It was a week of adventure and development for two Rotorua teenagers who embarked on a kayaking and sailing trip which they fundraised for themselves.
Last week Rotorua's Kirsty Lyall and Isidora Gonzalez-Diaz took part in a five-day Duke of Edinburgh's Hillary Award (DOE) kayak and sailing programme, run by New Zealand Sailing Trust and Auckland Sea Kayaks.
They were among 16 youth who departed Sullivan's Bay, Mahurangi, on Monday, kayaking up the Mahurangi Harbour and staying at the Lagoon Bay, Auckland Council campsite.
On the second day they kayaked north passed Moturekareka Island and to Lady's Bay on the Western side of Kawau Island for lunch.
Then it was south past Beehive Island/Taungamaro Island to Motuora Island to stay the night at the Department of Conservation campsite. In the evening they did a kiwi walk and all saw kiwi in the wild.
On the last kayaking day they went past Saddle Island back into Sullivan's Bay all ready for the changeover to sailing.
From Sullivan's Bay, they sailed to Oneroa, Waiheke Island for dinner onshore, and on the Thursday there was a problem solving diffusing exercise and sailing to Coromandel.
Here they did a raft-building exercise, where they had to build their own raft on shore and get back to the boat anchored off shore.
They returned to Viaduct Harbour in Auckland on the Friday afternoon.
Lyall, 18, said the experience had been amazing and she loved it.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing to do."
She said a highlight was definitely being on Sir Peter Blake's Steinlager 2 boat.
"There's not many opportunities where you would actually be able to do that, and the kayaking and seeing all of the pretty Hauraki Gulf was super fun too."
In the 1989/90 Whitbread Around the World Race, Steinlager 2 and her sailors went on to win an unprecedented full sweep of all six legs of the race. In a world first they won their handicap and overall honours.
Lyall said she thought the programme would be super fun and a great trip to take before starting university.
The DOE was rewarding and challenging and she had sold fundraising packs of chocolate at school - Rotorua Lakes High School - alongside Isidora.
Gonzalez-Diaz, 17, said it was a great experience. She enjoyed getting out of her comfort zone and had met some amazing people.
"It's such a fun, interesting experience."
The wildlife including dolphins, penguins, stingrays and fish, had been a highlight, she said.
"You don't realise what you have in your backyard unless you explore it."
Evelien van Vliet, NZ Sailing Trust business development manager, said the programme had been incredible and was the trust's first time running it.
She said it was a beneficial experience for young people because it was all about leadership, teamwork, getting out of your comfort zone, developing self-confidence and visiting places you may not have been before.
NZ Sailing Trust and Auckland Sea Kayaks are accredited providers of the Adventurous Journey section of DOE.
The aim of the adventurous journey is to encourage a spirit of adventure and discovery.
NZ Sailing Trust said its aim of this aspect of the DOE award was to encourage young people to develop an awareness of the environment and the importance of protecting it.
There are more programme dates coming up in April, July and October. For information go to www.nzsailingtrust.com/doe-hillary-award.