In addition to the included excursions, we offer opportunities for students to continue exploring their cultural surroundings. These excursions are often adventurous and exhilarating such as zip lining over the treetops of a rainforest or hiking up a volcano to name a few! Below are the excursions currently available to register for. Optional Excursions for the other terms will be posted at a later date.
2017/18 Term 1 Optional Excursions
Spires and Shires Cycling Tour (Oxford)
Encompassing town and country, the tour starts in the wonderful city of Oxford before escaping the madding crowds and discovering the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside that lies beyond the city limits. We’ll see classically English thatched cottages, village churches, and rolling fields, before finally ending back in the city, at Oxford’s architectural gem, located in Radcliffe Square.
Oxford is a very friendly place to cycle, and our tour will be at a leisurely pace with stops along the way.
We will make a stop off for lunch at a traditional English Pub*.
We provide English made Pashley cycle, helmet (upon request), basket, lock, bike lights and ponchos for the occasional wet weather. Soft drink and entry to an Oxford college included. Duration 5 ½ hours.
*Lunch not included.
Anticipated Date: Wednesday 6th September
Hiking in the Pyrenees (Barcelona)
Catalonia has some of the most beautiful landscapes that Europe has to offer hidden away in and around the Pyrenees mountains. During a full day trip to the Catalan side of the mountain range (separating France from Spain), you will discover these treasures and they will take your breath away.
Getting an early start, you will travel away from Barcelona to the ancient settlement of Vic for a look at some beautiful renaissance and baroque buildings. Your journey will then take you even further north towards the Pyrenees, passing oak and red pine forests and castles which have been around since before the first millennia.
You will then head to the town of Ripoll, formerly home to the first Count of Barcelona, before moving on to Queralbs, 1,236m above sea level with only 200 inhabitants.
Finally you will travel the last 6km to your end destination, only accessible by a special railway track which will carry you into Valle de Nuria, surrounded by 7 glaciered peaks doing their utmost to hide the almost heavenly valley 2,000 meters above sea level. There you will be able to hike around the lake, explore the valley on trails with different levels of difficulty, or just relax and enjoy the views.
Please bring sunscreen, water, and a jacket for the cooler temperatures at the mountain top (there may be some snow on the ground!) and wear comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes. Please bring a picnic lunch and snacks, though there will be places to purchase food. Don’t forget your camera!
Anticipated Date: Saturday 16th September
Sailing Excursion (Barcelona)
This is a great activity and guaranteed fun for all!
Enjoy a 3 hour cruise of the Costa Brava shoreline by boat. There’s plenty of space to spread out and sunbathe on deck. After some time sailing, we’ll set anchor to enjoy a refreshing swim in the cool water.
An unforgettable way to enjoy and explore the Balearic Sea!
Wear your swimsuit. Make sure you bring your flip flops (no black soled shoes are allowed), towel, snorkel and windbreaker, in case the weather is cool offshore. Please also bring water, sunscreen, a hat, and snacks.
Anticipated Date: Sunday 17th September
Ostia Antica & Ostia Beach (Rome)
A visit to Ostia is a relaxing day out that will take you away from the hustle, bustle and noise of Rome.
In the morning, with our guide, we’ll explore the expansive site of Ostia Antica, an area of Roman ruins which date from the early third century BC. Ostia became an important harbour town, supplying Rome. Over the years Ostia was struck by earthquakes and tsunamis. Instead of rebuilding ruins, the materials were often recycled, with Ostian marble even being used to build cathedrals in Pisa, Florence, Amalfi and Orvieto. The excavations here show many incredible layers of time.
To cool off after exploring the ruins, we will head to Lido di Ostia. Spend your time here at the beach swimming, sunbathing (or studying?!); exploring the shops; people watching in the cafes; or strolling along the promenade.
As we’ll be spending time at the beach, be sure to leave valuables at the hotel. Please wear comfortable shoes and a sun hat, and bring your sunscreen and beach apparel. We will return to Rome for dinner.
Anticipated Date: Sunday 24th September
Nestled at the foot of Mount Vesuvius is Pompeii. Throughout the height of the Roman Empire, it was quite the lively city. As a result of a volcanic eruption, the town was covered in molten lava and ultimately “frozen in time.” The city lay silent for almost two thousand years, until it was excavated hundreds of years later. A picture of life in Roman times was revealed.
What lay beneath was the town of Pompeii, perfectly preserved as a result of the layer of volcanic ash that had covered it for centuries. Today it remains one of the most compelling archaeological sites and by far one of the most visited Italian attractions.
Visiting Pompeii is an incredible experience. We will take a guided tour of the site, where we will see the houses, theatres, arenas, temples, and public buildings where its original inhabitants lived, worked, played, and worshipped.
We will depart from Rome after breakfast and travel approximately three hours south to Pompeii. We will return to Rome in time for a late dinner at the hotel.
Anticipated Date: Sunday 1st October
Knossos Palace (Crete)
During this excursion we will visit Knossos, the largest Bronze Age architectural site on Crete and considered Europe’s oldest city.
A stay in Crete is not complete without a visit to the magnificent Palace of Knossos – palace of the powerful King Minos. Many Greek mythological stories are woven around this man – son of the Greek god Zeus and the mortal woman Europa, and this site – such as the myth of the Labyrinth, the Minotaur and that of Daidalos and Ikaros. Our guide will tell us more about this glorious history as we discover the ruins.
Please bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses, water and wear a comfortable pair of shoes.
Anticipated Date: Sunday 8th October
2017/18 Term 2 Optional Excursions
Great Wall of China (Beijing)
One of the most iconic wonders of the world, the Great Wall of China stretches over 8,000km. Sections were built as early as the 7th Century BC, but the majority of the wall standing today dates from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Badaling Great Wall is one of the most visited sections because of its magnitude, with high watch towers and impressive views over rolling hills and countryside. The walkway here is wide enough for five horses or ten soldiers to walk abreast, and over 7 metres high!
After a Chinese lunch, we’ll visit Mutianyu Great Wall. Less-visited than Badaling, it is known for its natural surroundings of woodland. The scenery is beautiful here all year round.
On this full day tour, we’ll visit 2 sections of the wall. On each section, we’ll spend 2 hours hiking the wall, though you’ll also have the option, payable locally, to take a cable car, chair lift or toboggan, (approx. $18 for a one-way ride on either form of ascent/descent) if you prefer to avoid the hike.
Please wear shoes suitable for hiking uneven surfaces. Keep your daypack light, bring layers for cooler weather on the exposed wall, wear sunscreen, and bring water and snacks.
Anticipated Date: Saturday, 28th October
Macau (Hong Kong)
Macau, home to some of the region’s most glamourous resorts and casinos, is just an hour by ferry from Hong Kong. This former Portuguese enclave is a mix of colonial and Chinese architecture and tradition. After 400 years of Portuguese rule, it was returned to China just 18 years ago.
The historic centre of Macau is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and includes the ruins of a 17th century cathedral, Catholic churches, Buddhist and Taoist temples and even a library. Our private guide will walk us around some of the most impressive sites for us to gain an understanding of the beauty and history of the city.
In your free time, you may choose to visit the observation deck of the Macau Tower for stunning views across the Pearl River, see the pandas at the Giant Panda Pavilion, or stroll Fisherman’s Wharf, an entertainment and shopping complex.
Be sure to try some of the Macanese food (with a unique blend of spices often featuring coconut milk), and indulge in a Portuguese egg tart or two!
NB: You will need your passport to travel to Macau. Macau uses its own currency, the pataca. Please check exchange rates at time of travel. Traffic drives on the left-side of the road, as per Hong Kong.
Anticipated Date: Saturday, 4th November
Countryside Biking (Siem Reap)
Departing after an early breakfast, take a leisurely ride (3hrs) in the srok srai Khmer (Cambodian countryside) along red soil roads. Ride through rice fields, seeing farmers at work, and small villages. Stop and pay a visit to some of these traditional Khmer stilt houses and pagodas, built with wood, bamboo and palm, and chat with the local people.
After a while you will take a rest and try some local drinks such as sugar cane juice, a refreshing drink poured over ice, which is drunk by every Cambodian and is especially popular in the countryside.
Return to Siem Reap in time for lunch.
Please wear comfortable shoes (no flip flops) and conservative clothing for cycling through the villages. Bike, helmet, and English-speaking guide included. Please bring wear sunscreen, sunglasses and bring a water-bottle.
Anticipated Date: Saturday, 11th November
Kayaking (Luang Prabang)
We’ll leave Luang Prabang after class to enjoy a drive through the local countryside to our starting point of this river adventure.
In the shadow of mountains, surrounded by jungle we will paddle along the river with several traditional villages on the river banks. We’ll even tackle some exciting river rapids! We rest along the banks for photos, river-jumping and swimming. We will be guided by a knowledgeable local English-speaking guide. All equipment is provided.
Please bring: sunscreen, swimsuit and a change of clothes, flip-flops/water-friendly shoes, and a water bottle.
Anticipated Date: Friday, 17th November
Elephant Sanctuary (Chiang Rai)
This is a one of a kind experience for visitors to Thailand. This newly opened sanctuary truly puts the elephants first!
The 3 elephants here (plus a baby on the way sometime between now and October, and an elephant recuperating from an operation) were previously logging elephants, and are learning again to act like elephants, grazing through forest and in paddocks. There is no riding of the elephants, tricks or shows, and it is rare to see elephants like this in a country where elephants are predominantly used in the logging or tourist trekking industries.
The sanctuary owners have run a successful sanctuary in Cambodia for 10 years and wanted to bring their ethos of elephant care to Thailand. The aim is to set an example of how to look after and treat elephants to other small camp owners.
The elephants love bananas – so if you can bring a few to help feed their insatiable appetite – that would be most welcome!
On this half day visit we will enjoy following, photographing and even feeding these majestic creatures. Our visit will include a Northern Thai style lunch and transportation.
Anticipated Date: Saturday, 25th November
Diving – for certified and non-certified divers (Ko Lanta)
The Try Dive program allows you to experience the thrill of diving under close supervision of experienced instructors in calm pool-like conditions.
Nothing compares with the sensation of breathing underwater and floating effortlessly above coral reef with tropical fish swimming around you.
During the class, you’ll master some of the basic scuba concepts and skills, before we take a boat excursion for two dives in shallow sheltered settings, chosen based on the weather and conditions of the day.
Dive equipment, snacks, soft drinks and Marine Park Fee included.
Medical Form is required.
Anticipated Date: Thursday, 30th November
Try Dive (uncertified divers) – Price: $375.00
Certified Diver (2 dive package) – Price: $350.00
2017/18 Term 3 Optional Excursions
Surfing Lesson & Manly (Sydney)
After a relaxed start to your day, we’ll take the ferry across Sydney Harbour giving us fantastic views (and photo opportunities!) of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.
Arriving in the Northern Beaches area of the city, we’ll stroll along the pedestrianized Corso, Manly’s main street dotted with palm trees, sculptures, and bare-footed surfers, to arrive at the wide golden beaches that this neighbourhood is known for.
Surfing is an integral part of Australian culture, and we’ll learn how to get to grips with the waves with some of the best instructor’s in the country, teaching us the skills of surfing and how to handle yourself and your surfboard in the ocean. A must for any Aussie traveller; you will never forget the feeling of catching your first wave!
Before our lesson, we’ll have free time to shop in the boutiques and markets, people watch, grab a coffee or a bite to eat in one of the many cafes, or visit one of the galleries of popular Manly, then after our lesson, we’ll return to the city in time for dinner.
Please bring: a swimsuit, towel and sunscreen. Wear clothing suited to the weather on the day.
Included: 2hr surf lesson, equipment, wetsuits and rash vests, access to change rooms and showers, and storage for your valuables.
Anticipated Date: Saturday, February 17, 2018
Whitehaven Beach day sail (Whitsunday Coast)
Climb aboard our America’s Cup racing yacht, Southern Cross, for our adventure today as we take to the seas and cross from mainland Australia to one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
Today we’ll be visiting Whitehaven Beach – consistently voted one of the best beaches in the world – and you’ll see why! Clear aqua waters and pristine silica sand, this beach stretches over seven kilometres and has a backdrop of unspoiled lush forest. We’ll set anchor at Tongue Bay so you can hike the short route up to the Hill Inlet Lookout giving us amazing vistas. After some time to relax on the beach, it’s back to the yacht for lunch before an afternoon swim and snorkel exploring the local coral reef where we’ll see colourful tropical fish, and perhaps a turtle or dolphin.
While onboard Southern Cross guests are welcome to get involved and help the crew set the sails or simply sit back, relax and take in the experience and the scenery.
** Includes morning and afternoon tea (we’ll get to enjoy Lamingtons – a traditional cake covered in chocolate sauce and coconut), lunch, snorkelling equipment & marine park fees **
Please bring a towel, swimsuit, hat, sunscreen, and water (no glass containers allowed). Please wear non-slip, non-marking shoes. Don’t forget your camera!
Anticipated Date: Saturday, February 24, 2018
Moreton Island: snorkelling shipwrecks, transparent kayaking and sand boarding (Brisbane)
This full day adrenaline-charged excursion takes us to the world’s third largest sand island, Moreton Island, just a short ferry ride from Brisbane, where we’ll have an action-packed day!
Guided Snorkelling of the Tangalooma Shipwrecks
The Tangalooma wrecks are a collection of 15 vessels that were deliberately sunk to form a protective breakwall for small ships stopping at the island and now make an incredible dive and snorkel site. Clear waters allow for wonderful visibility allowing snorkellers to see an array of marine life and coral. Our guide will ensure we can explore this safely, with all gear and instruction will be provided.
In these innovative kayaks, even the seats are see-through! Kayaking through the smooth waters, we see a new perspective on the ocean life passing under us. Feeding the fish will create a frenzy of activity right beneath us. If we’re lucky, the playful local dolphins will even swim alongside us!
Taking a 4WD bus up into the desert area of the island, we’ll get to surf down high sand dunes for an exhilarating ride. Getting up to speeds of 60km/h this is fast and furious! We’ll have special boards and get a safety brief before hitting the slopes.
In addition to all of that, we’ll get to re-charge with morning tea and a picnic lunch on the beach. There are café facilities to purchase snacks and drinks locally, however, we do recommend you bring water. Please also bring swimwear, sunglasses, sunscreen, sunhat and a towel.
Anticipated Date: Saturday, March 3, 2018
Bungee Jumping (Queenstown)
The Kawarau Bridge Bungee is home to the world’s first commercial bungee site. With a 43m bungee and an 8-second free fall, this excursion is perfect for anyone looking for a lot of adventure!
The bungee site is a short drive out of town. Here the trained bungee staff of A J Hackett Bungee New Zealand will give the group an introduction, along with safety information on the jump. Then it is jump time!
Students will have the option of many different jump styles, and whether you want to bob above the water, touch the water or be fully immersed it will all add to the experience. After the jump, we will let the thrill sink in before being transported back to the hotel.
The staff of A J Hackett takes safety considerations and gear testing very seriously. They were one of the pioneers of the Australian and New Zealand Standards Authority Guidelines for commercial operations in Bungee Jumping and frequently request auditing from two external corporations: Bureau Veritas, an internationally recognized auditing company, and the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). The combination of a thrilling experience, quality product and highly-regarded safety record has meant that A J Hackett has achieved widespread recognition, with awards from New Zealand Qualmark, and Tourism New Zealand.
If you wish to watch your friends jump (but not jump) you may sign-up as a spectator.
Please note: It is not possible to upgrade to jump on site.
Anticipated Date: Sunday, March 11, 2018
Spectator Price: $50
Sky Diving (Queenstown)
Take to the skies and leap back down to earth, (attached to your sky diving instructor).
It takes a certain kind of person to leap out of an aircraft to the ground. It takes courage. You step out of that aircraft door and for some 60 seconds, you freefall at 200km/hour. The personal challenge is immense!
Students who have previously participated in this say it was one of the true highlights of their year so if you’ve got the nerve – go for it! There are 2 choices: dive from 12,000ft or 15,000ft. The 15,000ft gives you a longer free fall. Your height will need to be decided upon reservation. Please note: It is not possible to upgrade elevation on site.
Anticipated Date: Sunday, March 18, 2018
12,000ft Price: $395
15,000ft Price: $495
Zorbing, or outdoor gravity orbing, is an exciting adventure where you roll down a hill in a giant plastic ball!
Dive into your ball and roll down Mt. Ngongotaha, a hill on the outskirts of Rotorua, on two specially designed tracks – one is a fast 250m straight run, and the other is a 350m winding zig-zag run. You’ll have the choice whether you want a wet or dry ride!
Bring your swimwear – and whether you choose to get wet in your zorb, or not, make the most of the hot tubs at the top and bottom of the hill with views over the local farmland. There’s also a café on site for refreshment.
In its modern form, the sport originated in New Zealand though there is some debate of the true inventor as there have been experiments in the past with humans rolling about in objects akin to the hamster ball in France!
Your exhilarating zorbing experience will last about an hour, plus travel time.
Anticipated Date: Saturday, March 24, 2018
2017/18 Term 4 Optional Excursions
Horseback Riding (San Juan Del Sur)
Horseback riding is a great way to get up close and personal with the beautiful country of Nicaragua.
On this excursion, we will visit a private local ranch, where we’ll meet our well-cared for and loved horses. The ride leaves from the ranch through the local community, into open fields and over hilltops for spectacular views, crossing the river several times for excellent wildlife viewing (we almost always see monkeys!) and then to a secluded beach for a refreshment break and more riding adrenalin.
Our knowledgeable trail boss will lead the way and a portion of your ride fee will go to the ranch’s local community development fund. Our ride will be scheduled to arrive at the beach at low tide for safety and a bigger beach to ride on.
If you’ve never been on a horse before, or if you are an experienced rider, your horse will be chosen based on your experience level. All horses are well trained and you can take it slow, or trot and canter to your delight!
Please note: Riding will be Western Style, and there is a rider weight limit of 210lbs. Please bring long pants.
Community Service - Barrio Planta (San Juan Del Sur)
Community Service is an important aspect of every Blyth Academy Program. We try to instill a sense of global responsibility in all of our students as they explore the world with us. Students may earn 3-4 community service hours which can be applied towards community service requirements in Ontario.
We will work with the Barrio Planta Project, whose mission is to empower the children and youth of La Planta, an overlooked area in the southwest of San Juan del Sur. Along with a water shortage, there is also an energy crisis here, which causes rolling blackouts. Children growing up in this area have few opportunities for education and employment, and so, the Barrio Planta Project was born. Through free supplementary schooling, BPP helps instill creativity, enhance confidence, and facilitate international communication.
Lava Rock Evening Tour (Granada)
Experience the mysterious sights and sounds of the Masaya Volcano by night. Feared by both indigenous people and Spanish conquerors, the Masaya Volcano was baptized “La Boca del Infierno” or “The Mouth of Hell” by the Spanish.
Just before sunset, we set off to the volcano where we hope to get a glimpse of green ‘chocoyos’ (parakeets) returning to their nests inside the volcano crater. These birds have amazingly adapted to withstand the sulphurous fumes emitted from the volcano. While the parakeets are returning home, the bats are just leaving their caves in their masses. What a remarkable sight!
We’ll don helmets and take a flashlight to explore the underground tunnel and rock formations formed by lava streams, before we end our visit to this majestic volcano with a hike to a viewpoint giving fantastic vistas of the crater mouth, which is continuously emitting smoke and sulfur gases, and allowing us to see a crater created by lava activity as recently as 2006!
Please wear comfortable walking shoes, and bring insect repellent, bottled water and a light jacket.
Stand Up Paddling (Playas del Coco)
Whether you know it as SUP surfing, paddle surfing or stand up paddle boarding, this new sport is taking the world by storm. Let’s join the movement and grab a paddle and board and get cruising!
This is the perfect way to enjoy the ocean for surfers and non-surfers alike, and you can tailor it to your comfort zone, from flat water paddling to riding the waves. Its fan base is growing so rapidly because everyone can do it and its great fun!
With our instructor, we will learn the safety, basic strokes and turns both standing and kneeling and by the end, you’ll be a SUP pro.
Included: equipment and life vest.
Please wear your swimsuit, and bring insect repellent, sunscreen, along with a hat/sunglasses, a towel and a change of clothes.
Discovery Scuba Diving (Playas del Coco)
This half-day adventure is for the non-certified diver who wants to experience underwater life first hand. A highly trained instructor will teach students the basics of scuba diving in a swimming pool and then take them on a shallow one-tank dive in the ocean.
Signed waiver required.
PADI Scuba Certification Course (Playas del Coco)
Jacques Yves Cousteau himself chose to film a diving special in Costa Rica, leaving little doubt as to the quality of this activity in the region. The same underwater wonders that attracted the great Captain Cousteau to Costa Rica continue to attract divers from all over the world. These qualities include pristine azure waters, hundreds of miles of unexplored coasts and islands, and an abundance of tropical marine life. While beginners may not yet be ready for a large school of hammerhead sharks gliding soundlessly overhead, Costa Rica has snorkel and dive sites for everybody, from the newcomer to the most experienced professional. Join us and complete your full PADI diving certification while on location in Costa Rica.
Course duration: approximately 3 afternoons.
Equipment: Participants may bring their own mask, fins, snorkel and wetsuit or borrow from the dive shop.
Signed waiver required.
Diving for PADI Certified Divers, Afternoon Two-Tank Boat Dive (Playas del Coco)
In the Playas del Coco area, there are more than 60 dive sites within a 15 minute boat ride. Among the coral reefs and rocky outcroppings, students can observe and swim with snappers, groupers, angelfish, as well as a startling array of rays and eels.
The dives include a half-day boat trip in the Playas del Coco area where certified divers will have two dives, each at a different dive site. These dives will plunge students to depths of approximately 60 to 80 feet.
Equipment and snacks are included. Students are welcome to bring their own mask, fins and wetsuit if they wish.
Students must bring and present their PADI card.
Signed waiver required.
2-Day/1-Night Adventure Tour (Cusco)
(Add-On to the Included Machu Picchu Visit, preceding the included overnight tour to Machu Picchu)
This overnight excursion will take place prior to the included visit to Machu Picchu and will give participants an extended time to explore the nature, ecology and history of the area before re-joining the group for the visit to Machu Picchu.
We will see birds such as parrots, hummingbirds and eagles and the plantations of Coca (Sacred Leaf of the Incas), coffee, yucca, and fruit trees.
Our adventure will include hiking and biking through spectacular mountains, exploring ancient ruins and visiting with local communities (descendants of the Inca who still live a traditional lifestyle) to learn more about their way of life. Along the way, we’ll see breathtaking vistas, enjoy delicious home-cooked food and get to relax surrounded by ancient landscapes.
We do recommend that you have a basic level of fitness to participate in this excursion due to activities at high altitude.
Price includes all transportation to, from and during the trek; bicycle and equipment rental; all entry and guide fees; breakfast, lunch and dinner daily; accommodations each night. One male and one female staff will accompany the group on the excursion.
Half Day Mountain Biking (Cusco)
One of the best places in the world to mountain bike is Peru! Join us for a half day biking adventure around the outskirts of Cusco. We will traverse the high plain above the city, taking in panoramic views of Cusco and its surrounding mountains.
We will make our way to the Huayllarcocha lagoon through the archaeological sites of Sacsayhuaman and Qenqo. If the weather is clear to the south, our highland route offers a breathtaking view of the sacred mountain Ausangate. Our route takes us past one more archeological site: Rumiwasi. Our adventure will finish in the Qarigrande neighbourhood in San Sebastián before we return to our hotel.
** All equipment, including mountain bike and safety gear, is included.
*** Tour does not include entry into the archaeological sites along the route.
Browse Optional Excursion by Term
Click the links below to see what optional excursions we offer for each term.