A mid-winter Outward Bound adventure

Department of Conservation —  23/09/2016

DOC offers Outward Bound course scholarships to say thanks to the young people protecting our nature and our natural places.

Guy McDonald was a previous scholarship recipient, he shares his experience.

Doing an Outward Bound course in the middle of winter isn’t how most people would choose to spend their school holidays, but for me, it was definitely the best way to spend it.

The best way to spend the school holidays.

You’ve probably heard the stories from people who’ve done the course about getting up extra early to jump in the freezing cold water, but there is a lot more to an Outward Bound course than just that.

My experience started off much just as I had imagined, doing crazy outdoor adventurous activities.


The first crazy expedition my watch (group) tackled was an epic sailing trip. Together, we rowed and sailed as far away from Anakiwa as we could then slept on the boat in Mint Bay. The following day consisted of rowing, sailing and exploring Ships Cove. On the final day, we encountered 48 knot winds! The captain would shout “LET FLY!” ordering us to release the sails as massive williwaw wind blew across the boat. Many of the crew were pushed out of their comfort zone when it came to peeing off the boat as there was an audience of 12 males and females all crammed together on the small sailing boat.

Sailing/rowing trip.

An interesting experience for me was the Outward Bound Solo. This involved spending three nights in the New Zealand wilderness alone. With only a small portion of food and nobody to talk to, I spent most of my time thinking and reflecting on my life. On my second night alone in the bush, I was awoken in the night by something large crawling along my back. “Sniff, sniff, sniff” then “crackle” as the mysterious visitor begun fossicking through my paper food bag. Soon enough, it slowly crept out of my tarpaulin shelter and I could faintly see the mischievous silhouette of a possum in the moonlight. Personally, I found the solo experience very relaxing as I could free my mind and enjoy the native bird song.

In the wilderness.

The other adventurous activities we did were tramping in the Richmond Ranges, kayaking down scary rapids and rock climbing up a challenging natural rock face near Anakiwa. On the second last day of my Outward Bound course, we all had to run a half marathon along the Queen Charlotte Track. We finished it off with a jump of the jetty into the refreshing winter sea. Being my first ever half marathon, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I really enjoyed it as I love challenging my own ability and was stoked to finish second.

Overall, this experience taught me a lot. I gained valuable knowledge of my leadership potential and how I can do anything if I put my mind to it. I also was inspired by one of my watch mates to do the DOC Trainee Ranger course next year to continue my future in protecting the natural environment.

The watch mates.

After getting back home from three weeks of challenging adventurous activities, I decided to commit more of my time to one of my favourite activities; possum trapping. This is something which I have been passionate about for a number of years now. It all began one night when I was at the local golf course. Shining my new head torch into the small patch of native bush, I spotted 16 pairs of bright red eyes looking nervously back at me. After buying a few traps and catching a few, I fell in love with it and inspired several of my friends to start trapping possums as well. Earning up to 12 dollars per possum and giving our native species a better chance of survival — what’s there to lose?.

Track building.

I am now in charge of eradicating as many possums as I can from the local remnant of native bush, inland from Timaru called Claremont Bush. Catching up to 30 possums a day is a great way to earn money while keeping fit and helping the environment at the same time. I especially enjoy the surprise factor of not knowing if I will catch one or not.

Now I challenge you to try pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and do your bit to help protect our beautiful country.

Outward Bound crew.

The Outward Bound scholarship offers a development opportunity for our future conservation leaders. It will help them to make life choices with confidence. Find out more about the scholarship on the DOC website.

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