Updated for 2023
If you’re thinking about volunteering abroad, but the thought of traveling solo has you thinking twice, consider this amazing fact: prior to the pandemic, the United States alone was estimated to send 20 million volunteer travelers on projects worldwide each year. The UK, the EU, Australia, and Canada were also seeing millions of its citizens travel for volunteer opportunities. While these numbers are recovering as global travel has been opening up around, it’s clear that volunteer travel is an extremely popular way to see the world.
Nearly all of these individual travelers are alone when they begin their journeys.
Want to know why they go? Each year, more and more people travel globally to work in developing countries, teaching English, renovating community centers and temples, planting gardens, and much more. These travelers see themselves as citizens of the world: it is their mission to improve the world, and by doing so, experience personal growth.
Want to know who they are? Twenty-five percent have some college experience, while 50 percent have bachelor’s or master’s degrees and higher. Nearly 70 percent are employed, and 10 percent are retired. A whopping 84 percent of volunteers list alleviating poverty and a desire for cultural immersion as their primary reasons for traveling abroad.
Want to know where they’re going? Here are the Top 10 international destinations for volunteers:
- Africa: 17%
- East Asia: 12%
- South America: 9%
- Mexico: 8%
- Western Europe: 8%
- Eastern Europe: 7%
- Central America: 6%
- Pacific Islands: 5%
- Australia: 4%
- Middle East: 3%
With age as well comes a reason to serve others. If you’re under 25, you’re in the discovery process. If you’re 25 to 50, you’re searching for a meaningful life outside of your daily routine of work and family. And if you’re over 50, you’re seeking to develop or maintain your life purpose, perhaps hoping to leave a legacy.
Or, perhaps you simply want to travel abroad and find not only the best vacation to take alone, but also one that’s fulfilling. Only you know the reason why you’re interested in a volunteer vacation. Read on if you’re looking for trusted, safe organizations that you can volunteer with right now.
In the article, we’ll highlight incredible organizations such as Maximo Nivel, a safe, affordable, volunteer, intern, teach, and language abroad program that is perfect for single travelers, as well as Projects Abroad, a reputable international volunteer organization that’s hosted more than 132,000 volunteers since 1992.
Let’s dive in!
Maximo Nivel offers safe, affordable, and high-quality volunteer programs, internships, and Spanish Language immersion stays throughout Latin America. Launched in 2003, it organizes a variety of travel opportunities, including training and certification for ESL teachers, in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. Maximo Nivel has worked with more than 25,000 individuals on educational, adventurous, and cultural travel programs since its founding, and with a multilingual staff on-call 24/7, this organization is dedicated to providing life-changing experiences for each student, volunteer, and traveler it serves.
Volunteer with Indigenous Communities
Take the path less traveled with a Mayan Cultural Immersion program offered by Maximo Nivel. Volunteer with an indigenous Quechua-speaking community on a rural farm outside Cusco, Peru. This amazing experience allows you an in-depth look into a traditional way of life, resulting in a unique cross-cultural exchange of understanding. You’ll live and work with a local family, helping to care for animals and livestock, working in agriculture, weaving and creating colorful textiles, and learning to prepare local food. You’ll have the opportunity to assist at a construction site and also work with children at the village school. You should be flexible and healthy enough to take on tough, but fulfilling, manual labor. Read more about this opportunity here!
Animal Care in Peru
Maximo Nivel offers an Animal Care volunteer program in Peru, placing you at a dog shelter where you can help with veterinary care, educational programs, fundraising events, and more. In Peru, dogs are often neglected or abandoned. These stray dogs go hungry, become ill, and they become a public problem. The shelter typically houses more than 50 dogs that need love, attention, grooming, and exercise. You’ll also assist with day-to-day tasks like kennel maintenance and cleaning, as well as dog walking. You’re invited to stay one week or longer, and can expect to volunteer three to four hours a day with free time on weekends and in evenings. Explore this program!
Sustainability Education Volunteering
Maximo Nivel’s Sustainability Education program based in Guatemala helps to preserve Lake Atitlan’s natural resources by raising awareness and educating the local population about sustainable resource management. This program gives you the opportunity to learn more about conservation practices around Central America’s deepest lake, a popular tourist destination. Lake Atitlan is increasingly affected by pollution, and as a volunteer, you’ll work with a local NGO to share information about proper waste management, environmental management, and improving ecological conditions of the lake. You should be physically fit and able to perform manual labor, as you’ll assist with restoring the hillsides, fertilizing the soil, and seasonal clean-up. Learn more about this important program here.
Holiday Volunteer Programs
Discover a new you with Maximo Nivel when you join the Christmas or the New Year programs in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru! These celebratory experiences invite you to volunteer on various projects for communities in need, from working with children and animals to community beautification, to assisting the elderly and those with special needs.
End one year and begin the new year with joy in your heart as you leave an impact with this special opportunity. Held each year from December 24 to 30, and December 31 to January 6, this program allows you to spread love, cheer, and count your blessings as you work in three areas of need. Different countries have different needs, so you’ll help in a variety of ways during your holiday experience abroad.
In Costa Rica, your time will be divided between three projects. First, you’ll help to update and beautify the community with hands-on activities including painting, general construction, gardening, and other tasks. Then share global love on a volunteer project with children by playing games and organizing arts and crafts activities. Then, you’ll help provide care at an elderly facility, engaging the residents in talk therapy, playing board games, providing companionship, and dancing.
In Peru, you’ll provide care for neglected dogs and other animals at a rescue center. Then, you’ll participate in a medical campaign, providing basic medical and dental education and distributing supplies. Lastly, you’ll work alongside indigenous people in an Andean village, caring for local children and enjoying outdoor activities and holiday fun.
A trip to Guatemala will have you volunteering on various projects throughout Antigua, from entertaining children with sports or arts and crafts activities to assisting a grower on a sustainable coffee farm. Then, you’ll work with special-needs children, playing games, sharing hobbies, and helping with feeding time.
Through each of these programs, you’ll participate in the annual holiday party, where you will wrap and distribute gifts, lead games, serve food, and relax with new friends. For some children, this may be the only holiday party and gifts that they receive. Click here to sign up!
Get Certified in Scuba or Yoga in Latin America
Travel to Latin America with Maximo Nivel and prepare for your future with certification in two unique industries: scuba and yoga. These are just a couple of the adventure programs offered through Maximo Nivel – click here to read about other opportunities including Surf School, Mini Adventure, and Volunteer Adventure.
Explore the Earth as few can with Scuba Diving Certification from Maximo Nivel. Earn your PADI Open Water certification in less than five days from an organization that’s internationally recognized and respected in the dive community.
On your PADI Open Water certification course, you’ll learn the basic principles of scuba diving, then take confined water dives in a pool to practice basic scuba skills. Next, you’ll take what you’ve learned into open water and gain diving experience. You’ll use scuba gear including a mask, snorkel, fins, regulator, buoyancy control device (BCD), and an air tank. Your certification includes lessons from a PADI-certified dive instructor, the course textbook and materials, diving equipment rental, transportation to and from the dive site, and PADI certification.
Dive in Peru: Learn to scuba dive in the warm waters of the Pacific Coast, where the Niño and Humboldt currents merge in Mancora, Peru. Home to more than 2,700 marine species, when you dive in the open water here, you can expect to see angelfish, emperor fish, sea turtles, octopi, sea horses, and more.
Dive in Guatemala: Earn your PADI certification in Santa Cruz, on the edge of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala’s deepest lake and a national treasure. This volcanic lake offers a unique, high-altitude dive experience. You’ll be able to touch the hot mud along the volcanic fault lines and view the underwater volcanic rock formations and swim-throughs. Some of the marine life you’ll see are freshwater fish, crabs, and a variety of plant life.
Dive in Costa Rica: Journey to Manuel Antonio, home to the best beaches along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and learn to scuba dive. Enter the water via the white sand beaches of the national park, and once below you’ll have an opportunity to view volcanic rock formations, sea turtles, white tip and reef sharks, octopi, stingrays, lobsters, and tropical fish. Ready to get underwater?
Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. If you practice yoga and love to share this amazing, healthy activity with others, consider a certification course through Maximo Nivel that helps you launch a career as a yoga instructor.
Yoga teacher certification courses are set in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. You’ll spend 200 hours on the course, learning the basics in:
- Techniques, Training, and Practice: 100 hours
- Teaching Methodology: 25 hours
- Anatomy and Physiology: 20 hours
- Yoga Philosophy, Lifestyle and Ethics for Yoga Teachers: 30 hours
- Practicum: 10 hours
There are additional hours, both contact and elective, distributed in the categories above and tailored to your individual focus. Maximo Nivel’s RYT 200 Yoga Instructor Certification courses follow Yoga Alliance teacher training requirements. Get started today!
Founded in 1992, Projects Abroad has 209 projects across 20 destinations. With a mission to make a real impact, Projects Abroad has hosted more than 132,000 volunteers to date, offering the gold standard of staff support. Each year, Projects Abroad makes a point to enact positive change in local communities by:
- Supporting the education of more than 14,000 children worldwide
- Removing nearly 30 tons of litter from the environment
- Planting over 18,000 trees
As a lone traveler volunteer, you can make a huge difference with Projects Abroad, whether you volunteer for human rights, wildlife conservation or medical care. The organization has a wide variety of high-quality programs throughout the globe. Plus, they handle everything, from airport pickups and local transportation to accommodation. This enables you to focus more on the trip.
Read about three amazing options for solo volunteers below!
Solo Volunteering in Nepal
Want to support a community in need between the spectacular Himalayan mountains? Head to Nepal with Projects Abroad, where you can choose among 15 projects. A few popular projects for solo volunteers include:
- Volunteer Teaching in Nepal: Help children at disadvantaged primary schools improve their English, and improve their future prospects. Cost is $2,080 for 2 weeks; $2,580 for 4 weeks.
- Rhino Conservation in Nepal: Experience village life as you contribute to animal conservation efforts, including protecting the majestic rhino in Chitwan National Park. Cost is $3,140 for 2 weeks; $4,080 for 4 weeks.
From Building Volunteer Work to Youth Empowerment Volunteering, Projects Abroad has plenty of wonderful service opportunities for solo travelers. Click here to view all the programs!
Solo Volunteer Programs in Fiji
Soak in life in Fiji while supporting disadvantaged communities. Projects Abroad has 5 wonderful projects for solo volunteers, including:
- Community Volunteer Work in Fiji: Immerse yourself in daily village life while giving back through various initiatives. You’ll teach at a school, help with farming projects, assist with village maintenance and more. Cost is $2,470 for 1 week; $3,580 for 4 weeks.
- Shark Conservation Volunteering in Fiji: Work alongside scientists to protect endangered sharks. You’ll even gain PADI diver certification for survey dives. Cost is $4,290 for 2 weeks; $5,530 for 4 weeks.
Beautiful Fiji is calling your name. Explore all Projects Abroad’s volunteer projects in Fiji here!
Solo Volunteering in Cambodia
Support community development while exploring the history and culture of Cambodia. Projects Abroad has 14 great projects in Cambodia, including a Fast Fashion Awareness Trip that will surely open your eyes. Other great options for solo volunteers include:
- Volunteer Teaching in Cambodia: Head to Phnom Penh, where you’ll teach children in underprivileged schools conversational English. And explore the city during your free time. Cost is $2,340 for 2 weeks; $2,980 for 4 weeks.
- Care Center Volunteering in Cambodia: Help provide a fun and supportive environment for children to learn and grow. You’ll get to play games and sports with the children! Cost is $2,340 for 2 weeks; $2,980 for 4 weeks.
Is it time for solo volunteering in Cambodia? View all Projects Abroad’s projects in the country here!
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)
International Volunteer HQ has placed more than 80,000 volunteers in 40+ countries around the world since its founding in 2007 as an alternative to expensive volunteering programs available at the time. With a focus on providing affordable and responsible volunteer travel experiences that heighten global awareness and cultural understanding, IVHQ partners with NGOs on projects that promote an exchange of skills and expertise, with an emphasis on sustainability and safety. Programs range from wildlife and animal care, to teaching, to sports coaching, construction and renovation, and more in Asia, the Pacific, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America. IVHQ is a trusted, low-cost volunteer program, with fees starting at only $180. Interns and volunteers are invited to stay abroad one week to six months to gain the most from their experience.
Volunteer in Victoria Falls
Travel on a volunteer adventure to a private game reserve in Zimbabwe, close to Victoria Falls – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – as a wildlife conservation volunteer! You’ll be supported every step of the way when you partner with an experienced IVHQ program manager to plan your trip to the reserve. You’ll gain hands-on experience in game reserve management and help out with ongoing research of Africa’s Big 5 animals: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo. Conservation activities may include alien vegetation removal, fence patrols, bush walks with International Anti-Poaching Foundation, waterhole creation, freshwater ecosystem analysis, game and bird monitoring and counting, predator culvert checks, and much more.
You’ll work in tandem with members of the game reserve team and the anti-poaching unit, all vital to the successful operation of the reserve, its surrounding areas, and the local ecosystems. Your work will benefit partner organizations, including the Zimbabwe National Parks Authority, Birdlife Zimbabwe, and the Endangered Wildlife Trust. You’ll also be able to attend lectures on conservation topics, which will help you to understand the effectiveness of your contribution and the conservation issues in Africa. Some volunteers also contribute to community development projects in the areas of education, fundraising, nutrition, and small-scale vegetable gardening.
Weekends can be spent whitewater rafting, sunset river cruising, exploring rainforests, and taking guided tours and safaris. This wildlife conservation volunteer trip starts from two weeks at $880, and you’re invited to stay for up to three months. Learn more and sign up here!
Cambodia Volunteer Program
Solo travelers looking to volunteer as a part of their solo vacation find Cambodia a perfect location for several reasons. The Khmer people are receptive, sincere, and humble, and the landscape is serene and colorful. On any given day, you’ll see lush green rice paddies, gray stone temples with saffron-robed monks, and vibrant markets crowded with vendors selling food and flowers. Traveling in Cambodia is inexpensive, also, and a popular travel destination on the Asia backpacking route. IVHQ has volunteer placements located in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and the Cambodian provinces of Pursat and Kampong Speu. Volunteers are often placed where the need is greatest and assigned with the projects that will benefit both the volunteer and the community. Placements include:
- English teaching to children in daycare centers, local and private schools
- Assisting local NGOs in the areas of human rights, health, and gender issues
- Special needs care for children ages 5 to 18
- Computer support for NGOs
Arrive at the Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH), where you’ll be greeted by a local team member, and escorted to your accommodation. The program orientation begins the first and third Monday of the month at the volunteer house in Phnom Penh. Orientation covers everything you need to know for your stay in Cambodia, and once you’re ready to start your program, a coordinator will escort you on your first day volunteering, introducing you to the placement staff. Each day, you’ll be assigned a duty roster, and work and hours are dependent upon the project and location. Weekends are free for travel, and many volunteers explore the town and travel to the temples of Angkor Wat (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), as well as various national parks, or even the beaches in the south of Cambodia. Fees for most projects here begin at $360 for two weeks, with stays up to six months. Learn more about Cambodia and choose a program that interests you.
Agape Volunteers is an excellent choice if you are looking for a reputable and affordable volunteer abroad trip to Africa. Founded in 2011, AV is a registered UK charity that supports humanitarian efforts and environmental conservation – with volunteering, tourism, and development work in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Ghana available, projects range from medical volunteering to teaching abroad, to volunteering at a wildlife refuge. Program costs include registration and administration fees, tours and excursions, housing and feed, and even travel insurance, making Agape Volunteers an incredibly affordable option for volunteering in Africa.
Mount Kilimanjaro Climb
Here’s a bucket-list trip that’s on most hikers’ itinerary: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro! If you are physically fit, you can climb this majestic and iconic African landmark with Agape Volunteers. The trip takes a minimum of eight days and requires a climbing permit. You’ll reach the summit by morning and enjoy the most memorable sunrise of your life. Click here to read more about the Kenyan adventures offered by AV.
Uganda Gorilla Trek
The Uganda Gorilla Trek is an exciting opportunity to learn more about Africa’s fascinating animals and their social practices and ways of life. Spend several days hiking into the jungle with experienced guides for an incredible experience few people have enjoyed. The endangered mountain gorilla is extremely reclusive, and a portion of your trip fee supports their natural habitat. Costs vary for this adventure but start at £2,000. Planning is strictly regulated and requires careful consideration. Learn more and start chatting with an adviser as soon as possible.
Ghana Adventures for Volunteers
Travel to Ghana and volunteer with Agape Volunteers, choosing from programs in education, childcare, wildlife, medical, music, and sports. There are four exciting day trips you can tack onto the experience, including:
- Kakum Rainforest and Cape Coast Cultural Tour, £135
- Wli Falls & Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary, £120
- Ghanaian Village Experience, £150
- Accra City Tour, £75
Fees for each includes all transport, entrance fees, and an experienced tour guide. Check out these trip-enhancing adventures and select one today!
If you’re looking for a safe, high-quality volunteer vacation perfect for solo travelers, visit Abroadly, Volunteer Forever’s new booking platform. Whether you want to help with turtle conservation in Costa Rica or teach English in Vietnam, you’ll find numerous reputable programs on the site.
What’s great is that, when you apply to a program on Abroadly, you’ll be entered for a chance to win a $500 scholarship. You also get to use Volunteer Forever’s crowdfunding platform for free (get donations from others for your trip!). And, if you’re not accepted into the program of your choice, the application fee will be fully refunded.
So, start on your search for volunteer vacations for singles today!
Volunteer at a Penguin Rescue Center in South Africa
Join Khaya Volunteer Projects in Port Elizabeth, where you’ll work at the South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre, caring for sick and injured penguins. There are only about 25,000 breeding pairs of African penguins left, and your volunteer efforts will go a long way in rehabilitating penguins, protecting them from environmental threats (like pollution), and ensuring the penguin population can live healthy lives and reproduce. Daily tasks will include preparing food for the penguins, cleaning facilities, guiding visitors through the center, and teaching children about the challenges penguins face.
After volunteering each day, you’re free to explore Port Elizabeth, a city with nice beaches and great attractions and cultural sites, such as Seaview Predator Park and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum. Stay four weeks for $1385. You can stay as long as eight weeks. Interested in learning more? Click here.
Volunteer for Animal Care in Guatemala
Maximo Nivel’s animal care program in Antigua gives you the choice between volunteering at a dog shelter or exotic animal rescue center. It’s a tough choice, but both centers do great work. At the dog shelter, you’ll work alongside veterinarians, helping with general care, walking, grooming, and obedience training. At the exotic animal rescue center, you’ll assist with the rescue, rehabilitation, and relocation of sick and injured reptiles. Main tasks at the rescue center include cage cleaning, feeding, and hosting visitors.
Each workday is about four hours, leaving you ample time to experience Antigua, a city known for its Spanish colonial architecture and surrounding natural beauty (there are volcanoes nearby!). Program fees begin at $645 for one week, with stays up to 12 weeks available. Learn more here.
Volunteer to Teach IT and Computer Skills in Ghana
Offered by uVolunteer, this program in Koforidua gives you the amazing chance to help local high school students learn a skill that will benefit them for a lifetime. The primary goal is to teach students basic computer literacy skills, such as how to use Microsoft Office and perform research on the internet. If you have a specialized skill, such as programming, animation, or audio creation, you’ll have the opportunity to teach that as well. An incredibly rewarding project, your impact will be felt immediately, as you’ll be helping Ghana’s youth prepare for life and work in the digital age.
When you’re not teaching, get into vacation mood. Visit the heritage sites at Cape Coast, go on a safari, and see Boti Falls. The program costs $935 for three weeks. Want to apply or learn more? Click here.
Volunteer for Environmental Conservation at a Cloud Forest Reserve in San Ramon, Costa Rica
Protect local wildlife and ecosystems at a nature preserve by signing up for uVolunteer’s program. Costa Rica, a country with more than a quarter of its land designated as national parks, is full of incredible nature and wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, big cats, and turtles (you may see some in their natural habitat during your volunteer vacation). Your work at a community-owned reserve, which will consist of planting trees, watching over a butterfly garden, and helping with general upkeep, will have a great impact in preserving the local ecosystem.
This program is best for volunteers who know some Spanish. When you’re not helping out at the reserve, you can go hiking at Cloud Forest Reserve and explore the shops and restaurants in San Ramon. The program fee is $935 for three weeks, with stays up to 12 weeks available. Get more details and apply here!
Volunteer in a Wildlife Hospital in South Africa
Head just north of Johannesburg to Kyalami, where you’ll help wild animals recover. During this program offered by Awesome Travel, you’ll care for mammals, birds, and reptiles that are orphaned, injured, or ill. In a typical day, you’ll feed the animals, clean facilities, and administer medication, as well as assist the vet in any way necessary. The ultimate goal is to release the animals back into the wild.
This program makes for a great volunteer vacation, as you’ll be near entertainment at Rosebank Mall and close to noteworthy sites, like the Apartheid Museum and Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. Program fees begin at $1,012 for two weeks, with stays up to 12 weeks available. Does this sound like the perfect volunteer trip? Apply here!
Volunteer to Teach English in Pedasi, Panama
TeachPTY’s program in Pedasi is a wonderful way to spend a volunteer vacation. You’ll be working with underprivileged third-grade students, teaching them English through games, activities, and conversation. By doing so, you’ll give these children a tool they can use for a lifetime. Note that you must be a native English speaker or fluent in English to qualify for the program.
You’ll teach about 10 hours during the week, which gives you the chance to experience Pedasi, an area known for its pristine beaches and amazing hiking. The program fee begins at $1,501 for two weeks. You can stay for up to 12 weeks. Does a trip like this sound exciting? Apply here!
Looking for an experience that is far from ordinary? Fronteering offers volunteer projects and adventures in places less traveled. Its objective is to organize programs that protect and sustain unspoiled places still wealthy in wildlife and native people. Founded in 2007, Fronteering supports communities that can benefit from the input of volunteer travelers, while providing a thrilling – and sometimes extreme – experience for its participants. In addition to volunteer placements, Fronteering also offers off-the-beaten-path adventure trips for singles, some with an element of risk, to some of the world’s most unique locations, using local guides and transportation. Not all of Fronteering’s trips are for the faint of heart, and if you have an intrepid spirit and a passion for nature and wildlife, a Fronteering experience may be exactly what you need.
Wilderness Research in Yukon, Canada
Venture into one of the most open and awe-inspiring landscapes on the planet: Yukon, Canada. This immense territory, famous for its beautiful lakes and majestic mountains, needs your help with land and wildlife management in a First Nation Community. This is an opportunity to combine your compassion for people, the environment, and animals in one adventure trip. Your responsibilities will vary depending upon assignments and the season, assisting an archaeologist and working with First Nation people on projects in the community. You’ll do hard work during the week, so this project isn’t for the faint of heart. Tasks can include:
- Salmon surveys and assessment
- Environmental monitoring and vegetation surveys
- Monitoring caribou populations
- Wetland monitoring (amphibian, aquatic invertebrates surveys, water quality, and soil sampling)
- Heritage data collection and archaeological test pits
Once you arrive at the airport, you’ll be met and transferred to the volunteer project. Sign up for a minimum of two weeks and enjoy the vibrant history of the region on your days off. Add a trip to Vancouver or Toronto to round out your Canadian journey. Open year-round, you’ll be able to go skiing and dog sledding in the winter, and hiking and wildlife viewing in the summer. Learn more about this unique cultural exchange here.
Island Survival in Caye, Belize
If the Yukon is too cold for your blood, check out the Island Survival adventure Fronteering offers in Belize. A unique travel experience, this project asks you if you’ve ever imagined being shipwrecked on a tropical island, then puts you on one! Your mission is to survive for two weeks with nothing but a bit of wreckage, palm trees, and your own wits.
Well, actually there are ex-UK Special Forces survival specialists on hand to teach you how to do exactly that, amidst clear blue water, white sandy shores, and coconut and palm trees, catching fish with your bare hands, cooking over a fire you started yourself, and sleeping in hammocks on the beach.
This adventure is for outdoor enthusiasts who have an interest in challenging themselves and don’t mind getting wet and dirty. It’s a simulated survival situation that begins as a helicopter tour of the Cayes that “goes wrong” and your aircraft has to ditch. You’ll jump from the helicopter into the water, and your adventure begins. Can you cope and function as a team when you have to depend upon the wreckage and the natural environment for 10 days? Sure, it’s a tropical paradise in stunning cayes and coral reefs during this group-travel vacation, but the reality includes isolation, strange environment, no modern luxuries, and heat and bugs.
During this program, you’ll be able to experience psychological survival training, learn how to turn seawater into freshwater, improvise a shelter, catch and cook fish, build a fire, and make the best use of your “plane crash” wreckage. On the final day, a local rescue team finds you. You’ll head back to the city, where you’ll wash off the trail, eat fresh food, and swap stories of your adventure! Fees begin at $2,595 for 11 days, and all in-country transfers are provided, including the helicopter drop-off. Ready to get lost?
Based in Cape Town, Via Volunteers has 15+ years of experience looking after volunteers in South Africa. They support numerous sustainable volunteer projects, from community and childcare programs to wildlife and conservation initiatives.
Passionate about ethical volunteering, Via Volunteers caters to lone travelers. 70% of their volunteers are solo female travelers aged between 17-25 years. However, they offer great support for all age groups, including seniors and retirees hoping to take solo volunteer vacations in South Africa. Through Via Volunteers, you can arrange a short-term volunteer placement or join any combination of placements for a longer stay (thinking about a gap year?).
From travel advice to arranging transport, Via Volunteers can assist with your adventures in South Africa. Download the Via Volunteers app, the first ethical volunteering app, for even more tips on choosing a volunteer program and sightseeing in Cape Town and beyond.
Marine Conservation and Ecotourism in South Africa
Head to Kleinbaai, the world’s great white shark capital, and work alongside marine conservationists and biologists. You’ll participate in exciting activities, like:
- shark cage diving
- whale watching
- great white shark data collection (recording sightings, studying behavior, tagging, etc)
- beach cleanups with local children and teens
As a conservation volunteer, you’ll contribute to ongoing research aiming to improve the sustainability of the coastal and marine ecosystem in the Western Cape. And you’ll get to enjoy the beach and ocean!
Past volunteers praise the project, like Kayleigh from the UK:
“I loved every minute! The staff are always so welcoming. Getting to see great white sharks up close is such a wonderful thing. And it is not all about the sharks, you can also spot dolphins, whales, seals, and penguins! The work everyone does to help in the conservation of sharks and other marine life is incredible! This is my second time booking with Ed and Heather at Via Volunteers and I think they are both wonderful. The care and attention they give their volunteers you wouldn’t get anywhere else.”
So, want to be a marine conservation and ecotourism volunteer in South Africa? Costs start from $529 per week. Sign up here!
African Penguin Rehabilitation near Cape Town
Want to make a serious impact on your volunteer vacation? Then help endangered African penguins at the SANCCOB rehab center. The center has done some incredible work, directly increasing the African penguin population by 19% since beginning in 1968. When you volunteer with penguins, you’ll assist with rehab efforts for injured, ill, or oiled birds. And you’ll take part in penguin releases—an emotional and uplifting experience.
To make your volunteer vacation more enjoyable, Via Volunteers gives you the choice of staying with a host family or at a backpacker lodging. You’ll meet plenty of other travelers and have the chance to explore the history, dining, and entertainment of Cape Town during free time.
This project has received great reviews from former volunteers, especially for Via Volunteers’ in-country support. Here’s what Kathryn from the USA had to say:
“I am pre-vet in college right now and this was a fun and unique way to develop my resume. I am glad that I came through Via Volunteers. It made it much easier to plan and helped me and my parents feel much safer with me so far from home. I found it helpful having someone else come up with the itinerary and organization before arriving. Having support and resources while there was also really nice. The pre-planned Kruger trip at the end was also an amazing experience.”
Already packing your bags? Costs start from only $175 per week. Reserve your spot today!
Founded in 2009, Global Nomadic offers life-changing volunteer opportunities for people wanting to develop new skills while making contributions in the world. More than 10,000 people have signed up with Global Nomadic, working alongside NGOs on projects in human rights, sustainability, environmental conservation, and wildlife rehabilitation. With partners in more than 40 countries, Global Nomadic invites young professionals to seek international work placements and further their career with internships, TEFL courses, and outstanding volunteer placements.
Tropical Agroforestry & Sustainable Farming
If you’re interested in environmental conservation, Global Nomadic has an agroforestry program in southern Belize that’s one of the oldest permaculture projects in all of Central America. This is a hands-on organic farm experience where you will learn about growing and producing cacao, as well as planting and harvesting. Volunteers with the sustainable farming project in Punta Gorda, Belize, work in all processes of cacao production, from planting and mulching to fermenting and drying, as well as nursery management.
Your contributions will help to produce rare strains of cacao plants, while you learn about sustainable agroforestry and tropical agriculture. Thanks to its tropical climate and its protected territories on land and in the water, Belize is a haven for visitors. Its calm, clear waters offer excellent fishing, boating, scuba diving, snorkeling, and kayaking. Its interior is perfect for bird watching, hiking, spelunking, and visiting the jungle and wildlife reserves. Add a trip to the Maya ruins into the mix, and you’ve got an adventure trip that adds a new dimension to your volunteer work with coral reefs. You can stay two weeks to six months on this project, and you’re encouraged to join any time. The cost is $450 for the first week, with discounts to $850 for a month. Read more here!
Natural Resources Protection & Surfonomics
When you choose Global Nomadic’s environmental conservation project in Natural Resources Protection & Surfonomics, you’ll spend two weeks to six months in a north Peru surfing hotspot, working with a growing Peruvian NGO in Lobitos. Geographically, Peru has a magnificent coastline with sandy beaches and world-class wave breaks that make it a perfect place to practice surfing and other sports. In 2013, Peru became the first country to approve a law protecting its wave breaks, and as a requirement for application, each wave break must have a technical hydrographic study and be registered in the National Registry of Wave Breaks.
Your work with the Surfonomics Study will help bring economic valuation of the benefit that the sport of surfing brings to the community of Lobitos. Gain hands-on experience during this internship with a surfing-inspired sustainable development non-profit with the goal of improving natural resources and the quality of life for people in coastal communities. Tasks include conducting surveys of tourists, local business owners, and key stakeholders to better understand the impacts of the surfing industry, including how much income it generates, and how this income is distributed. You’ll assist the NGO as it develops educational, environmental, social and economic productivity projects, with three goals, including nature conservation, social justice, and economic wellbeing for all. Fees are $1,128 for the first two weeks. Get started on your Surfonomics adventure today!
Ready to Travel?
Traveling solo gives you a chance to become self-sufficient, and volunteering for those less fortunate allows you to grow as an individual. This is a reason why more and more people are choosing to volunteer during their solo vacation. Organizations like IVHQ, Fronteering, and Global Nomadic ensure that your experience is safe and one-of-a-kind. Take responsibility for your future as a world citizen, and work with a trusted partner to place you where you can do the most good.
Robin Van Auken · Writer
Robin is a researcher, writer, and a registered professional archaeologist, a skillset she uses every day as a cultural communication specialist with Hands-on Heritage. Her projects connect communities with an emphasis on interpretation and education and conserve cultural and environmental legacies.