Limited Space Available.

Australia 20 Day Whales and Wildlife Expedition

Australia 20 Day Whales and Wildlife Expedition

Australia 20 Day Whales and Wildlife Expedition

Dates: TBD  |  Tuition: Request A Quote Tuition Details

Group Organizer/s: 

Your contact info here.

SSA Contact: 

Morrison Mast, morrison@SmithsonianSA.com

Deadlines: TBD

Request a Quote

SAMPLE PROGRAM PAGE: This is an example of what your private program webpage and itinerary might look like, should you decide to organize a program with us. Please begin by reviewing the suggested itinerary listed under the Pre-Enrollment tab, and then feel free to read through other sections to get a sense of the in-depth information and support we provide for all programs.

Program Highlights

View Full Itinerary

Smithsonian Student Adventures was created through a collaboration of the Smithsonian Institution and Walking Tree Travel. Although this video is branded as Walking Tree Travel, it encapsulates the mission and spirit that is present in all SSA programming.

Important Program Details

Click on the sections above to learn more

Sample Itinerary

1USA - SydneyToday we’ll depart the US and fly across the Pacific to the city of Sydney, Australia.International flight
2USA - SydneyThis day is lost in transit as you cross the International Date Line. Don’t worry; you’ll get it back on the way back!International flight
3SydneyWe’ll land and meet our driver, who will take us into the city for our first day in Australia! We will check into our hotel, have an introduction to Australian history and culture, have lunch, and proceed with a guided walk in the city, including a visit to the Sydney Opera House and the famous Harbour Bridge. We will have a welcome dinner and get rested up after our long flight over.Sydney YHA
4SydneyWake up early, we are having breakfast with Koalas! Today we will introduce you to Australia’s unique fauna at Wildlife Sydney. You'll see kangaroos, wallabies, quokkas, koalas, crocodiles, Tasmanian devils, cassowaries and many other unique Australian mammals, birds and reptiles. Breakfast will be at the zoo amongst the koalas. We will have an opportunity to explore Darling Harbour and have lunch before going out on a boat to see migrating humpback whales. In the late afternoon we will participate in the Sydney Harbour Bridge Wall to get a panorama of the city and its surroundings Sydney YHA
5SydneyToday we will take a walking tour of downtown Sydney, visiting the Hyde Park Barracks to learn about how Sydney began as a penal colony with convicts from Britain. We then visit the Australian Museum and the War Memorial. After lunch, students will have the opportunity to shop for souvenirs before walking to a nearby ferry to sail for Taronga Zoo, arriving at 6pm. We will be spending a special night in one of Australia’s best zoos. After settling in and having dinner we will enjoy a night encounter with animals from Australia and the world. Learn about the conservation efforts of the zoo. Roar and Snore at Taronga Zoo
6Sydney/CairnsIn the morning after breakfast, we will engage in behind the scenes tours followed by close encounters with a variety of Australian animals. We will explore the zoo on our own till lunch. After lunch we board a coach and head to Sydney airport for a flight to Cairns.Youth Hostel at Cairns
7CairnsToday we will introduce you to Australia’s Aboriginal culture with the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience at the Rainforestation Park, where we'll see dances that depict native animals, and activities such as food gathering and hunting. We'll partake in some of these activities, as well as get the chance to see the tree kangaroo. In the afternoon, we will experience the wet tropical rainforest aboard an amphibious WWII army Duck vehicle for both a drive and a cruise.
Youth Hostel at Cairns
8Daintree and Cape TribulationWe'll have an early morning drive to a ferry over the Daintree River to get to Cape Tribulation. On the way we will visit the Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat and spend time at Cooya Beach being shown how to spear fish and hunt crabs the traditional Aboriginal way. We will cook the catch up for lunch. Travelling further, we will visit the Alexandra Lookout to view the Daintree Forest and the coastal reefs that are part of the Great Barrier Reef; discussing the links between reef and rainforest. We will then visit the Daintree Discovery Centre for a closer look at the forest canopy and floor through the tower and the aerial walkway, boardwalk and interpretive displays. Learn about the many of species of plants and animals that inhabit the tropical north of Australia, many being endemic to Australasia. After dinner, we will embark on a night tour of the forest to look for creatures that come out at night.
Cape Tribulation Beach Guest House
9Daintree and Cape TribulationThis morning we will visit the Daintree Rainforest Observatory of James Cook University. At this site we will see how researchers are studying the effects of climate change on the rainforest. We will take a ride in the crane that will lift us to the canopy height of the forest. After lunch we will go for a snorkel with Ocean Safari. A boat will take us to the 2 snorkel sites that are close to mainland, Mackay Reef and Undine Reef. We'll see and learn about coral reefs and how they support a huge diversity of marine life including sea turtles, fishes, giant clams and may other invertebrates.Cape Tribulation Beach Guest house
10Daintree and Cape TribulationThis morning we leave Cape Tribulation and head south towards Cairns. On the way we will stop to go on a cruise on the Daintree River to look for saltwater crocodiles. We then head for the Mossman Gorge Cultural Centre to learn more about the traditional Aboriginal people of that region by taking the "Dreamtime Walk". An indigenous guide will welcome us with a traditional ceremony, tell stories, visit a sacred ceremony site, demonstrate ochre painting and provide a snack of tea and damper. Youth Hostel at Cairns
11CairnsToday we will be volunteering on a critically important conservation project that impacts unique local ecosystems next to Cairns. We will partner with the Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Wet Tropics management Authority to survey, detect and eradicate colonies of invasive ants from the suburban areas bordering the wet forests.Youth Hostel at Cairns
12Atherton TablelandsToday we travel to the Atherton Tablelands which are the highlands inland of Cairns. We will see the Cathedral Fig Tree and take a rainforest walk at Lake Barrine National Park before lunch and a swim at Lake Eacham. We will visit several waterfalls and have a swim at the falls at Millaa Millaa, and visit a crater in Mt Hypipamee National Park. We end the day with Platypus spotting followed by a BBQ dinner at the lodge.On the Wallaby Lodge
13Atherton TablelandsWe start with a guided mountain bike ride (downhill) in the Herberton Range National Park. After lunch we will go for some canoeing at Lake Tinaroo. We will then go spotting for wildlife such as the Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo, birds and water dragons. Return to the lodge for dinner.On the Wallaby Lodge
14AthertonWe start our conservation volunteering for habitat rehabilitation of the Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo. This species of tree kangaroo is one of two species found in Australia. Our role will be weeding and planting native rainforest species to create safe corridors for the tree kangaroos to navigate from one forest to another.On the Wallaby Lodge
15CairnsToday, we'll continue to work on tree kangaroo habitat restoration in the wet tropical rainforests of northern Queensland.On the Wallaby Lodge
16Minke Whale CruiseToday, we will embark on aircraft for Lizard Island which is located 40 minutes' flight north of Cairns. We'll have a bird's eye view of many fringing coral reefs that form part of the Great Barrier Reef. After landing we will be ferried to the catamaran which we will be sailing in for the next three nights. That afternoon will begin our snorkeling adventures and meet the Dwarf Minke whales for the first time. After dinner, you will be briefed by the researcher on board on how to survey the minke whales. You may be asked to take specific photographs for identifying individuals or recording particular behaviors. All data you collect will be passed to conservation researchers and used to understand the behavior and ecology of these whales, their migration patterns and to manage whale tourism.
Catamaran at Sea
17Minke Whale CruiseContinuation of snorkeling and Minke whale data collection. Catamaran at Sea
18Minke Whale CruiseContinuation of snorkeling and Minke whale data collection. Catamaran at Sea
19Cairns After the boat docks at Cairns Harbour we will have a free day in Cairns to explore this historic, seaside city and do some end-of-trip shopping before our departure. We'll have a farewell dinner and ceremony before getting some rest for our long journey home tomorrow. Youth Hostel at Cairns
20Cairns - USAEarly morning flight back to the USA- get your lost day back!

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.


In order to provide a safe and memorable experience for our participants, teachers, and staff ; Program Leaders and Country Directors follow strict guidelines when deciding on lodging, working with partner vendors,  making reservations, and assigning program participants to rooms.

Student participants will always be grouped in rooms and/or sleeping areas by gender, and will never share rooms with people who are not associated with SmithsonianSA. Group Organizers and Program Leaders will be roomed separately from each other and from student participants. SSA partners with locally-operated, three star or equivalent hotels that are centrally located, clean, safe and wifi-enabled.

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.

Sydney YHA

Roar and Snore at Taronga Zoo

Moreton Bay Research Station

Surfers Paradise YHA

Hervey Bay YHA

Lady Elliot Eco Resort

Cairns YHA

Brisbane YHA

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.


  1. Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
  2. Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
  3. 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.


  1. Getting a piercing or tattoo
  2. Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials
  3. Threatening with or using weapons such as firearms, knives, explosives, etc.
  4. Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle
  5. Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew
  6. 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

Program Tuition Includes

more tuition information

Program Tuition Excludes: Baggages fees, airline minor fees, personal shopping, passport or visa fees, and activities not listed in the itinerary.*

*NOTE: If you are traveling on a program that is completed before September 1, 2018 your basic travel insurance is included. If you are traveling on a program that departs after September 1, 2018 you must purchase travel insurance if you want to have any supplemental coverage beyond what your family’s package may provide. This change is due to new federal regulations.

Estimated Airfare*

International Airfare: In order to give our travelers the best possible price, we break out airfare from the Program Tuition. We will still handle all booking and ticketing via our flight partner who has access to special fares not available to the general public. We will provide full transparency in cost so that families pay what the flight costs and nothing more. You will be invoiced for the flight once we are able to secure the group’s airline contract.

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 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.


Travel Insurance

If you are traveling on a program which departs before September 1, 2018 the following travel insurance is included in your tuition:


$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

If you are traveling on a program that departs after September 1, 2018 you must purchase travel insurance if you want to have coverage beyond what your family’s package may already provide. This change is due to new federal regulations.

While we work hard to ensure the safest experience possible for our travelers while on program, experience has taught us that travel is never without risk. For this reason, we strongly encourage families to purchase travel insurance which would cover you in the event your student needs to withdrawal before travel due to a covered reason, loses baggage in route or encounters an emergency while traveling, among other unforeseen circumstances. Please see a summary of a recommended plan below and follow the link for a more detailed explanation or to purchase the plan for your traveler.

Classic with Trip Plus*
Trip Cancellation Up to 100% of Trip Cost
Reimburses your prepaid, non-refundable expenses if you must cancel your trip due to a covered reason.
Maximum coverage: $100,000.

Trip Interruption Up to 150% of Trip Cost
Reimburses for the unused, non-refundable portion of your trip and for the increased transportation costs it takes for you to return home or to continue your trip due to a covered reason. Maximum coverage: $150,000.

Missed Connection $1,600
Reimburses for covered expenses resulting from a covered delay that causes you to miss your scheduled flight or cruise.

Travel Delay $1,600
Receive up to $200 per day per person to cover additional accommodation/travel expenses and lost prepaid expenses due to a departure delay of six or more hours.

Medical Protection: 
Emergency Medical and Dental $50,000
-This primary coverage provides reimbursement for expenses incurred during your trip due to covered medical and dental emergencies. No deductible.
-$750 maximum for emergency dental care.

Baggage Protection
Baggage Loss/Damage $2,000
Covers loss, damage or theft of baggage and personal effects.

Baggage Delay $600
Covers the reasonable additional purchase of essential items during your trip if your baggage is delayed or misdirected by a common carrier for 24 hours or more. Receipts for emergency purchases are required.

Assistance Services
Emergency Medical Transportation $1,000,000
Provides medically necessary transportation to the nearest appropriate facility following a covered injury or illness. Also covers the cost of your transportation back home following a covered injury or illness.

24-Hour Hotline Help Included
Help is just a phone call away with Allianz Global Assistance. Our staff of multilingual problem solvers is available to help you with any medical, legal or travel-related emergency.

*Terms, conditions, and exclusions apply. Insurance benefits underwritten by BCS Insurance Company (OH, Administrative Office: Oakbrook Terrace, IL), rated “A­” (Excellent) by A.M. Best Co., under BCS Form No. 52.201 series or 52.401 series, or Jefferson Insurance Company (NY, Administrative Office: Richmond, VA), rated “A+” (Superior) by A.M. Best Co., under Jefferson Form No. 101­C series or 101­P series, depending on your state of residence. Plan(s) may not be available in all jurisdictions. Allianz Global Assistance and Allianz Travel Insurance are marks of AGA Service Company or its affiliates. AGA Service Company is the licensed producer and administrator of this plan and an affiliate of Jefferson Insurance Company. The insured shall not receive any special benefit or advantage due to the affiliation between AGA Service Company and Jefferson InsuranceCompany. Non­Insurance benefits/products are provided and serviced by AGA Service Company. Consumer may be responsible for charges incurred from outside vendors for assistance or concierge services. Contact AGA Service Company at 800­284­8300 or 9950 Mayland Drive, Richmond, VA 23233 or customerservice@allianzassistance.com.

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 the experience, and prepare participants to travel ethically and effectively both on our programs and in the future.

For more information about student learning objectives and format of the curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.

Learn More About the GLC

To view and complete the Pre-Program Activities, visit Walking Tree’s online portal at the button below.

Pre-Program Activity Portal

Language Resources


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.

duolingo owl logo

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.




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.

Leader Profile

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!

Group Roster

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


Minkie Whale Monitoring Surveys and Snorkeling

Relatively little is known about these whales and it is assumed that they migrate every winter from Antarctic waters to locations such as the northern Great Barrier Reef. These whales seem curious of stationary ships and will readily approach snorkelers repeatedly. You will have ample opportunity to look into the eyes of these beautiful whales as they calmly cruise below or to your side. You will be briefed by the researcher on board on how to survey the minkie whales. You may be asked to take specific photographs for identifying individuals or recording particular behaviors. All data you collect will be passed to conservation researchers and used to understand the behavior and ecology of these whales, their migration patterns and to manage whale tourism.

Darling Harbour Whale Cruise

We will embark on a whale-watching cruise that begins as a cruise in the harbour 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.

Rainforestation Park

There will also be the Dreamtime walk where you can try to make a boomerang come back, hit a target with a spear and play a didgeridoo. You will also have the opportunity to paint a canvas with traditional patterns and motifs, under the guidance of an artist. You will again get a chance to meet Australia’s unique fauna at the same Park. See many unique Australian mammals, birds and reptiles found in tropical Australia, including the tree kangaroo.

Daintree Discovery Centre

There is a strong chance you will be able to see wild Cassowaries in the center. These are large and flightless birds increasingly threatened by the loss of habitat in Australia. Learn about conservation issues for this and other species such as the tree kangaroo- yes- a kangaroo that hops about in the treetops!

Tramp Ant Program

The Tramp Ant program takes place in the Wet Tropics World Heritage area next to the suburbs of Cairns. In recent times, an Argentinean ant species, the Yellow Crazy Ants, were accidently introduced to the Cairns and the surrounding wet tropical forests, probably by hitching a ride on international cargo. Many colonies have been detected and there is immense concern that these ants could negatively impact local biodiversity. If left unchecked, these ants could spread further into the Wet Tropics. We will partner with the Parks and Wildlife authority and the Wet Tropics management Authority to survey, detect and eradicate colonies of these ants from the suburban areas bordering the wet forests.

Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo Habitat Rehabilitation

This species of tree kangaroo is one of two species found in Australia. Their natural habitat is in the wet tropical rainforests of northern Queensland, especially in the Atherton Tablelands. The tree kangaroos in Australia have a conservation status of Vulnerable due to large-scale loss of rainforest habitat. In addition, the fragmentation of existing habitat forces these tree roots to travel over open ground when moving from one forest to another. This activity places the tree kangaroo at risk of being hit by a car and attacked by domestic dogs. Our role will be weeding and planting native rainforest species to create safe corridors for the tree kangaroos to navigate from one forest to another.

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 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. 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!

Packing List

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 sweater
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
1 hat


Sunscreen (you will use a lot)
Mosquito repellent
Band Aids and Neosporin
Hand Sanitizer
Medication in properly marked original container


Journal and pen
Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
Power Converter
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

Tuition Details

Smith CT Icons Square Price excludes:

 Baggage fees, airline minor fees, personal shopping, passport or visa fees, and activities not listed on the itinerary.

No Favorites Has Been Added!