This 39-day nature sabbatical in Australia and New Zealand highlights some of the country's most spectacular locations by car, on foot and from the air. Packed full of unforgettable experiences from swimming with dolphins and sea-lions to stargazing in a dark sky reserve, your bucket list will soon need replenishing.
Your tailor-made Australasia nature sabbatical begins with two weeks in Australia that includes exploration of the rugged mountains of Tasmania, stunningly beautiful Eyre Peninsula and wonderful wilderness of Kangaroo Island, plus a hearty dose of culture and amazing food.
After a few nights in trendy Melbourne where you can get over your jetlag, catch a flight to Tasmania off Australia's south coast and pick up your hire car for the next five days. Expect plenty of jaw-dropping scenery as you pass picture-perfect Cradle Mountain; stop in Freycinet National Park to snap plenty of dreamy nature photographs; and drive along the coast to Hobart, Tasmania's capital. During your time in 'Tassie', you'll have the chance to enjoy plenty of memorable experiences, from spending an evening with the keepers of a Tasmanian devil sanctuary to exploring the historic ruins and sweeping bays of Maria Island, always accompanied by a guide. Melbourne and Tasmania make the ideal combo, with a hip city vibe perfectly complemented by the wild side of Tasmania where you can be at one with your surroundings, and not see another soul for miles at a time.
Next, it's on to the spectacular Eyre Peninsula where you will have the chance to spot plenty of wildlife. Enjoy the rare plant and animal species in Big Swamp Wetland, then delve into Coffin Bay National Park, which is home to over 150 bird species and see where sea eagles make their nests on the lofty Cummings Monument. No sabbatical is complete without some truly memorable experiences and during your time here you will get the chance to swim with playful dolphins and sea-lions and visit Mikkara station, one of the few places to see koalas in the wild.
The wildlife spotting continues on Kangaroo Island, a diverse environment that provides habitat for everything from koalas, kangaroos (hence the name) and platypus to large seal colonies. Enjoy privately-guided tours with your expert guide and learn even more during a fascinating afternoon with a wildlife researcher. Just off the South Australia coast, a short hop from Adelaide, you can book end this portion of your trip with a stay in the city, or at a beautiful beach house for some time to relax.
Next stop on your Australasia nature sabbatical are the Flinders Ranges, ancient mountain ranges that you'll be hiking through over the next four days, accompanied by a passionate and knowledgeable guide.
While walking within the 60,000 acres of private wildlife conservancy that make up the Flinders Ranges, you'll have the opportunity to truly experience the scale and space of the Australian Outback. Covering up to nine miles a day (a decent level of fitness is required), you'll venture through various terrains. Wander along creek beds, through flat pains and within rolling hills covered in cypress pines.
Enjoy a few key creature comforts to complement your immersive bush experiences as you settle into your camp for the evening and enjoy a delicious three-course dinner and plenty of fine Australian wine.
From Australia's dusty Outback to New Zealand's sweeping coastlines and pristine forests, you'll be spending the next nine days of your tailor-made nature sabbatical on the North Island.
Spend three nights aboard a luxury 70ft classic schooner yacht cruising north along the east coast towards the Bay of Islands. Joined by a researcher specialising in local orca (killer whale) populations, you'll have the chance to learn about these remarkable creatures and gain a better understanding of the marine world they inhabit.
The second part of your trip around New Zealand's North Island immerses you in Maori culture. Spend time with a Nga Puhi warrior descended from the chiefs who signed New Zealand's founding document and hear stories about his culture and people. Experience a traditional powhiri (Maori welcoming ceremony) followed by a modern-day Maori picnic and end this part of your trip with a stay at a tented camp at Wiremu Rahui waterfall enjoying the culinary creations of an experienced Maori chef.
After you've explored the North Island, it's time to acquaint yourself with the South Island which you'll be exploring for the next six days.
Collect your hire car from Nelson and wind your way down the west coast towards Queenstown with plenty of spectacular stopovers along the way. In Abel Tasman National Park, enjoy a cruise along the coast and keep your eyes peeled for pods of dolphins and seals. Visit the quaint seaside town of Franz Josef with its extraordinary setting in a rainforest between the rugged glaciers and the pounding surf of the Tasman Sea, and combine a helicopter tour with a guided walk to see the nearby Fox Glacier from all angles.
Swap the coast for towering mountain ranges as you head inland towards Queenstown. As the roads wind through the mountains there's a good chance you'll want to hop out of the car at every turn to snap yet another picture-perfect shot. Not to worry, there are plenty of lay-bys from which to admire the views.
Once you arrive at Queenstown, you'll have a few days to enjoy New Zealand's adventure capital. Hike along one of the country's most famous alpine routes and enjoy far reaching vistas of the peaks above and valleys below. Get your blood pumping on a thrilling adventure along the Dart River aboard an inflatable canoe and pass some of the cinematic locations featured in the Lord of the Rings movies.
End your tailor-made Australasia nature sabbatical with an unforgettable two-night stay at a dark sky reserve in South Island's dramatic Ahuriri Valley.
A stay in this otherworldly landscape is spectacular enough by day, but by night it is truly breathtaking. With almost no light pollution in the valley, the views of the night sky are seemingly endless and with a million stars overhead, you'll gain a real sense of just how vast the universe is.
Using a star map (and app) you'll have the chance to learn about the stars and spot the different constellations including the Southern Cross, Magellanic Clouds and Milky Way. The perfect way to end your sabbatical, this epic experience is likely to stay with you for the rest of your life.