We have collated our TOP 13 volunteer and internship projects for those who love wildlife and want to be part of global environmental conservation efforts in 2023. Volunteering to protect and restore wildlife populations and biodiversity has never been more important for the sake of our planet and the future of life itself. We are excited to share our TOP 13 wildlife and environmental volunteer projects for 2023 with you. We encourage everyone, no matter where you are in the world, to take action for nature and society!
1. Amazon Ecology and Wildlife Rehabilitation Programme in Peru
“Working here was a life-changing experience. Learning to use camera traps to study the local wildlife was incredibly insightful. Waking up to the sounds of howler monkeys makes this place feel like Paradise.” – Dale Speer, US
Our Amazon Ecology and Wildlife Rehabilitation Programme mission is to protect and fortify biodiversity in the Peruvian Amazon. We address both the causes and the effects of the threats to local rainforests and species. We work everyday to protect threatened wildlife and habitats while running initiatives focused on empowering and educating local communities. Interns can choose between either our Amazon Ecology Internship or Wildlife Rehabilitation Programme.
Why this project made our list; The Amazon rainforest nations are not acting with sufficient urgency. Scientists warn the Amazon is close to a tipping point, after which the humid, biodiverse rainforest will not be able to recover and it will degrade instead into a dry savanna. That calamity is said to strike when deforestation is between 20 and 25%. The cleared area now is 17% with another 17% degraded, so this point is close. Our Peru Amazon programmes are legitimate and long-term initiatives that work day in and day out to protect and restore the environment and wildlife of the Peruvian Amazon. The internship opportunity, in terms of the learning and overall experience, comes with consistently excellent feedback from past participants.
“I have been an intern at this project for almost 4 months now, having extended my stay twice already! It has truly been the best experience. The staff are incredible and the work we do is so gratifying.” – Katie Pichette
For the last 30 years, our wildlife rescue centre has been a part of the Greater British Columbia community serving its people and its wildlife through education and rehabilitation. The project has helped a huge amount of injured and orphaned animals, saving over 50,000 individuals over 30 years of work! In addition to rehabilitation, our project is involved in community-based education programmes at primary levels, working to educate the public through involvement in civic groups, seniors homes and assist other wildlife management organisations.
Why this project made our list; Canada’s British Columbia region holds around 60 million hectares of forest – the size of France and Germany combined. Much of B.C.’s forests can be considered old growth forest with some trees reaching more than 1,000 years of age. B.C. has more than half the species found in Canada, including 70% of the country’s native mammal species and breeding bird species, which is why we believe it is so important to protect the wildlife of this incredible landscape. This internship is our most affordable listed on WorkingAbroad, if you are able to get yourself to B.C. in Canada. The internship is providing a vital rescue and restoration service in the region and it comes with outstanding reviews from past participants.
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
On this small Caribbean island of Grenada, volunteers take part in leatherback sea turtle monitoring, research, and community outreach tasks. 2023 marks the 24th year of the sea turtle monitoring programme! The research is crucial to conservation efforts. As a research assistant, seasonal activities are hands-on and directly aid in the reduction of illegal egg poaching while contributing to wider ocean conservation efforts in Grenada.
Why this project made our list; The leatherback sea turtle is the largest of all living turtles and the heaviest non-crocodilian reptile, reaching lengths of up to 1.8 metres and weights of 500 kilograms. They are classified as vulnerable, with a globally decreasing population, which is why we believe we have a duty to work to protect them. 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.
“We loved every minute of it, learnt a lot and came away with much to reflect on” – Liz and Alex McVey, UK
The Galapagos Conservation programme, based on Isabella Island, brings volunteers from around the world together to what is considered one of the world’s foremost destinations for wildlife-viewing. Here on the volcanic archipelago of Ecuador, volunteers assist on a range of wildlife conservation and environmental projects, working alongside local staff and giving back to the nature and people of this wondrous place.
Why this project made our list; Charles Darwin wrote of the Galapagos: “I never dreamed that islands, about fifty or sixty miles apart, and most of them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same rocks, placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly equal height, would have been differently tenanted”… meaning that the islands are extremely unique, diverse, and form an important part of life’s evolutionary history. This programme enhances conservation through education and social development on an intimate, ground level. The human factor is key to making any progress locally, and that’s where the programme comes in. On Isabela Island, the local population approaches 3,000, and the need for conservation, education, and social development is increasing. Our volunteers love the Galapagos Islands!
5. 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
Volunteering at our 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. Volunteers make a huge contribution here – over the last 10 years, they have helped to reduce turtle nest poaching by 87%, which has made this beach one of the few places in Costa Rica which is safe for turtles and researchers.
Why this project made our list; Costa Rica is without doubt one of our volunteers’ favourite destinations! Our research project in Costa Rica is another highly popular project that receives lots of brilliant feedback from solo travellers and families alike. We 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.
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
At 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 some of the best game viewing in the world, with most visitors able to catch a glimpse of the Big 5 roaming the bush as they have for millennia. With the growing threat of unsustainable farming and poaching, South Africa’s wilderness has never been more at risk than it is today. Our volunteers get to experience the challenges of conservation, while enjoying a once in a lifetime opportunity to get behind the scenes of a Big 5 game reserve to get up close and personal in conservation efforts. South Africa is one of our most popular destinations and our volunteers cannot get enough of the SA bush!
“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
Marine 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. The coastal waters of Greece still harbour a remarkable diversity of marine mammals compared to other parts of the Mediterranean. Volunteers work shoulder-to-shoulder with us to help us gain robust science-based knowledge dedicated to support the implementation of effective conservation measures.
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. The ease of access for Europeans makes this a favourite for those in the region as well as those from farther away who want to experience the Med.
8. The Great African Seaforest Research Volunteer Programme in South Africa
“We got to dive a variety of environments, reef to kelp forests to urchin barrens. It was so amazing because every day I got in the water, I just knew that was what I wanted to do, I just got happier every day that I went diving”. – Amanda Gardiner
The Great African Seaforest is the only forest of giant bamboo kelp (Ecklonia maxima) on our planet, home to extraordinary creatures, a great abundance of life, and rich biodiversity. Volunteers will join a team of passionate marine biologists and conservationists to research and monitor the African kelp forests, shark and fish species of this spectacular underwater world which features in the Netflix hit ‘My Octopus Teacher’.
Why this project made our list; Kelp forests are one of the most vulnerable ecosystems on the planet. This enormous Great African Seaforest habitat runs from South Africa’s False Bay, along the shores of Cape Town, and stretches north into Namibia. The life it harbours is so diverse that much of the Great African Seaforest and its inhabitants have yet to be studied. Cape Town has been voted the number one destination in the world by many top travel publications, because of its diverse and stunning biology, landscapes and cultures. Our volunteers leave this place in awe!
9. 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
In 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.
“I would recommend this program to anyone looking to pursue a career in wildlife management/care. Easily the best month of my life.” – Josh Hardin
The volunteer project is based on Naifaru, an Island in the Northern part of the Maldives. Our programme aims to bring together various community and environmental projects, to improve life for the local inhabitants and wildlife. Volunteers help protect and rehabilitate endangered sea turtle populations, conserve and repair local coral reefs, conduct marine life surveys & support community awareness programmes. We offer two different programmes, one for Marine Conservation Volunteering and another specialised for Medical Volunteering.
Why this project made our list; Coral reefs are the dominant ecosystems found in the islands of Maldives. The coral reef systems of the Maldives are the seventh largest in the world and cover an area approximately 8,900 km2 in size. The pristine marine ecosystems of Maldives are being threatened by natural factors such as climate change and related factors such as coral bleaching. They are also threatened by anthropogenic activity such as tourism and over-exploitation without consideration given to biodiversity. Volunteers consistently provide excellent feedback after their time on Naifaru and many return to volunteer again.
11. Kiwi Conservation Volunteer & Internship Project in New Zealand
I have volunteered at many projects and managed my own but this is a project like no other. The amount you learn about New Zealand’s ecosystem is top notch.” – Ceri Thomas
Our sanctuary’s goal is to enable the creation of the right environment to sustain the ten pairs of kiwi currently living in the forest. The volunteer programme covers a range of conservation activities within the forest. The only way of maintaining this number of kiwi in the forest is by keeping predators at low levels, through extensive monitoring, and through forest protection. Volunteers will be working in teams of up to eight volunteers with qualified and experienced leaders carrying out a variety of conservation-related tasks.
Why this project made our list; It’s as vital to protect the kiwi in New Zealand as it is to protect the orangutan in Borneo, the Sumatran tiger in Indonesia, and the panda in China. Losing these species from the planet might not affect our day-to-day life, but it is a loss to the human experience. Not only do our volunteers love spending time in New Zealand, but they absolutely love this project. Volunteers consistently write to us to tell us how much they enjoyed participating in the protection of the forests and the kiwis!
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
Volunteers 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.
“The best part was the sense that with supporting the project, you actually support a whole community, either helping the students of the local school or financially sustaining local farmers through the sanctuary, and so on.” – Ilaria Fuse
Our project has rescued and permanently retired older elephants. They now live freely, away from the forced work in trekking camps or the mass tourism industry. In their new home they can play to their heart’s content and enjoy a high quality of life. Our sanctuary also rescues, rehabilitates and releases local wildlife. We have successfully released many owls, small lizards and even baby native forest rats. It’s a haven for dogs, cats, and other small animals.
Why this project made our list; A truly ethical experience, observing retired elephants just be elephants. This Sanctuary is a place where roles have been reversed and humans now work for them. By joining our programme you are helping give these majestic animals a happy retirement. We receive an overwhelming amount of feedback from volunteers that this is a wonderful experience for them and that spending time with elephants is life-changing.