Wildlife conservation, community and environmental volunteer projects and internships worldwide

Three volunteers enjoying Hermosa sunrise

Environment & Wildlife, General

9 of the best volunteering projects to join today

March 17th 2021

Tagged: Elephant, Ethical Volunteering, Sea Turtle

Get summer 2021 started in the best way possible and have the experience of a lifetime whilst providing vital environmental and species-specific support. Be part of an ongoing conservation team and find your ‘forever flora and fauna family’ in what could turn out to be the most magical, memorable, and potentially the most unlikely places imaginable. 

  1. Playa Tortuga Conservation Volunteer Project, Costa Rica

It might come as a surprise but our partner project in Costa Rica has been open since September 2020 and they have had a massive turtle season to deal with. The arrival of countless nests and subsequent babies have been both wonderful and terrifying in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Playa Tortuga Conservation Project has continued to function with reduced local support volunteers, without whom the essential work of nest and egg protection and the ensured release of the newly hatched babies back into the sea would not have been possible. 

alttagVolunteer Sea Turtles | Volunteer Costa Rica | Working Abroad

Volunteers and staff have worked tirelessly without a break and have also been involved in essential caiman and crocodile monitoring, monkey and jungle mammal research and of course maintaining the beautiful butterfly garden. The work of this project supporting the local ecosystem, local knowledge base, and local tourism cannot be underestimated. It is an incredible family to be part of, so if you can see yourself on a tropical beach monitoring hatchlings, understanding the lifecycle of the indigenous turtle, and ensuring their continued survival then this is the project for you.

  1. Wildlife Rescue Volunteer Project, Costa Rica

alttagWildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation ProjectThis Wildlife Rescue Centre has likewise been open to volunteers since September 2020 and their volunteers have been essential in caring for the injured animals that are rescued on a daily basis. Accidents and electrocutions, in particular for the monkeys, happen with sad regularity and this centre provides a sanctuary for the animals to recuperate before ultimately being released back into the wild. The support from volunteers provides a necessary lifeline to the staff at the centre, as well as to the animals receiving care there. 

Volunteers are trained by the local staff to provide essential care to their indigenous animal guests and offered opportunities to support these healing wild animal neighbours before they undergo their exciting transition back to their homes in the jungle.  Volunteers can engage in a range of activities outside their time at the centre, many enjoying the release of surfing or yoga in their down time, or brushing up on their language skills with additional Spanish sessions. However your time is spent it is as part of a team providing holistic support to the incredible wildlife of Costa Rica whilst equally enjoying the very best that the culture and location can offer.

  1. Olive Ridley Sea Turtle Volunteer Programme, Costa Rica

alttagCosta Rica conservation | Sea turtle volunteer | Working AbroadThe Pacific coastline of the Guanacaste Province is not only the best place to conserve the Olive Ridley sea turtle population but is an incredible place to experience the famous Costa Rican culture and hospitality. Located on Ostional Beach, within the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge (ONWR) volunteers spend their time engaged in data collection of the local turtle population, assisting with turtle tagging, measuring shell dimensions, nest exhumations and egg relocation, beach cleanups and for those volunteering at the right time, experiencing one of nature’s wonders – the ‘Arribadas’ – the famous night time exodus of female turtles from the sea to lay their eggs, en masse in their thousands, on the beach. Ostional Beach is 1 of only 9 beaches in the world where this phenomena takes place, and whilst this project focuses on the continuation of the Olive Ridley turtle in this region, it also supports the sadly endangered leatherback and pacific green turtles as well.

Alongside time spent ensuring the conservation of these beautiful sea dwellers, volunteers often make the most of the world famous waves and beaches with surf lessons in the best waters possible. Life as a volunteer is packed full of cultural, linguistic, and environmentally-conscious opportunities, enough to keep you going long after you return home – but not enough to stop you booking the next trip!

  1. Kariega Big Five Game Reserve Volunteer Programme, South Africa

alttagKariega Game Reserve | Volunteer South Africa | Working AbroadVolunteers have been back on the project since December 2020, enabling the staff to get much needed support to help with wildlife research, and monitoring elephants, lions and, in particular, with the exciting birth of a new baby rhino – which has of course created a lot more additional work, but work that everyone is overjoyed to be doing. The endangered status of rhinos is a constant cause for concern and this addition to the numbers, whilst far from removing their worry has all the reserve staff feeling much more positive about the future. Less scientific and more cute factor is another response that this beautiful baby has brought to everyone at this time!  

Volunteers help with the essential maintenance of the game reserve and the multitude of duties that this entails and since the Covid-19 pandemic has created such a large practical and financial hole in the support they receive, the gratitude of the full-time staff and local volunteers cannot be underestimated as the management of this large and beautiful area with its stunning and plentiful residents has been shouldered by small numbers of people who have not had the help they so desperately need for many months. Time spent on the Kariega Reserve is a moment of experience, in exchange for a lifetime of treasured memories.

  1. Galapagos Conservation Volunteers, Galapagos

alttaggalapagosgianttortoiseongrassThe world famous Galapagos National Park, home to some of the most incredible biodiversity in the world, is eager to welcome you to support its sea turtle nesting and monitoring programme, ecotourism, giant tortoise, and sustainable agriculture projects. The Galapagos offers so many ways to support this incredible archipelago and is the opportunity of a lifetime for which fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for joining, and within which you have the option to either live in a volunteer house or with a local family in a homestay for greater cultural immersion into the Galapagos as a whole. Accommodation providers are regularly screened and designated as ‘Covid secure’ before they accept volunteers, giving you that extra bit of confidence during your stay. Alongside the workings of the various projects there is always time allocated for volunteers to enjoy the local scenery on exploratory hikes and on the local beaches. There will also be time to explore the local waters and potentially experience snorkelling under the curious gaze of native sea lions and penguins.  

  1. Cloud Forest Conservation & Sustainability Volunteer Project, Ecuador 

alttagCloud Forest Ecuador | Conservation Volunteering | Working AbroadDo you dream of living close to the land, creating a sustainable life for yourself and those around you? Living in alignment with the incredible natural surroundings, high up in the stunning cloud forest of the Ecuadorian highlands, this programme is a sustainable example of how to grow and live off your own food. The project produces their own coffee, butter, chocolate and more; a feat during the Covid pandemic which has been made possible by hard work, group cohesion and emotional strength and perseverance. It has been tough and the project is eager to welcome volunteers for assistance with permaculture, sustainable food production, tree planting, and help in the medicinal plant garden. Downtime can be spent with walks through the cloud forest and along streams and waterfalls, bird watching, horseback riding, night hikes, kayaking and rafting and so much more – time will almost seem to stand still so make sure you book as long a stay as possible! This is a really inspiring project to be part of – one which truly demonstrates the fruits of your labours, of those before you and of those to come, as the ethos of living lightly on and in collaboration with ‘the land’ is an evident and joyful part of everyone’s daily life.

  1. Desert Elephants Volunteer Project, Namibia 

alttagVolunteer in Namibia | Volunteer with Elephants | Working AbroadConstructing ‘water-protection-walls’ might not seem like the sort of project that you could get into but look a little deeper and you will see that this project is an essential part of keeping local human communities safe and functioning alongside their beautiful jumbo sized neighbours. The importance of supporting both human and elephant groups in their search for and use of water cannot be stressed enough and Namibia is quite simply the most beautiful place to get up close to the real, lived impact of these stunning wild creatures. Sadly during the Covid pandemic much of this support has been on hold and it is crucial that it resumes. Alongside construction of these physical walls volunteers spend time tracking elephants, recording their routes, monitoring their herd sizes and sleeping out under more stars than most of us ever dream of. The opportunity to camp out and cook over fires creates a project experience unlike any other in one of the most incredible and unforgettable parts of the world.

  1. Wildlife Conservation and San Bushmen Community Project, Namibia

alttagVolunteer in Namibia | Rhino Research | Working AbroadAnother project in Namibia is working with injured animals in a local wildlife sanctuary and learning about anti-poaching on their Rhino Rangers programme. This is bound to be particularly interesting for aspiring conservationists as there are a multitude of opportunities to move around different sites in Namibia, gaining a wealth of knowledge and skills with which to support each and every new career opportunity you seek. The work of the sanctuary and the ranger programme is essential to support whether you are looking for career skills and knowledge or simply wanting to offer your time and support to the nature world and the local projects that care for it. Sadly, we are all aware of the critically endangered nature of the rhino, and here in Namibia the programme is working at various locations to ensure that another beautiful animal species is not lost to history as a result of negative human impact. Being part of this project is offering a hand to this species and to history, working to manage our impact and ensure the wild rhino’s survival.

  1. Sea Turtle Conservation Volunteer Project, Greece

alttagVolunteer with Turtles | Volunteer GreeceThe island of Kefalonia offers volunteers a unique blend of time honoured culture and tradition, rich biodiversity, and endemic species – enough to fulfil all aspects of the volunteer scientist’s personality. The sea turtle conservation project is working with the local community to reduce the impact of plastics, accidental boat strikes, and entanglement in fishing gear. It is also finding ways to manage the impact of storms and light pollution on their turtle hatchling population. This breadth of research and of impact management gives volunteers a diversity of roles, experience, and training. Alongside beach and harbour patrols and turtle location data collection, volunteers spend time assessing nests and enabling the baby turtles to safely reach the sea. 

Time spent on this island is very much an immersive experience. Not only will you be conserving an endangered species but you will be experiencing a location in constant change from external forces, the tides of modernity slowly changing and eroding the old traditions and cultures. The old ways adapting to the evolving new. Volunteering on Kefalonia is a magical experience in its entirety and you will get to see the island in the most in-depth, intimate way possible.

Time to Go!

All the projects listed are those taking volunteers right now but over the next few months there will be more and more opportunities opening up. If you have a particular species or destination you want to support and spend quality time with, please get in touch and we will be able to tell you when you can start packing your bags and getting excited for one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. 

It is amazing how much knowledge and passion volunteers and full-time researchers alike put into their time on the projects. They know that they are supporting the natural world in one of the best and most practical ways possible. Here at WorkingAbroad we do the same, and as a Not-For-Profit organisation we ensure that the funding goes directly to the right places – to the projects themselves, with no intermediary – ensuring that your placement fees continue to support the projects you care for, the regions and species you love during your stay, and also as a continuing legacy long after you leave.

So gear up and put your best foot forward; for adventure awaits –has been waiting for too long!– and it’s got your name on it!*

*As with all current travel scenarios it is very important to get as much knowledge of your homeland destination countries Covid-19 protocols. Knowing the potential restrictions on national and international travel so that you know what you may have to do to fulfil relevant quarantine and border movement requirements is just the same as knowing which visa to get and when. None of this needs to be a deal breaker – it is, as ever, all about having the right information to enable you to make positive choices and support the projects you evidently care about. Talk to WorkingAbroad for further information and start making your plans today.

Written by WorkingAbroad blogger, Rae Hadley

About the Author

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Blog articles about our volunteer projects, the wider world and from volunteers in the field are shared here for everyone to get inspired and learn more about wildlife conservation topics, volunteering abroad and much more.

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