Updated for 2023
People aren’t the only ones you can help as you volunteer abroad – animals also benefit from medical attention and environmental conservation from a wide variety of volunteer programs. Volunteering with animals and conservation is an amazing way to travel the world and make a positive impact every place you visit. It’s also a volunteer activity type that doesn’t necessarily require background experience – but if you have veterinary skills, are in school for zoology or marine biology or another subject, or if you’ve worked with animals and in conservation professionally, there is no shortage of ways that you can make a difference abroad. A few popular animal and conservation volunteer programs that you can choose from include:
- Researching and protecting sea turtles on the beaches of Costa Rica, Thailand, and Zanzibar
- Studying animal habits and warding off poachers on a Big Five game reserve in Africa
- Rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing wild animals that are sick or injured, or that have been kept illegally as pets
- Working in a spay/neuter clinic for street dogs and cats
- Promoting environmental awareness and sustainability initiatives in a community so that animals and their natural habitats aren’t lost
From researching big cats to rescuing primates, there are wildlife conservation programs all over the world with award-winning organizations such as African Impact. If you want the ultimate wildlife conservation volunteer experience, consider volunteering with African Impact. at a South African National Park, where you’ll track and monitor lions, rhinos, elephants, cheetahs, and more. Your volunteer duties will support the management of the park and anti-poaching activities, ultimately contributing to the continued survival of the incredible species that inhabit the national park.
If you’re not able to travel all the way to Africa to participate in these programs there are lots of amazing wildlife and conservation programs for people living in the United States and Canada offered by organizations such as Maximo Nivel close-by in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru.
Love Volunteers is a fast-growing organization that sends thousands of volunteers on meaningful trips all over the world each year. Whether you want to care for elephants in Thailand, protect sea turtles in Costa Rica, or even work with lions in South Africa, there’s no shortage of amazing wildlife programs you can be a part of.
Combine adventure and animal conservation with Projects Abroad when you follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin in the Galapagos Islands, research elephants in Botswana, tag sharks in Fiji, or survey bats in Costa Rica.
Volunteer Abroad with Animals and in Conservation
African Impact is an award-winning, responsible travel organization that offers volunteer and internship opportunities in 7 countries across Africa. It was founded in 2004 and has since hosted over 35,000 volunteers. African Impact has over 20 different projects, ranging from teaching in Zambia to marine conservation in Zanzibar. The organization is known for its long-term objectives and measurable change. It is also recognized as a trusted specialist on volunteering and interning in Southern Africa. African Impact offers internships, as well as group, family, and high school projects. The minimum age requirement for their projects is 16, making African Impact a great option for teen and high school volunteers.
On this program, you will travel to the gorgeous island of Zanzibar, just off the coast of Tanzania, to research dolphin tourism, help with sustainable use of marine resources, and contribute to vital conservation efforts. As a volunteer, you will monitor dolphins in their natural habitat, research local fishing activity, teach Conservation Club students about environmental protection, collect coral bleaching data, and lots more. Outside of volunteering, you can try local cuisine, explore the island, go snorkeling, and enjoy weekly get-togethers with fellow volunteers. Learn more here!
Another excellent volunteer project through African Impact brings you to Zimbabwe, where you will be able to contribute to efforts that protect Africa’s lions. For two weeks, you will have the amazing opportunity to walk alongside lions and become part of the pride as a way to familiarize yourself with their natural environment. You’ll also be able to prepare meat and feed the lions, clean their enclosures, build and paint new enclosures, and even help veterinarians with their work. In addition to volunteering, you can go on excursions to Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba, and Matopos National Park. Click here to learn more and to sign up!
African Impact offers wildlife photography volunteer projects in South Africa where participants can improve their photography skills while contributing to wildlife conservation. The projects take place in the Greater Kruger Area, where participants will live in a lodge and have daily game drives to photograph a variety of animals. The projects are guided and tutored by professional photographers and have monthly start dates. Participants will also have the opportunity to contribute to conservation efforts by supporting non-governmental organizations and raising awareness of environmental issues. The cost of the project varies depending on the length of stay.
The African Big 5 Wildlife Conservation project is a volunteer program in South Africa that offers participants the opportunity to work with expert field guides and research teams in the Greater Kruger Area, one of the world’s last remaining wildlife strongholds. The Greater Kruger Area encompasses over 20 private wildlife reserves on the west side of the Kruger National Park, and it is home to many of Africa’s iconic “Big 5” animals, including lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo.
Participants in this program will have the chance to collect information about these animals and to help protect them from threats such as poaching and habitat loss. They will also be able to track the movements and behaviors of herds of elephants and prides of lions, and to witness nocturnal animals in their natural habitat on unforgettable night drives.
Founded in 2003, Maximo Nivel provides affordable volunteer abroad programs in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. Each program is internationally accredited, and since its beginning, Maximo Nivel has placed 25,000 travelers in volunteer abroad projects, international internship, native Spanish program, TEFL certification, a Spanish camp for teens, and more. Maximo Nivel hosts a variety of environmental conservation opportunities, including sea turtle conservation, jungle reforestation, eco agriculture, and environmental awareness and education.
On this program, volunteers are invited to work in Costa Rica and El Salvador (with a program base in Guatemala) for two weeks or longer to assist local biologists and researchers with sea turtle conservation efforts. Volunteers can patrol beaches, tag turtles, relocate nests to hatcheries, assist with beach cleanup, and help with community outreach programs. You’ll work 5 to 6 hours per day, Monday through Saturday, in some of the most bio-diverse regions of the world. To learn more about this program, please visit: http://maximonivel.com/volunteers/conservation/sea-turtle/
Through Maximo Nivel’s jungle reforestation program, volunteers can travel to the Amazon rainforest in Peru to assist with reforestation (planting trees and removing invasive species), organic gardening, wildlife monitoring and inventory, trail maintenance, and local workshops. Volunteers must stay for at least two weeks to get the most out of this program, which helps to protect one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet. To learn more and to sign up, visit: http://maximonivel.com/volunteers/conservation/jungle-reforestation/
Maximo Nivel is offering you the opportunity to volunteer for eco agriculture in Costa Rica and Guatemala, where you’ll assist sustainable coffee-farming communities with all areas of production. While this program is open year-round, coffee harvest season in these two countries takes place between December and March, when there may be more work for you to take on. Volunteers must stay for at least one week, and can expect to work 3 to 4 hours per day, Monday through Friday. Tasks include working alongside local farmers in the nursery, with coffee-picking, weeding, planting tree shades, and roasting and packaging the coffee for shipment.
To learn more about Maximo Nivel’s eco agriculture program, go to: http://maximonivel.com/volunteers/conservation/eco-agriculture/
For two weeks, you’re invited on Maximo Nivel’s volunteer adventure, which includes five days of community service and six days of travel through Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru. There are several different volunteer activities you can take part in, including an animal care program, where you’ll have the opportunity to help in a dog shelter, care for endangered species in a zoo that hosts rehabilitation and release programs, or work in an amphibian and reptile rescue center. You’ll also embark on cultural tours, volcano hikes, island tours, beach visits, and much more, depending on the country you decide to visit on your volunteer adventure. To learn more, please visit: http://maximonivel.com/adventure/full
If you’re passionate about protecting our planet, Projects Abroad provides many opportunities for you to do just that. As we face new challenges with each year, the need to fight for a healthier earth becomes more urgent.
Whether it be protecting animals or their habitats on land or in the deep ocean waters, Projects Abroad offers a diverse list of Conservation Projects to suit many interests. You’ll support real environmentalists and scientists, as well as people from local communities. You’ll also get to develop important skills like teamwork, strategy, and communication.
Conservation projects will take you to some of the most beautiful places in the world that need to be preserved. Choose between rainforests, oceans, mountains, and savannah grasslands. A few conservation programs to check out include:
- Release sea turtle hatchlings in Mexico
- Shark Conservation in Fiji
- African Bushveld Conservation in Botswana
- Rainforest Conservation in Peru
- Galapagos Conservation in Ecuador
- Experience the beautiful Himalayan Mountains in Nepal
Veterinary Medicine and Animal Care Internships
Projects Abroad also offers internships for those who want to pursue careers in veterinary medicine. An international internship is ideal if you’re looking to boost your resume for college or work applications.
You’ll shadow skilled professionals during their daily work, and observe procedures like spaying or neutering. You may even be asked to assist local vets, gaining invaluable hands-on experience. Animal Care Internships may be for you if you love working with animals but might not want to work in a clinical setting. You can provide care to rescue dogs at a shelter, help with the rehabilitation of penguins and other seabirds, and help educate local communities on how to look after their pets. Two programs to consider include working alongside a local vet in Sri Lanka, and providing care to stray dogs and pets in Belize.
Since 2006, GoEco has offered affordable volunteer abroad programs and internships in over 45 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Australasia, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. With more than 170 different wildlife, marine, and veterinary programs, GoEco is a great organization to check out if you’re looking for a variety of impactful trips to choose from, from wildlife conservation to teaching English. GoEco was recently recognized as the Top Volunteer Abroad Organization from GoAbroad, Top Eco-Enthusiast by Greenmatch, and has been recommended by Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and more. As a volunteer, you will have 24-hour support from the GoEco team, from start to finish.
If you dream of traveling to Africa, check out GoEco’s wildlife sanctuary volunteer program in South Africa! As a volunteer, you will be able to spend two weeks to three months at a sanctuary that cares for orphaned or injured animals, such as elephants, lions, cheetahs, hippos, and hyenas. Your projects will focus on construction and maintenance, as well as hands-on care for the animals at the sanctuary. In addition to wildlife conservation volunteering, you will have the chance to explore the beaches of Cape Town, visit Addo Elephant National Park, take a wine tour, and much more. Click here to sign up!
On this trip, you will work with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority to protect endangered desert animal populations, preserve native wildlife, and educate the public about desert conservation. For one week to three months, you will have the chance to volunteer in a reserve that features a three-acre area for herbivores, a Predators Center for reptiles and other animals, and a Desert Night Life Exhibition Hall where visitors can view nocturnal animals. A few of your tasks can include preparing food and feeding animals, cleaning and maintaining reserve facilities, and accompanying and assisting park rangers. Learn more and sign up here!
If you’re more interested in volunteering with marine animals, GoEco has an amazing opportunity where you can be a part of a research program in the Adriatic Sea. A few of your tasks as a volunteer may include observing dolphins, analyzing data, cataloguing data and notes, learning to distinguish between dolphin species, and helping with outreach to establish a Dolphin Education Centre. In addition to volunteering, you will have the chance to visit Brijuni National Park or Kamenjak National Park – you also can organize your own activities and visits to other areas of Europe. Learn more and register here!
Join a professional, hands-on veterinary internship to help heal injured wildlife in Malawi! This rescue center performed 190 veterinary procedures in 2018 alone. The majority of wildlife at the rescue center are orphaned vervet monkeys, but there have also been wildlife species such as elephants that have received care here. Learn more and sign up.
What Volunteers Say
“Taking this volunteer trip to the Wildlife Sanctuary project was something I had wanted to do for several years… Literally after one day of volunteering, I was already regretting only having two weeks to stay.
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. The staff is very helpful, friendly, and seem just as excited to be there as the volunteers. – Dave P., South Africa
As one of the world’s fastest-growing volunteer abroad organizations, Love Volunteers is a great choice for travelers who’d like to volunteer overseas in wildlife conservation and animal care. Since 2009, Love Volunteers has placed more than 20,000 people on service projects all around the world – in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. A few of Love Volunteers’ popular destinations include:
- Asia: Nepal, Thailand, Bali
- Latin America: Peru, Costa Rica, Ecuador
- Africa: South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania
And your volunteer experience is incredibly affordable: depending on where you travel, your first week of volunteering abroad with animals and wildlife conservation starts from just $250.
In Costa Rica, Love Volunteers invites you to work in one of several animal rescue centers they partner with countrywide. Each location has its own specialty, and your exact placement will depend on which center has the most urgent need for volunteers at the time of your application – though all of them have a similar goal to promote conservation and to rescue indigenous wildlife from illegal poaching or trafficking.
Throughout your stay, you may work closely with animals, clean enclosures, feed animals, exercise younger animals, assist with veterinary care if needed, and much more, all under the guidance of local staff and specialists. This program starts from one week at just $250, and you’ll stay with fellow volunteers with a local host family close to the rescue center where you’ll work.
If you’ve always wanted to visit Africa, you should definitely check out Love Volunteers’ Wildlife Protection opportunity in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Through this program, you’ll work with other wildlife conservation volunteers at a game reserve that’s home to a wide variety of animals – including Africa’s Big 5. Your day-to-day tasks will vary depending on what’s needed, but you can expect to track and monitor animals, remove invasive vegetation, feed animals, work in an elephant sanctuary, accompany guides on game drives, and much more. You’ll stay in staff housing throughout your trip, and you’re asked to volunteer at least two weeks, though you’re welcome to stay several months to gain the most from your experience in South Africa.
Love Volunteers also invites you to Asia, where you can volunteer with elephants in Thailand. For more than 20 years, the camp you’ll work in has cared for elephants, and currently houses 70 of them, with revenue from tourists used for animal welfare and conservation, as well as facility upkeep. Each day, you’ll feed and bathe the elephants, and during your afternoons, you may be able to work with trainers – and as a side project, you’re also invited to teach conversational English to a local school.
This program starts from $550, and during the week you’ll be housed onsite, then travel to Chiang Mai during the weekends. As with many other opportunities through Love Volunteers, you’re welcome to stay several weeks or even several months to have the greatest impact from your volunteer program.
Travel to Cairns, Australia on this wonderful volunteer program, where you can be part of the Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre’s efforts to research and protect Australia’s sea turtles. At this rescue center, turtles that are suffering from disease as well as injuries caused by boats and ocean trash are given veterinary attention and rehabilitation so that they can live peacefully in their natural habitats. A few tasks that you can help with include preparing food and feeding the turtles, cleaning and maintaining their tanks and enclosures, scrubbing algae off of the turtles’ backs, transporting and releasing the turtles, assisting with monitoring and research in the reef, and much more. You are invited to stay one week to three months on this program, and longer stays can be arranged depending on availability.
Agape Volunteers offers a variety of meaningful initiatives, including wildlife and environmental conservation, throughout Africa. Founded 10 years ago, Agape Volunteers offers meaningful programs in Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, and Tanzania. A registered UK charity, this organization specializes in volunteering, tourism, and development work to benefit communities and travelers alike. Accommodations, airport transfers, food, and orientation are included in the program fee – also included is travel insurance, making Agape Volunteers the most affordable option on this list if you want to volunteer in Africa.
Travel to South Africa for its spectacular landscape and stay for its incredible wildlife when you choose an animal conservation project with Agape Volunteers. Help to support endangered species with a hands-on experience that contributes to the protection of lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards, cheetahs, buffalos, and hyenas living in the beautiful Marataba section of the Marakele National Park, renowned for its natural beauty.
Your duties may have you up at the crack of dawn monitoring game or analyzing the data you’ve collected on game drives, or patrol fences, conduct invasive plant removal, restore roads, and remove trash. Other tasks include a major tracking project that has you checking and recording animal sightings with camera traps. Anti-poaching activities are also needed so you’ll keep a lookout for suspicious tracks, report low-flying aircraft, and join the sleep-outs in the bush.
Volunteers are housed in a spacious, refurbished farmhouse, protected by a fence to keep out the wildlife. There’s plenty of room to spread out, and recreational areas with board games and books. Spend your Sundays relaxing after the difficult but rewarding work week, or sign up for the optional microlight to check the reserve from overhead. While in South Africa, check out one of the seven wonders of nature: Table Mountain! This flat-topped mountain is a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town, and is a significant tourist attraction. This program starts from two weeks for £1,530. Read more and sign up here!
Founded in 2011, Plan My Gap Year provides affordable, adventurous volunteer opportunities in childcare, teaching, wildlife conservation, community projects, and more throughout Africa and Asia for over 3,000 volunteers per year. PMGY prides itself on transparency and accountability, with all volunteer projects personally vetted by the PMGY team to be certain that you will be matched with an initiative that’s safe and that complements your skills and interests. To add to PMGY’s history of excellence, they also have been awarded the Shell LiveWire Grand Idea Award, Thailand Green Excellence Award, and received Special Recognition from the United Nations in Sri Lanka.
If you’re interested in volunteering with wildlife and for environmental conservation, Plan My Gap Year offers several different opportunities, including a Big 5 Wildlife Experience in South Africa, and an Elephant Experience and a Sea Turtle Conservation program in Sri Lanka.
From two weeks to three months, PMGY invites you to visit South Africa and volunteer on a world-class wildlife reserve, where you will get up close with elephants, lions, rhinos and other amazing animals. A few ways you’ll help include assisting with a community outreach program at a local school, caring for animals on the reserve, monitoring lion prey selection, cataloguing bird species, working with a conservation management program, and much more. This program starts from $795 for your first two weeks – click here to learn more and to sign up!
If you want to go on a tropical getaway where you can also do good, check out PMGY’s Sri Lanka Elephant experience, where you’ll have the chance to work alongside a mahout to care for elephants. As a wildlife volunteer, you’ll help with feeding, walking, and washing the elephants to keep them healthy and active – you also will be able to go on a safari to Udawalawe National Park, which serves as a sanctuary for elephants that have been displaced. This program starts from two weeks at $600 – learn more here!
If you’re more interested in a beach trip, Plan My Gap Year has a wonderful opportunity where you can volunteer with sea turtles in Sri Lanka. On this program, you’ll protect and rehabilitate at-risk turtles by cleaning and refilling tanks, feeding the turtles, cleaning the turtles’ shells, taking care of the nesting area, releasing hatchlings into the sea, and much more. You also will have the chance to work on a community outreach program, beach cleanup, and other projects to help preserve this gorgeous area. This volunteer program starts from $570 for two weeks, and you can stay up to six months. Learn more and sign up here!
Want to care for endangered species in Indonesia? Then travel to Bali, where you can support the wellbeing of displaced animals. On this wildlife rescue project, you’ll work at a center that’s home to more than 40 endangered primates and birds. You’ll have the amazing experience of helping a variety of creatures, including the Javan lutung, grey-headed fish eagle, palm cockatoo, and more. Many of these animals have been victims of traffickers and poachers, and have been rescued from the exotic pet trade or entertainment industry. As a volunteer, you’ll assist staff with medical treatment, feeding, and keeping the facilities clean. You’ll also do work outside the center, such as beach cleanups, turtle rescues, and mangrove conservation, to ensure Bali’s native wildlife have a healthy habitat to call home. So, are you ready to volunteer in Bali and enjoy the sunshine? The program starts from $729 for your first two weeks. Click here to find out more and apply.
Are you an aspiring marine biologist? Check out Plan My Gap Year’s marine conservation volunteer program in South Africa, where you can get up close to southern right whales, bottlenose dolphins, great white sharks, seals, and more in Plettenberg Bay. Volunteers on marine boat trips get the opportunity to observe and record marine wildlife and take fin profile photos – other opportunities to get involved include alien vegetation removal, bird ringing (a catch-record-then release activity), river health assessments, shark and ray egg case collection, beach cleanups, and community education. Program fees are $525 to start for one week, and you can stay up to three months. Learn more and sign up here!
As a Platinum rated US-based nonprofit organization with the highest-rated reviews in responsible and sustainable organization abroad in more than 25 countries, A Broader View’s conservation programs are located in Costa Rica, Guatemala, India, Nepal, Argentina, and Ecuador. With this charity, all your fees are tax-deductible. You are invited to fundraise on ABV’s website, and you will be able to chat with a team member 24/7 to find answers to any questions you may have. Check out all their exciting animal volunteer programs abroad.
Volunteer in Ecuador on this conservation project! Based on Isabela Island, the largest of the islands of the Galapagos, you will have the opportunity to support conservation efforts as well as land turtle support projects on the island. Current research is focused on ensuring that ecosystem restoration heads towards a more pristine condition – this requires ensuring that any introduced plant species do not out-compete the native vegetation.
Volunteer in India with A Broader View – here, the elephants in Jaipur have a long history of being part of religious and Indian cultural ceremonies. Today in Jaipur, the main use for elephants is with the tourist trade, which removes them from their natural habitat. By joining this program, you will have an unforgettable experience learning about elephants and contributing help to their mahouts, who care for them and bring them back to their native areas for a fuller life.
Volunteers with A Broader View’s programs in Costa Rica participate in sea turtle preservation activities, including monitoring and registering nesting patterns, record keeping of eggs, moving eggs to the hatchery, beach patrols, and freeing of the newborns to the ocean. Experience not required, but anticipate strange work hours (middle of the night!) and lots of time spent on the beach.
Another volunteer program in India, this project is perfect for veterinary students or animal lovers interested in providing care and shelter to animals in need. Based in the city of Jaipur, the shelter cares for animals and birds. The shelter’s help line receives calls from within the community about injured or stray animals in needs. Some of the animals cared for at the shelter include peacocks, dogs, cats, cows, monkeys, rabbits, eagles, parrots, pigeons, and crows.
What Volunteers Say
I had a fantastic experience all the way around with ABV. From the time I inquired about their programs, to almost the day before I left to come to Costa Rica, ABV was continually in touch with me making sure everything was arranged, taken care of, answered any questions I had. ABV is a very professional organization and one I would volunteer with again. -Marla
If you’d like to get some excellent experience volunteering with wildlife in exotic, unspoiled locations, you should definitely check out Fronteering. With unique projects to research and conserve wildlife worldwide, Fronteering offers volunteer and intern abroad experiences like no other: from white shark research, to wild horse rescue, to predator sanctuary support and much more, Fronteering has no shortage of adventurous ways for you to make a difference. Your first week of volunteering with Fronteering starts at $695, and depending on the program, you can stay for up to 24 weeks to gain the most from your experience abroad.
In Mongolia, Fronteering invites you to work alongside researchers and biologists to collect data about the wild takhi, one of the world’s most endangered horse species. As a volunteer, you’ll collect data on the horses and weather, provide data to biologists who are managing reintroduction of these horses into the wild, collect information about flora and fauna in the area, monitor horse behavior, and assist with buffer zone research. You’ll stay in a traditional Mongolian ger at your project site. As you volunteer with animals abroad, free time can be spent horse riding, wildlife watching, and more. This program lasts one to four weeks, starting at $895 for your first week in Mongolia.
There’s plenty of adventure in the US! Right now, Fronteering has an amazing opportunity for you to volunteer in Maine, where you can work at a Wild Horse Center that provides care and rehabilitation for adopted horses and wild mustang. For four weeks, you’ll help with food prep, feeding and cleaning, healthcare for the horses, trail rides, construction and maintenance for enclosures, grooming, and educating the public. This program costs $1,995 and you’ll stay in a shared guest house with three meals provided per day throughout your project. And because this sanctuary is located in a tourist area, you’ll have lots of opportunity to visit the beach, offshore islands, explore the downtown area, and much more.
Located in Southern Australia, this program is perfect for volunteers who would like to learn about different species of wildlife while helping to rehabilitate and release into the wild animals that have been orphaned, injured, or otherwise are under the care of the sanctuary. Tasks can include food preparation, feeding the animals, cleaning enclosures, wound or injury attention, rescue and transportation, and much more. The center you’ll volunteer at is close to Sydney, so during your free time, you’re encouraged to explore the city or towns close by on the ocean or in the mountains. Housing is provided in a private room near your project site, and you can stay one to eight weeks, starting from $795.
Founded in 1989, Global Works provides travel experiences for students and groups, combining community service, cultural exchange, language immersion, and adventure. Over 10,000 travelers have signed up with Global Works so far, with trips running 8 to 21 days each summer. Global Works’ conservation and wildlife programs include an eco-adventure in Mexico, a marine service adventure in the Galapagos Islands, and much more.
On Global Works’ Sea Turtle Adventure in Costa Rica, you’ll spend 8 days traveling traveling around the San Jose Central Valley and Tortuguero Beach while learning about Central American culture and lifestyle. After an orientation and team-building exercise with your group, you’ll visit a sustainable coffee farm and embark on an overnight rafting trip on the Pacuare River. For the volunteering portion of the adventure, you’ll tour a leatherback sea turtle hatchery, help with environmental conservation projects, patrol beaches at night for nesting turtles, and take a kayaking tour through Tortuguero National Park. You can also extend your journey with Global Works’ Costa Rica La Pura Vida Program if you have some more time to travel!
If you want to visit a truly unique area of the world, check out Global Works’ Marine Service Adventure in the Galapagos. For 11 days, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the ecology and environment of the Galapagos Islands, while enjoying their natural beauty and adventure through snorkeling, hot springs, and so much more.
You’ll begin with a trip to the Papallacta area for an Andean nature walk and a soak in the hot springs. After that, you will travel to Baltra and Isabela Islands, where you’ll go snorkeling in the Flamingo Lagoon and Concha Perla Lagoon. Then, you will travel to the Isabela Sierra Negra Volcano and the private reserve of Campo Duro, and even tour the Isabela Giant Tortoise Breeding Center to learn all about their conservation work.
Later, you’ll go snorkeling among penguins, turtles, manta rays, and sea lions at one of the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos – and you’ll finish your trip with a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Center in Puerto Ayora.
On this epic, 24-day trip, you’ll travel to New Zealand’s North Island and to Fiji for adventure, exploration, and community development volunteering.
For the first week of your trip, you’ll visit the gorgeous Bay of Islands to relax in hot springs, take on team building activities, learn about the culture of Aotearoa, and volunteer at a local ecological reserve, where you’ll plant trees, rebuild kiwi habitats, and more.
For days 8 to 10, you’ll head to Rorotura and the Te Puia Marae, a local community where you’ll learn about Maori culture – you’ll continue your expedition to the North Island for a ropes course and rock climbing. Then, you will visit the beach community of Raglan, where you will volunteer with a nonprofit organization that promotes recycling for a zero-waste society.
When you’re not volunteering, you will have the chance to go surfing, hiking, and much more. You’ll end your trip with 9 days in Fiji, where you’ll visit a coastal village surrounded by volcanoes, coral reefs, and waterfalls – and as a volunteer, you can help with community development projects such as building a kindergarten classroom or a library.
Global Vision International (GVI) offers a huge variety of meaningful volunteer and intern abroad programs worldwide for travelers interested in wildlife and conservation. More than 25,000 volunteers have traveled with GVI to Africa, Asia, Latin America, and beyond to provide hands-on support for programs including wildlife research, marine conservation, animal care, and much more. By volunteering with GVI, you know you’ll make a difference: this award-winning organization partners with NGOs large and small across many different program areas to provide the best possible solutions with help from volunteers and interns like you. GVI is no-kidding one of our favorite organizations and we highly recommend them for first-time volunteers and teen volunteers.
Right now, GVI is offering several volunteer programs in the islands of Seychelles, including a marine conservation expedition, island conservation expedition, and a lemon shark and turtle conservation project.
During the marine conservation program, you’ll earn your PADI Advanced and PADI Coral Reef Research Diver qualifications while learning to identify fish and coral of the Indian Ocean, participate in marine species research, and provide information to the local government about conservation initiatives.
If you sign up for the island conservation expedition, you’ll assist with research in a national park, work with critically endangered sea turtles, help with shark pup catch-and-release programs, and much more. And on GVI’s lemon shark and turtle conservation program, you’ll have the opportunity to assist with efforts to conserve and ensure the survival of some of the island of Curieuse’s most important species, all while working and learning alongside researchers and fellow volunteers.
Depending on the project you sign up for, you’re invited to stay at least two weeks or longer, starting from $2,100. Some expeditions include side trips, such as a hike up Cap Matoopa or diving for fun – you can also take optional side trips to go island hopping, exploring different beaches, or even visiting the capital city of Victoria. Learn more about GVI’s wildlife conservation programs at: www.gviusa.com/find-a-program
Through GVI’s Marine Conservation Internship in Mexico, you can start building your career by gaining firsthand experience in conservation programs while contributing to the world’s largest database chronicling the health, condition, and changes to the Meso-American Barrier Reef. In partnership with highly regarded organizations, GVI will give you the skills and knowledge to help contribute directly to the future of this unique ecosystem.
A few projects you’ll take on include participating in monitoring dives where you can see sharks and dolphins, assisting with sea turtle monitoring and conservation programs, and collaborating with the local community to raise awareness about marine conservation. You’re invited to stay six weeks or longer, starting at $4,900. In your free time, you can take side trips throughout the Yucatan Peninsula and even arrange other travel opportunities to explore Mexico before or after your internship. Learn more and sign up: www.gviusa.com/programs/mexico-marine-conservation-internship
If you want to learn all about different types of African wildlife, look no further than GVI’s wildlife research expedition in South Africa!
During this program, you’ll work alongside local researchers to identify and track many types of animals in a game reserve, conduct important research, help with data entry, and educate the local community about conservation practices. Your work will help further much-needed research and conservation efforts in South Africa, and you’re invited to stay from two to 12 weeks to gain the most from your experience abroad.
This program starts from $2,390, with side trips included to the Khamai Reptile Park and a local curio market – you’re also invited to take optional side trips to Kruger National Park, the Blyde River Canyon, and other areas where you can explore, go zip lining or hiking, and much more. Click here to apply: www.gviusa.com/programs/wildlife-research-south-africa-expedition
On this internship, you are invited to assist with researchers on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica on a variety of projects.
Depending on the time of year and what type of work is being conducted by the program’s researchers, there are several areas you can focus on throughout your stay. Between March and October, you can help with monitoring and conservation of sea turtles, including hawksbill, green turtles, and leatherback sea turtles.
Other projects you can work on include investigating the impact of jaguar populations on sea turtle populations, setting up camera traps to record tracks and signs of different types of animals, performing resident and migratory bird research, and conducting biological assessment surveys to identify species of amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles throughout Tortuguero National Park. After successfully completing your internship, you may have the opportunity to continue working with GVI or with one of their selected partner organizations. This internship lasts 24 weeks and costs $8,250, with start dates available each quarter year-round. Learn more and sign up: www.gviusa.com/programs/conservation-internship-costa-rica
Another adventurous and impactful volunteer project you can sign up for right now with GVI brings you to the Chiang Mai province of Thailand, where you will work with elephants in a rehabilitation center. As a volunteer, you’ll have the opportunity to learn and work alongside local mahouts to provide care and support for elephants that have been rescued from the tourist industry. A few tasks you’ll take on include:
- Conducting health inspections on the elephants
- Walking elephants through the forest to help them socialize and forage
- Observing the elephants to collect data on social interactions and food preferences
You also will assist with community outreach and education programs, where you can teach English, weave baskets, play football, and much more. Learn more and sign up for this program at: https://www.gviusa.com/programs/volunteer-elephants-thailand
The Intern Group, founded in 2011, places more than 2,000 applicants on professional development placements in North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Australia each year. An award-winning social enterprise, it’s been featured in Forbes, TIME, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and CNN. It connects university students and other individuals on internships with renowned NGOs and companies, and partners with more than 1,000 leading employers globally. The Intern Group offers discounts for alumni travelers, as well as students receiving financial aid. The organization offers assistance with visas, and provides developmental workshops, career training, social and cultural events, quality housing, and in-country support.
Gain hands-on experience in wildlife preservation and animal conservation in Australia with an environmental sciences and sustainability internship customized for you by the Intern Group. Work with impactful NGOs like Earthwatch, and assist scientists as they conduct field research and collect data. Become an ambassador for sustainability and connect with nature on an expedition. Depending upon your skills and interests, you can choose to work in the field on science-focused research, or behind the scenes with the administrative efforts. If you have a passion for wildlife preservation, environmental engineering, eco-business, and science, an international internship is a great opportunity to make your resume stand out while getting to experience a new culture abroad. Program fees start at $4,617 for six weeks, with stays available up to six months. Learn more and apply today!
Travel to Bangkok, the city where East meets West, for a science placement with the Intern Group and gain invaluable work experience in one of the most vibrant cities of Southeast Asia. When you work with an NGO in Thailand, you’ll learn from leading researchers, engineers, and academics. Customize your internship with an emphasis on biomedicine, biotechnology, or marine conservation. Thailand is home to a range of leading companies and organizations, making it the perfect country to gain professional experience. Social events included in this internship include a historical Bangkok food tour and a traditional Thai cooking class. Take a day trip to Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage site with beautiful temples and palaces. Spend up to six months in Thailand on this internship with placement fees starting at $1,826 for four weeks. Click here to read more and apply!
Are you passionate about the conservation of all living things? Consider a customized internship in Barcelona that allows you to combine the power of the media and tourism to benefit the environment. Travel to Barcelona and learn how eco-tourism and sustainability can help save species and special places. An internship in Europe’s largest cruise port is ideal for those looking to break into the eco-tourism or events field. Work with professionals and learn the skills necessary to excel in your future career. While in Barcelona, enjoy a night tour of Antoni Gaudi’s La Pedrera, a multi-sensory, multimedia event. Take a day trip to the Dali Museum in medieval Girona. It’s the only city in history to have been awarded the Royal Gold Medal for architecture and contains nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites! Program fees start at $4,648 for six weeks, with stays up to six months. Learn more here and start your application today.
If your interests in wildlife conservation include biology or medicine research, consider a biotechnology internship in New York City. This opportunity with the Intern Group lets you create a customized experience where you’ll learn from the brightest academic minds in the world! Develop professional skills and gain real-world experience while living in the most exciting and culturally diverse city in the United States. While you’re in New York City, spend free time at Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) and the MoMA, or Museum of Modern Art. Your lodgings are in Manhattan, so check out Central Park, as well as the Zoo and the Tavern on the Green. Fees for this program start at $6,910 for eight weeks, with stays of six months available. Read more here, and apply today!
Since 2002, Iko Poran has offered volunteer trips throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where you can get involved in a wide variety of projects including animal conservation and environment protection.
With programs starting from only $175 for your first week abroad, Iko Poran is a great choice for travelers on a budget. Having garnered international recognition such as being featured as a success case in volunteerism at a UN World Summit and being highlighted as a Public Interest Organization by the Brazilian Ministry of Justice since 2007, Iko Poran is a wonderful organization striving to make a positive difference in the communities that they serve.
With programs in Brazil, Ecuador, and Uganda, Iko Poran has several opportunities for you to get involved in environmental protection volunteering. Depending on the program you sign up for, a few tasks you can help with include planting and seeding organic gardens, conducting educational workshops in schools, building and maintaining ecological treks, promoting ecotourism initiatives, inventorying plants, and much more. While you don’t need background experience to apply for these programs, you should be fit and willing to take on physically demanding work outdoors. Learn more here!
If you’d like to volunteer hands-on with animals, Iko Poran has programs available in Costa Rica, Nepal, Thailand, South Africa, and Kenya, where you’ll help protect animals in sanctuaries as well as through research and monitoring endangered species in the wild.
A few ways you can get involved include tracking and monitoring animals, feeding animals, coordinating visitors in reserves, accompanying guides on night patrols, assisting with hatchery duties, and much more. Depending on the program you sign up for, you may need to have background experience in your project area – learn more and sign up here!
Founded in 2009, Global Nomadic provides degree- and career-related volunteer opportunities and internships throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Pacific. With transparent pricing and direct contact with your in-country coordinator, Global Nomadic strives to ensure any program you sign up for puts your skills to good use and lets you make the best impact you can while abroad. Right now, Global Nomadic is offering a variety of volunteer programs and internships in veterinary care, marine conservation, environmental conservation, and wildlife rehabilitation worldwide.
One of the many different wildlife conservation and protection opportunities through Global Nomadic invites you to Guatemala, where you can work for one week or longer at a sanctuary that’s home to parrots, monkeys, ocelots, coatimundis, and many other species. On this program, you will care for animals that have been seized from smugglers and that must be rehabilitated before release into the wild. This internship can be customized to your goals and background, with a few tasks including animal husbandry, maintenance and chores, construction of cages or extra buildings, gathering food for the animals, giving tours and creating educational exhibits, helping with environmental education activities, and much more. In addition to your internship work, you can visit Tikal National Park, take a coffee tour, explore Lake Atitlan and its volcanoes, and go shopping in Antigua. Learn more and sign up here!
If you are a veterinary student, nurse, or qualified veterinary surgeon, and if you have at least one month available to travel, check out Global Nomadic’s veterinary and animal welfare volunteer project in Thailand! On this trip, you will travel to the islands of Koh Lanta off the coast of Thailand to work with an organization that controls the cat and dog population through sterilization, and that leads awareness classes in local schools and community activities. The types of work you take on will depend on your background and qualifications – if you are a student, you will shadow local professionals and assist them with their work. If you are a professional with at least two years of surgical experience, you will work in the clinic to perform sterilizations and provide medical treatment for the animals. During your free time, you’re invited to relax on the beach, take cooking classes, and much more. Click here to learn more and to apply!
Another exciting trip offered by Global Nomadic brings you to Belize to gain hands-on experience in manatee rehabilitation. For one month or longer, you will have the opportunity to work at the region’s only manatee rehabilitation center to care for orphaned manatee calves as well as manatees that have been injured and are in need of medical attention. As an intern, your tasks may include food preparation, support during transferring the animals between pools, medical checkups, monitoring behavior, and responding to calf strandings and transfer from elsewhere in Belize. During your weekends and free time, you can go diving, explore Mayan ruins, visit a jaguar preserve, and more. Register here!
Founded in 2004, Global Leadership Adventures is an excellent choice for under-18 travelers who want to make a difference and learn about wildlife and conservation. With a combination of community service programs, hands-on learning opportunities, and adventure travel, Global Leadership Adventures sends thousands of travelers each year to over a dozen countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America – and with a high emphasis on safety and security, GLA’s Five-Point Safety System ™ ensures participants have the best experience possible on their travels.
On this 21-day summer program, you’ll join a group of fellow student travelers to learn about Caribbean sustainable development, environmental conservation, and health intervention. For the volunteer portion of your trip, you’ll help with a variety of projects, such as:
- Home or community center construction
- Participation on a Healthy Kids project with an emphasis on global health
- Helping with reforestation system development
- Constructing vertical gardens
Throughout your stay in the Dominican Republic, you’ll learn about environmental sustainability through nightly seminars that will allow you to gain a deeper perspective both on your volunteer work and about issues and solutions in sustainability worldwide. And for the adventure portion of your trip, you’ll go hiking, swimming, snorkeling, shopping at a local market in a Haitian border town, and lots more. This program costs $4,999 for the full 21-day stay, and you’ll live with fellow travelers in a gorgeous eco-lodge right near the beach. Learn more here.
This is an amazing opportunity for students who want to explore the world and get hands-on with exotic animals: Global Leadership Adventures invites you to northern Thailand, where you’ll volunteer with trained keepers to care for elephants in a conservation center, and work in the local community on projects that support food harvesting, land rehabilitation, and development. You’ll have the chance to speak with local leaders about their work and its impact on protecting elephants in Thailand. Plus, you’ll have time to go hiking in the mountains, explore outdoor markets, and so much more during your trip.
This 14-day trip costs $3,599, and you’ll stay with other volunteers at the GLA home base, a rustic lodge at the Thai Elephant Home. Click here to learn more and to sign up!
Volunteer Review by Portia Mannix
I traveled to the Dominican Republic this past spring and plan to travel to Ghana this summer with Global Leadership Adventures. This is an outstanding program that provides the utmost support and personal interest. The GLA staff keeps in close contact with you throughout your planning process. They are extremely organized. Each program offers a different life-altering adventure that is bound to be a lasting memory. I thoroughly recommend Global Leadership Adventures for all teens looking to go on a service trip abroad. I can guarantee you won’t regret it.
Founded in 1989, Frontier invites travelers of all ages to work alongside researchers and local communities in capacity building, ecosystem protection, community development, economic growth, and the development of civil society. This nonprofit scientific research organization got its start with a marine park in Tanzania, created in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, and more than 25 years later hosts over 400 projects in 72 countries.
With staff who have been published in more than 450 articles in peer-reviewed journals, Frontier invites you on volunteer programs, gap year travel, internships abroad, and teach abroad / TEFL programs that will let you engage in valuable and meaningful work worldwide.
If you want to visit a tropical paradise and make a positive impact on your travels, take a look at Frontier’s turtle conservation project in Malaysia. The goals for this project are to conduct surveys to identify animals, record turtle nesting habits, protect nests against other animals and poachers, and raising awareness about turtle protection within the community. You can take photos of the nesting turtles, determine turtle populations and numbers of male and female turtles, identify conservation area hot spots, and record nesting activity.
This program starts from one week at $695, and you’re encouraged to stay longer to aid in ongoing research, to enjoy your visit, and to learn as much as you can about the work you’re contributing to.
Located in the mid-Atlantic Ocean, Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands – and Frontier invites you to aid their efforts in whale and dolphin conservation here. These animals face threats from habitat degradation, injury from ships, food depletion from overfishing, and other issues. As a volunteer, you’ll aid in their research and protection through photographing and cataloguing whale and dolphin groups, observing and recording behavior, raising awareness among tourists, assisting whale watching boat guides with their work, and embarking on coastal expeditions to survey and monitor dolphins and their habits. You can stay one week or longer on this project, starting at $695 for your first week.
Through this program, you’ll work alongside staff at a local safari park in Thailand to care for animals that are unable to live in the wild. Unfortunately, there are many zoos throughout the country that emphasize tourism and at the expense of their animals’ welfare – such as keeping tigers on chains or housing animals in too-small enclosures. The goal for this project is to show that a zoo protecting its animals and keeping them healthy can be an even better draw for tourists while encouraging ethical and sustainable practices in wildlife conservation.
As a volunteer, you’ll educate the community and visitors about responsible tourism, teach English to staff and their families, assist with enclosure upkeep, help to promote the park and its tour packages, and even work hands-on with some of the animals. You’re invited to stay one to two weeks on this project, at $795 for your first week in Thailand.
If you’d like to volunteer with one of the world’s most endangered species, check out Frontier’s elephant rescue program in Thailand. Right now, there are only about 2,000 to 3,000 wild elephants remaining in the country, while domesticated ones can be found begging for food and performing tricks. Through this program, you’ll work with a camp that provides sanctuary for retired elephants while learning about Thai culture, history, and much more. A few tasks you can take on include exercising, feeding, and washing the elephants; maintaining the gardens; and assisting staff with their day-to-day tasks.
This program starts from one week at $795, and you’re encouraged to stay up to four weeks to take part in a cultural immersion program and to learn all about your host country.
Since 2010, Reach Out Volunteers has provided culturally rich and high-impact volunteer programs for travelers who want to make a difference in impoverished communities, help endangered wildlife, and much more. To date, about 3,500 travelers have signed up with Reach Out Volunteers, with an additional 1,000 expected to embark on trips in 2017. Reach Out Volunteers also prides itself on the sustainability of its programs, with all projects initiated by the communities in which they work, and all programs employing local, skilled laborers to work alongside their volunteers. Right now, Reach Out Volunteers offers several wildlife volunteer abroad opportunities, including an elephant program in Cambodia, marine conservation in Cambodia, a track and trail safari in South Africa, and more.
One amazing volunteer opportunity you should check out with Reach Out Volunteers if you want to get up close with animals is their village and elephant program in Cambodia. For two weeks, you’ll volunteer at a local school, visit historic temples, and work at an elephant sanctuary. At the sanctuary, you’ll learn all about how the logging industry affects elephant populations, while working alongside local community members to care for elephants that have been displaced – a few of your tasks can include feeding the elephants, planting trees, building a firebreak, building dams to create baths for the elephants, and much more. Learn more and sign up at: https://www.rovolunteers.com/helping-elephants-volunteer-programs.htm
If you’re looking for a longer trip that will let you work with a wide variety of animals, take a look at Reach Out Volunteers’ South Africa Volunteering Adventure, where you’ll have 35 days to explore South Africa and volunteer with several different impactful initiatives. Your volunteer program will start with construction and renovation assistance at a local crèche – or day care center – after which you’ll be able to take a safari, visit and volunteer at a game park where you can help with animal tracking, visit a cheetah rescue and rehabilitation center, and lots more. Alongside your volunteer activities, you’ll be able to go surfing, shopping, horseback riding, and embark on side trips during this month-long program. Click here to learn more: https://www.rovolunteers.com/africa-volunteer-programs.htm
Founded in 2014, Volunteering Journeys is a fast-growing organization offering impactful placements for volunteers throughout Asia and Africa.
The founder’s story informs and inspires Volunteering Journeys’ work as well: after leaving her job as an investment banker in London, founder Ridhi Patel volunteered for three months near Kruger National Park in South Africa. This life-changing experience inspired her to lay the groundwork for Volunteering Journeys in her home country of India, with a goal to engage travelers who wish to explore the world, give back to their communities, and learn more about themselves.
Volunteering Journeys provides personal attention and tailored trips for all volunteers, commits to high-quality service, and engages scientists, doctors, teachers, and community leaders on all of its programs. If you’re interested in a wildlife, marine, or conservation volunteer program, Volunteering Journeys offers several placements you should check out in South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
If you’ve always wanted to visit Thailand, Volunteering Journeys offers an incredible chance to volunteer with elephants in the Mae Wang valley. Throughout the country, elephants historically have been held in captivity to work as farm animals, as cavalry for the army, and even as tourist attractions. As the use of elephants for labor has decreased in recent years, domesticated ones have been left to roam towns and cities, unable to integrate into the wild. As a volunteer, you will work with a home for domesticated elephants to live more naturally and cared for by mahouts and fellow volunteers. During your stay, you’ll prepare food, feed the elephants, clean their living areas, and walk the elephants to the river for bathing. This volunteer program also includes a guided trek through the surrounding hills, bamboo rafting, and much more to give you an immersive experience.
Another excellent wildlife volunteering opportunity to check out is Volunteering Journeys’ sea turtle conservation initiative in Sri Lanka. Through this program, you’ll have the chance to aid ongoing efforts by local marine biologists and conservationists who are collecting vital data and research to protect these endangered animals. There are five different sea turtle species that regularly visit Volunteering Journeys’ island base in Sri Lanka, including green turtles, hawksbills, loggerheads, leatherbacks, and olive ridley turtles. A few tasks you’ll take on as a volunteer can include marine life monitoring, beach cleanup and management, daily maintenance, caring for turtles and daily feeding, and releasing hatchlings into the beach. During the weekends, you’re free to explore Sri Lanka, relax on the beach, or take surf lessons.
Founded in 2006, Connect-123 provides tailor-made internships, volunteer projects, and study abroad opportunities in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, and Shanghai. Through Connect-123’s customized travel programs, you can focus on such topics as sustainable development, entrepreneurship, education, and much more. And wherever you travel to, you’ll work with a local organization – whether it’s a school, hospital, nonprofit, or another group – plus you can apply to travel year-round.
For each program you sign up for, Connect-123 will provide housing support, orientation, weekly events, and emergency support. If you’re interested in a volunteer program or internship in conservation, check out these opportunities below!
With Connect-123, you can travel to Ireland to work with bird sanctuaries, at beaches, in natural reserves, or even at Europe’s oldest zoo. You can also learn and work alongside veterinarians, or with charities that train guide dogs and therapy animals. Connect-123’s Dublin internships have a flat fee of €2,250, which includes continual support, events, orientation, housing search assistance, airport transfer, and more. Learn more here!
Another wonderful opportunity through Connect-123 takes you to Buenos Aires, Argentina to lend a hand as an animal science or wildlife volunteer. On this program, you can care for and protect stray dogs, work alongside a veterinarian, help out at an animal rehabilitation clinic, take part in environmental education efforts, or help restore forest ecosystems by planting trees.
This volunteer program has a fee of $2,250, and includes ongoing support from staff, pre-trip information pack, airport transfer, orientation, 24/7 emergency support, and much more. Click here to apply!
If you’re in high school or college and want to volunteer abroad for wildlife conservation, Rustic Pathways is a great place to start. Their student trips combine education, travel, and philanthropy, with destinations including Fiji, Thailand, Australia, Tanzania, and many more. More than 8,000 students are expected to embark on trips this year, and with recognition as WYSTC’s 2015 Best Youth Tour Operator, decades of experience from on-the-ground staff, a commitment to traveler safety, and a dedication to providing affordable travel opportunities (including more than 100 scholarships awarded each year!), Rustic Pathways is an excellent organization where you can do good for wildlife and for the environment.
Rustic Pathways offers lots of amazing opportunities for students to volunteer with animals and learn about protecting their habitats. On the Thai Elephant Conservation Project, you’ll work alongside a local mahout to feed, bathe, and care for elephants that have been displaced or are in need of rehabilitation. Or if you’re more interested in marine life, check out the Nicoya Turtle Expedition, where you will protect native sea turtles and go snorkeling in Costa Rica. Learn more about the many different animal volunteering programs offered by Rustic Pathways here!
If you want to keep our world beautiful and ensure our ecosystems can thrive for years to come, check out Rustic Pathways’ trips perfect for environmentalists. If you’re in college, you may be interested in the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve Project in Australia, where you will learn about rare plant and animal species on a 330,000-acre habitat while experiencing life as an Australia Zoo Ranger. Another wonderful trip – this one being perfect for high school students – is the Island Living and Eco-Service Adventure in the Dominican Republic, where you will be able to explore mangroves, reefs, and marine wildlife at Los Haitises National Park. Learn more about Rustic Pathways’ environmental programs here!
Other Veterinary Volunteer Abroad Projects
Types of programs offered:
Hands-on Veterinary volunteer abroad programs for pre-vet and vet students.
Program highlights include:
- Community vet health surveying and screenings through family and farm visits
- Wildlife veterinary field trips
- Vitamins for cattle, horses, donkeys, and pigs
- Neuter/spay clinics for smaller animals
- Application of vaccines (seasonal) and immunizations
- Clinics to provide vaccinations and immunizations for parasite control and nutrition supplements
- Dental care for animals
- Urgent animal care in the field
Where they work:
Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Tanzania.
How long: ISL offers 9 to 14 day programs throughout the year. Extended stay options are available.
Who can join: 18+. Vet programs are for vet school students and pre-vet students.
Know before you go:
Founded in 1994, ISL specializes in arranging medical volunteer trips and places a strong importance on working with respected, in-country medical providers. Safety, sustainability and comfort of volunteers and patients are top priorities for ISL. Preparation and orientation seminars are available to prospective volunteers. In addition to veterinary abroad projects, volunteer opportunities are open to nurses, nursing students, doctors, medical students, pre-med students, dentists, pre dental students, and dental school students.
Volunteers typically are housed in modest hostels with provided meals and work within a team of volunteers with similar interests and expertise. All volunteers are transported and accompanied by ISL staff members at all times.
Types of programs offered:
Vida Volunteers offers pre-vet and advanced vet programs. The Pre-vet program is for those students without any previous surgical training and the Advanced Vet Program is designed for upper level veterinary students and recent graduates. Volunteers will gain clinical and practical experience. The Vida program focuses mainly on the sterilization of felines and canines in field clinics; however, participants will also gain experience working with large animals.
Where they work:
Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua
Programs typically run for two weeks. Students can also sign up for two programs back to back for an extended four week stay.
Who can join:
Eligible participants include first and second year veterinary students, pre- veterinary students, veterinary technicians, and veterinary assistants.
Know before you go:
Vida Volunteer is a 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit humanitarian organization based in Minnesota and operating in Central America. Lodging is usually a combination of basic hotel and homestays. If a particular trip is to be very rustic (ex. no running water or electricity) participants are informed of these conditions in advance. Recreational activities for volunteers are available and visiting local communities if time permits. Please note that volunteers are required to submit a short essay stating their motive for wanting to be a Vida volunteer in order to be accepted into this program.
Other Conservation Volunteer Abroad Programs
Types of Programs Offered:
VESA offers a combination of volunteer and adventure programs. Examples include:
- Sampling the genuine Ecuadorian Amazon with the people who live there. Experiencing authentic South Africa and be part of a tribal community in a UNESCO world heritage location.
- Tasting the real life of a Fijian village then visiting the tropical islands of the sunny South Pacific.
- Staying at and caring for elephants in a remote elephant sanctuary in South East Asia.
Where they work:
South America, South Africa, South East Asia, Fiji Islands.
Programs are two weeks in length.
Who can join:
18+ years of age.
Know before you go:
VESA is an environmentally conscious organization with the focus on environmental stewardship and respect in the pristine locations they work. They employ local people where possible.
Programs are tailored to individual volunteers based on skills and experience. Volunteers can expect to be fully immersed in the local culture.
Volunteers who successfully fundraised via the Volunteer Forever website for VESA projects:
Shell Poole, USA. Raised $4815 to volunteer in South Africa to teach English at an orphanage, renovate run-down facilities, help build homes, and work with cheetahs and leopards in rehabilitation.
Types of Programs Offered:
Ecoteer offers inexpensive volunteer work and job opportunities at eco lodges, marine conservation, farm, teaching and humanitarian projects.
Where they work:
Western Europe, South America, Oceania, North America, Eastern Europe, Central America, Australia & NZ, Asia, Africa.
Program times vary from one month to six months.
Who can join:
18 + years of age, or, if younger be accompanied by a guardian.
Know before you go:
Ecoteer connects volunteers directly to volunteer job opportunities abroad through a membership program ($25 US annual membership fee). All volunteering enquiries go straight to the individual projects. All monies are paid directly to the project leader, not Ecoteer.
Membership includes an Ecoteer volunteer page, full access to the forums and ratings for each volunteer project (Only ecoteer volunteer members can vote) and get updates direct from Ecoteer.
Types of programs offered:
ISV supports sustainable development and conservation based initiatives around the world. Conservation projects include protecting endangered species, and conserving fragile ecosystems. Custom trips are also available.
Where they work:
Australia, Botswana, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Mozambique, New Zealand, South Africa, Swaziland, Thailand, Vietnam, Zambia.
This organization offers two-week volunteer programs and four-week ‘ultimate adventure’ programs where individuals participate in two-week volunteer project followed by a two-week action-packed adventure tour.
Who can join:
18+ years of age, however, there is a special program for 15 – 18 year olds as well.
Know before you go:
ISV has been in business since 2002 and has had more than 30,000 volunteers on hundreds of projects. More than 310 universities grant academic credit for participation in ISV programs, check with your local university. You will be travelling with a group of 25-50 other volunteers.
Other Teen Ecotourism Programs
Types of programs offered:
ISV supports sustainable development and conservation based initiatives. Projects include; education, protecting endangered species, infrastructure support and conservation of fragile ecosystems. Custom trips are also available.
Where they work:
Australia, Botswana, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Mozambique, New Zealand, South Africa, Swaziland, Thailand, Vietnam, Zambia.
This organization offers two-week volunteer programs and four-week ‘ultimate adventure’ programs where individuals participate in a meaningful two week volunteer project followed by a two week action-packed adventure tour. You will travel with 25-50 other volunteers from around the globe.
Who can join:
Currently enrolled high school students aged 15 -18 years old.
Know before you go:
ISV has been in business since 2002 and had more than 30,000 volunteers on hundreds of projects. Over 310 universities grant academic credit for participation on ISV programs and you can combine your project with an action packed adventure tour.
Volunteers who successfully fundraised via the Volunteer Forever website for ISV projects:
Ryan, USA. Has raised $2800 to date to volunteer on a wildlife conservation project in Thailand.
Sam Hobbs, Australia. Has raised $2338 to date to volunteer on a conservation project in South Africa.
Volunteering in Africa: Melissa Haynes’ Story
Melissa Haynes shares her personal story volunteering abroad at a Big Five game reserve in South Africa. Since then, her life has been forever changed. She’s gone on to write about her volunteering experience in a book titled “Learning to Play with a Lion’s Testicles”, which has appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Ellen Show. Melissa also discusses several worthwhile projects to consider for those who want to volunteer abroad in animal / conservation projects and has tips for fundraising for your volunteer trip expenses.
I went to Africa because I was hungry. I was hungry for adventure, a journey, an awakening. I wanted to give back, to step outside of myself and get back to myself all at the same time. I wanted to make a contribution – however infinitesimal it would be. So I signed up to volunteer solo on a Big Five game reserve in South Africa. What I didn’t realize at the time was that not only would it be the greatest adventure of my life, but it would also change the course of my life forever.
I wasn’t a student at the time. Nor was this my first adventure. I had already crashed and burned as a Junior Advertising Executive, after which I ran away to Central America and opened a coffee shop in a sunny town with mostly shady people. After returning to Canada when my father passed away I took a job in Event Marketing management which eventually led to winning a handful of Olympic contacts for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
For the next four years I wore the hat of Olympic Project Manager. It was thrilling and exciting but when it all came to an end, I was left wanting more. Not more status or more money, but something that would enrich my soul. I was at a crossroads in life: take the job offer in front of me to sit at the head of a company – or leave all comfort and security behind and go volunteer in Africa – a dream I had since childhood that the ‘should do’s’ had shelved for years. I threw caution to the wind and chose the latter. That decision was the greatest I had ever made because it was made from a place of passion and love instead of fear.
I spent six weeks in Africa. Part of my time was spent in the Knysna townships teaching conservation to children and some on an elephant reserve in Plettenberg Bay rehabilitating elephants waiting to be released into the wild. The majority of my time was spent on a wildlife conservation project on a Big Five game reserve in Albertinia, on the famous garden route in South Africa.
While I loved every minute of every project, my passion was working with the Big Five. Not only did I learn about the wildlife and the workings of the lodge, I learned the value of a physically challenging hard day’s work, often in extreme mid-day heat or early morning near freezing temperatures.
The enthusiasm and kindness of the rangers and project managers was unparalleled to anything I had experienced before. I was also relieved to find that, from the perspective of pure creature comforts, the game reserve went beyond my expectations. Meals were delicious and my tent was warm and durable (a welcome relief as the lion camp bordered on my tent camp). Tenting, in my opinion, is the best way to experience Africa. One feels closer to the land and animals. Even though sleeping alone in a tent camp was the biggest obstacle I had to overcome on this adventure!
The backdrop to the reserve was the magnificent Langberg mountain range – standing tall like dark blue uniformed soldiers guarding the pristine valley. Not far away on the other side was the Indian Ocean, where, on a weekend off I found myself a few centimeters away from a great white shark in the, err, safe confines of an aluminum cage.
Time disappeared, modern conveniences were no longer important and all major players in my previous life became irrelevant. Instead key players became survival, teamwork, willingness and openness to do any job required of me. Jobs included shoveling elephant dung, rebuilding roads one stone at a time and tree planting under the watchful eyes of a pride of lions only 200 meters away with nothing separating me from them but fear itself.
Each and every day I gave sweat, tears and persevered trying desperately to even out the balance sheet, but, at the end of it all, I received far more than I could ever give. My efforts only magnifying what I got out of this experience.
It’s true that to give is to receive. This is proven day after day in a small, out-of-the-way place in South Africa where the skies are always blue and there’s always so much to do. A place where the miracle of giving is always evident.
Volunteering is a great way to not just see a country, but to experience its culture and leave an impression. Because even if that impression is one tree planted, a sustainable vegetable garden built or leaving a smile on someone’s face, it was worth it.
After volunteering in Africa I was changed forever. This experience gave me the courage to pursue other passions I had long ago shelved. One of those passions included writing a book. I wrote a book titled, Learning to Play with a Lion’s Testicles. The title is an actual South African expression that means learning to take chances. It is about my volunteering adventure and all the lessons I learned from the animals about overcoming fear, taking chances, dealing with death and forgiveness.
My book went on to appear on the two most popular television shows: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Ellen show. And now I’m working on book two. None of this would have been possible had I not made the decision to follow my passion and volunteer in Africa.
I know that you too will be changed forever if you decide to volunteer.