While many people think of travel as a time to pursue their own relaxation and enjoyment, it can also be a great opportunity to give back. Voluntourism trips have been gaining popularity for their positive contributions to society while still allowing volunteers to enjoy their vacation. It can be a great opportunity to get fully immersed in a culture or environment and can be something you can do anywhere across the globe, from helping to rehabilitate elephants in Thailand to learning where your local food comes from during a farm stay.
So much more than a safari tour, Kwandwe Privat Game Reserve has added educational, environmental and social volunteer projects to its family-friendly trips. While still getting to see wild elephants and zebras up close, children also learn about the “whats” and “whys” of animal conservation and the notion of carbon offsets. Finally, to get some first-hand experience, they also have the option of carbon offsetting their own trip by planting carbon-storing vegetables in local gardens. Adults can take part in projects such as “Kit a Bit” by knitting blankets for local villagers.
To keep their own carbon footprint down, Kwandwe prepares all its meals from local sources, with many ingredients coming fresh from their own gardens. These meals — along with safari day trips — are included in the nightly rate for the reserve’s accommodations, which range from $35 – $85 per night depending on room type and travel dates.
Catalina Island, California
Beginning as a vacation rental company on Southern California’s Catalina Island, Catalina Volunteer Vacations has since grown to offering voluntourism packages alongside the Catalina Island Conservancy. This can include a wide variety of volunteer activities including Windward Beach clean-ups or working with a local plant nursery to transplant, weed and water local flora.
As a volunteer, you’ll also receive discounted rates on your vacation rental and transportation from Newport Beach to the island. Before the discount, prices are around $250 per night for a 2-bedroom house.
All seven continents
While GoVoluntouring doesn’t offer trips of their own, they’re a great database for finding your perfect voluntourism trip. They offer highly customized search functions, which allows the site’s visitors to filter trips by overall popularity, location (which includes virtually every country on the planet), length (from less than a week to over 3 months), cost (anything from paid positions to trips costing over $3,000), traveler age, fitness and skill set.
The real draw for many people using GoVoluntouring is their CrowdFunding option. Travelers who want to make a difference but may not be able to afford a trip halfway across the world can advertise on the site requesting donations.
Across the United States
This organization operates under the principal that sustainable farming is all about local ecology. It includes a network of farms that invite visitors to learn about low-impact farming through low-impact crop rotating and permaculture (the development of agricultural ecosystems that are self-sufficient). Farmers also explain the supply chain involved with where our food comes from, stressing the importance of buying local and organic.
The type of accommodation at each stay varies, with camping options starting at $20 per night and lodging that would rival a 5-star hotel reaching $400 per night. This rate includes farm activities such as learning how to care for livestock and planting.
Working with local communities, Cross-Cultural Solutions provides volunteers with the opportunity to assist in a variety of education and healthcare related activities. Trips range from 1 to 12 weeks, costing between $2500 and $9000. With this, volunteers are greeted at the airport and given home-style food and accommodation at a local “home base” with other volunteers. In addition to spending most mornings working with the community, volunteers can take trips to explore and experience the local environment through active and cultural activities.
Across the United States
Dedicated to preserving National and State parks across the USA, Nature Corps offers volunteer vacations that combine preservation with fun. This means the trips include components such as aiding in the preservation of coastal dunes, but can also include castle visits, kayaking and wine tasting. The vacations range from 3 – 8 days, costing from $300 to $2,000. In addition, they also provide one-day volunteer opportunities as part of their Project S.A.V.E. (Special Assignment Volunteers for the Environment) as well as programs for school groups and companies committed to corporate social responsibility. Altogether, The Nature Corps has provided over 150,000 volunteer hours to maintaining national parks through projects such as the protection of General Sherman Sequoia — the largest living organism on Earth — and rehabilitating historic cabins.
Have you ever participated in voluntourism? What was your experience like? Please share in the comments below.
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