Tucked into the burgeoning travel market of volunteer vacations is a treasure trove of adventure opportunities for animal lovers.
From swimming with dolphins (we’re talking ocean expedition here, not resort pools with trapped mammals) to feeding lion cubs and hanging out with pandas, we’ve uncovered ten utterly wild volunteer vacations.
Check them out these adventure travel vacations with animals and let us know which one(s) you’d do in a heartbeat.
- by Molly Canales for Global Animal
1. Save Sea Turtles In Mexico
Want to see hundreds of baby turtles burst from their eggs and head out to sea? An adventure to Mexico is Global Animal’s No.#1 wild adventure.
You’ll get up close with endangered Olive Ridley turtles while also enjoying scenic Mexican beaches in Colima, Mexico. Nights on this volunteer adventure from Projects Abroad are spent on beach searches and doing turtle egg relocation. You might be lucky enough to find a new turtles nest while scanning the sands. You’ll relocate and make shelters for turtle nests to protect the Olive Ridley turtles eggs. Eventually, you’ll protect the tiny turtles as they make their first journey out to sea.
To watch a video of volunteer vacationers at the Project Abroad Turtle Conservation site, click here.
Call 877-921-9666 (Canada) or 888-839-3535 (US)
2. Honor Elephants in Thailand
How about tending to elephants in Thailand? Thought so. Then Global Animal’s No.# 2 adventure vacation might be for you. After hiking through the jungle to find your elephant and tend for him or her each morning, you’ll learn about elephant veterinary care and help with community service projects for the giant animals each afternoon. These scenic hikes are often filled with sightings of monkeys, birds, and other exotic animals. This vacation from Global Vision International makes it possible to create a close connection with one of the most mysterious and intelligent creatures on the planet. Around the Thai village where the program takes place, elephants are the main attraction. But you’ll have free time to take additional hikes, go rafting, or learn traditional Thai artistry. Call 888-653-6028 (US) or fill out the Global Vision International booking form.
3. Discover Frogs in Australia
Discover a new frog species in Australia. Join Professor Michael Mahony of the University of Newcastle on his quest to save frogs from infection and other dangers while analyzing why some frogs do better than others in certain areas and climates. A considerable amount of time on your trip will be spent searching for the amphibians by night in the Watagan National Park in New South Wales.
You’ll do some hopping yourself on these night hikes by crossing small streams on stepping stones, but the hikes aren’t incredibly difficult. When you’re not searching for frogs, you’ll probably be learning about them from professor Mahony and his researchers. This animal adventure from Earthwatch is one of the most in-depth and hands-on adventures there is, and if you’re into learning, you’re in luck.
Call 800-776-0188 or (978) 461-0081 (US, Canada) or +61 (0)3-9682-6828 (Australia)
To learn more about this vacation, click here: http://www.earthwatch.org/exped/mahony.html
4. Cuddle Pandas in China
Visiting pandas in China is the Global Animal’s fourth pick for adventure because, well, who doesn’t want to hang out with pandas? The big bears at Lou Guan tai Village near Xi’an, China need food, water and cleaning every day. As a volunteer at this center, you’ll get to tend to the bears as well as help construct new Panda habitats with locally harvested bamboo. The efforts at this panda center focus on conserving the endangered panda population for the future, so be prepared to get your hands dirty and do anything it takes to help a panda out.
On your trip from The Real Gap Experience, you may help a worker at the Panda center improve his English in your down time, or you may want to learn about Chinese culture from the panda keepers too. Either way, helping those at the center spread the word about panda conservation and playing with the bears will be an experience to write home about.
Call 866-939-9088 or, to learn more about this vacation, click here: http://www.realgap.com/China-Giant-Panda-Conservation
5. Feed Lion Cubs in Africa
This pick involves some big babies. Lion babies, to be exact. At the project in Johannesburg, South Africa, you’ll interact with lion cubs by feeding them and tending to their living areas each day. The cubs are playful and full of life, so be prepared to entertain them like they’re children! You’ll also learn how to prepare baby food for other animals at the park in South Africa, and you may be put in charge of the giraffe feeding station.
Not only will you learn about all of the animals in the park, but you’ll learn how the entire park is run on a daily basis. Your trip is rounded out with some safari time and a trip to the biggest craft center in Africa, but it’s doubtful that you’ll want to leave the adorable lion cubs once you’re there.
Call 866-939-9088 (USA/Can) or +44 1892 701884 (Worldwide) to book your trip.
To learn more about this vacation, click here: http://www.realgap.com/South-Africa-Lion-Cub-Experience
6. Rehabilitate Animals in Ecuador
If you’re enthusiastic about all kinds of animals, Global Animal’s pick in Ecuador may be a dream vacation. This adventure takes you to an animal rehabilitation center with over 30 different species of monkeys, birds, and other species. Even better, every animal at the shelter was saved from illegal pet trades or irresponsible pet guardians – now, they’re living the high life. Each day, you’ll tend to the plethora of animals and record data about them. You’ll also keep track of wild birds flying by. Not only will you help the center, but you’ll have a chance to improve your Spanish skills and even enjoy Guayaquil’s famous nightlife. The only thing you need to have a good time on this trip is a love for all things animal.
Call 800 985 4852 to book your trip, or visit the link below for updated booking information.
To learn more, click here: http://www.i-to-i.com/volunteer-projects/work-with-animals-abroad-in-ecuador.html
7. Slide Up To Harp Seals in Canada
Each year, hundreds of thousands of harp seals migrate from Greenland to the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the Magdalen Islands to give birth. The harp seal was once hunted widely for its snowy white coat and baby harp seals were especially prized. Thankfully, the seals are protected now, and the only humans visiting the seals intend to cuddle them if they can get close enough.
This adventure was created by Natural Habitat Adventures for travelers to see the beauty of the Antarctic and connect to seals.
Call 800-543-8917 (US & Canada) or 303-449-3711 (International) to book.
To learn more about this adventure, click here: http://www.nathab.com/north/harp-seal-watch
8. Save Animals in Thailand
The Wildlife Rescue Center in Thailand is the Global Animal’s eighth pick for adventure because you’ll see every kind of animal imaginable on their premises. From macaque to gibbon, loris to leopard, the rescue center attempts to reintroduce injured or sick animals into the wild. Each day, volunteers will feed the animals and clean their enclosures, bringing the wildlife closer to good health and freedom every day. Surrounded by the beautiful scenery of Thailand’s forests, volunteer vacationers wont feel like they’re working at all.
Call 0800-032-5035 (UK) or 800-963-1198 (USA/Canada) or 800-203-012 (Australia) for more information about this program.
To apply to the Thailand program, click here: (http://www.globalvolunteernetwork.org/thailand/apply.php).
To learn more, click here: http://www.globalvolunteernetwork.org/thailand/
9. Swim with Dolphins in the Bahamas
Ever wanted to hear dolphins communicate? This pick lets you hear spotted dolphins and bottlenose dolphins talk to each other in the warm waters of the Bahamas. Using snorkel equipment instead of heavy scuba gear, vacationers become researchers in the water, waiting for dolphins to come near while they record data on the dolphin’s behavior and social interactions with both dolphins and humans. The Oceanic Society’s dolphin research and vacation program has been around for years, so the guides and instructors even know some of the dolphins by name. What’s better than that?
Call 800-326-7491 to book, or book with the Oceanic Society online here: http://www.oceanicsociety.org/support_options/reservations
To learn more about this adventure, click here: http://www.oceanicsociety.org/trip/research/bahamas-project-dolphin
10. Care for an Animal in Bolivia
Parque Machia in Bolivia is a Global Animal’s pick for adventure because it’s one of the only places where you can have unlimited one-on-one time with an animal. The park and sanctuary assigns each traveler their own animal, from a parrot to a puma, that they feed, clean, and even take on walks through the park. Volunteers are encouraged to think of new ways to improve their animal’s daily life. Not only are volunteers helping animals, but the extra time they give to Bolivian workers at the sanctuary makes construction of new areas for the animals possible. Responsible Travel’s trip to Bolivia is one of the most hands-on type of experiences available anywhere.
Call +44 (0)1273 600030 (UK)
To learn more, click here: http://www.responsibletravel.com/Trip/Trip900874.htm
A portion of all bookings goes to the nonprofit Global Animal Foundation and emergency rescue for animals in crisis worldwide.