Wildlife, Marine Animal, Veterinary, and Conservation Volunteer Abroad

article-hero-image

Updated for 2024

People aren’t the only ones you can help as you volunteer abroad – animals also benefit from medical attention and environmental conservation from various 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:

  1. Researching and protecting sea turtles on the beaches of Costa Rica, Bali, and Zanzibar
  2. Rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing wild animals that are sick or injured, or that have been kept illegally as pets in Australia with GoEco. Or work in one of Africa’s largest orphanages for wild animals in Zimbabwe
  3. Studying animal habits and warding off poachers on a Big Five game reserve in Africa
  4. Help with habitat preservation and wildlife population observation in Borneo, Malaysia by Volunteering Solutions 
  5. Promoting environmental awareness and sustainability initiatives in a community so that animals and their natural habitats are protected in Sri Lanka with GoEco

From researching big cats to rescuing primates, there are animal care and wildlife conservation programs worldwide with award-winning organizations such as International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ), GoEco, Maximo Nivel, Volunteering Solutions, and African Impact. If you want the ultimate wildlife conservation volunteer experience, consider volunteering with GoEco helping African animals in an accredited and ethical wildlife ranch located in Western Cape, South Africa. Or, take a look at an African Impact project 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 survival of the incredible species that inhabit the national park.

If you’re not able to travel to Africa to participate in these programs there are many wildlife and conservation programs for people living in the United States and Canada offered by organizations such as Maximo Nivel closeby in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru.

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 volunteer in the Amazon Rainforest!

Adventures Await!

Volunteer Abroad with Animals and in Conservation

Most Popular Guidebooks

2024 Best Volunteer Abroad Programs, Organizations, & Projects

Read 3,590,425 times

Medical Volunteer Abroad Programs for Doctors, Nurses, Pre Med Students

Read 986,343 times

Cheap Affordable Volunteer Abroad Programs & Low Cost Overseas Projects

Read 596,227 times

Teens & High School Volunteer Abroad Programs | Under 18 Mission Trips

Read 587,499 times

200 Volunteer Abroad & Study Abroad Scholarships & Grants

Read 525,725 times

Dental Volunteer Abroad & Medical Mission Trips | Dentists & Students

Read 355,154 times

Volunteer Abroad Opportunities for Seniors and Retirees

Read 298,436 times

Nursing Volunteer Abroad Projects for Students & Professional Nurses

Read 294,158 times

Short Term Volunteer Abroad Programs & Mission Trips (1 Week & 2 Weeks)

Read 284,250 times

Long Term Volunteer Work Abroad Programs & Voluntary Charity Jobs

Read 198,644 times

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

Wolf Conservation in Portugal

IVHQ’s Wolf Conservation program in Portugal invites you to volunteer at a center that focuses on wolf conservation, community education, and environmental preservation for the animals, many of which come from zoos or from situations where they cannot be released into the wild.

While wildlife volunteers do not have direct contact with wolves, you’ll help with animal feeding and replacing water, building maintenance, fire prevention, animal behavior observation, visiting school group assistance, reforestation, and more. You’ll work 3 to 5 hours per day during the week, with weekends off to relax or explore the art, history, and culture of Portugal. Click here to learn more about IVHQ’s Portugal volunteer program.

Wildlife Conservation in Victoria Falls

Through this program, you’ll volunteer on a private game reserve in Victoria Falls, which is home to a wide variety of African wildlife, including lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, black rhinos, and more. A few of the many projects you’ll take part in alongside other wildlife conservation volunteers are fence patrols, waterhole creation and monitoring, freshwater ecosystem analysis, road maintenance, wildlife tracking and counting, reserve cleanup, and watching rhino supplement feeding.

You’ll work alongside the game reserve team and anti-poaching group, who work in partnership with several local organizations that work to protect, preserve, and educate the community about wildlife in the area. Click here to learn more and to sign up.

Animal Care and Animal Rights in Guatemala

IVHQ’s Animal Care in Guatemala allows you to volunteer with dogs and cats that are neglected and in need of veterinary treatment. You may provide human interaction and basic care for the animals, or assist a clinic that specializes in spaying and neutering, rabies vaccinations, fundraising, and education programs. Your day-to-day work will involve bathing and brushing the animals, providing basic obedience training, cleaning cages, and generally caring for the dogs and cats. You’ll work in a 2- to 4-hour morning or afternoon shift during weekdays. On weekends, you’re free to relax or explore Antigua and other parts of Guatemala – or visit surrounding countries if you have time. To learn more and to sign up, visit here

Turtle Conservation in Bali

If you have an interest in wildlife and conservation, take a hands-on role in protecting sea turtles with IVHQ in Bali! You’ll volunteer on the small island of Nusa Penida, caring for turtles housed at the conservation center. Typical duties include feeding and cleaning the turtles, as well as helping with beach cleanups, waste management improvement of the surrounding areas, and educating the local community — children in particular — about Indonesia’s endangered sea turtle population. You’ll spend a minimum of two weeks on this project, and your fee covers your meals and accommodation, program orientation, airport pickup, and 24/7 in-country support. During weekends, you can explore the rice terraces and temples around Ubud, or consider a cycling or trekking tour to Mount Batur.

Volunteer in Galapagos Island!

IVHQ has exciting new volunteer opportunities in the Galapagos Islands. This program is great for eco volunteers with a love of conservation and protection of natural resources and habitats. Most of the volunteer experiences will be set in the small coastal town of Puerto Villamil, on the southeastern edge of Isabela Island, with its pristine white beaches. There are 6 interesting projects to choose from, with a minimum commitment of 2 weeks. Check these projects out:

  1. Promote conservation and document ongoing projects on social media
  2. Environmental conservation, where you will work in the National park to protect and preserve the ecosystems
  3. Giant tortoise conservation, where you’ll help this endangered species at a breeding center
  4. Sea turtle nest monitoring to help protect and manage the nesting season

GoEco

Since 2006, GoEco has offered affordable volunteer abroad programs and internships in over 40 countries throughout AfricaAsiaAustralasiaCentral AmericaEurope, the Middle East, and South America. With more than 150 different wildlifemarine, 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. Currently, GoEco is offering a special travel grant where you can stay for the 3rd week free! Check out the qualifying programs here!

Volunteer in a Puma Sanctuary & Wildlife Reserve, Argentina

Whether you call it a mountain lion, cougar, panther, or puma, these big cats of South and North America need protection from urbanisation. Volunteers work in a renowned puma sanctuary located in Cordoba to help preserve the natural ecosystems, as well as rescued, old, or injured animals (pumas, monkeys, llamas, nutrias, peacocks). For more information, click here!

African Wildlife Orphanage in Zimbabwe

This is one of GoEco’s best volunteer programs for the opportunity to volunteer in a world-renowned and successful wildlife orphanage in Zimbabwe. This famous sanctuary has been featured in many documentaries for its successful rehab and releases of wildlife animals. You will get to work alongside wildlife professionals to care for injured wildlife that are abandoned, abused, or orphaned. You will also be involved in nature conservation research, educating the public about conservation, and other hands-on care for the animals. 

Located 30 minutes from Bulawayo, a major city in Zimbabwe, there are many opportunities for adventures nearby such as Matopo National Park (known for leopards), the famous Victoria Falls, and many game parks nearby. This is a great program to experience for wildlife lovers! To get started, here is more information!

Kenya – Maasai Mara Lion and Wildlife Conservation

Experience and immerse yourself living in the wilderness in the African bush beside the Maasai tribe to help protect African wildlife and conservation! This exciting project takes place in the Pardamat Conservation Area, part of the Greater Mara Ecosystem, which is famously known for the most wildlife on earth (especially big cats), and where you can see the magnificent annual wildebeest and zebra migrations. 

Your work will mainly help with wildlife monitoring and conservation. Monitoring includes data collection such as on lions, cheetahs, big cats, and elephant sightings. Conservation efforts include measures to protect the ecosystem such as road repairs, de-fencing, soil erosion control, game drive routing, etc. Your accommodation will be basic but comfortable in the remote wilderness living in a tent amongst the wildlife and under the starry nights. In your free time, there will be many more exciting wildlife excursions! Challenge yourself to stay for 12 weeks in this unique experience!

Malawi – Wildlife Rescue Center Veterinary Internship

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.

Wildlife Animal Sanctuary in Australia 

On the other side of the world, GoEco has another popular wildlife sanctuary program in Calga, Australia (an hour away from Sydney). This sanctuary is a safe haven for rescued animals, helps restore endangered wildlife populations with a breeding program, and educates about conservation. Located in a large bushland, the wildlife you will get to help are kangaroos, koalas, and other native wildlife (60+ species of animals in care, 200+ species of wildlife living in the wild). 

Typical tasks include food preparation, cleaning and maintaining habitats, enrichment activities for the rescued animals, as well as habitat restoration. At least 50% of the time will be helping the animals’ daily needs. The program is year-round and even open during the holiday seasons as the animals need help 24/7. For more details about this wonderful program, click here

Private Island Marine Experience in Belize

Another exciting opportunity on a beautiful island is the Belize Barrier Reef conservation project. You will get to volunteer and live on a private island! This project’s aim is to conserve and preserve the ecosystem in the coral reef. This project will be great for divers or you can become PADI Open Water certified as an add-on option. Marine preservation tasks may include survey dives for data collection of native species, Lionfish eradication, shark photography, beach clean-ups, and helping with presentations on marine conservation. Click here to learn more about this amazing opportunity!

Animal Rescue and Release Sanctuary in Peru

Experience a taste of living in the Amazon jungle in Peru! This program, partnered with the Amazon Wildlife Sanctuary, is located in a remote area of the Amazon and will fulfill your wish to live among nature! And at the same time, you can assist in wildlife rescues so these wild animals can return to their natural habitat. 

The shelter includes 80+ animals. These orphaned and injured animals (including sloths, monkeys, birds, and terrestrial mammals) are usually results of habitat loss, hunting, and illegal trade. Your tasks to care for these animals include preparing meals and feeding, cleaning and repairing their enclosures, as well as helping the veterinarian in various tasks as needed. A minimum of 2 weeks for this program is highly recommended! 

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

Maximo Nivel

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 internships, Spanish language programs, TEFL certification, a Spanish camp for teens, and more. 

Sea Turtle Conservation

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/

Jungle Reforestation

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/

Volunteer in Eco Agriculture

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/

Volunteer Adventure

For two weeks, you’re invited to 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

Projects Abroad

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:

  1. Release sea turtle hatchlings in Mexico
  2. Shark Conservation in Fiji
  3. African Bushveld Conservation in Botswana
  4. Rainforest Conservation in Peru
  5. Galapagos Conservation in Ecuador

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 working with horses in the Equine Therapy Internship program in Argentina.

Animal Conservation Volunteering Abroad

Volunteering with Projects Abroad offers unique opportunities to engage in animal conservation across diverse environments. Protect the Big 5 in Africa, explore the Galapagos Islands, or rehabilitate wildlife at the Taricaya Ecological Lodge. Work alongside professional environmentalists and local communities in safe, ethical, and sustainable projects.

Programs like Rhino Conservation in Nepal or Howler Monkey Rehabilitation in Argentina provide valuable insights into global environmental issues. Additionally, you can earn academic credit through their Diploma in International Volunteering, specializing in Wildlife Conservation.

African Impact

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.

Dolphin Research and Marine Conservation, Zanzibar

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!

Horse Riding And Hands-On Elephant And Rhino Conservation

Passionate about horses and wildlife conservation? Imire Conservancy in Zimbabwe offers a unique volunteer experience for experienced riders. Spend five days a week horseback riding through the bush, aiding in anti-poaching patrols, and caring for endangered rhinos and elephants. Engage in hands-on conservation work, track animals, repair fences, and educate local communities. Enjoy cottage-style accommodations, daily meals, and the stunning Zimbabwean landscape. Join for a minimum of four weeks to make a significant impact and create unforgettable memories. This is your chance to contribute to vital conservation efforts while experiencing the adventure of a lifetime.

Wildlife Photography

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.

Big 5 Wildlife Conservation Program

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 witness nocturnal animals in their natural habitat on unforgettable night drives.

Involvement Volunteers International (IVI)

Join Involvement Volunteers International (IVI) to make a real impact on wildlife, marine animals, and veterinary conservation abroad. No experience is necessary — just a love for animals and a desire to work hard. Veterinary interns and professionals are especially needed to develop new practices and supplement local resources. IVI ensures responsible treatment of wildlife and offers flexible, affordable placements in over 100 projects across 20 countries

Stray Dog and Cat Rehabilitation in Antigua, Guatemala

Stray animals have been a problem in Antigua that grassroots animal shelters have taken charge of to help with the issue. Volunteers will help out local animal shelters to take care of stray dogs and cats from the streets of Antigua. No experience with stray animals is required, other than a love and desire to care for animals! Volunteer tasks include daily grooming, feeding, walking, and general care for the animals. Other work may include animal obedience training, helping out with veterinary procedures as appropriate to your skill level, and community education on stray animals. Located in the city of Antigua, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, you will have the chance to roam through beautiful Spanish colonial architecture surrounded by volcanoes. For more information, click here!

Alpaca and Llama Farm in Cusco, Peru

Check out this unique experience helping alpacas and llamas! Animal lovers will find this project fun and interesting! Alpacas and llamas are native to Peru and have been domesticated for thousands of years. For this project, you will be working on a family-run farm in a small village in the Andes mountains (30 minutes from Cusco). You will be helping to care for these furry animals on tasks such as feeding, grooming, and maintaining the farm. You will also assist in the textile production of the wool sheared from the alpacas and llamas. Accommodation will be with a verified and experienced Peruvian host family, giving you a wonderful opportunity to practice your Spanish as well. On the weekends, there are many activities to do in the city of Cusco. For more details about this project, click here!

Lemur Conservation in Madagascar

Primate lovers should definitely check out IVI’s lemur conservation project in Madagascar. Deforestation and hunting have led to many species of Madagascar to become endangered and it is critical to protect these animals before it’s too late. As a volunteer, you will work at a local animal rescue center and have a first-hand opportunity to learn about Madagascar’s lemur population. Your responsibilities will include collecting food for the lemurs, maintaining their enclosures, and helping with general duties at the reserve. You will also have the ability to lead awareness campaigns to educate the local community on the importance of protecting these beautiful animals and their natural habitats. For more information, click here!

Volunteering Solutions (VolSol)

Volunteering Solutions (VolSol) offers affordable, meaningful Wildlife Volunteer Abroad Programs. Live amidst nature, work closely with animals and professional conservationists, and contribute to their well-being. Programs are flexible, with start dates and durations ranging from 1 week to 6 months. You’ll travel to exotic locations, gain hands-on experience, and receive a Certificate of Completion. Perfect for college students and gap year travelers, VolSol’s programs provide valuable experience and the opportunity to make a real difference.

Animal Rescue Center in Alajuela, Costa Rica

Assist with the care, rehabilitation, and study of Costa Rican wildlife. Volunteers contribute to the treatment of injured, sick, and orphaned animals and support their release back into the wild. Tasks include feeding animals, cleaning enclosures, and assisting with rehabilitation efforts. Volunteers work alongside a team of experts and gain valuable experience in wildlife conservation.

Volunteer with Elephants

At an elephant village in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where responsibilities include working with mahouts, collecting elephant feed, assisting with vitamins, taking elephants for walks and baths, and caring for baby elephants. Volunteers also make organic products from elephant waste. This program is ideal for wildlife enthusiasts and those willing to do outdoor hard work.

Wildlife Conservation Volunteer Program in Yackandandah, Australia

Care for injured and orphaned native animals at a local wildlife shelter. Volunteers assist with feeding, cleaning, maintenance, and enrichment work. This opportunity provides first-hand work experience and the chance to meet new friends from around the world while contributing to Australian wildlife welfare.

Penguin and Marine Bird Rescue Center in Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Work with vulnerable African Penguins and other marine birds. Duties include feeding penguins, preparing their feed, cleaning the area, and participating in Sea School and Bird School. This unique opportunity allows volunteers to make conservation efforts for marine life and explore the diverse Algoa Bay.

Family Volunteer Adventure in Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Work on wildlife conservation, habitat restoration, community development, and education. This program is designed for families to actively participate in conservation efforts, learn about rainforest animals, and explore the picturesque destination of Sabah. Volunteers gain international work experience and contribute to the well-being of the region’s flora and fauna.

Global Vision International (GVI)

Global Vision International (GVI) offers a huge variety of meaningful volunteer and intern abroad programs worldwide for travelers interested in wildlife conservation and endangered species conservation. More than 25,000 volunteers have traveled with GVI to Africa, Asia, Latin America, and beyond to provide hands-on support for programs. 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.

GVI has many wildlife conservation programs located in Africa, Latin America, and Asia with a variety of animals ranging from lemurs, and lions, to elephants. Check a few of their programs below.

Volunteer in Seychelles

Right now, GVI is offering several volunteer programs in the islands of Seychelles, including a marine conservation expedition, an island conservation expedition, and a Wildlife Conservation Research Fellowship 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.

And on the Wildlife Conservation Research Fellowship gain exclusive access to protected habitats, contribute to conservation projects, conduct personal research, and get published. Ideal for students in ecology, biology, and environmental science. Make a real impact while advancing your career!

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, explore different beaches, or even visit the capital city of Victoria. Learn more about GVI’s wildlife conservation programs in Seychelles here.

Marine Conservation Internship in Mexico

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. 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

Costa Rica Rainforest Expedition

Get involved in this volunteer project for a unique opportunity to live in the remote jungle of the Kekoldi rainforest in Costa Rica. Some of the activities that you can help with are wildcat conservation, turtle conservation, bird and reptile conservation, and biodiversity surveys. No doubt you will see many different native species of the rainforest during your survey hikes and patrols! Ready to sleep in the jungle and get unplugged? Click here!

Volunteer with Elephants in Thailand 

If you’d like to visit Asia, GVI has an amazing opportunity right now in Thailand to volunteer with elephants that have been rescued from working in the tourist industry. Although volunteers are not allowed to directly handle the elephants due to ethical conservation guidelines, you will help in conservation research by observing and recording their behaviors, assisting in fieldwork and biodiversity surveys, and checking for physical illnesses alongside the mahouts (elephant keepers). The research center is located in a mountainous village in Chiang Mai. Your accommodation will be provided by a local host family in the Karen community so you will be able to immerse and interact with the local community. For costs and other details, visit GVI’s site!

Wildlife Research in South Africa Expedition

Join and live with an international team, including field guides and GVI staff, dedicated to helping wildlife conservation in a private reserve and research center in Limpopo, South Africa. The research center is on 20 thousand acres of savannah and is home to the Big 5 (African elephant, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, and rhinoceros), as well as hyenas, and cheetahs.

On a daily basis, you will see wildlife roaming in and out of your stay in the farmhouse. You will be trained to track and collect data on predators during daily research drives, and also participate in environmental conservation programs. You can participate for 1 to 12 weeks. Get ready to see the Big 5 here!

Volunteering in Africa: Melissa Haynes’ Story

Melissa Haynes shares her personal story of 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.

Exit mobile version