Melania Napa'a is following in the footsteps of a great explorer.
She's off to the Kermadec Islands - New Zealand's largest marine reserve and one of the most pristine places in the world - with the Young Blake Expedition.
The expedition is intended to honour the legacy of the late Sir Peter Blake, who saw a future in which all people care for and protect the environment.
"It aims to mobilise and motivate tomorrow's environmental leaders," Sir Peter Blake Trust programme director Siobhan O'Kane says.
Melania and 29 other students were sent on their way with a 100-man guard of honour and a 21-gun salute from the Devonport Naval Base yesterday.
They are travelling on the Royal New Zealand Navy frigate HMNZ Canterbury, along with experienced researchers, naval officers, television journalists and Department of Conservation workers.
The 16-year-old says she is most looking forward to interacting with and "geo-tagging" the sharks that inhabit the waters around the Kermadecs, about 1000km northeast of New Zealand.
"I just can't wait to have them in front of me.
"I don't really know what to expect, whether I should be scared or excited," she says.
The students will also be taking DNA samples from dolphins and monitoring plankton on the remote islands.
Manurewa High School's Gomathi Rajasekaran is also on the expedition. She says while she is excited about exploring the islands, she's most nervous about the long journey on the navy frigate - "I'm scared I might get motion sickness."
Melania has wanted to be a lawyer since she was 6 and says her experience with the Sir Peter Blake Trust has swayed her towards environmental law as a specialty.
"This has really opened my eyes to be more appreciative of the environment. Playing that part in the environment where I can make a difference is what motivates me."
- © Fairfax NZ News