Volunteering abroad used to be a long term commitment for a highly qualified few. Today, opportunities have opened up for people of all skill levels, in virtually every country in the world.
Which wildlife conservation vacation
From Malaysia to Malawi, Cambodia to Costa Rica, the locations that host wildlife conservation vacations are as diverse as the work you'll do on them, so it's essential that you have an idea of the trip that you want and are clear on the kind of work that each trip involves before you choose it.
Rehabilitation or research role?
All projects will accept that you are giving up your free time and that you want to make a valid contribution to their initiative, but how you make that contribution depends mainly – and this sounds obvious, but has tripped people up in the past – upon whether you are an animal person or not. Consider what it is that has driven you to inquire about a wildlife conservation vacation in the first place – have you done a trip before, but want to try something different? Or have you just seen a documentary and decided on a whim that wildlife conservation is your calling? You need to think about how much of a commitment a working vacation actually is. It’s a good idea to help out with a local animal sanctuary before you decide on a big trip because it’s a long way to go to find out that actually you’re not an animal person, or that the work involved doesn’t interest you. Read reviews, so you can hear about volunteer experiences in the words of other volunteers and that way you’ll ensure you’re joining a project that you’re really comfortable with.
Some projects require a more care-focused or rehabilitative role – volunteering with monkeys, for example, can involve rehabilitating young, orphaned primates for future release into the wild. Duties include assisting with medical checks, preparing food, playing with the babies to help their development and building enclosures. Others have a more research-based role – volunteering with endangered wildlife in South Africa, for instance, may involve working on a game reserve tracking and locating priority species in the wild, mapping sightings, observing behaviour and assisting with ongoing game counts.
Our Wildlife conservation Vacations
Research, research and research again
The accommodation, level of involvement with the local community and amount of time you’ll spend working throughout the day or night varies greatly with each different trip, so the most important thing you can do when choosing a wildlife conservation vacation is as much research as you can. Speak to your tour operator in detail and find out what the aims of the project are and what activities you will be doing on a daily basis, but also what they’ve already achieved, so you can get an idea of what past volunteers have helped to make happen. It’s also a good idea to ask where the data is going – is it being fed into local wildlife departments, or being used in collaboration with local or international universities? You want to make sure that your time, money and energy is being made the most of and that the initiative concerned is making progress in a conservation area that you feel passionate about.
Manage your expectationsFinding a wildlife conservation trip that matches both your own interests and your skill level is as important as your enthusiasm and commitment while you’re there. People look for different things; some people are looking for a luxury wildlife conservation project and though they might exist, its hard not to question why – wildlife conservation is about putting the needs of the animals first and helping to secure a healthy future for them. So at the end of a long and probably quite grubby day, the luxury you are awarded is the satisfaction of knowing you have done something worthwhile – and probably a well-earned hot bath – not a rose-petal strewn bed and a complimentary desert plate with your name piped across it.
If you'd like to chat about Wildlife conservation or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Johan Maree, from our supplier, Wildlife ACT, shares his advice on how to choose a marine conservation vacation: “There are so many wildlife conservation trips out there and they vary greatly in how much they actually contribute to wildlife conservation; unfortunately, I would put a figure of 90 percent on the volunteering projects that don’t actually have an impact on conservation – they are conservation experiences dressed up as conservation. If it is your first time in a new country and your first experience of wildlife conservation, you have no reference point from which to know if it’s worthy and useful conservation or not, so use external references and ask relevant questions: who are the project supported by? Are they supported by well-known organisations such as WWF? Who are their partners? Are their partners well established and trusted in the conservation sector? Make sure you research really thoroughly.”
Anne Smellie, from our supplier, Oyster Worldwide, shares her advice on how to choose a wildlife conservation vacation: “Think about what you’re passionate about, but above and beyond that, book your trip with an organisation that you trust, that has a good reputation and that – very importantly – has been out on the trips that they champion. The animal welfare and wildlife conservation world is sadly peppered with opportunists trying to pull the wool over volunteers’ eyes as to what it is they’re actually helping to achieve on a conservation project, but it is very difficult to pull the wool over someone’s eyes who has actually been there first-hand and has experienced everything that happens there.”
More about Wildlife conservation
Find out whether wildlife conservation is for you and what wildlife conservation entails as you pour over our wildlife conservation guide.
If you want to know where to go on a wildlife conservation vacation then read on to discover what Responsible Travel recommends and typical daily timetables to get a glimpse of a day in the life.
Wildlife conservation activities usually include a bit of free time for local engagement initiatives and getting out and about. Read tips from our expert Erin Sparks on the low down.
From preparing food for rescued brown bears in Romania to remote research expeditions searching out endangered lynx in the Montenegrin mountains and more!
Choose a wildlife conservation vacation that really matters using advice from our suppliers Johan Maree and Anne Smellie.
Here we reveal the best places to enjoy a responsible elephant conservation project, where you might be joining long-term researchers to monitor wild herds, or working in sanctuaries.
Turtle conservation projects from Costa Rica to the Seychelles offer opportunities for effective citizen science in idyllic beach settings. That makes them perfect for families wanting a worthwhile volunteer project to take on together. Read on for more information on what to expect on a turtle conservation project, and why we no longer support turtle hatcheries that use tanks.
From tracking leopards in South Africa to caring for rescued bears in Romania, the places a wildlife conservation vacation will take you are as varied as the work you will do.
Learn about accommodation, training and advice on seeing the bigger picture before you set off armed with advice on how to do wildlife conservation safely.
There are no excuses for not being able to travel right on a conservation vacation with the responsible wildlife conservation tours that we advertise on this website.