Trip Highlights

Trip Highlights

  • Set out with marine biologists for a two-day snorkeling trip on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Meet Aboriginal people in the outback to learn about their culture, and camp out in the desert under the stars.
  • Survey the canopy of the Daintree Rainforest from a jungle research station, and soar through the treetops on a zip-line tour.
  • Visit Sydney’s world-famous Taronga Zoo and practice wildlife photography on koalas, kangaroos, and other unique Australian species.
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living organism on Earth. It’s a remarkable place to explore, both for biodiversity and for the study of the impacts of climate change.
Jason Edwards, National Geographic Expert



Set apart from other landmasses for millennia, Australia’s isolation has allowed unique ecosystems and cultures to thrive. Explore rainforests, deserts, and the world’s largest coral reef, observing and documenting fascinating wildlife along the way; and meet members of the Aboriginal community—the world’s oldest living culture—which settled here more than 50,000 years ago.

Days 1-5: Sydney, Australia

The expedition begins with an orientation in the vibrant coastal city of Sydney. Break into teams to begin working on your On Assignment project. Browse a photo exhibition at the State Library of New South Wales, explore the lively Rocks district, and take in spectacular views of the iconic Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Attend a game of rugby or Australian rules football, or go surfing at Manly Beach. Meet your first koalas and kangaroos at the famous Taronga Zoo, or visit the Sydney Aquarium to get acquainted with the marine life you will encounter on the Great Barrier Reef.

Days 6-10: Uluru and the Outback

Begin your journey through the outback near the largest monolith on Earth, Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock). Steeped in mythology, this colossal piece of sandstone rises abruptly from the desert plain. Trek between giant rounded domes while hoping to spot bright green ring-necked parrots or zebra finches. Visit an Aboriginal community and learn about Aboriginal art before trying your hand at the traditional craft of dot painting. Plunge into the cool and refreshing waters of desert swimming holes, examine ancient rock art and medicinal plants, and listen to Dreamtime stories told by Aboriginal guides. Through the lens of your camera, use the stark landscape to practice working with depth of field—photographing dingoes, red kangaroos, and majestic wedge-tailed eagles that may venture into this otherwise still scene. Set up camp in the bush, help collect firewood and prepare dinner, and sleep under the stars. Spot the Southern Cross and Scorpio, and learn a whole new set of Southern Hemisphere constellations.

Days 11-20: Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef

Fly to the northern Queensland city of Cairns, and transfer to Port Douglas, our hub for exploring the Great Barrier Reef. Set out on a private boat for a two-day snorkeling adventure with marine biologists. Anchor at the outer reef and snorkel along brilliant fields of coral. Spot sea turtles, giant parrotfish, harmless reef sharks, and maybe even a migrating humpback whale. Gain insights about the reef from the marine biologists on board, and learn about the threats to this unique ecosystem and the efforts being made to protect it.

Back on land, head north into the 125-million-year-old Daintree Rainforest. Hike through the lush vegetation to see cassowaries, crocodiles, tree kangaroos, and other endemic wildlife. Spend the night in a jungle lodge and encounter the native species of the surrounding rainforest, wetlands, and reef.

Wind down on the coastal side of the park on the white-sand beaches of Cape Tribulation. Explore a mangrove habitat where the jungle meets the ocean, and kayak along the reef. Trek out to the farthest point of the cape in search of whales and other marine life passing by. Return to Cairns for the final night and present your On Assignment project to the rest of the group. Celebrate your adventure with your fellow participants before flying home.