Group Flight Information
Program participants will meet the group organizer at the below airline check-in counter three hours before the departure flight. If you have trouble locating the group, please notify your group organizer or contact SSA.
DEPARTURE FROM USA
RETURN TO USA
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. That being said, our travelers’ well-being and safety is our number one priority, so please know that should flight delays/cancellations occur we will do everything we can to get travelers home in a timely manner and will do our best to keep family members updated on developments.
SSA is not responsible for fees associated with checked baggage. Please also make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the final day in country.
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 if 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 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. Meet your support team!
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.
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
Travelers will be able to keep in touch with family and friends at home by using Wifi (when available at hotels and restaurants) via Whatsapp, Skype, and Wechat for free.
During the program we keep families and friends updated on the group’s adventures as frequently as possible with text and photo blogs. If parents would like updates regarding the group beyond these blog posts and email updates, please direct all general inquiries to email@example.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. In case of an emergency, please dial 303-997-0310.
The group’s blog link is – coming soon –
Photos which appear in the blog will become available after the program ends. We will send out a link to the photo gallery, where you will have access to view and download as many of the photos as you like!
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