GoEco specializes in affordable, ethical volunteer projects all over the world, from Costa Rica to Ireland to Malaysia. A leading voluntourism company, they play a major role in promoting sustainable travel.
Founded in 2006, GoEco has more than 160 community, environmental, and wildlife initiatives, all of which have been carefully vetted to ensure high standards for quality and safety. GoEco has earned numerous awards, including recognition as the 2018 Top Volunteer Abroad Organization from GoAbroad. They’ve been featured in major publications like The Guardian, The Boston Globe, and USA Today, and have even been endorsed by the United Nations for their efforts to combat global desertification.
If you want to volunteer, intern, or teach abroad, put GoEco on your list of organizations to consider. You can learn more about them in this review. Read on!
GoEco can trace their story back to the meeting of Jonathan Gilben and Jonathan Tal in high school. The two founders instantly became friends and eventually volunteered abroad together for sea turtle conservation throughout Mexico, Greece, and Israel.
While volunteering at a sea turtle rescue center in Michmoret, Israel, Gilben and Tal came up with the idea for GoEco. As they state, they established GoEco by “bringing worldwide volunteers to join them, and then expanding their partnerships to other programs in different countries.”
For that initial pilot project, Gilben and Tal obtained approval from the Israeli Nature Park Authority. The organization managed to sign up 12 devoted volunteers for their first project at the turtle rescue center.
After the first year, GoEco started contacting international NGOs about connecting volunteers to similar work in other destinations. One of the first key partnerships was with a wildlife initiative in South Africa, a project GoEco still partners with today.
Today, GoEco’s team of experienced and dedicated volunteers and travelers have enabled the organization to become a leader in ecotourism and volunteering. They not only bring a passion for empowering communities and preserving nature, but also have a wealth of expertise and experience.
Jonathan Gilben, now Co-Founder and Co-Director, has a B.A. in Environmental Studies, as well as an M.A. degree and years of conservation volunteering experience. Jonathan Tal, also Co-Founder and Co-Director, holds a B.A. in Geography Studies and has volunteered in wildlife and conservation projects around the world.
Over the years, GoEco has added more talents to the team, all of whom have served as volunteers in places like Israel, South Africa, Spain, and Canada. Overall, team members boast a diverse amount of experience, from volunteering with children and the elderly to working on wildlife conservation projects.
The great team at GoEco makes it possible for them to offer such a breadth of high-quality programs. As the team details, “GoEco offers volunteer and internship opportunities in marine conservation, wildlife conservation, teaching, community aid and development, and health care.”
A Reliable, Responsible, and Respected Volunteer Abroad Organization
GoEco understands you’re making an important decision when choosing a volunteer abroad vendor. That’s why they not only offer a variety of great programs, but also provide excellent support.
This way, GoEco can ensure volunteers have an amazing experience, the kind you could never get through typical commercial travel. Their success can be seen in the numbers.
“More than 17,000 volunteers have been placed, and over one million volunteer hours clocked!” says a representative from the organization. “GoEco also offers 24/7 support for all volunteers.”
Should a problem arise while you’re volunteering abroad, GoEco is just a phone call or email away. Before you go, GoEco takes time to equip you with the information and tools you need to have a successful and safe journey. Once there, in-country field staff can help solve many issues, on top of making sure you’re comfortable and safe.
For GoEco, trust and transparency come first in all that they do. When you go to their FAQ page, you’ll learn more about the organization and their purpose. You’ll also see a lot of information about how your program fees are used and how your work benefits local communities. As GoEco states, they believe in “responsible tourism and leaving the places we travel to in a better condition than when we arrived.”
To achieve that goal, GoEco partners with reputable organizations that are dedicated to providing humanitarian aid. GoEco representatives vet each project firsthand and maintain constant communication to ensure quality. This enables GoEco to send volunteers only where they’ll get excellent volunteer abroad experiences.
With great support, a commitment to crafting immersive adventures, and a focus on doing good through ecotourism and volunteer work, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that GoEco has won so many awards, such as Top Eco-Enthusiast in 2017 by Greenmatch.
“GoEco has been named a Top Volunteer Abroad Organization of 2018 by GoAbroad, a Best Sustainable Tour Operator finalist by the Global Youth Travel Awards, and one of GoEco’s programs in Belize was named a finalist for Most Innovative New Volunteer Program of 2018 by GoAbroad,” states GoEco.
“GoEco has won many other awards from GoAbroad, WYSE, and other reputable organizations, and honorable mentions from Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post, and several universities worldwide.”
Teach and Volunteer Abroad Opportunities with GoEco
GoEco knows volunteers want to make an impact, meet like-minded volunteers, and explore the country they’re visiting. To make all that happen, GoEco does a good job of integrating volunteers into local teams and communities. For most programs, you stay in a volunteer house or with a host family, and are afforded time to dive into the local culture.
With more than 160 community, medical, environmental, and wildlife projects, GoEco has wonderful volunteer abroad opportunities on every continent. Whether you want to learn Spanish and work with children in Argentina, engage in positive cultural exchange with the Maasai people and teach in Kenya, or volunteer in healthcare as you experience Vietnam, GoEco has you covered.
In short, there’s something for everyone. As the team describes, “GoEco attracts mainly university and gap year students, but has accepted many families as well as volunteers over the age of 50.”
Speaking of programs for volunteers over 50, GoEco recently began a new venture offering adventures for older individuals. The experiences combine volunteering and travel in a personalized way.
“GoEco is excited to announce the launch of New Meaning, which was founded in order to give the baby boomer generation a specially designed, super-rewarding eco-travel experience,” states the team.
That’s pretty cool! Hopefully, GoEco will have more great things to come like this soon.
So, interested in hearing specifics about some of GoEco’s programs? Read about the most popular ones below:
Zimbabwe – African Wildlife Orphanage
Price: from $1,580 for two weeks
Volunteer at one of Africa’s largest and most successful wildlife rehabilitation centers. Get up close with monkeys, cheetahs, hyenas, lions, and other animals! And enjoy gorgeous Matobo National Park during free time.
A review from Nicole, a past volunteer:
“African Wildlife Orphanage gave me everything I wanted out of this experience. It’s a haven for all animals and it truly deserves to be applauded.”
Bali – Sea Turtle Rescue
Price: from $950 for two weeks
Rehabilitate injured and rescued sea turtles on the beautiful tropical island of Nusa Penida (just off the coast of Bali). Feed turtles and monitor their health, create protected beach nesting areas, and assist with sanctuary upkeep.
A review from Remi, a past volunteer:
“Volunteering through GoEco in Bali is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I was introduced to incredible coordinators, awesome traditional food, and friends that I will have for a lifetime.”
South Africa – Wildlife Sanctuary
Price: from $1,150 for one week
Volunteer at a sanctuary for injured and orphaned animals. Provide hands-on care for amazing creatures, such as hippos, hyenas, elephants, and lions.
A review from Dave, a past volunteer:
“Every day was amazing and full of incredible experiences and new people. The days flew by as we were so busy working on the farm, hanging out and making new friends, and learning about the wildlife in a very hands-on manner.”
Thailand – Learn, Volunteer and Travel
Price: from $550 for one week
Experience Thai culture as you travel and volunteer in teaching or construction. Study Buddhism, visit villages in Sing Buri province, learn the Thai language, and more.
A review from Jose, a past volunteer:
“Now, back home, the best memories that I keep in my head are my new friends, the unique places, and kind people from Thailand. But the highlight memory is definitely the legacy that I gave to the kids, and even bigger was the legacy that they gave to me.”
South Africa – African Wildlife Ranch
Price: from $1,250 for two weeks
Journey to a widely-accredited wildlife ranch in Western Cape, South Africa. There, you’ll assist with ethical wildlife interactions and other volunteer tasks, like enrichment activities for the animals. You’ll even get to cage dive with crocodiles!
Sri Lanka – Teaching English to Buddhist Monks
Price: from $990 for two weeks
Head to the gorgeous town of Galle, and engage in positive cultural exchange with monk students as you teach English. Do yoga, chill on the beach, and bike around the region during off-hours.
A review from Sophie, a past volunteer:
“My favorite part was definitely interacting with the amazing, young monks. The children were incredibly sweet and funny and they always put a smile on my face.”
Intern Abroad Opportunities with GoEco
Beyond opportunities to volunteer and teach abroad, GoEco also offers a variety of international internships. Great for those that want to gain work experience and travel abroad, GoEco’s internships range across many industries. For instance, you could do the following:
- A veterinary internship in Malawi
- Marine conservation work in Fiji
- A medical internship in Guatemala
For each internship, you’ll receive individualized attention, guidance, and feedback from a mentor. When you complete the program, not only will you have enhanced your practical skills and knowledge, but you’ll also have a personal reference for applying to schools and jobs. Your internship with GoEco is designed to help you stand out!
Some of GoEco’s top intern abroad programs include:
Costa Rica – Health and Medical Care in San Jose
Price: from $790 for one week
Want to intern in bustling San Jose? Perfect for pre-med, nursing, dental, health, and medical students, this program allows you to gain experience treating patients (and therefore improve your CV!). You can even learn some Spanish too. During free time, San Jose’s dining and culture await, as do surrounding jungles and beaches.
Spain – Eco-Friendly Hospitality Internship in Barcelona
Price: just $350 for six weeks
Interested in ecotourism and/or sustainability? Then work in this hostel in Barcelona. Assist with hostel operations, offer travel advice, serve meals and drinks, and participate in the facility’s sustainability projects, like the use of renewable energy and promotion of responsible travel.
A review from Arian, a past intern:
“I can only describe this trip as one of the happiest times of my life. Being able to integrate every day with people from all over the world and having the whole of Barcelona on your doorstep was incredible!”
Should You Choose GoEco for Your Volunteer Abroad Adventure?
In addition to all we’ve covered about GoEco already, keep these things in mind:
GoEco has strong ethical values: In all that they do, GoEco prioritizes:
- Volunteer safety: This starts with 24/7 support through both on-site teams and headquarters. For teen programs, volunteers are highly supervised by local staff. (Note: GoEco doesn’t accept solo travelers under the age of 16 (they must come with a group or parent/guardian). Volunteers aged 16-17 can join most programs as long as they have parental consent. Anyone 18 or over can join most of GoEco’s programs, as long as they meet any specific requirements.)
- Child protection policy: Volunteering with children is a sensitive ethical issue. All volunteers must obtain police clearance. This protects the children GoEco serves.
- Monitoring and evaluation: As GoEco states, they monitor eco-travel programs to ensure they’re making the impact they should be. They also evaluate volunteers to ensure they’re making valuable contributions and learning and growing.
- Sustainable goals: All programs must address a genuine need and focus on achieving long-term goals.
- Wildlife protection policy: GoEco carefully selects wildlife programs and combats the exploitation of animals for tourism purposes.
GoEco takes you off the beaten path: Yes, programs in Mexico, Costa Rica, South Africa, Thailand, and other common destinations are amazing. But if you want to go beyond those destinations, you have options. As the team recently announced:
“GoEco has just begun to promote two new destinations- Ireland and Japan! We are promoting artistic marketing, education and sustainable farming programs in Ireland, as well as a sustainable agriculture program and English exchange program in Japan…”
“In addition to new destinations, we have just begun promoting a new internship opportunity to fight plastic pollution in Zambia.”
GoEco has financial aid and scholarships: Volunteers in need of financial assistance can apply for the GoEco Volunteer Scholarship, which can cover the full cost of the program. You can also get fundraising support through Fund My Travel.
On top of reading this review and reviews on GoEco’s site, check out independent reviews on sites like Facebook and TripAdvisor and right here on Volunteer Forever. GoEco rates quite well with volunteers! Their experiences will fill you in on what to expect and how you should prepare yourself.
Booking Your Trip with GoEco
Book your trip early, as programs fill up quickly.
Here’s a quick tutorial on how to book your trip:
- Go to your program’s page. Select your dates and length of stay, and click continue.
- Fill out your personal details on the next page. Accept terms and conditions and click continue.
- Talk with the team. At this stage, your request is sent to a placement coordinator. They will contact you via email and you can schedule a phone call if you desire. It’s recommended to take this opportunity to talk with the GoEco team. They can answer any questions you have. This will establish trust and give you confidence that you’re choosing the right volunteer abroad program.
- Pay your deposit. This is fully refundable for up to seven days. Enter your payment details and click submit payment.
- Get confirmation. After payment, the operations team works to secure your placement. Usually, it takes less than 10 days to confirm your placement.
- Complete the application. This will be sent within 48 hours of completing the above steps. Once the application is completed and your enrollment is confirmed with the local team, the GoEco operations team will contact you with the next steps. (Note: If your program starts in less than 60 days, you must pay the balance in full before moving forward.)
Also, know most projects include the following in their cost:
- Food (varies)
- Airport pickup
- In-country orientation and training.
Things like flights and extra traveling aren’t included. Check the “What’s Included” section on your project’s page for full details.
So, are you ready to volunteer abroad with GoEco? Don’t miss out on the adventure of a lifetime. Start your search with GoEco today!
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.