Three months. Three countries. Oceans and rivers. This 85-day semester course is the learning experience of a lifetime. On this exciting and demanding course, you’ll explore the art and science of water-based wilderness expeditions and acquire the personal, group leadership and technical skills to deliver lessons and travel safely across the globe. Start with the most ancient and traditional of marine skills: sailing and navigation in the sub-tropical waters of the Florida Keys. Earn an Advanced Wilderness First Aid certification and become a certified lifeguard through the American Red Cross.Then fly to Costa Rica to paddle some of the Western Hemisphere’s most exciting whitewater and experience the power of surfing. Finally, head to Panama to get certified in SCUBA and embark on an unforgettable sea kayaking expedition in the turquoise waters of the famed Bocas Del Torro archipelago on the Caribbean coast.
This course is closed for the season. 2021 courses coming soon.
Most College Savings Plans, including the 529 College Savings Plan, may be used to attend an Outward Bound expedition, thanks to a partnership with Western Colorado University. Anyone can register – you do not have to be a current Western Colorado University student. Registration is easy! Click here to learn more.
Break away from traditional education and make the world your classroom on an Outward Bound Semester expedition. Experience life adventures and expand your skills as you interact with new environments and diverse cultures. Form lasting relationships with outdoor experts and crewmates who are sharing the same successes, failures and discoveries. Strengthen your commitment to community as you participate in service projects that support local needs.
Exploring new environments and building new connections will put your tenacity to the test. You’ll return with broader understanding of the natural world around you, deeper appreciation for small kindnesses and greater confidence in yourself and others that will serve you well long after you return.
Outward Bound is accredited with the American Gap Association and is the longest running program in this elite group dedicated to providing safe, meaningful and high-caliber educational experiences to students.
Traditional 30-foot sailboats encourage teamwork and leadership like no other classroom. On an open boat with no cabin and no engine, the group will live closely together using only wind and oars to power their way. As they rotate responsibilities during the expedition, students learn the crafts of maneuvering under sail, coastal navigation, rowing and living aboard a small open boat. At night, students sleep on deck under a tarp, taking turns at anchor watch under brilliant night skies.
During whitewater training students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to paddle Class II, III, and possibly IV rapids. For two weeks the group follows the water around Costa Rica, paddling several rivers and setting out on day trips and multi-day expeditions. Depending on water levels, students paddle in inflatable kayaks or learn to guide a raft. During this section students complete their Whitewater Rescue Technician course. The Whitewater Rescue Technician (WRT) course is designed specifically for professional guides, private boaters, fish and game personnel and others who work or play on or around flowing water. Students benefit from intensive, hands-on course experience and learn to use techniques and simple equipment to assess and perform river rescues. The emphasis is on speedy, low-tech and improvised rescue techniques that are effective and require minimal equipment.
The group spends a week on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, living on the beach and learning to surf. Surf training begins on the sand, learning about waves surfboards and how to stand on the board. From there students move out to smaller breaking waves to develop their balance and timing. As their skills progress, they eventually paddle out for some of the larger surf. Students with previous surfing experience may progress faster. In addition to surfing, the group volunteers at nature preserves or wildlife rescue centers along the coast.
Students will have another chance to step outside their comfort zone and explore a new environment as they earn a NAUI Scuba Diver Certification in the crystal-clear waters off Solarte Island in the Bocas del Toro region in Panama. This is a unique opportunity to learn about tropical ecology and coral reefs while participating in several dives to complete this certification.
With Scuba gear securely in place, students will transform into underwater explorers and experience the diversity of marine life first hand.
The group embarks on a two-week sea kayaking expedition in the remote archipelago of Bocas Del Toro, Panama, consisting of some 68 islands located near the Caribbean border with Costa Rica. This section begins on the island of Solarte, where the group spends up to two days planning and packing for the expedition as well as practicing paddling and rescues for kayak-based expedition travel. This section has a strong cultural immersion component with homestays in many of the villages of this tropical lagoon. The lagoon is home to several cultures including the indigenous Guaymi-Ngobe people.
Service projects are often incorporated into Outward Bound courses through coordination with local land managers, conservation groups, government agencies or social service agencies. While in the wilderness, students are encouraged to practice service to the environment and their team by sharing responsibilities and following Leave No Trace ethics throughout the expedition.
The Solo experience provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition to give students quiet time to reflect on the Outward Bound experience. With the basics of food and equipment, and with safety a top priority, students will take some time away from the group to be alone at sites of their own, using the wilderness skills learned during the first parts of the course. Often located along beautiful lake shorelines or peaceful rivers, Solo sites are chosen to offer as much solitude as possible (yet be within emergency whistle-signaling distance of other group members). Most students spend their Solo time journaling, drawing or just thinking and resting as they process lessons learned and focus on their goals for the future. Instructors check on each participant at regular intervals. The time students spend on Solo depends on the length of the course. On courses longer than three weeks, Solo is up to 72 hours long.
This course focuses on developing the leadership and technical skills necessary to begin a career as an Instructor or expedition leader in wilderness environments, or to take on challenging and versatile roles in a variety of other fields. Outward Bound’s leadership curriculum is based on over 50 years of leading expeditions. Students will refine the way they meet challenges and opportunities, relate to others and view their world. Technical skill development is a robust and challenging component of this semester program. Whether students want to pursue a career as a guide or outdoor educator, or strive to become more proficient and safe when traveling alone or with friends and family, or aspire to develop the capacity to lead in an adventurous setting, this course will expand their skill base through the instruction of experienced specialists in these skill sets.
Home to numerous birds and abundant marine life, the region owes its productivity to the confluence of water flowing out of the Everglades into inner Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The backcountry of Florida Bay offers challenging shoal draft navigation and the opportunity to explore mangrove keys, tidal flats and coral patch reefs. These warm, shallow waters provide an exciting cruising area for Outward Bound’s sailing boats and some of the best training ground for developing advanced sailing skills. The Atlantic side offers excellent open water sailing and snorkeling at the outer reefs. The course area extends to the Everglades, with beautiful sand beaches and a maze of rivers and bays to explore.
Costa Rica and Panama
The coastal and river environments of Costa Rica provide a perfect backdrop for expanding wilderness travel skills. This small tropical nation is fast becoming a renowned destination for whitewater rafting, surfing, rainforest trekking and eco-adventures in general. About the size of West Virginia, Costa Rica has a variety of climates including tropical dry forest, rainforest and cloud forest. Due to its mountainous landscape and tropical rainfall, Costa Rica boasts more whitewater rivers than any other country of its size. The warm tropical rivers cut through lush tropical rainforest and create an ideal rafting playground. From the rivers, the group will head to the beach for the surfing phase. The Pacific Ocean provides Costa Rica with exceptional surf conditions year-round for beginner to advanced surfers. On the surf expedition the group will camp, cook, hike and surf together. Part of each day during surf camp will be spent providing service in the local community.
The final phase of the program is located in Panama where the group will learn two technical skills, SCUBA diving and sea kayak expeditioning. The Bocas del Torro archipelago is located near the Caribbean border with Costa Rica. The islands are home to a rich, heterogeneous culture including the indigenous Guaymi-Ngobe people who are direct descendents of the original inhabitants of these islands and the afro-Caribbean Bastimentenos. The Guaymi communicate in both Spanish and their traditional language, of which there are only about 2,000 fluent speakers left in the world. Their dwellings are typically constructed on stilts over the water with grass-thatched roofs. Several small communities and outlying homesteads will host the group as the crew explores the region in expedition sea kayaks. The Guaymi-Ngobe community on the island of Solarte is the staging ground for the SCUBA element of the course.
If you are ready to enroll on a course click the enroll button next to the course you wish to select or you can enroll over the phone by speaking with one of our Admissions Advisors (toll-free) at 866-467-7651.