Spending a holiday volunteering with animals is a dream for many. But with wildlife volunteering opportunities in every corner of the globe, where do you start?
First you have to pick a destination that appeals to you, then do your research and look into the community, the local organisations, and the work that they do. To ensure that your time there isn’t doing any harm to the local environment, it’s important to ensure that the destination is working with organisations dedicated to wildlife protection conservation, not those profiting from visitors interacting with the animals.
Below you will find some of the world’s best options for improving the state of wildlife on our planet.
Help researchers ensure the long-term survival of lions in South Africa
Monitoring lions in Limpopo, South Africa
Help ensure the long-term survival of lions with a team dedicated to the ongoing research of this charismatic big cat. Based in the South African province of Limpopo, you and other Global Vision International (GVI) volunteers will assist with all aspects of research, including monitoring the lions’ feeding behaviour, movement, location, and health. When not working directly with the king of the jungle, you will also have the opportunity to get involved in other important conservation efforts, such as the removal of invasive vegetation. Since this program began, volunteers have supported the management and conservation of over 3 million hectares of protected areas in Limpopo.
Volunteers are offered accommodation as part of the program but if you want to extend your time in South Africa, why not spend some time around the famous Kruger national Park? Imbali Safari Lodge offers spacious chalets with private hot tubs; perfect to relax in after your volunteering stint, with views overlooking the Nwatsitswonto riverbed and beyond.
Assist in all stages of rescued birds care in San Francisco
Caring for injured and oiled birds in San Francisco
As our dependence on oil increases, so does the number of birds who become sick or injured due to oil spills. Rescue organisations such as the International Bird Rescue are key in rescuing and rehabilitating these birds, but they can’t do it without the help of volunteers. As a volunteer, you have the opportunity to help with all stages of the bird’s care, from rescue and rehabilitation to release. The International Bird Rescue offer different levels of volunteering, so the more comfortable you become with the work and the birds, the more responsibilities you can take on.
If you want to explore San Francisco outside of your volunteer work, the Argonaut Hotel is a great base, offering great views of the bay, which many of the local bird and wildlife species call home.
Volunteers help with the ongoing Manatee conservation efforts in Belize
Counting manatees in Belize
Since the 1970s when the West Indian manatee was placed on the endangered species list, organisations across the globe dedicated themselves to protecting these species. After over 40 years of work, population numbers grew to the 6000s, officially being reclassified from endangered to threatened. To help continue to boost manatee numbers, these organisations need volunteers. In Belize, volunteers are invited to support ongoing conservation efforts with the Discover Corps team by counting the manatee population, monitoring their health, and measuring key environmental factors.
When you’re not looking after these gentle giants, you can relax in your own private cabana at Caribbean Beach Cabanas of Placencia. Placencia is home to the Placencia Lagoon, one of the best places to see manatees in Belize, and only a stone’s throw from these self-catering cabanas.
Rehabilitate elephants and help communities establish new income in Thailand
Rehabilitating elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand
With so many endangered Asian elephants sold or born into the tourist industry, only to be mistreated and abused, volunteers are invited to Thailand’s Chiang Mai province to help protect this precious species. Here you can assist the GVI team with the rehabilitation of the elephants and help traditional elephant-keepers to establish an alternative livelihood.
Accommodation is covered during the volunteer term but if you want to extend your stay to explore the province of Chiang Mai, the eponymous capital city is a popular option. Akyra Manor Chiang Mai is located within walking distance from Nimmanhaemin Road, where you can find artisanal shops, galleries, and popular restaunts and cafés.
Partake in ecosystem restoration and research turtles in the Galápagos
Restore habitats and research local turtle populations in the Galápagos Islands
The Galápagos Islands’ isolation from the mainland has allowed its animals to evolve according to their surroundings, a fact that was instrumental in helping Charles Darwin formulate his theories on evolution and natural selection. Today, the islands are supported by volunteers who dedicate their time to conserving this extraordinary ecosystem. REI, in partnership with the Conservation Volunteers International Program, offers a range opportunities for willing volunteers, such as assisting with sea turtle and giant tortoise conservation efforts. Free from natural predators, the islands allow their animal inhabitants to be super friendly, so you can expect plenty of up-close-and-personal interactions.
Each of the islands is home to a unique selection of animals, so finding accommodation in a central location is key. Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel in Puerto Ayora is in the centre of the Galápagos and offers guest on-site access to yachts that will take you the neighbouring islands.
Volunteers help develop conservation policies to protect jaguars in Costa Rica
Study jaguars and help develop conservation policies in Costa Rica
Since the 1950’s, the jaguar population in the Americas has plummeted to an estimated 14,000. These dwindling numbers have resulted in an ongoing effort to create programs and policies that protect these elusive creatures. With GVI, volunteers have the opportunity to make a big difference in jaguar conservation by monitoring and researching their prey species, feeding behaviours, and population numbers. Once collected, this information is used by the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment to develop well-rounded and consistent conservation policies.
Volunteers are based in the GVI’s wildlife conservation research station in the stunning Tortuguero National Park. If you want to extend your trip with some r&r after your volunteer work is complete, book a night at the nearby Evergreen Lodge. Located in the heart of Tortuguero National Park, the property is just a 12-minute walk from the beach and offers complimentary meals, free Wi-Fi, and massage services.