The TOP 10 Best Volunteering Abroad Projects for 2020
November 13th 2019
We are now fast approaching the end of another year, and so we have collected our TOP 10 volunteering projects to provide some inspiration for your travels in the year to come. Whilst by no means comprehensive, this list represents the 10 volunteer abroad projects we recommend you to visit in 2020. This is based on the feedback we have received from returning volunteers, the positive impact of the projects on their local environment and community, and their commitment to our policy on ethical standards.
1. Playa Tortuga Conservation Volunteer Project, Costa Rica
“Our visit to the Playa Tortuga project was fantastic. Oscar and all the staff were great, and we were able to be involved with all the projects currently going on at the reserve.” – The Chicco Family, July 2019
Volunteering at this project in Costa Rica will expose you to life at a biological research station in a tropical rainforest reserve. Volunteers will take part in sea turtle research, crocodile monitoring, mammal surveys, tree boa studies, environmental education and butterfly garden projects all year round.
Why this project made our list; This research project in Costa Rica experienced another great year with volunteers in 2019, receiving lots of brilliant feedback from solo travellers and families alike. They manage to accommodate everyone on their journey to this biodiversity hotspot of Central America, where volunteers love that they have the opportunity to help actively with the scientific and conservation-related research on a broad range of animals.
2. Carpathian Wolf Tracking Volunteer Project, Slovakia
“Everything was very professional and comfortable at the same time. I learned a lot and very much enjoyed those two weeks. – Ran Finkelstein, February 2019
Volunteers assist the research team with their work on wolves and lynx in the Carpathian Mountains. They learn about the art of tracking, reading signs in nature and also about the plight of the mythic wolf.
Why this project made our list; The Wolf Tracking project has in the past years successfully managed to collect the data needed to provide decision-makers in Slovakia with the actual numbers of wolves and lynx. Therefore, creating the basis for sound conservation efforts with help from volunteers each winter. Several volunteers that joined in 2019 came back with great feedback on their experience, and anyone joining would actively contribute to their continued efforts to keep these predators roaming the Carpathian Mountains.
3. Shamwari Game Reserve Volunteer Project, South Africa
“I can’t recommend this experience any more highly, and I would love to return to Shamwari one day to learn even more.” – Sarah Roos, July 2019.
Volunteers and interns at Shamwari Game Reserve get the behind-the-scenes experience, and will be involved with the conservation efforts of a world-renowned 18.000 hectare Big Five Game Reserve.
Why this project made our list; Poaching and trophy hunting continue to be the greatest threats to African wildlife. The Shamwari Game Reserve provides a refuge for these to live in the wild, and have managed to create an efficient and much sought after volunteer programme. This now even includes a specialised programme for pre- and current veterinary students, who can get hands-on with wildlife. A game reserve project that received lots of great feedback from volunteers of all ages in 2019, from 16 to 80 years old and for those who joined our Pre-Vet programme, it has given students a flying start into their Veterinary careers.
“The project was an amazing experience for me. So much better than I expected, the people, the accommodation and the work. It turned out to be an unforgettable experience I’ll probably want to do again.” – Natalia Buggenhout, July 2019
Join the conservation efforts in Greece that bring volunteers from around the world together on the island of Kefalonia. Assist with sea turtle monitoring, looking for trails of nesting turtles, helping the hatchlings reach the sea or do research on the turtles swimming in the harbour.
Why this project made our list; Sea turtles are struggling like never before, with increasing temperatures and plastic floating all around. In Greece, it’s often the lack of space on the beaches that threatens the ability of the turtle eggs to hatch. The project in Kefalonia proved very popular with volunteers for the second year in a row, and again came back with positive feedback about their experience. It’s a great opportunity for people to assist with important sea turtle conservation efforts in Greece.
5. Dolphin & Whale Research Volunteer Project, Portugal
“Volunteering with the Dolphin & Whale Research Project was just amazing. I can recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more and get closer to marine mammals” – Lara Noser-Cosic, June 2019
The project conducts scientific research on environmental topics to try and promote a healthier and safer environment for marine species. Volunteers get experience of working at sea, learn about marine wildlife and gain new research skills, while working with experienced marine biologists off the Southern Portuguese coast.
Why this project made our list; Unlike any of the other dolphin and whale research projects in south Europe, this works with conservation efforts of marine wildlife in the vast Atlantic Ocean. Volunteers have even witnessed orcas in these waters, and always have great things to say about their time spent on the project.
“I had an unforgettable time at the Elephant Sanctuary. Met some amazing like-minded people, learnt about the local indigenous Bugong people and the amazing connection they have with the elephants” – Marie Decadt, July 2019
Volunteer with elephants at an elephant sanctuary that is providing an alternative for elephants and their owners to move away from the busy city life and hardships of trekking and tourist rides, as well as engaging the local community in environmental and education projects.
Why this project made our list; This elephant sanctuary is a truly ethical example of how to engage with elephants, always having animal welfare at the core of what they do. Volunteers who have joined this project in the past two years have loved their experience. They have all gained a much greater understanding of the issues elephants and locals are facing, which include illegal deforestation of elephant habitat that sadly got worse in 2019.
“I’m incredibly grateful to everyone at the project for their help and guidance throughout my time as a volunteer, and I’d definitely recommend the project to anyone interested in conservation or sea turtles!” – Lorraine Aldridge, June-August 2019
Volunteer in the Caribbean and take part in leatherback sea turtle monitoring, research, and community outreach programmes on the island of Grenada.
Why this project made our list; We have worked with this project for the past 15+ years, and volunteers continue to be in awe of the mere experience of witnessing these large dinosaur-related turtles up close. It is a great opportunity to be part of the research of the largest sea turtle species in the world, gaining hands-on experience alongside marine biologists in a beautiful part of the Caribbean.
8. Amazon Basin Research & Conservation Volunteer & Internship Project, Peru
“This is such a special place within the Amazon – we didn’t spot any tourists across the week. It is isolated, secluded and a real opportunity to connect with nature. –Radford Family, August 2019
Volunteers and interns have the chance to assist with the project’s long-term scientific research in the Peruvian Amazon. The project aims to better understand the effects of human activities on wildlife and get the collected information to the people, who can make decisions and act on the solutions that help preserve the rainforest.
Why this project made our list; This summer, everyone’s eyes were on the Amazon rainforest, as we watched in horror how it’s being destroyed at a rapid speed. This project has managed to keep their concession deforestation-free from illegal logging for the past 4 years, while doing important research for conservation. Always a very popular project among volunteers and interns of all ages, who are looking to experience a truly remote part of the Amazon and all of its wildlife and wonders.
9. Bottlenose Dolphin Research Volunteer Project, Croatia
“I had such an amazing experience in Croatia with the Bottlenose Dolphin Research Project. I would recommend this trip to anyone needing exposure to the marine biology field.” – Emily Bensema, May 2019
Dolphin research volunteers can take part in a bottlenose dolphin research project from the base in Losinj from May to September every year. The research focuses on dolphin population dynamics, photo identification, behavioural sampling and acoustic monitoring.
Why this project made our list; This is the longest-running research project ever done of Bottlenose dolphins in Europe, and volunteers always come back with great feedback on their experience. The team knows all of the dolphins in the area, and it’s therefore a unique opportunity for marine wildlife enthusiasts and future marine biologists to gain insight and practical experience from working alongside a very experienced team. In 2019, we hosted a team of Vet students from Texas A&M University who had an in-depth experience with the research team. This project is ideally suited for both individuals and groups.
10. Blue Lagoon & Coral Reef Monitoring Volunteer and Internship project, Mauritius
“I enjoyed my stay so much and really felt like a made an impact, as did all the other volunteers that I worked with. I would recommend this trip to anyone who is passionate about the environment and who wants to contribute.” – Sarah Eustace, July 2019
This marine conservation project is both a volunteer and internship programme, which provides the opportunity to work closely with marine life, particularly focusing on ocean conservation and coral reef monitoring.
Why this project made our list; This project provides several great opportunities for people to join as either a volunteer or intern in the efforts for coral reef conservation. Volunteers will in particular continue the important work on the coral reef nursery that started in 2018, as well as the sea turtle research that now has been ongoing for the past year. For 2020, we are now offering add-on dive packages for those who want to get dive certified or just have some diving opportunities in their free time.