Wildlife conservation vacation advice

Training advice

John Maree, from our supplier Wildlife ACT, shares his advice on prior skills and training:
“We expect our volunteers to have the skill set in place to take down data while they’re monitoring and be organised enough to feed that information into the data streams in our laptops. Learning about the project and exactly what it is doesn’t take anybody long and although there is an induction, it isn’t study-intensive – we feel the best way to learn is on the job and if you arrive on the Monday afternoon, you’ll be out monitoring on the Tuesday, which is where the training begins. All of our volunteers hit the ground running because ultimately, we need enough hands and eyes going out to each job on each day to capture the data and input it in the right places.”

Accommodation advice

Erin Sparks, from our supplier, PoD Volunteer, shares her wildlife conservation advice:
“When we describe accommodation, we tend to undersell and over deliver, so if anything we describe it as little bit more basic than it is; it’s very difficult because everyone has different expectations, but all accommodation is of a very livable standard, just remember you are working with animals, often in earthy and wet environments, so it is impossible to keep living spaces pristine on a wildlife conservation vacation. Some are dorms, others you share with between two and four people – it varies and volunteers are responsible for keeping their area clean and tidy. You’re there to slot in and help out as opposed to be waited on hand and foot.”

Advice on seeing the bigger picture

Anne Smellie, from our supplier, Oyster Worldwide, shares her wildlife conservation advice: “Wildlife conservation is about seeing a very different side to a country. Traveling to South Africa for example, you’ll see a different side of the wildlife ‘industry’ to if you go on safari there and look at the animals; an elephant care project there will open your eyes to the ivory trade, and the problems associated with the very survival of a species. Equally, if you go and work on a game reserve, you’ll begin to understand all of the problems for the wildlife there concerning poaching, erosion, alien species overgrowing all of the native species – you get an in-depth learning experience as well as working towards something which is really beneficial too.”

Advice on managing your expectations

Erin Sparks, from our supplier, PoD Volunteer, shares her advice on managing your expectations: “On every different trip, your role is support the work that the conservation project is doing, so although they may have said that something is due to happen the next day, if it’s for the benefit of the animals that you’re working with, or for the goal of the project overall that it has to happen in two days time instead, that’s the way it is. You have to go with the flow. If you’re supposed to be tracking a specific species that day, but then there’s issues with the parameter set and you can’t find them, it just makes it more special when you do, plus you’ll get to see lots of other nature driving to and from sites – you have to understand that when you’re working with animals in a natural environment, nothing is guaranteed.”

Health & safety


Some regions will require specific vaccinations and other health precautions including antimalarial tablets. Visit your GP 6-8 weeks before departure to seek advice on what you may need. Be aware and talk to your tour operator about whether tap water is safe to drink where you are going – also be wary of ice in drinks and unpeeled fruit and vegetables. Ensure your travel insurance covers all activities you may be participating in. Bring a basic first aid kit and medication for sickness and diarrhoea if you are visiting a remote region. Be generous with the sun block. You may not notice the sun so much when you’re busy - but it will be hot and and you can get burned without even noticing. Speak to your tour operator if you have any back or neck problems – some lifting and carrying may not be advisable. Keep well hydrated. Working in the sun is tiring and will make you more thirsty than usual. You may spend a long time scanning the land - wear good sunglasses with UV protection to save your eyes. Polarising lenses may also help you see more clearly over long periods.
Check the CDC website for up-to-date health advice for your destination.


Check that your chosen project has appropriate health and safety procedures in place for both care and rehabilitative and research-driven trips. It's not just you that needs protecting from the elements - your camera does too. Pack plastic bags to wrap it in when in your bag, and use a protective filter and a lens hood to avoid it getting mucky. Keep the lens cap on when not in use. Do what your guide says – it goes without saying really, as these are wild animals, and not to be cuddled or cooed over. And you may be desperate to get a photo, but trust us. Or, more importantly, trust your guide. Watching animals in the wild is one place where the customer is NOT always right. Do not touch the wild animals unless instructed. Ever. A responsible tour operator will never allow this anyway, and so if you are ever invited to ‘pet’ or ‘walk with’ a wild animal, you must report it. It is not safe, and nor is it good for the wild animal. We carry diseases and bacteria that are very harmful to them. Don’t use flash photography with wildlife as it can disturb the animals, frighten them and make them react aggressively sometimes. If you are lucky enough to combine your wildlife conservation vacation with a trip to the beach, some countries, such as Madagascar, rarely have lifeguards. So, take care and always seek out local information about rip tides and so on. Always keep noise to a minimum when working with wildlife. It can be difficult, as everyone gets excited when they spot something, but do try and stick to this important rule. Disturbed wildlife may attack your vehicle if unduly startled.
Check the FCO website for the latest safety advice for your destination.

Our top Wildlife conservation Vacation

Orangutan sanctuary volunteering in Borneo

Orangutan sanctuary volunteering in Borneo

Care for stunning endangered orangutans in beautiful Borneo

From £1195 to £1895 13 days ex flights
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Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Wildlife conservation or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Vacation reviews from our travelers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful wildlife conservation advice that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.
Be prepared to do any task, whether that be clearing water ditches, cleaning the main building or unwrapping 100s of cheese triangles - it may be smelly food at times but you've just got to remember that you're doing it for the wildlife.
- Estelle Barnes
In winter, take lots of warm clothing layers as you can peel off as the weather warms up and follow the list as you need everything on it. Don't form cliques. Be open to all. Both the animals and the people you are with are part of the whole experience. - Keith Costelloe

Take lots to drink for whilst you are at the Sanctuary...I was there during summer months and it was super hot...combined with lots of walking whilst at the sanctuary keeping hydrared is a must. Oh, and comfy shoes! - Sarah Burman

It does get messy – take old clothes, good boots and some quality gloves that still allow you dexterity, but are also washable. - Clanci Ferguson
Get stuck in! And treat yourself to the safari towards the end of your vacation - as a relaxing reward for all the hard work volunteering.
- Philipe Toole
The ultimate priority is the animals. You are not on a game drive and you will not be looked after as a traditional tourist. However, you get to see and experience things you would never even get close to during a traditional safari. - Karin Van Volen

Don't expect luxury! It's very basic but it's such great fun, there's everything you need for a great experience. - Emma Clifford

Have a good camera and enough memory sticks. Every moment is worth a shot. - Louise Chen

Be prepared to get up very early. Be adaptable. Be prepared for basic amenities. Bring cookery skills a good sense of humor and lots of energy - Susan Kraus

Go with an open mind, embrace the cultural differences, be prepared to hike in the heat, play in the water, and live your life in the present moment - Sheila Tegart
Written by Polly Humphris
Photo credits: [Page banner: Frontierofficial] [Training advice: USFWS Mountain-Prairie] [Advice on seeing the bigger picture: USFWS Mountain-Prairie] [Health & safety: Frontierofficial] [Review 1 - Estelle Barnes: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ] [Review 2 - Philipe Toole: Isabella Juskova]