Passionate about preserving our planet?
Put that passion to good use by becoming an eco-volunteer.
As ecotourism and environmental experts note, the earth faces a myriad of challenges in the 21st century. Now’s the time to act. Your help can turn the tides.
When you start looking through environment conservation volunteering programs and ecotourism holidays, the sheer number of options may overwhelm you. Don’t panic! We’re here to help you sift through the thousands of choices you have.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to what environmental work opportunities entail and highlight all the high-quality, reputable programs for ecotourism volunteering.
What Can You Do as a Conservation Volunteer
Projects Abroad, a leader in eco-friendly volunteer vacations and environmental initiatives, sums up your overall goal well. As they write, you can join “ongoing efforts to support long-term, positive change in endangered environments.”
Research from institutions like the United Nations shows the urgency of environmental issues. Water scarcity, land degradation, loss of biodiversity, and climate change have become major problems. Statistics like these alarm:
- In Latin America, nitrous oxide emissions rose 29% in the first decade of this century.
- Over the last century, deaths attributable to natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region accounted for 91% of the world’s deaths attributable to natural disasters.
- In Africa, about 500,000 square meters of land is being degraded due to pollution, deforestation, salinization, and soil erosion.
- In the Arctic, warming has increased at double the global average since 1980.
Clearly, your help is needed. But how can you best be of service?
Begin by thinking about where you want to go. Environmental work opportunities and ecotourism holidays abound in megadiverse countries within the following regions:
- The Americas: the United States, Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru, Colombia, Brazil
- Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Madagascar
- Southeast Asia and Oceania: India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Fiji, the Philippines
- Europe: Greece, Italy, Spain
Environment conservation volunteering in countries like these aims to protect their amazing biodiversity and ensure sustainable development.
In addition to choosing a destination, think about what you want to do as a conservation volunteer. Your role really depends on your skills, preferences, and future goals.
For instance, if you want to be a veterinarian, care for rescued wild Mustangs in Maine, USA (offered by Fronteering). Or, if you hope to work in sustainable agriculture, lend a hand on a farming project in Spain.
No matter how you help, you can make an impact. Here’s a list of the different types of conservation volunteer vacations (with example programs!):
- Marine Conservation: Protect sea turtles in Greece with Frontier, or go on a marine conservation expedition in Fiji with Global Leadership Adventures.
- Coastline Conservation: Lead beach cleanups throughout the world. Head to New Zealand with International Volunteer HQ, and do important research to help improve coastal preservation strategies.
- Jungle Conservation: Preserve the Amazon rainforest in Peru with Globalteer as you explore the unrivaled Manu National Park.
- Wildlife Conservation: Join Global Vision International in places like Thailand, where you can volunteer with elephants, and Costa Rica, where you track jaguars.
- Sustainable Farming: Help farmers in Nepal develop a sustainable agriculture operation.
- Sustainable Development: Join Raleigh International in Tanzania, where you can work with entrepreneurs who aim to make their communities more resilient to environmental and social change.
Now that you know where you can go and what you can do, let’s review some of the best conservation volunteering programs.
Featured Ecotourism Volunteer Programs
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)
Established in 2007 and trusted by institutions like UCLA and Northwestern University, International Volunteer HQ is among the best volunteer abroad organizations. They have an abundance of high-quality, affordable service opportunities, and have sent more than 100,000 volunteers and travelers abroad.
If you want to volunteer on a conservation initiative, IVHQ has lots of options for you, from an environmental sustainability project in New Orleans, USA to environmental education in Ubud, Bali. Other popular projects include:
- Environmental Preservation in Naples, Italy (from $685 for two weeks): Contribute to the preservation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Naples (there are lots of them!). Tasks include litter collection, cleaning monuments, and protecting national parks.
- Conservation on the Island of Nosy Komba, Madagascar (from $550 for two weeks): Head to Nosy Komba, a breathtaking volcanic island off the coast. There, you can participate in marine conservation, turtle conservation, or forest preservation (your choice!).
- Environmental Conservation on Palawan, Philippines (from $230 for one week): Volunteer in the Philippines on the archipelagic province of Palawan. As a conservation volunteer, you’ll focus on mangrove rehabilitation. Mangroves serve as a habitat for nursing fish, as well as other marine life and birds. So, your help will benefit local biodiversity.
To look through all of IVHQ’s environment conservation volunteering opportunities, see the list on their site. IVHQ destinations for ecotourism holidays include Puerto Rico, Spain, Indonesia, New Zealand, and many others.
Plan My Gap Year (PMGY)
Featuring 17 destinations across Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and South America, Plan My Gap Year (PMGY) does a lot of good around the world. That’s why more than 4,000 volunteers sign up with PMGY each year. And that’s why they’re an award-winning organization.
Founded in 2011, PMGY oversees numerous ongoing environmental initiatives. Their wildlife conservation projects are especially amazing and include:
- Big 5 Wildlife Experience in Eastern Cape, South Africa (from $684 for one week): Assist with preservation efforts, such as anti-poach patrols and removing alien vegetation. And monitor Africa’s Big 5: lion, rhino, elephant, Cape buffalo, and leopard. You’ll come home with lots of incredible pictures!
- Turtle Conservation in Colombo, Sri Lanka (from $549 for one week): Care for endangered sea turtles that have been rescued. In addition to watching nesting areas, you’ll do beach cleanups, release hatched baby turtles into the sea, and promote public awareness. During free time, enjoy the beaches and colonial architecture in Colombo.
Sound exciting? Other awesome destinations include Thailand, where you can contribute to elephant conservation, and Bali, where you can assist with wildlife rescue. For a full list of PMGY’s environment conservation volunteering projects, click here!
Established in 2003, Maximo Nivel is a leader for volunteering abroad in Latin America. Their projects emphasize community development, education, and environmental protection.
If you want to volunteer for conservation in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru, consider Maximo Nivel as a top choice. Their programs make a big impact and have an affordable price tag. You may even be able to earn college credit through your volunteer service or intern work (inquire with your university first).
Maximo Nivel’s conservation projects cover four areas:
- Sea Turtle Conservation: Do nightly patrols, tag turtles, relocate nests, and more. You can choose to protect sea turtles in either Costa Rica or Guatemala. Both programs offer you the chance to explore a wonderful city (San Jose, Costa Rica or Antigua, Guatemala), learn some Spanish, and visit beautiful beaches.
- Jungle Reforestation: Journey to Peru’s Amazon jungle, one of the most biologically diverse places in the world. Unfortunately, the forest faces threats stemming from the exploitation of natural resources and human encroachment. As a conservation volunteer, you’ll help with reforestation, remove invasive plant species, monitor wildlife, and more. And you’ll help keep one of the world’s last primary forests in its original state.
- Organic Farming: Calling all coffee lovers! Assist local coffee growers in developing a sustainable eco-friendly operation. Not only will you gain hands-on experience in eco-agriculture, but you can also taste the coffee every day! Locations include the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica; farmland just outside Antigua, Guatemala; and the Huyro Region of Peru (in the highlands of the Amazon rainforest).
- Natural Reserve and Beach Conservation: Travel to the Nicoya Peninsula on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. There, you’ll work at a national park, doing everything from trail maintenance to guiding English-speaking visitors, as well as care for the beaches. During off-hours, hike, sunbathe, scuba dive, and more.
Note: Pricing for Maximo Nivel’s programs varies by location. Guatemala and Peru programs both start from $645 for one week, while Costa Rica projects start at $695.
Founded in 2009, Love Volunteers features high-quality, affordable volunteer abroad opportunities across every continent. Committed to transparency and creating lasting change in local communities, Love Volunteers has numerous exceptional programs for those looking to join conservation efforts, including their Great Barrier Reef conservation program in Australia and urban conservation and recycling initiative in Colombia.
Want to volunteer in the Caribbean? Sign up for Love Volunteers’ environmental conservation project in Mandeville, Jamaica (from $1,439 for two weeks). Protect Jamaica’s beautiful natural ecosystems through beach and ocean cleanups, and educate the public about ecological practices. This project suits those with knowledge or interest in marine biology, tropical ecology, wastewater management, or similar field. You’ll have ample free time to dive into the culture and entertainment of Jamaica.
Or, want to volunteer in Australasia? Then register for the environmental conservation program in Wellington, New Zealand (from $419 for one week). Work to preserve native forest areas and national parks in the region, as well as create green spaces within the capital. During free time, you can enjoy the sandy beaches and shopping and dining in Wellington.
With hundreds of volunteer abroad opportunities across Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and Europe, few organizations have the variety of programs Projects Abroad does. Around since 1992, they now send more than 10,000 volunteers, interns, and students overseas each year.
Projects Abroad has an excellent reputation. That’s evident in the quality of their conservation programs. You can make a lasting impact by volunteering with Projects Abroad, whether you want to protect giraffes in Kenya or preserve the marvelous ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands.
Perhaps the most unique offering with Projects Abroad’s is their conservation program in the Himalayas of Nepal (from $2,565 for two weeks). You get to journey up to the rooftop of the world and work to preserve the marvelous biodiversity in the Annapurna mountain range. You’ll also do community educational outreach. Your base will be in the town of Ghandruk, and the Himalayas will be in sight wherever you go. How cool is that?
If you want to see all of Projects Abroad environmental protection projects and ecotourism holidays, visit their site! Learn about marine conservation volunteering in Belize, shark conservation in Fiji, and more
With more than 150 projects throughout the world, including conservation initiatives that preserve unspoiled nature and build sustainable communities, GoEco has you covered when it comes to volunteering to help the environment. Founded in 2006, GoEco has earned lots of respect in the volunteering industry. They were recognized as the Top Volunteer Abroad Organization in 2015 by GoAbroad.
If you’re looking for ecotourism holidays abroad, look no further than GoEco’s adventures. With GoEco, you could:
- Go diving and help with coral reef conservation in Malaysia: Travel to the marvelous island of Pulau Perhentian Besar. Dive to survey the coral reef, manage a coral nursery, and clean up rubbish in the ocean. You can get PADI certification through this program, and chill out on the beach every day! Fees begin at $1,550 for two weeks.
- Live aboard a boat and research dolphins off the coast of Italy: If you love the sea and dolphins, don’t miss this program. You’ll sail along the Italian coastline of Ischia, an absolutely stunning island. You’ll monitor dolphins, study their behavior, and record bioacoustics. How fun does that sound? Fees begin at $1,150 for one week.
In addition to ecotourism holidays, GoEco provides other environment conservation volunteering opportunities.
For example, you could volunteer at a wildlife orphanage in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (fees from $1,580 for two weeks). There, you’ll have the opportunity to work with one of Africa’s most successful wildlife rehabilitation centers. Get up close with hyenas, cheetahs, monkeys, and other animals as you help them recover. You’ll also assist with releases and promoting ethical wildlife interactions. And during off-hours, you can enjoy the beauty of Matobo National Park.
To see all of GoEco’s environmental initiatives, head to their site. Search according to your preferences for location and price, and you’ll find something that suits you.
Want a raw and real experience? Then choose Fronteering—an organization that urges you to not just volunteer in conservation, but go off-the-beaten-path in order to conserve nature’s most precious places.
You’ll discover a plethora of unique offerings through Fronteering. For instance, you could:
- Participate in highland conservation in Scotland (from $1,495 for eight weeks): Enter the awe-inspiring Scottish Highlands. Get lost in the vastness of this land as you contribute to wildlife and environmental conservation efforts. You’ll catch glimpses of the white-tailed eagle, European wild cat, and other native creatures.
- Help with wildlife conservation on Kangaroo Island, Australia (from $1,795 for two weeks): Help with daily operations at the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the world’s best-preserved ecosystems. You’ll get to meet koalas too!
Fronteering also offers lots of ecotourism holidays, like the chance to work as an Amazon guide in the jungles of Brazil (from $1,595 for two weeks). Educate the public about sustaining the Amazon rainforest, teach the staff English, and go trekking in untouched jungle!
Want to learn more about Fronteering? Check out their site, where you’ll find conservation volunteering programs from Guyana to Russia.
Naturally Africa Volunteers
With a mission to create sustainable change in communities across Africa, Naturally Africa Volunteers has ongoing projects in numerous fields, from healthcare and education to wildlife and environmental conservation. For ecotourism holidays in Africa, they’re one of your best options.
One great program is their turtle conservation and ecotourism project in Ghana. Stay at a guesthouse in a beachfront location along the west coast of Ghana, and work to protect nesting turtles and the local environment. You’ll take part in data collection, community education, and ecotourism activities designed to promote ethical travel. If you want to volunteer with sea turtles, you’ll simply love this project.
Another noteworthy ecotourism program offered by Naturally Africa Volunteers is their wilderness adventure in South Africa or Botswana. This is a 28-day safari guide course that will teach you the ins and outs of being a field guide at a big game reserve. You’ll camp under the stars at Kruger National Park, Karongwe Game Reserve (South Africa), or Mashatu Game Reserve (Botswana). Learn bush survival skills, navigation and orientation, and how to track animals and identify plants.
Making Your Ecotourism Holiday Happen
Ready to protect our world’s most precious natural ecosystems?
For further help on ensuring your conservation volunteer experience goes wonderfully, use our other resources. For instance, you can lower the costs of your eco-volunteer adventure by:
- Fundraising on our crowdfunding platform. Create an account to get started.
- Applying to volunteer abroad scholarships and grants. We’ve covered them all in this article.
- Booking your ecotourism holiday through Abroadly, Volunteer Forever’s booking platform. Quickly discover programs within budget, and automatically get the chance to win a $500 scholarship when you apply to a program.
Hopefully, that gives you all you need to enjoy eco-friendly travel and conservation volunteering. Now go apply to a program and get your trip started!
Nick Callos · Writer
With a BA in English Literature & Writing from Boston College, Nick researches and writes about volunteer, intern, and teach abroad programs worldwide. He has studied abroad and taught English in Chengdu, China, and aims to help fellow travelers make a lasting impact on the communities they visit.