Volunteering with animals on your gap year will ensure a fantastic experience in which you not only gain a unique perspective on a country, but also get to help local wildlife in need. There are hundreds of opportunities to volunteer with animals, be it rehabilitating orangutans in Borneo, darting lions from a helicopter in South Africa or ensuring tigers are well cared for in Thailand. You might well end up working with some of the world’s most endangered species, helping to secure a brighter future for them. Whatever your skills and however much time you have to offer, volunteering with animals on your gap year will be an unforgettable experience.
Tips for Volunteering with Animals
What animals can I volunteer with?
The choice is vast, so the best thing to do is choose a species you are passionate about and work from there. If you have a particular interest in marine creatures, for example, opportunities abound to work with sea turtles, whales, sharks, crocodiles and dolphins. Alternatively, you can work with land animals, including elephants, gorillas, pandas and rhinos.
Where can I volunteer?
This will largely be determined by which animals you would like to work with. If you would like to volunteer with bears some of the best places to do it are Romania, USA and Canada, which all have significant bear populations. Alternatively, if you’d like to spend your time helping elephants, places in Asia and Africa, such as Thailand and Tanzania, are good bets.
What time of year should I volunteer with animals?
Again, this depends on whereabouts in the world the volunteering will take place and which animals you will be working with. Do your research on a destination’s general weather patterns before booking anything; you may want to avoid a monsoon season, or indeed debilitating summer heat. Also make sure the animals you want to work with aren’t in the midst of hibernation.
Which project should I choose?
Research is essential. While the majority of volunteer programs are aimed at making a genuine difference in the world, others are less wholesome and should be treated with caution. One of the surest ways to find an unbiased opinion is to speak with past participants from the program you would like to take part in, or search for online reviews. Do as much research as you can and don’t be afraid to put questions to organisations; if they are the real deal they’ll be happy to speak with you at length.
What about visas?
As with any volunteering program on your gap year, you’ll need to make sure you have permission to enter and work in the country of your choice, and this usually take the form of a visa. Although some countries don’t require tourist visas from UK nationals – particularly those in the EU – if you plan to work, you’ll almost certainly need a working visa. These must be arranged before you fly.
How can I stay healthy?
If you would like to visit developing nations it is always wise to check with your doctor which, if any, vaccines and immunisations you should have done before you travel. This becomes especially important if working with animals, which can spread diseases, including rabies in some instances. It is also vital that you get health insurance to cover your time abroad. Medical expenses can escalate into the tens of thousands without adequate cover.