Paraparaumu College student Maha Fier has been on two trips of a lifetime in one year.

After going to Lesotho, South Africa, with the Paraparaumu College World Challenge trip over the summer holidays, Maha has recently returned from a two-week expedition to the Kermadec Islands with the Sir Peter Blake Trust.

Well-travelled for a 15-year-old, the trip to the Kermadec Islands from late February to early March on Navy vessel HMNZS Canterbury was Maha's latest adventure.

Having been a part of the Youth Enviroleaders' Forum last year, also run by the trust, this qualified Maha to apply for the expedition, and she was accepted.


Nineteen students were chosen from around New Zealand and for the first time one student from the Pacific Island country of Samoa was also included.

The Kermadec Islands are a group of five islands, each of which are surrounded by 12 nautical miles of marine reserve.

Maha and the other students learnt about the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill that proposes the area be turned into an ocean sanctuary.

According to the Ministry for the Environment, at 620,000 square kilometres, it will be one of the world's largest and most significant fully protected areas.

"The trip was really cool because we were surrounded by scientists that were doing the research and creating submissions surrounding this bill.

"It wasn't just about us going on a really great adventure and experience, but also to research about the area as not much has been done around it and not much is known about it.

"We went out with scientists and what was really exciting was witnessing the sight of juvenile black trevally fish.

"This species had never been seen there before in the Kermadec Islands.

"It's normally found more in tropical areas, so looking at climate change and global warming, we were seeing first hand that more tropical fish and more species are coming further down into colder waters."

Along with exciting scientific research and environmental education the students did a number of activities, notably snorkeling with Galapagos sharks and helicopter rides with the New Zealand Air Force.

While not for the faint hearted, Maha made it even harder for herself by reading Jaws while onboard the vessel.

"There's such a stereotype about sharks but they were just chilling, minding their own business.

"The whole trip was an amazing experience."