Paekākāriki School pupil Frankie McLaughlan, 10, took part in the Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) Poor Knights trip after winning one of two representative spots for Wellington students.
The other spot went to Waimarama Tapiata-Bright from Seatoun's Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O Ngā Mokopuna who won the EMR Ocean Art prize that is given to a young Kiwi who has experienced the marine environment with EMR and displays that experience through art.
The trip is made up of representative students from each school that participates in the programme from Northland and Auckland, as well as two representatives from the other six regions EMR is operating including Taranaki, Coromandel, Gisborne, Wellington, Nelson and Otago.
The EMR programme involves learning about marine biodiversity in the classroom, snorkelling and investigating the local marine environment before experiencing a marine reserve and taking action on marine conservation in their communities.
Frankie represented the Wellington region for her action project aimed at reducing plastic pollution in the environment.
Her project involves collecting beach rubbish, turning it into sculptures and jewellery that will be sold as a fundraiser to raise awareness in her local community.
"I really enjoyed the views on the boat and at the place we stayed at."
For each student there was an adult caregiver to accompany them which made it extra special for the students.
"It was an absolutely amazing, mind-boggling experience for everyone," said Frankie's father Sam McLaughlan.
"People from every region came, people from all necks of the woods who have very different lives, from farmers to restaurant owners, community workers and so on.
"Frankie had to give a presentation in front of everyone there.
"She's quite shy so it was really big for her.
"The whole trip was a shift in mentality for both the parents and the students.
"Being at a marine reserve makes you think, we swim at beaches around here and where are the fish?
"There were just so many fish, it was amazing."
The snorkel site this year was the Blue Mao Mao arch, named in the top 10 for dive sites around the world by undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau which has been protected by no-take status since 1981.