Scientists claim we’re living in the Anthropocene, an “unofficial” geological era in which humans dominate the planet. We’ve left the Cenozoic era, the Age of Mammals, which began 66 million years ago, because people are having a massive influence on the biosphere, altering it to suit our needs. Thanks to collective learning, people are better at sharing information so they know how to build new things.
With each new highway, each new skyscraper, each new automobile, each new plastic water bottle, some part of nature has to give way. There are nearly 8 billion people on earth, using – and sometimes abusing – every available resource. Because of this, animals and the environment are suffering. But it’s not all doom and gloom.
It’s a great time to get involved with conservation because many nations recognize the importance of the environment, and have government agencies and NGOs dedicated to creating and managing policies to protect it. There also are numerous nonprofit organizations that promote wildlife conservation – some of which you’ll learn about in this article. It’s an important topic because of the immediate risks from climate change, unregulated hunting and poaching, pollution, deforestation, over-exploitation, and increasing human population.
Thanks to collective learning and caring people, we can tackle these risks and even reverse them. If you have an interest in conservation and protecting the environment, you can help the wild plants and animals being impacted by the encroaching humanity. Through hands-on work in the field, you can contribute data to scientific research that will restore damaged coral reefs and re-forest the Amazon. Beach cleanups and educational workshops on plastic pollution will lead toward a recovery of the oceans and marine life. You can help with saving endangered animals such as sharks and turtles, or you can help to rehabilitate abused animals like abandoned dogs and cats. You can go big or you can go small, but the fact that you’re going at all is a contribution to the welfare of life on earth.
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International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) is a trusted volunteer organization that sends more than 10,000 empowered people abroad each year on meaningful projects with sustainable objectives. Founded in 2007, IVHQ works with organizations and NGOs in more than 40 countries and offers 200+ affordable and safe projects worldwide. Its programs are designed to be responsible and deliver sustainable value for the environment and the communities that live there. It’s an innovative organization that works to keep fees affordable while maintaining a youthful, non-corporate, and tech-focused profile.
Conservation volunteers with IVHQ work in various locales: marine, jungle, coastline, and on sustainable organic farms. You’ll work with community members and NGOs as they take proactive steps to protect their environment. Countries with eco-volunteer opportunities include Bali, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, Indonesia, Italy, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, and Spain. With 20+ destinations offering conservation programs, there are myriad choices – choose one and embark upon your adventure today!
Take a hands-on role in conservation when you volunteer to work with sea turtles in Bali!Travel to the island of Nusa Penida, where you’ll care for turtles at the conservation center. Duties include feeding and cleaning the turtles, assisting with beach cleanups, and taking part in waste management improvement. You’ll also have an opportunity to help educate the community about Indonesia’s endangered sea turtle population. During weekends, take time to explore the rice terraces and temples around Ubud, or consider a cycling or trekking tour to Mount Batur. Duration is two weeks or more on this program and fees begin at $600. Read more and sign up here.
Contribute to the protection of the Amazon ecosystem when you volunteer at an Amazonian jungle conservation camp with IVHQ in Peru. Tasks include reforestation, trail and home-base maintenance, conservation research, and conducting inventories of native animal species. Volunteers are placed at one of three locations depending upon need and field conditions. Your orientation in Cusco will introduce you to Peruvian customs, language lessons, rules, safety, travel opportunities, and in-depth information about your project and placement. Stay of two weeks, and up to six months. This unique, sustainable and responsible program’s fees start at $ 545 and also require an extra cost of $65 per week for supervision, materials, and the logistics involved in this project. Learn more and register here.
Visit “The Big Easy” – New Orleans – and volunteer with IVHQ’s environmental sustainability project there, helping the city as it faces rising sea levels and sinking wetlands. These drastic geographic changes are threatening everyone who lives in this vibrant, historical city. If you love physical work and are passionate about conservation, this program will place you on a project that works in community gardens, farms, and public green spaces, while being involved in restoring wetlands through planting, and assisting with conservation and disaster management plans. If you don’t like getting your hands dirty, this placement also requires administrative support, so you can help out with building websites and social media platforms, as well as fundraising campaigns, and data collection. Experience a fusion of Cajun, Creole, French, and African cultures during your spare time, as you bounce from restaurants to nightclubs to parks and more. Go further afield on a swamp tour and see massive alligators and other wildlife. This city loves a parade so be ready to embrace the city’s motto, “laissez les bon temps rouler” – “let the good times roll!” Program fees are $440 for one week. Read more and register today!
Global Vision International (GVI) is a respected and prominent organization offering high impact volunteering programs from one week and up, as well as internships for those looking for career development opportunities. Founded in 1997, GVI places more than 2,000 people on volunteer and intern abroad programs and award-winning trips throughout the world, each with objectives geared toward achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds contribute to the impact and success of these responsible, sustainable, projects.
Spend your vacation along the blue waters of the Indian Ocean and work on critical GVI marine conservation projects in Seychelles! On this trip, you will be a member of an expedition, earning your PADI Advanced and PADI Coral Reef Research Diver qualification while learning alongside marine researchers. Five days per week, you will go snorkeling or diving to conduct underwater surveys aimed at providing data to the local government on coral reef research, invertebrate surveys, and turtle breeding areas. You’ll participate in environmental education sessions, marine debris surveys, dive training sessions, and more. On days off, you can hike up Cap Matoopa, and on the last days of your project, you can visit favorite sites to dive just for fun. This marine research program starts from four weeks at $4,195. Learn more and sign up here!
Join leading marine and terrestrial data collection organizations on a conservation expedition in Seychelles through GVI. Located on Curieuse Island, this project places you amongst some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, contributing to the long-term survival of the endangered hawksbill and green turtle. Gather population and growth rate information on the sicklefin lemon shark through a catch-and-release program. You’ll record the rate of coastal erosion by conducting beach profiling surveys, and collect growth and reproductive data for the Coco de Mer palm tree. Another exciting activity is helping with the annual census of the island’s Aldabra Giant tortoise population, keeping tabs on the growth rates of hatchlings and juvenile tortoises in the nursery. Spend days off swimming and snorkeling in the Indian Ocean, or hiking to Mount Curieuse to admire the stunning panorama. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Vallee de Mai, or sign up for Scuba lessons at the local PADI dive center. This program starts for two weeks at $2,100. Learn more and sign up here!
Imagine yourself in the South Pacific with a GVI marine conservation project! The island of Fiji is defined by coastal villages, dense jungles, and volcanic mountainsides. Choose to spend your summer on Caqalai Island with its sandy beaches, colorful reef system, and lush jungle interior. You will spend the majority of your time on this expedition scuba diving and as such you need to be qualified to at least PADI Open Water, or equivalent. Your activities will range from assisting in the creation of coral farms, studying fascinating marine creatures, collecting data on targeted fish species, mapping habitats for coral reefs and mangrove, and teaching children about environmental conservation during weekly school visits. Spend free time scuba diving, snorkeling, taking part in traditional ceremonies in idyllic traditional Fijian villages, relaxing on white beaches, or climbing volcanic mountains. This program starts at $4,095 for four weeks. Learn more and sign up here!
Maximo Nivel provides affordable volunteer programs, Spanish language learning courses, teaching opportunities, and more in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. Founded in 2003, Maximo Nivel has placed 25,000 students, volunteers, and other travelers to Latin America on high-quality, safe, and affordable programs. Maximo Nivel enables people to experience the world through education, adventure, and cultural travel on a variety of environmental conservation opportunities, including sea turtle conservation, jungle reforestation, eco-agriculture, and environmental awareness and education.
Volunteers with Maximo Nivel’s Sea Turtle Conservation program are invited to work in Costa Rica, assisting biologists and researchers with sea turtle conservation efforts. Sea turtles are endangered because of habitat destruction, commercial fishing, and poaching. Duties include patrolling beaches to deter predation, tagging and counting turtles, relocating nests to hatcheries, assisting with beach cleanup, and helping with community outreach programs. Shifts average about six hours and are split into both day and night. You’ll need to be hardworking and safety-minded as you work in one of the most bio-diverse regions of the world helping turtles flourish in their natural habitat. Program fees start from $695 for one week, and you’re invited to stay longer. Click here to learn more about this program!
Bring your love for animals to Latin America when you join Maximo Nivel’s animal care volunteering program in Peru. Abandoned animals in Peru suffer from hunger, disease, and abuse, but you can help when you choose to volunteer at a shelter and rescue program that cares for street animals. You’ll assist with medical treatment, spay and neuter programs, grooming, and walking the animals. Because pets are not viewed as family members here, you can work to change this mindset by leading education programs, lending a hand with basic obedience training, and taking part in fundraising events. This placement lasts one week or longer, with fees beginning at $645. Click here to learn more and to register.
The Amazon Rainforest is one of the most biodiverse locations on the planet, but each day it loses more land because of human encroachment. One of the last primary forests in the world, this ecosystem needs help to maintain its natural equilibrium. Join Maximo Nivel in Peru as part of a reforestation team that helps save this unique forest from being destroyed completely. You’ll also save a natural habitat that’s home to unique flora and fauna. You’ll assist with organic gardening, wildlife and animal monitoring, trail maintenance, and educational workshops for communities. This amazing reforestation project will have you planting trees, shrubs, and orchids, as well as removing non-native and invasive species of bamboo. This is manual labor in a rural setting, so you’ll need to be healthy and physically prepared to work. No experience is necessary, and you should be at least 17 years of age and safety-minded. Duration is one week or longer and program fees begin at $645. Read more and register here.
African Impact places travelers on sustainable and safe programs in 12 countries throughout Africa. Since its founding in 2004, more than 13,000 people have volunteered with a goal to become global citizens. African Impact offers award-winning humanitarian projects that are impactful and make a difference in the lives of those they help. Volunteers and interns who participate make lasting friendships and life-changing memories while contributing to responsible community and conservation projects.
Use your knowledge of life sciences and sea life on a marine conservation program on Mahe Island in Seychelles with African Impact. Join researchers and scientists working with the Seychelles government and local NGOs to collect marine data and assess the health of the coral reefs for management policies. See firsthand the wildlife that frequent the waters of the Indian Ocean, including the whale shark on migration, conduct sea turtle nesting surveys, sample plankton, and monitor coral reefs. You’ll enjoy the fun scuba dives you’ll make, as you search for manta rays, dolphins, and visit the breeding areas for the hawksbill and green turtle. Take your PADI Advanced and Coral Reef Research Diver courses as you learn to identify fish and coral species. You’ll also conduct underwater or snorkel dives each day to survey and remove marine debris. You can stay four weeks or longer and program fees begin at $3,045. Learn more and sign up here.
Begin and End with Responsible Travel
Become a responsible tourist when you travel abroad and volunteer to conserve the planet’s finite and fragile resources. By making informed choices and planning a trip that positively impacts a country and a community, you’ll help ensure that nature will be around for future generations to enjoy while providing stability to the environment. A week or more spent in service to the environment will help you to develop enduring compassion for all living things. Choose a path that’s right for you and connect with nature today.
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.