Climb to the top of an ancient fort in Rajasthan. Snorkel with sea lions in the Galapagos. Spend the night with a family who lives next to the Great Wall of China. Ride a zip line through the rain forest in Costa Rica. Sail to fishing villages in Mali. Learn to drum in Belize. Trek to bubbling mud pots in Iceland. Hone your photography skills with a National Geographic photographer in Granada.
Sound tempting? If you’re in high school (that's the catch), one of these adventures could be yours. National Geographic Expeditions, which is the travel outfitter for the National Geographic Society, has a long history of leading adventurous travelers to some of the world’s most fascinating destinations, and just this year they’ve teamed up with Putney Student Travel to offer trips for high-school students through National Geographic Student Expeditions. Only students completing grades 9 through 12 this year are eligible, and spaces are filling fast, due to a recent front-page article in the Washington Post travel section.
Each three-week expedition will have specific assignments (writing, photography, culture & arts, etc.) under the guidance of a National Geo expert, and takes advantage of our worldwide network of experts. "In Peru, for example, visit the lab of National Geographic grantee and archaeologist Guillermo Cock and hear an account of his ground-breaking discovery of thousands of Inca mummies. Get to know a Maasai elder in Tanzania, and climb a glacier with a local scientist in Iceland. In Beijing, meet with editors of the recently launched Chinese-language edition of National Geographic magazine.
In addition, most of the trips include between 10 and 20 hours of community service (helping to build a community school, clearing forest trails, tutoring students in English), which may fulfill your school's community service requirement. Participants will be housed mostly in small, family-run inns and hostels, student centers, university housing, or scientific research stations. And as you'd expect, the program practices sustainable travel:
As an organization that seeks to inspire others to care about the planet, National Geographic is committed to sustaining the character and integrity of each place we visit—its environment, culture, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. In providing authentic travel experiences for students, we strive to protect the sites we visit and to support local economies in our choice of accommodations and services.
marine iguana, Galapagos
Each applicant has to submit a personal statement and get two teacher recommendations. If price is a problem, Student Expeditions offers a scholarship program for those who couldn't otherwise afford it. For more info, check the website or call 877 877 8759. A marine iguana will be happy to take your call.
Photo: Rwill via Intelligent Travel Flickr pool