa and other parts of the world. In his spare time, William can be found stalking marine and terrestrial wildlife for his hobby of Nature photography. Because of his upbringing in two countries, William speaks three languages (English, Malay/Indonesian and Cantonese Chinese).
Please have all travelers check below to ensure their name is spelled exactly how it appears on your passport. For edits, email lacey@SmithsonianSA.com.
- James Andrade
- Eileen Ablin
- Halle Young
Community & Project Details
Darling Harbor Whale Cruise
We will embark on a whale-watching cruise that begins as a cruise in the harbor and exits into the open ocean where migrating humpback whales can be seen. These animals migrate from Antarctic waters during the southern winter to the coastal waters off Queensland. Many of these wanderers stop to rest, and exhibit spectacular displays (fin and tail slapping, breaching, spy-hoping and others) associated with aggression, play and mating. On board we will learn about the successful conservation of this whale species after decades of hunting drove them to near extinction in Australian waters and beyond. This is an opportunity to climb to the top of Australia’s most famous “Coathanger” for some very remarkable views of the city and its surroundings. You will learn about the history of the how the bridge was built and the impact that it has had to the people of Sydney.
North Stradbroke Island
North Stradbroke Island (NSI) is unique, made from sand dunes deposited by wind and tides over geological times and alternating higher and lower sea levels. The island has forests, spring-fed freshwater lakes, rocky shores, mangroves, tidal mudflats, tidal seagrass beds, sheltered bay beaches and surf beaches. NSI is also the traditional land for the Quandamooka Aboriginal people who have inhabited the region for thousands of years.
We will have a session with Matt Burns, a member of the Island’s Aboriginal community, who will take us on the Goompi Trail where traditional customs, tools, foods, culture, fire-lighting and weapons of his people will be shown to you in an indoor and outdoor setting. You will have an opportunity to throw a boomerang and hope that it returns. Later, Matt will show you how to paint a boomerang you can keep, with traditional symbols and motifs.
North Stradbroke Island has a genetically isolated population of koalas. These cute wild koalas all over Eastern Australia are being threatened by habitat degradation, through urban development, mining and logging. In urbanized locations, they are further threatened by cars and domestic dogs. How much can a koala bear? The local government for NSI, the Redland Shire, conducts koala surveys to establish population numbers throughout its shire, so that they may better manage the conservation of the animal and its habitat. Koala watch uses volunteers to spot and record the number and location of koalas, and our job will be to do so.
Seagrass habitats are very important as nurseries and shelter for many fish and crustaceans. The meadows are also important as food sources for the Dugong, which is an endangered marine mammal found in Indo-Pacific coastal waters. We will be volunteers for an organization known as Seagrass watch. Our role will be to locate seagrass meadows, identify species and to make transect surveys to calculate coverage of the identified species. The information we collect will be passed onto the scientists of collaborating institutions that are researching the management and conservation of seagrass meadows. Seagrass watch is conducted in coastal waters of over 26 countries in the world. It started in Australia in 1998 and its aim is to provide a scientific database of the world’s seagrass meadows so that the successful management and protection of these very important habitats and ecosystems can be achieved.
Although Platypus are not endangered and quite common, they are hard to spot. They are most active at dawn and dusk. Despite their good conservation status, they need clean freshwater rivers and streams, and the future of many of these waterways is under threat due to urbanization and development. We lack knowledge on location population numbers, and that information would help manage and conserve the species in areas such as the Gold Coast hinterland.
Whale Watching at Hervey Bay
Hervey Bay boasts some of the best encounters with Humpback whales during July to October. These animals migrate from Antarctic waters during the southern winter to the coastal waters off Queensland. In Hervey Bay, many of these wanderers stop to rest, and exhibit spectacular displays (fin and tail slapping, breaching, spy-hoping and others) associated with aggression, play and mating. On board we will learn about the successful conservation of this whale species after decades of hunting drove them to near extinction in Australian waters and beyond. Humpbacks are often as curious of us as we are of them, and often make close approaches to the boats. If conditions are right, students may be able to enter the water to observe the whales from below the surface.
ReefSearch at Lady Elliot Island
Lady Elliot Island is a coral cay, meaning that its origins were from the washed up skeletons of millions of corals over thousands of years. The development of soil and vegetation on the island is testament to the incredible story of how plants and animals got to establish on the island. The surrounding reef is home to many diverse fish, turtle and invertebrate species including corals and sponges that form the framework of the reefs.
The island also has a large population of manta rays and if you may be able to swim with these majestic animals. At low tide, your volunteer activity will be to survey the reef for ReefSearch. This activity can be carried out on snorkel or at low tide and involves the survey of coral species, their density and their health. The data collected is used by coral reef researchers for their ongoing monitoring of the health of the Great Barrier Reef. This is vitally important information given the fact that the reef is under threat from the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.
Communication & Blog
The easiest way for students to keep in touch with family and friends at home while traveling will be using Wifi (available at most hotels and some restaurants) via Viber, Whatsapp, Skype, and Wechat for free.
SSA tries to keep families and friends updated as frequently as possible with text and photo blogs. If parents would like updates regarding the group beyond these blog posts and email updates, they should direct all general inquiries to info@SmithsonianSA.com. We are always checking this email inbox and will respond promptly to inquiries. You can also reach us by dialing 303-242-8541 from the U.S.
Here is the link to your blog: -Coming Soon-
What follows is a sample packing list, which will be updated for each program. We recommend you bring a larger piece of luggage like a roller, duffel bag, or backpack, as well as a smaller backpack that you can bring on hikes, weekend excursions and shorter activities.
Most importantly, be sure to remember your PASSPORT and STUDENT ID.
Australia Packing List
6 pairs of underwear
6 pairs of socks (a mixture of good hiking socks and casual socks)
4 t-shirts (some quick dry)
2 long sleeve shirts
1 warmer jacket
1 rain jacket
2-3 pairs of travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light
2 pairs of comfortable/hiking/everyday pants (NOT all jeans)
1 nice shirt/top to be worn to more formal dinners (girls might want a skirt or something a little nicer for such occasions)
1 pair of durable athletic/hiking shoes
1 pair of sandals (optional)
1 pair of work gloves
TOILETRIES: BRING THE BASIC TOILETRIES YOU NEED PLUS:
Sunscreen (you will use a lot)
Band Aids and Neosporin
Medication in properly marked original container
Journal and pen
Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
Alarm Clock and watch
Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $50-$150, depending on amount of desired souvenirs, extra items etc.)
Durable water bottle
1 quick-dry towel
Deck of cards or other portable games