You don’t have to be a heroic explorer, like the ocean-faring Polynesian people, to dream of traveling to Australia and nearby islands in the South Pacific. There are abundant reasons to visit the region, including trips that connect you with indigenous people in developing nations. As a volunteer or intern in this region, you can help with projects that range from teaching English to school children in Fiji, to community development and construction in New Guinea, or wildlife conservation in Australia.
Australasia is a region of Oceania that’s composed of Australia, New Zealand, and nearby islands in the Pacific Ocean. Oceania, which contains a lot of water as its name indicates, is more than 3 million square miles and more than 40 million people live here. The first settlers of this area arrived nearly 50,000 years ago, and are believed to be among the earliest human migrations, moving out of Africa and into Asia more than 70,000 years ago. Seafaring people kept moving, studying the stars and the waves and hopping from one island to the next on their massive double canoes.
When you travel to the South Pacific, you’ll be able to learn firsthand about these fascinating people whose Polynesian ancestors beached their boats on empty islands and atolls, and over the millennia, transformed these tropical paradises, deserts, mountains, and rainforests into homes and communities that endure today.
Check out some of the best volunteering opportunities in Australasia and the Pacific:
Plan My Gap Year
Trustworthy and affordable, Plan My Gap Year gets a lot of support and recommendations from past volunteers. Current volunteer programs in the Pacific offered by Plan My Gap Year include:
- Fiji English Teaching: Teach English and provide support to local teachers at either an urban or rural school. Fees start from $639 for two weeks.
- Fiji Childcare: Give much-needed assistance to childcare and education facilities in Suva. Fees start from $639 for two weeks.
Since opening their doors in 1992, Projects Abroad has sent 10,000 volunteers and interns abroad on average each year, and have numerous options for volunteering and experiencing culture in the Pacific and Australasia region. Here’s a chance to soak up the tropical scenery in the South Pacific when you join a volunteer project in Fiji or Samoa with Projects Abroad. Not only will you have the opportunity to live on these stunning islands, but you’ll also be able to contribute to the wellbeing of local communities. They have many projects to suit all types of interests, including:
- Shark Conservation in Fiji: Sharks are among the most misunderstood and endangered animals in the world. In Fiji, you can dive with the bull sharks and help collect valuable scientific data for their protection. You’ll earn your PADI Open Water certification while doing so. This exciting program starts from $4,250 for two weeks ($5,410 for four weeks).
- Nutrition internship in Fiji: Address health issues like diabetes and heart disease by creating awareness in communities. You can help reduce the number of recorded cases by promoting the value of good nutrition and daily exercise. Prices start from $2,900 for two weeks ($3,660 for four weeks).
- Community volunteering in a Samoan village: Live like a local in a traditional island village and contribute to ongoing initiatives that support communities in need. You’ll spend your days learning from local Samoans, while teaching children or running workshops on healthy eating. Fees begin from $2,600 for two weeks ($3,260 for four weeks).
- Coach rugby in Samoa: Samoa is a passionate rugby-playing nation. However, due to a lack of coaching in disadvantaged communities, many children don’t get the opportunity to play. You can teach them the rules of the game and encourage them to be active and get fitter. Prices are $2,600 for two weeks and $3,260 for four weeks.
Global Leadership Adventures (GLA)
For teens looking to volunteer in the Pacific, Global Leadership Adventures is a great organization to go with. They have two programs in Fiji:
- Fiji: Children of the South Pacific: Spend three weeks teaching children at a summer camp. Enjoy local culture, snorkel, hike, and more during free time – the program fee is $5,399.
- Fiji: Marine Conservation Expedition: Live in a beachside bungalow as you protect local ocean life and experience ancient island culture. The program lasts two weeks and costs $3,699.
Frontier began in 1989 and has sent more than 103,000 volunteers, interns, and adventurers abroad. Featuring unique, off-the-beaten-path programs, they’re a great choice for volunteering in the Pacific.
Here are a few of Frontier’s programs in the South Pacific:
- Cook Islands: Teach English in a tropical paradise or engage in community building projects (both programs start from $1,895 for four weeks).
- Papua New Guinea: Teach about conservation, help with village infrastructure development, and participate in cultural activities in the Papua New Guinea Village Project (from $2,045 for four weeks).
- New Zealand: From ethical conservation projects ($1,045 for two weeks) to adrenaline-junkie travel excursions ($1,595 for 12 days) to mountain ski safaris ($1,595 for seven days), Frontier offers it all in New Zealand.
Global Vision International (GVI)
Founded in 1998, GVI has several award-winning volunteer programs and has made a name for itself in sustainable, adventurous expeditions around the world.
Current GVI programs in Fiji include the Coral Reef Research project, a great choice for those interested in marine conservation (from $4,095 for four weeks), and the Marine Conservation and PADI Divemaster Internship, where you can earn professional divemaster qualification while exploring the crystal blue waters (the 24-week program costs $11,695). Another program to check out is the Alternative Livelihoods initiative, where you will get involved with community-building programs (from $2,395 for two weeks).
Operating in more than 40 countries, Global Nomadic has sent more than 10,000 volunteers and interns abroad since 2009. For those looking to volunteer in Fiji or New Zealand, they have numerous programs in each country.
Join the Fiji Healthcare Education program (€375 per week, or $440), and contribute to health awareness projects. Or, give your time to the Fiji Language and Cultural Exchange program (€325 per week, or $380), and immerse yourself in the local culture.
If you want to go to New Zealand, consider the New Zealand Off-Grid Environmental Conservation project (from $2,250 for eight weeks) or the Off-Grid Hospitality Internship(from $1,350 for eight weeks).
Fronteering makes a point to take volunteers and interns off the beaten path so they can truly immerse themselves in other cultures. The projects focus on preserving the precious natural world and uplifting indigenous peoples around the world. For volunteering in the Pacific and Australasia, they have lots of great programs, like:
- Kiwi Conservation in New Zealand: Head to the North Island and take part in activities to protect local endangered wildlife, such as Kiwi birds, and their habitats (from $795 for two weeks).
- Devil Care and Release in Australia: Journey to Tasmania and assist with the care and release of Tasmanian Devils, whose population is declining quickly and needs help (from $995 for one week).
- Koala Sanctuary in Australia: Hosted in Queensland, you get to get up and close with koalas as you care for them. You’ll also encounter kangaroos, wombats, emus, and other fascinating Australian animals (from $1,795 for four weeks).
- Kangaroo Island in Australia: Head to South Australia and help out with the daily operations at Kangaroo Island Wildlife Sanctuary (from $1,795 for two weeks).
- Horse Rescue in Australia: Take care of abused and neglected horses at a sanctuary in Queensland (from $995 for three weeks).
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)
International Volunteer HQ has sent more than 90,000 volunteers to programs in more than 40 countries since its founding in 2007. A trusted and affordable organization, IVHQ’s programs start from only $180 for your first week abroad.
If you want to volunteer in Fiji, IVHQ has numerous programs that you should check out (from $340 for one week). Volunteer as a sports teacher and English teacher, or take part in construction and renovation projects.
IVHQ also has several projects in New Zealand (from $885 for two weeks). Support local NGOs, where you could be doing everything from helping with beach cleanups to assisting at education centers – IVHQ’s coast and waterway conservation project is another option offered in New Zealand.
Ready to Travel?
Need another reason to visit Australasia and the Pacific? How about several? From the beautiful scenery and diverse landscapes, there are hikes and walking tours for people of all levels of fitness, that let you explore rugged coastlines and lush forests. Another reason is the opportunity to meet and learn more about the customs of the indigenous people. Spend time in the warm, beautiful South Pacific water, learning how to scuba dive or snorkel a coral reef, or learn how to surf! You’re surrounded by clear blue water, so don’t waste it by staying on the beach. Get wild and visit animal reserves and zoos. Meet unusual wildlife such as the kangaroo, the wallaby, wombat, or the koala.
Whatever your reasons for traveling to the South Pacific, take time to enjoy your stay and do good while you’re there.
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.