Volunteering on a conservation project on your gap year is a great way to contribute to the preservation and future well-being of local environments on a deep and meaningful level.
There are hundreds of opportunities for you to give something back to this amazing planet of ours, whether it’s working with endangered wildlife in South Africa, helping to control deforestation in the rainforests of South America, or working on marine conservation in the Galapagos Islands.
Conservation work can be an amazing experience, not only for you but for everyone and thing you work with. You’ll experience life as it’s lived by the locals and you’ll achieve great personal satisfaction knowing that you’ve made a real difference.
Volunteer on a Conservation Project
If you would like to volunteer on a conservation project the opportunities to do so are vast, and you could find yourself a little bewildered by the choice. The best way to approach it is to decide what you are most passionate about and work from there. Perhaps you are appalled at the plight of elephants being poached in Africa, or perhaps you’re gravely concerned about deforestation in the Amazon.
Whatever the issue is, there will be an opportunity for you to make a personal difference by volunteering on a relevant conservation project on your gap year.
There are many serious problems facing marine ecosystems around the world, including pollution, habitat destruction and overfishing. If you choose to volunteer on a marine conservation project on your gap year you’ll have the chance to give something back to the world’s oceans and the life that inhabits them. Furthermore, these projects are often based in areas of stunning natural beauty or which host enormous biodiversity, including the Galapagos Islands, Fiji, Mozambique, Borneo and Madagascar.
The types of marine conservation projects available are as rich and varied as the sea life you’ll be working with: you could help preserve the beautiful coral reefs of Thailand, raise awareness of the threats to whales and dolphins in Mauritius, or help prevent sea-turtle eggs being poached in Costa Rica. And so much more.
Many of this planet’s species have already become extinct as a result of human activity, and many more are in serious danger of following the same path. If you choose to work on an animal conservation project on your gap year you could be instrumental in reversing this worrying trend, helping to revive endangered species and raising awareness of the threats to their existence. Some animals do not face extinction (yet) but have been seriously mistreated, illegally trafficked, or orphaned, and you could provide the care they so desperately need to survive and or be reintroduced to their natural environments.
Animal conversation projects are numerous, ranging from rehabilitating African wildlife, caring for orphaned elephants in Thailand or volunteering with orangutans in Borneo. Be sure to check our listing pages for a full rundown.
Environmental conservation projects broadly tie in and overlap with marine and animal conservation (such as maintaining natural habitats). But there is also a human element as well, in that often you will have the chance to work with local communities. This can include helping with ecological farming techniques, implementing environmental solutions for waste management and even contributing to government policy geared towards future sustainability for a particular region.
You could be whisked off to some of the world’s most exotic locations, including the rainforests of South America, the jungles of Borneo or the agricultural heartlands of India.
In so many ways! Volunteers on conservation projects are always in very high demand for the simple reason that there so much to do in so many parts of the world.
Think about yourself first
When choosing your project it is very important to think about yourself and your own interests first. This may sound like a selfish way of looking at things, but ultimately, the happier and more motivated you are, the more effective you will be on your project.
For example, if you have always wanted to learn how to scuba dive, and you have always wanted to see why everyone raves about the paradise islands of Southeast Asia, then a marine conservation project in Thailand could be the thing for you. Also keep in mind that while any volunteer work will look fantastic on your CV, if you choose a project that is in line with something you’d like to pursue as a career, you could really push yourself above the crowd in what is at the time of writing a very tough job market to get into.
Your day-to-day tasks will depend on not just the type of conservation work you choose, but also on the type of project within that bracket. Generally speaking, all volunteers should have a strong work ethic, an open mind and a desire to make a real difference to any given environment.
Helping marine life
Your main day-to-day tasks will be geared towards a combination of preserving natural habitats, protecting and raising awareness of endangered marine life, research and cleaning polluted areas. On many projects the first thing you’ll do is learn how to scuba dive. If you are working on coral reefs you’ll typically be required to complete underwater research, clear debris from the sea floor and conduct ocean surveys. If you’re working in open water you could end up swimming alongside some truly extraordinary marine life, such as whale sharks, dolphins and manta rays, while monitoring their behaviour and collecting underwater photographs.
Whichever project you choose, you can be sure of one thing: you’ll be working very closely with endangered, orphaned or mistreated animals, often building a degree of mutual trust through prolonged care and attention. Some projects are geared towards introducing captive creatures back into their natural environments in an effort to boost populations, so you could find yourself taking lion cubs for morning walks in Zimbabwean game reserves, caring for victimised orangutans in Borneo or looking after orphaned elephants in Sri Lanka. On many projects you’ll have the chance to work with local vets, conduct research and help create sustainable ecosystems to rehabilitate natural habitats.
If you choose to work on an environmental conservation project on your gap year you will be helping to preserve and improve some of the world’s most delicate and endangered ecosystems. This could include anything from restoring native forests on the Galapagos Islands, sustaining the ecological value of parts of the Amazon to keep loggers and miners away, promoting environmental conservation in south Indian villages or conducting field research in the wild and remote deserts of Oman. The work is often very hands on so should be approached with determination and a can-do attitude.
Keep in mind that this is a very brief overview of the kind of help you could provide as a volunteer on a conservation project. For specific details check out our listing pages, where you’ll find a comprehensive summary of each individual project and the precise responsibilities you will have.