Habitat conservation vacations travel guide
2 MINUTE SUMMARY
Habitat conservation vacations take place around the world, and they all share common themes. They are about using your time off to do something fun, physical, satisfying and worthwhile. They involve traveling to remote regions, being immersed in a different culture and working on a project that directly benefits local landscapes, people and wildlife. Just remember that you’re not here to hug a monkey then go to the beach. Conservation vacations involve work, from planting trees to clearing scrub, sometimes in hot or humid conditions. You will have training and a timetable, perhaps including early starts, but don’t be put off. Getting up at 4am to count birds in Belize is much easier than getting up at 4am back home. There is free time, too; evenings and days off to explore, swim, or just hang out with new friends. This is an authentic travel experience, in which work, play and making a difference merge beautifully together.
Read more in our habitat conservation vacations travel guide.
Is a habitat conservation vacation for you?
Responsible Travel recommends
What do habitat conservation vacations entail?
Responsible Travel recommends
What kind of work will I be doing?
Habitat conservation is, obviously, a broad label, but generally implies working on the land. This might mean physical tasks such as planting trees, clearing weeds or invasive species, construction work, putting up fences or maintaining paths. Not all tasks are this physical, though, and you may spend a relaxed afternoon collecting seeds or tending plants in a nursery.
Habitat conservation vacations often involve some work with local wildlife, too. In the Seychelles, you might be maintaining trails one day, and monitoring turtle nests the next. In Belize, you could team tree planting with monitoring amphibians, construction with downloading footage from camera traps. Wildlife and habitat conservation go hand in hand, after all, and a variety of tasks and objectives brings pace and interest to a vacation.
Sometimes habitat conservation vacations respond to natural disasters. In Australia, for instance, volunteers were involved in helping farmers to get back on their feet after floods in 2011. Participants helped with rebuilding fences, clearing the land and replanting.
Who goes on these trips?
Habitat conservation vacations are sociable and inclusive. People from all around the world, of all ages and backgrounds, take part, leaving with a crowd of new friends, as well as wonderful memories. There’s usually no upper age limit and solo travelers are welcome, but often you need to be 18 or older to participate. It’s largely due to the physical nature of the work – jobs like scrub clearing and path maintenance are too arduous for youngsters. That said, many organisations are flexible and will consider young people of all ages, depending on the project’s demands.
Another huge appeal of a habitat conservation vacation is that no previous experience is needed. You don’t need to bring specific skills or qualifications, just a willingness to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. You will also need a reasonable level of fitness to cope with the work, as you’ll be active every day and may be walking a lot alongside your work.
Why are they so beneficial?
Crucially, you won’t be taking work away from local people. You will be supporting existing projects that employ local and overseas staff full time and need extra manpower, often doing work that simply wouldn’t get done otherwise. You’ll have the opportunity to work alongside and meet local people, too, and you’ll be contributing to the area’s economy, by eating locally sourced food, shopping and exploring the region.
Patricia, volunteering in Madagascar, in one of our vacation reviews: "The project in my opinion is a huge benefit to the local community as both the locals as well as the research staff work hand in hand as best as possible. The education about the nature is not one party teaching the other but rather both teaching each other with local guides who know the area inside out even in the dark and with the research staff teaching children how to protect this area in a sustainable way."
How long do the trips last?
Although a few tailor made habitat conservation vacations exist, most have fixed departures, with between five and 15 volunteers traveling at any time. They will then be working with conservation experts. This may just be a couple of guides, or can mean joining an already established project team. Trips vary in length; typically a week or two, although some projects require you to commit to longer. It’s often possible to volunteer for as long as you like – just ask.
Why should I pay to volunteer?
Although you are volunteering your time, a habitat conservation vacation is not free to join. This is still a vacation, booked through a specialist tour operator, and costs money like any other trip. You pay for accommodation and food, plus all the extras: inductions, support while on the ground, transfers, use of a bike or mobile phone, even a uniform. You should also expect guidance before you leave, help with visas and support if you’re fundraising to pay for your trip. You are also paying for reliability and reputation. The best responsible, well organised conservation vacations are run by organisations that have a long term relationship with hand-picked projects set up to deliver genuine benefit. Remember that even with this fee, a habitat conservation vacation is often an economical way to visit a remote, otherwise prohibitively expensive destination, connecting you with its people and wildlife in a way few travelers experience.