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Environment & Wildlife, Travel & Culture

The Top 9 Projects for Gap-Year Volunteering

March 7th 2024

Tagged: Ethical Volunteering, gap year, Volunteering Abroad

Buckle up, travel junkies! If your idea of a wild adventure involves more than just navigating foreign train systems and buying overly expensive trinkets, then you’ve come across the blissful intersection of purpose and laughter – gap year volunteering! Grab your passport, pack your quirkiest socks, and prepare for an adventure that promises not just a gap year, but a year full of unforgettable experiences.

Welcome to WorkingAbroad where the pursuit of noble causes is only rivalled by the quest for the perfect travel selfie. Get ready to style your most fashionable poncho as we dive headfirst into the uproarious world of volunteering abroad. Because if laughter is the best medicine, why not prescribe it to the world while filling your travel bug prescription at the same time?

Gap Years are wonderful chances to explore the world and immerse yourself in new cultures. These years should be used to take the chance to surround yourself with new wildlife, nature or people! Some of the best opportunities for this lie within volunteering. Those trips where you’ll be surrounded by lots of volunteers and get value for money in terms of activities on offer, are the best ways to get the most out of your gap year and make new friends for life.

But what do we have to offer? Read on to discover a brief overview of just a handful of our favourites for gap-year volunteering…

Big 5 Wildlife Volunteering at Kariega Game Reserve, South Africa

Volunteers canoeing at Kariega Game reserveKariega Game Reserve | Volunteer South Africa | Working Abroad

What better way to spend a gap-year than immersing yourself amongst some of the most famous animals on the planet?

Here you will volunteer amongst the ‘Big 5’ at Kariega Game Reserve in South Africa. This programme, perfectly tailored for students, gap-year adventurers, and aspiring conservationists, provides an immersive, hands-on experience in conservation with the opportunity to help protect lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards, and rhinos.

In your downtime, the Eastern Cape unfolds a treasure trove of activities that thrill the adventurer and soothe the soul. From skydiving to horseback riding, the options are as vast as the landscapes. Test your mettle with deep-sea fishing or feel the adrenaline of a bungee jump. For something quieter, take a two-day canoe trip, explore Addo National Park, or unwind on the pristine beaches of Kenton-on-Sea.

Sea Turtle Conservation Volunteer Project, Greece

Volunteers on Greek coastVolunteer with Turtles | Volunteer Greece

Picture yourself on the stunning Kefalonian coast, surrounded by crystal-clear waters and golden sunsets, all while making a meaningful impact on the environment.

Join our volunteer program dedicated to the conservation of endangered sear turtles in Greece. As you patrol the pristine beaches, safeguarding precious nests and aiding in vital research provided to you by our amazing employees, you’ll not only play a crucial role in protecting these incredible creatures but also forge connections with like-minded individuals from around the glove.

Saying this, the Kefalonion coast offers more than just a picturesque backdrop and an opportunity to help the endangered wildlife; it’s a melting pot of cultures, a haven for biodiversity, and the perfect canvas for your volunteering journey.

Dive into the azure waves of the nearby sea by day, and share stories with fellow volunteers under the star-lit Greek sky by night. This is not just a gap year; its an immersion into nature, community, and the soul-stirring beauty of Kefalonion’s coastal wonders.

Coral Reef Conservation & Diving Project, Thailand

alt tagThailand Diving Volunteer | WorkingAbroad

Dive into a sea of adventure with our volunteering opportunity in the heart of Thai marine wonderland! Imagine this, you aren’t just learning marine biology but living it, as you plunge into the scenic waters surrounding Koh Phangan. Our project combines hands-on experience with a splash of theory, equipping you with the skills to be the underwater hero our reefs desperately need. Kickstart your journey with a two-week dive and conservation skills boot camp.

And when you’re not bus saving the seas, the Sami archipelago becomes your tropical playground. Discover the laid-back charm of Koh Phangan, explore the hidden jungles, or ride the waves with actives like wakeboarding or even unleash your inter Muay Thai warrior. Who said saving the world can’t come with a side of tropical fun? Dive in, make waves, and explore the vibrant marine life of Thailand’s Gulf in a way only a marine conservation hero could!

Wildlife Conservation & San Bushmen Community Project, NamibiaHoney canyon in the Namib Naukluft National Park in NamibiaVolunteer with Big Cats | Volunteer Namibia | Working Abroad

Prepare for the adventure of a lifetime as you immerse yourself into the heart of Namibia’s wild wonders with our gap year volunteering program! Forget the ordinary and choose from a menu of extraordinary projects – whether you’re caring for injured cheetahs, researching African wildlife, or doing what is best and standing alongside the Anti Poaching Unit, there’s something for everyone.

Picture this: camel thorn trees, stone canyons, and a pool at the Wildlife Sanctuary where your main volunteer escapades unfold. Neuras Adventure Week, TimBila Game Reserve, and Kanaan Conservation experience await, each offering a unique slice of Namibian paradise.

OK but what is there to do in our free time? Well, you will be able to kick back under the Namib Desert stars, surf the dunes, or learn ancient secrets from the San Bushmen. Namibia awaits – let the adventure begin!

Elephant Sanctuary Volunteer Project, Cambodiavolunteers with elephantsVolunteer with Elephants | Volunteer Cambodia | Working Abroad

Get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure with our gap year volunteering opportunity in the heart of Cambodia! Ever dreamt of swapping skyscrapers for the majestic Mondulkiri region, where elephants roam free, and reforestation is all in a day’s work? Well, this is your chance!

Our Elephant Sanctuary project is not just about saving elephants from the tourist hustle; it’s about creating a haven where they can live their best pachyderm lives. As a volunteer, you’ll be elbow-deep in reforestation efforts by day, bonding with these gentle giants, and soaking up elephant wisdom. Located in the scenic Eastern part of Cambodia, close to the Vietnam border, it’s a remote haven that offers a backstage pass to the Cambodian countryside.

When you’re not busy planting trees or hanging out with elephants, dive into weekends filled with waterfall chasing, cultural immersion, and maybe a dance-off or two. Cambodia’s calling, and the elephants are ready for your wild, lighthearted energy – sign up now!

Dolphin & Whale Research Volunteer Project, Portugalvolunteers in PortugalVolunteer in Portugal | WorkingAbroad

Experience a dolphin-filled dream in Albufeira, Portugal, with our gap year volunteering escapade! Swap textbooks for tail flips as you support Dolphin & Whale Conservation and Research along the stunning Algarve coastline. No need for a marine biology degree – we’ve got you covered!

Gain a dolphin’s-eye view into research instruments and techniques while soaking up wisdom about cetaceans and marine marvels from our onsite experts.

When you’re not decoding dolphin chatter, Albufeira awaits with its sandy beaches, epic nightlife, and a buffet of cultural delights. This isn’t your typical volunteer gig. During free time you will be able to immerse yourself in coastal hikes, birdwatching escapades, or unleash your inner Jacques Cousteau with scuba diving adventures. The Algarve is calling, dolphins are waiting, and your gap year is about to get a whole lot better!

Maldives Island Volunteer Project

Volunteers walking on beach cleanup MaldivesVolunteer Maldives | Marine Conservation | Working Abroad

Embark on an unforgettable journey as a volunteer in the Maldives, where you’ll have the opportunity to make a meaningful impact while being encompassed in the breathtaking beauty of Nairfaru island, nestled within the Lhaviyani Atoll.

Whether you choose to contribute to marine conservation efforts or lend a hand in medical volunteering, the experience is bound to leave a lasting impression. From witnessing marine life to embracing the harmonious blend of diverse cultures, every moment on Naifaru is filled with wonder and personal growth. Engage in environmental initiatives alongside the local community and fellow volunteers. With options ranging from coral reef restoration diving to assisting in sea turtle rehabilitation, every action taken contributes to the preservation of this precious ecosystem.

During leisure time, indulge in the splendour of the Maldives through swimming, snorkelling, or diving excursions. With bespoke family programs available, this is an opportunity for everyone to create memories while making a difference.

Coral Reef Restoration & Diving Project, Balidive school baliVolunteer in Bali | WorkingAbroad

Join us on this transformative excursion as a volunteer with our reef restoration mission in Bali. As part of this meaningful program, you’ll have the opportunity to construct and deploy artificial reefs, diving up to 8 times a week to monitor progress and witness firsthand the resurgence of Bali’s reefs.

Gain valuable marine conservation skills while playing a pivotal role in restoring the beauty of Indonesia’s ultimate tourist destination. Whether you’re a seasoned diver with PADI Open Water Diver certification or eager to train with us, your contribution is crucial. Nestled in the breathtaking landscapes of Bali, our dive resort in Tulamben provides a perfect sanctuary where you can witness both sunrise and sunset while safeguarding this idyllic setting.

Immerse yourself in the rich culture and affordability of Bali, renowned for its traditional arts and modern allure. With opportunities to explore nearby islands and dive sites on your days off. Join us today and be a part of the coral reef restoration movement in this tropical haven!

Playa Tortuga Conservation Volunteer Project, Costa Ricaalt tagFamily Volunteering Costa Rica | WorkingAbroad

There is plenty to do in this incredible opportunity situated in Costa Rica. From sea turtle research, crocodile monitoring, monkey and mammal surveys, and setting camera traps to capture ocelots by night, there is numerous interesting opportunities waiting for you. Moreover, for those passionate about marine conversation, never fear, there is plenty for you to do here. There are opportunities to participate in coral reef restoration initiatives during specific times of the year.

Located just 3.5 hours from San Jose, Playa Tortuga offers a setting for both research and volunteer work, situated within the tropical rainforest and adjacent to Marino Ballena National Park.

But what is there to do when we aren’t involving ourselves in these unique experiences?

Well, one can indulge in surf lessons, horseback riding, or whale and dolphin watching along miles of deserted beaches. Whether you’re seeking adventure or hoping to brush up on your Spanish skills in the nearby town of Uvita, there’s something for everyone in this captivating corner of Costa Rica. Apply now and become part of the journey!

Start Planning those Gap Year Adventures!

In conclusion, folks, consider your gap year the ultimate VIP pass to a global adventure that won’t just fill your passport but your heart too! With WorkingAbroad, value for money isn’t just a phrase – it’s a guarantee that your money stretches further than you ever thought possible. From frolicking with elephants in Cambodia to swimming with dolphins in Portugal, the diversity of activities is the spice of your gap year life.

And let’s talk about the people – you wont just be meeting fellow volunteers; you’ll be creating a nation of friendships. So, strap in, budget friendly globetrotters because your gap year is about to become incredible. Cheers to making memories, saving the world, and meeting your future travel buddies along the way!

Written by WorkingAbroad Blogger Adele Baker

About the Author

WorkingAbroad Projects

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.