Best time to volunteer abroad with your family


Families are, of course, tied to the hip to term dates and all the politics that go with that, despite the fact that this trip may be the educational highlight of your children’s year. But probably best not go there. So, all that taken into account, there are plenty of family volunteering opportunities that fit into all the school vacations. Swap skiing for South Africa in February, turtles over trick-or-treating at Halloween and if you go volunteering at Christmas, you and your family will see what the giving season really is about.


A volunteering vacation with your family isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for life. And there are plenty of projects out there to become involved with over that long winter break. This is a perfect time to head to Thailand, for example, to monitor sea turtle nesting on a quiet, tourist free but turtle rich island. And who wouldn’t want Christmas in Costa Rica doing the same thing? Volunteering with monkeys at a South African rehabilitation center, helping to prepare them for release into the wild is a dream come true for many. As is volunteering with elephant conservation projects in either Thailand or Sri Lanka where it may be peak season in mainstream tourism, but far from the madding crowds in the world of conservation.

February half term

This is often a time when families can’t quite work out where to go and what to do. It is in between seasons for a lot of places for traditional vacations and so all the more reason to tap into volunteering projects. Thailand’s turtle conservation projects are still active and the temperatures haven’t gone through the roof yet either. Their elephant conservation work is ongoing all year round, so also a good time to visit. And the marine conservation projects here are also wonderful at this time of year, although these ones are for children over 12 years old. Bring your little monkeys to South Africa for a real treat caring for baby monkeys. And Sri Lanka’s southeast is perfect at this time, in between both monsoons, with elephant projects always in need of support. You may even catch a sight of blue whales at this time of year if you are lucky on your day off.


With most schools having a two-week break at Easter, it is worth seeking out some of the projects that recommend a full fortnight’s contribution. Such as horse rehabilitation in South Africa, a dream trip for those with pony passions. White lion conservation in South Africa is also a longer commitment, and temperatures are pretty much perfect during April. Namibia’s climate is fresher and the landscapes greener during this time too, with a two-week break just perfect for working with elephants in the desert. The Amazon rainforest is also open for conservation projects at this time, albeit a bit hot and humid. These are just a few of our favourites but, as you can see, there is no shortage of Easter kinder eggs.

May half term

Although there are projects the world over that need volunteers all year round, such as elephant and monkey conservation or rehabilitation work, this is also a time to consider some projects a bit closer to home too. In Finland, for example, families can become involved in bear conservation projects in the remote Wild Taiga region. A land where wolverine, lynx and possibly wolves can also be seen, there are many jobs to be done to sustain all important habitats. There is much fun to be had too, being transported everywhere by huskies.

Summer vacations

The ‘grandes vacances’ are a great time to have the big adventure taking a good amount of time to not only volunteer but perhaps combine it with a family adventure vacation as well. Costa Rica is perfect for this, where turtle conservation projects are always in need of help and where strolling the beaches together en famille, watching mothers nesting and babies emerging, is as spectacular as it gets. Time your visit for the end of August when the babies start to emerge if you can. It is also turtle nesting season in Sri Lanka and you can spend two whole weeks helping out on these projects during this time too. South Africa has lots to offer during this time, and the temperatures are not high, making it more pleasant to work hard on projects such as monkey rehabilitation and white lion conservation.
This is a great time to get involved in wildlife conservation in the rainforests of Borneo while, back on the other side of the world, the summer months are the only times to work with elephant conservationists in Namibia too.

October half term

Those baby turtles are still emerging in Costa Rica at this time, so contributing to these vital conservation projects is an incredible way to put a spring in your step just as our winter starts to close in. You will catch the rainy season then, but the end of it, so river rafting will be something else at this time if you can squeeze that in when you aren’t working. Sri Lanka still has turtle conservation projects at this time, with perfect temperatures too. If you want to combine some community or wildlife conservation with a safari in Kenya or Namibia, it is a brilliantly active time for animals, and a lot fewer tourists. A pre-winter win-win all round.



Anne Smellie, from our supplier, Oyster Worldwide, shares her advice on where to go when on a family volunteering vacation: “The turtle nesting season in Costa Rica is only from July until December, and so it does work for school vacations, but the baby turtles start emerging at the end of August so, oh my goodness, the best time to go is not only when the mother turtle comes up to nest, but also when the baby turtles start going down the beach and out into the sea. I’d say anytime from late August to October so you could catch October half term as well. “
“The monkey project in South Africa runs throughout the year, and there is not really a bad time to go. You can even go at Christmas, summer vacations and half term.”
“We do turtle conservation vacations in Thailand as well, which runs early December until mid-March and so you could do that over Christmas or else during February half term. “
Photo credits: [Top box, Christmas, Feb half term: Oyster Worldwide] [Easter: Nagarjun Kandukuru] [October half term: Oyster Worldwide] [Anne Smellie quote: Tyler Karaszewski]
Written by Catherine Mack
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Photo credits: [Page banner: Surkov Vladimir]
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