Trees For Life
Aiming to re-wild the Scottish highlands so it can be enjoyed for future generations, Trees for Life have planted more than a million new trees since their inception. Their Conservation Weeks see volunteers help out with planting as part of the organisation’s main restoration project, the 10,000 acre Dunfreggan forest located near Loch Ness. Meanwhile, Forest Discovery Weeks teach volunteers skills such as plant identification, wildlife tracking and foraging. Each week is led by two experienced guides, and cost £550 per person, including full accommodation. The work can be physically demanding, but it’s incredibly rewarding. Both weeks get booked up quickly, so be sure to reserve a spot well in advance.
Consider this your opportunity to experience a different side of Thailand. Set up as part of the 2004 tsunami relief effort, Andaman Discoveries encourages tourists to uncover the beauty and ruralness of the island, while also supporting indigenous communities and wildlife. The company organises tours of the picturesque Koh Surin National Park, which is home to white sandy beaches and the largest coral reef in Thailand, as well as the native Moken community. Visitors can also travel to the Similan Islands for exotic fish spotting, snorkelling, diving lessons, visits to ethical elephant sanctuaries, jungle sleepouts and island hopping tours. All the proceeds go towards supporting local development and preservation, as well as providing the Moken community with additional income.
The rural Bulungula Lodge is located on South Africa’s beautiful Wild Coast and is owned and managed by the Xhosa community from the nearby Niqleni village. Guests can explore 6km of untouched sandy beaches at Bulungula, where, between July and October, dolphins, exotic birds and fish can all be spotted. The lodge will also organise activities for guests run by the local villagers, including herb gathering, foraging, horse riding, fishing and guided history tours, where your money will go straight to where it’s needed most. Bulungula is also Fair Trade certified and eco-friendly, powered by solar panels and with hot water sourced on site.
Refugee Voices Tours
If you’re thinking of a short break, Refugee Voices Tours take place across Europe, in cities such as Berlin and Copenhagen. Run by refugees who fled Syria during the Civil War, tourists are asked for a voluntary donation in lieu of a fee, with all money going straight to the local guide. During the tour, your host will show you places of historical significance, while telling the story of their own journey, drawing parallels between the historical and the current political state of Syria. The aim is not just to support the guides financially, but also change visitors’ attitudes toward refugees and the migrant crisis. Tours take place every weekend, with the meeting spot listed on the Refugee Voices Tour’s website in advance.
Authenticitys’ Beach Clean-Up
Vibrant Barcelona sees over 9m tourists every year. To experience the Catalonian city in a new way, sign up to a paddle surfing lesson and beach clean-up workshop. Starting at €40, participants can learn all about the environmental challenges faced by the city-side beach, while contributing to the work done by local NGOs to try and keep the site clean and pollution free. Each workshop lasts an hour and half, including a one hour stand up paddleboard class, followed by an educational environmental tour and optional clean-up session. Running every day, book in advance as spaces fill up quickly, especially in summer.
Casa Das Garcas
The Casa Das Garcas lodge aims to promote jungle conservation and ecotourism. Founded by Quirimbas National Park and Istituto Oikos, it supports local initiatives attempting to protect the jungle and surrounding islands, both of which are known for their coral reefs and exotic wildlife. There are three tropical wooden bungalows, all with en suites, and two lodge apartments for guests to stay in, as well as a restaurant run by local women selling homegrown produce. The lodge is also suitable for families, making it a great opportunity for children to learn about the local biodiversity and the threat it faces.
Cardamom Tented Camp
Located in over 18,000 hectares of rainforest, the Cardamom Tented Camp in Cambodia is home to a plethora of exotic wildlife and breath-taking scenery. To help keep the land free from poachers and contractors, the camp, in partnership with the Wildlife Alliance, encourages tourists to take part in conservation work during their stay, as well as educational treks and kayaking tours. Luxury safari tents are also crafted from reclaimed or fast-growing materials provided by local communities, while the camp runs entirely on solar power. The water source is also completely sustainable, while the locally grown veg served on site directly supports Cambodian farmers.
Covering over 40 locations across Thailand, India and Vietnam, BackStreet Academy offers non-English speaking tour guides the chance to work in the tourism industry. Encouraging local craftsmen to talk about their skills, including a paddy field fisherman who can show you traditional fishing techniques or a chef who can introduce you to the world of Indian cuisine, the tours and workshops all come with an English translator to assist with the language barrier. Seeing as most of the hosts live below the poverty line, this is an opportunity for them to earn a living, as well as increase their confidence and social skills. Workshops and tours last between an hour and the whole day, and start at £10 per person.
Help preserve the Peruvian rainforest with a trip to Crees Manu. A jungle adventure like no other, choose to stay for two weeks or 12, with a jam-packed itinerary to keep you busy. Each day offers different activities, with Mondays dedicated to butterfly conservation, and Thursdays to Macaw (a species of exotic parrot) monitoring. At dawn, expect to be taken by boat to learn about the local area, before enjoying breakfast on the beach while watching the sunrise. You’ll also discover what it takes to care for the rainforest, and ensure its wildlife remains protected. One day a week, guests are given the opportunity to help local villagers with their bio gardens, which provide key nutrients to children, as well as acting as an additional source of income for families.
National Trust Working Holidays
The National Trust has a wide programme of working holidays and volunteering opportunities for people looking to contribute back at home. Local trips are available for adults, teens and families with young children, and range from active holidays, to archaeology based trips, or coast and countryside preservation weeks. Act as a ranger in the home counties, care for wild butterflies in the Sussex countryside, or replant meadow flowers on the Dorset coast. Each holiday provides cosy accommodation, as well as a rare opportunity to contribute to one of the UK’s most loved environmental and heritage conservation charities. Weekends start from £85.
Reef Doctor organises volunteer opportunities off the coast of Madagascar, allowing visitors the chance to contribute to the organisation’s efforts in marine conservation. Working in partnership with the Malagasy government and local communities, Reef Doctor helps protect marine habitats and support local fishing communities, where most of the villagers live in poverty. As well as collecting data through guided dives, you’ll also be invited to help with seagrass and turtle conservation, coral gardening and assist the local women’s association in expanding their skill set. All proceeds help the organisation continue their important work.
Ladaki Womens Travel
The Ladakhi Womens Travel Company is owned and operated purely by local Ladakhi women, organising female-led homestays and treks that journey across the rural Ladakh region of India, known for its breath-taking landscapes and crystal clear lakes. The agency is committed to paying their all-female team a fair wage, so that they can earn a living in their hometown rather than travelling to larger cities. The tours can last for one day or a full two weeks. If you opt for a longer trek, nights are spent in homestays run by local women, allowing participants and hosts an insight into each other’s culture. Day excursions start from €60.
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