Volunteer vacations aren’t just about humans and the environment. Not hardly! Animals are such an integral part of our world, and sometimes they need our help. But, how can you help? And how can you do it on vacation?
Many of the animals you’ll see on the trip list below are endangered or very close to making the list. Typically, that means you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to get up close and personal with them (in the wild or in captivity). In the case of the volunteer vacations below, what that means is you’ll be on the forefront of helping them get off that list (or to not land on it to begin with)!
And look, we know you’re here to help. We get it. We love it. But you have to have a little fun while you’re out there, too. You have to see some sights. You need to try the food. These are volunteer vacations after all! Be sure to click through to each trip to see the other adventures you might have in each location.
Read on to see what kind of animals you can help, where you’ll find them, and what sights, sounds, and smells you’ll likely see on your adventure!
A threatening combination of climate change, destruction of natural habitat, and other invasive species has impacted Australia’s magnificently unique wildlife. As a result, various conservation parks have been set up throughout the country. Heading Down Under probably inspires visions of kangaroos, koalas, and wallabies – and it should, as these are some of the animals being protected!
Should you find yourself on a Beachside Wildlife Adventure, you’ll be right out there with park rangers on the Gold Coast. Here, you’ll lend a hand in taking care of the animals, help to improve infrastructure, and plant trees. And of course, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how these curious creatures live.
Non-animal trip bonus: Relax on the beaches of North Stradbroke Island – it’s the world’s second largest sand island!
A Caribbean oasis awaits! People have long been fond of visiting the Caribbean, whether on family vacations, volunteer vacations, celebratory trips, spring break – the list goes on. Unfortunately, the influx of people (human impact), paired with habitat loss, has greatly impacted the endangered manatee population.
Once in Belize, you’ll spend time doing more than feeding the manatees – this isn’t exactly a trip to SeaWorld. On the agenda here: monitoring the health of the manatee population, taking measurements of the environment they live in, and counting the population of the West Indian Manatee. This exciting trip will take you from lagoons to jungle rivers (and of course, the Caribbean Sea), where you’ll be helping to measure the salinity of the water. Maybe these sound like small things to help with, but the truth is: Small things add up into big things, and you’ll be doing big things when it comes to helping the endangered, docile, “sea cow” – all while you’re on vacation!
Non-animal trip bonus: Pristine beaches, world class reefs, hiking through the jungle, and snorkeling in turquoise tinted waters to explore.
Volunteer vacations can take you to places you never thought you’d go. Costa Rica’s a fairly popular vacation destination, sure, but most people do not get anywhere near the sea turtles (nor are they allowed to). Believe it or not, the population of Costa Rican sea turtles has declined 90% since 1980. With The Sea Turtle Initiative, you’ll have front row seats to – and a helping hand in – tracking and protecting the fledgling sea turtle population.
From January to July, trips go to the Caribbean coast, where you’ll be on patrol! You read that right – you’ll be patrolling the beaches to protect the turtles during female nesting season. While you’re there, you’ll also learn from marine biologists, participate in sustainable tourism, and help with beach cleanups.
From August to December, you’ll find yourself on the Pacific coast. On the to-do list on the Pacific side? Digging up already hatched nests to determine the hatch success rate, beach cleanups, and releasing baby turtles back into the ocean.
South Africa is home to an impressive array of animals – many of which you’ll find in The Kruger National Park. Sadly, many of the animals calling this reserve “home” face multiple threats. Rhinos are poached for their horns, leopards are hunted by farmers, and lions suffer from Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), just to name a few.
Volunteer vacations to this area aren’t just about the safaris. No, you’ll go beyond that! Go ahead. Get ready to have the chance to mark these adventures off your bucket list: Holding lion cubs, nursing baby rhinos, and feeding injured animals in South Africa.
Have you ever heard of camera traps? Here, you’ll be a part of a conservation effort that uses them. Staying safely away from leopards, you and your group will use camera traps to gather data on their population density, behavior, and population dynamics outside of protected areas. This is actually an incredibly important effort! It helps to improve policy making, and contributes to addressing the leopard encroachment problem with farmers.
Non-animal trip bonus: Spending a day traversing through the world’s largest ‘green canyon’.
There are so many incredible volunteer vacations to consider, especially when it comes to animals. If the four we touched on here aren’t exactly what you’re looking for, take a look at additional opportunities here.
If you could travel anywhere in the world and volunteer to help any type of animal, where would you go and who would you help? Tell us in the comments below!