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Environment & Wildlife

Top 13 wildlife & environmental conservation volunteer projects in 2021

November 2nd 2020

Tagged: Conservation, Environment, Volunteer projects, Volunteering Abroad, Wildlife

We are now fast approaching the end of another year, which we can all agree has been nothing like usual. We have all been affected by the pandemic in one way or another, including our conservation projects located in some of the most remote places on Earth. They have all been affected by the lack of volunteers and interns to help them with their work, for some during the most important months of the year. Fortunately, many countries are now opening again for travellers, and we are excited to already have sent off the first volunteers.

While Covid-19 won’t be completely gone in 2021, we know that our projects will be prepared for volunteers to once again visit and in a safely manner. Therefore, we have collected our TOP 13 volunteer projects to provide some travel inspiration on how you can work with wildlife and environmental conservation in the year to come. These efforts have never been more important for the sake of our environment, wildlife and the health of our planet. We are therefore excited to welcome you back to our volunteer conservation projects in 2021!


1. Sea turtle conservation volunteer project in Greece

The best part of the trip was being able to help the hatchlings get to sea. It was the most surreal experience ever and I will never ever forget it. One evening during the trip, I was very lucky to be able to help 140 hatchlings overall get to the sea. – Skye White

alttagVolunteer with Turtles | Volunteer GreeceThe sea turtle conservation efforts in Greece bring volunteers from around the world together on the beautiful island of Kefalonia. Here, volunteers assist with sea turtle monitoring, look for trails of nesting turtles, help the hatchlings reach the sea or do research on the turtles swimming about in the local 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 once again to be very popular with volunteers for the second year in a row, and again came back with positive feedback about their experience this year, with volunteers feeling completely safe despite Corona. It’s a great opportunity for people to assist with important sea turtle conservation efforts in a beautiful location like Greece.

Find out more about this project here.

2. Playa Tortuga conservation volunteer project in Costa Rica

“We travelled around Costa Rica for a month and a family vote at the end of the holiday concluded that the Playa Tortuga project was the best and most rewarding part.” – The Lea Family

alttagVolunteer Sea Turtles | Volunteer Costa Rica | Working AbroadVolunteering 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 is another highly popular project that receives lots of brilliant feedback from solo travellers and families alike every year. 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, while experiencing the beautiful nature of Costa Rica in the process.

Find out more about this project here.


3. Ocean Spirits leatherback sea turtle volunteer project in Grenada

“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

alttagWork Grenada | Leatherback Sea Turtle Volunteer | Working AbroadOn this small Caribbean island of Grenada, volunteers take part in Leatherback sea turtle monitoring, research, and community outreach tasks. It is one of the few places in the world where this ancient dinosaur relative comes to nest each year, which provides volunteers the opportunity to witness this incredible giant sea turtle up close.

Why this project made our list; We have worked with Ocean Spirits 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, while gaining hands-on experience alongside marine biologists in a beautiful part of the Caribbean and help preserve the species for future generations.

Find out more about this project here.


4. Reforestation volunteer project in Iceland 

Overall, the program was so much better than I ever could have imagined. The team went above and beyond to ensure our 2 weeks on the farmhouse were not only productive and educational, but also memorable.” – Kasie Kirkpatrick

alttagVolunteer Iceland | Tree Planting Iceland | Working AbroadIn the southwest of Iceland, volunteers on this project help with ecological restoration and reforestation in the Úlfljótsvatn lake region. Parts of the area have been heavily eroded or degraded and are therefore in urgent need of attention. Volunteers assist with the reforesting in the area by planting seedlings and fertilising young trees.

Why this project made our list; Another wildly popular project with volunteers that usually ends up fully booked every year. We receive great feedback from previous volunteers, who were also able to join this year in safe manner despite Corona. It is a great opportunity to not only help with important reforestation work in Iceland, but also to experience some of the rugged and wild beauty of the country in the meantime.

Find out more about this project here.


5. Desert elephant volunteer project in Namibia

“I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The staff were very friendly and professional, and I would highly recommend the project to anyone considering joining.” – Sam Taylor

alttagVolunteer in Namibia | Volunteer with Elephants | Working AbroadVolunteers help track desert elephants and take part in community development work in the beautiful Damaraland region of the Namib Desert. Here, the desert-adapted elephants roam free, which volunteers will be directly involved in monitoring, while also building important infrastructure to protect water sources for both locals and wildlife to co-exist peacefully.

Why this project made our list; Few people can say that they have slept under the beautiful starry skies in the middle of a desert at night, while contributing with work that helps protect important water sources of local communities and wild elephants alike during the day. Yet, this is exactly the amazing opportunity that volunteers grab when joining this conservation project, which also offers the once in a lifetime experience of witnessing wild elephants and other wildlife roaming the desert landscapes of Namibia.

Find out more about this project here.


6. Kariega game reserve volunteer project in South Africa

“It was difficult when the time came to leave such a breath-taking place and remarkable people. Four weeks seemed like a long time when booking, but it flew past and I truly enjoyed every minute.” – Thomas Potter

alttagKariega Game Reserve | Volunteer South Africa | Working AbroadAt this game reserve in South Africa, volunteers take part in lots of varied research and conservation work. From lion and elephant monitoring to rhino surveys, invasive species removal and local community projects. The project takes volunteers through the workings of a respected game reserve, and have them contribute to their efforts of protecting threatened wildlife and supporting local communities.

Why this project made our list; South Africa boasts of incredible wildlife with most always dreaming about witnessing the big 5 roaming the savannah like they always have. Volunteers at this project get to experience just that, while also joining a once in a lifetime opportunity to get behind the scenes of a game reserve and get involved with their important conservation efforts.

Find out more about this project here.


7. Dolphin research volunteer project in Greece

“The project was so amazing; it was the best experience of my life honestly. It also was so well put together and I learned so much. – Taylor Olshove

alttagVolunteer Greece | Volunteer with Dolphins | Working AbroadMarine conservation volunteers in Greece get to actively participate in dolphin research every day out on the beautiful Ionian Sea. The research focuses particularly on the Bottlenose dolphin and the Short-Beaked Common dolphin found in the Amvrakikos Gulf and the Inner Ionian Sea archipelago.

Why this project made our list; This is a great opportunity to work with marine wildlife research and science, experiencing dolphins up close and record every detail. This all takes place in one of the most beautiful parts of Greece, and where you will find an incredible diversity of marine mammals compared to other places in the Mediterranean. Volunteers will through their work help local researchers provide a marine environment that provides long-term viability for the species found there, and help protect their future conservation which is under threat.

Find out more about this project here.


8. Amazon Basin research and conservation volunteer & internship project in Peru

The Amazon felt like an absolute dream. My time spent immersed in such dense, remote nature was something I’ll never forget”. – Madison Sturba

alttagAmazon Conservation | Volunteer Peru | Working AbroadVolunteers and interns have the chance to assist with this project’s long-term scientific research of wildlife in the Peruvian Amazon. The project aims to better understand the effects of human activities on wildlife and act on the solutions that help preserve the rainforest.

Why this project made our list; This project has managed to keep their part of the rainforest concession deforestation-free from illegal logging since their inception five years ago. All 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 rainforest and all of its wildlife and wonders. In 2021, a new setup for volunteers will provide a more holistic experience, where everyone will develop their research skills and conservation knowledge, while continuing to support the preservation of this last stand of virgin rainforest in the world.

Find out more about this project here.


9. Ocean conservation research volunteer project in South Africa

“I think that my stay at the project was an amazing and eye-opening experience that I will remember for the rest of my life and I am very grateful for the opportunity.” – Sofia Sokolowski

alttagVolunteer in South Africa | Volunteer with Whales | Working AbroadThe Ocean Research project offers volunteers a very varied experience of work. Marine conservation volunteers get to work on dolphin and whale research tasks, assist with community education projects on the coastline, help with penguin rescue, seal monitoring as well as environmental projects, beach clean-ups and tree planting.

Why this project made our list; South Africa is well-known for its beautiful wildlife living on the savannahs, yet at this project, volunteers get a chance to witness all of the incredible marine wildlife of its surrounding ocean. A project that has brought many positive and new experiences for previous volunteers to engage with ocean research. From dolphins, seals and sharks to whales, orcas and penguins – this project offers volunteers a great chance to work with ocean research, as well as to engage with local communities to teach about the big blue and its wildlife for their future protection.

Find out more about this project here.


10. Wolf conservation volunteer project in Portugal

“I would highly recommend this project. I fell in love with the wolves, the nature, the landscape, the food, the warmth of the Portuguese sun and the people at the center.” – Mayté Heymans

alttagVolunteer in Portugal | Wolf Conservation | WorkingAbroadIn these beautiful green parts of Portugal, volunteers help actively with the further conservation of the Iberian wolf. The sanctuary, located within a large forest near Mafra, is a place where rescued wolves that no longer can be in the wild, get to live their lives as wolves.

Why this project made our list; The Wolf conservation project has rescued wolves from illegal captivity and lives in ZOOs during the past two decades, to live their life roaming as freely as possible. These wolves become ambassadors for a species that have suffered severe prosecution in Europe through centuries, with the sanctuary also actively trying to change public attitudes about wolves. Something that volunteers can help with supporting this important project in Portugal.

Find out more about this project here.

11. Dolphin & whale volunteer research project in Italy

“We had an amazing experience. The team was really knowledgeable and passionate, and over the week we saw many, many beautiful whales and dolphins. The overnight experience in the middle of the Med was a real highlight. Highly recommended.” – Shane Smith

alttagVolunteer with Dolphins | Volunteer with Whales | Working AbroadThis research project focuses on some of the spectacular marine wildlife that can be found in the Pelagos Sanctuary of the Mediterranean, including large fin whales, the majestic sperm whales, pods of pilot whales, and several dolphin species. Volunteers work alongside marine biologists whilst living on a research vessel, which travels across French and Italian waters in search of these magnificent species.

Why this project made our list; A very popular volunteer project with solo travellers, groups and families alike, which have been part of this important marine wildlife research over the years. The clear blue waters and the incredible encounters with whales, dolphins and sea turtles alike are reasons enough to join this project. However, it also offers a direct field training experience, working alongside knowledgeable researchers in a beautiful part of southern Europe!

Find out more about this project here.


12. Cloud forest conservation & sustainability volunteer project in Ecuador

“I spent an incredible month at the Cloud Forest project! […] The place was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been with the lush cloud forest nature. The tasks we did varied from taking care of the animals to trail maintenance and brewing coffee. A lot of different and fun things!” – Kerttu Kotakorpi

alttagCloud Forest Ecuador | Conservation Volunteering | Working AbroadVolunteers at this project help to conserve a part of the Ecuadorian cloud forest by participating in tree planting, trail work, research activities, sustainable living and food production as well as community projects and capuchin monkey research.

Why this project made our list; A popular project that protects an important forest habitat in Ecuador, and where living in a sustainable manner is at the very essence of volunteer work. This project offers a rare opportunity for volunteers to live in harmony with their surroundings. The way of life has less environmental impact, in a time where being better to the planet, protecting forest habitats, its resources and wildlife never have been more important.

Find out more about this project here.

13. Watamu sea turtle conservation volunteer project in Kenya

“The sea turtles project in Watamu has been an incredible experience! The staff was very professional and kind. We’ve learned a lot of things about the environment and about the turtles.” – Sophie Everarts

alttagWatamu Kenya | Sea Turtle Marine Volunteering | Working AbroadAt this volunteer project in Kenya, volunteers take part in sea turtle conservation work. This involves research and monitoring of nesting sea turtles, as well as rehabilitation of turtles that are brought to the centre for various reasons. Volunteers also get involved with local education and community outreach in Watamu to share the importance of sea turtles and their impact on local environments.

Why this project made our list; This project has produced some incredible efforts and changes for sea turtles in Kenya during the past 20+ years, with a decrease in poaching as a result and a better local awareness of ecosystems and sea turtles’ importance to the communities. Volunteers become a direct part of this important work, where they learn about sea turtles, help them actively alongside local Kenyans, and then even with some of the most beautiful sandy beaches as their workplace. Previous volunteers have loved every part of it!

Find out more about this project here.

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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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