You might be a concious traveler who wants to help save the world, but lets face it, there’s a selfish side that would also just like to see the world and experience new things. But whether you want to give back, have a genuine cultural experience or you’re just wild about animals – volunteering with wildlife is the perfect way to do feel-good travel.
According to a recent study from Booking.com over a third of travellers are interested in observing wildlife in its natural habitat. So, we’ve put together a little list of some of the amazing places around the world where you can get up close and personal with everything from birds to jaguars. Helping out a furry friend and getting the chance to explore a new country – sounds perfect to us!
Are you brave enough to work with the king of the jungle? Help ensure the long-term survival of lions with a team dedicated to the ongoing research of this big cat. Based in the South African province of Limpopo, you will assist with all aspects of research and also have the opportunity to get involved in other important conservation efforts, such as the removal of invasive vegetation.
Where to stay: Volunteers are offered accommodation as part of the program but if you want to extend your time in South Africa (duh, of course!), why not spend some time around the famous Kruger National Park? Imbali Safari Lodge offers spacious chalets with private hot tubs; perfect to take some time out after your volunteering stint. With views overlooking the Nwatsitswonto riverbed and beyond – this is a true African dream!
Don’t let Hitchcock put you off – these little creatures need our help! As our dependence on oil increases, so does the number of birds who become sick or injured due to oil spills. San Francisco based organisation, International Bird Rescue, are key in rehabilitating these birds, but they can’t do it without the help of volunteers. This is a popular program, being based in one of the world’s funkiest cities. As a volunteer, you have the opportunity to help with all stages of the bird’s care, from rescue to release.
Where to stay: The Argonaut Hotel is a great base, offering amazing views of the bay, which many of the local bird and wildlife species call home. Just make sure to wear those flowers in your hair!
Since the 1970s when the West Indian manatee was placed on the endangered species list, organisations across the globe have dedicated themselves to protecting these sweet little sea cows. Set in the tropical, coastal city of Belize, you can explore paradise while also helping save the manatee. 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.
Where to stay: When you’re not looking after these gentle giants, you can relax and experience world-class service at the Laru Beya Resort. The property is only 3-minutes’ walk from the beach and offers an outdoor swimming pool, snorkeling, diving and fishing. Guests can also visit Mayan archaeological sites, explore caves and local wildlife.
The Galápagos Islands’ isolation from the mainland has allowed its animals to evolve according to their surroundings, a fact 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. 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.
Where to stay: 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 right on the beach front and in the center of the Galápagos. Guests can even enjoy on-site access to yachts that will take you the neighboring islands.
Looking for something a little wilder? How about helping save the mighty jaguar in Costa Rica? It doesn’t get much wilder than that. Since the 1950s, the jaguar population in the Americas has plummeted to an estimated 14,000. With GVI, volunteers have the opportunity to make a big difference in jaguar conservation by monitoring and researching their prey, feeding behaviors, and population numbers, information that then goes towards developing effective conversation policies.
Where to stay: Volunteers are based in 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 gorgeous property is just a 12-minute walk from the beach and offers complimentary meals and massage services – perfection!!