Ecotourism Vacations

20 Ways to See the World and Help Save the Planet

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Ecotourism Vacations


For many travelers these days, particularly millennials, finding a way to make travel more meaningful has become a top priority. Globetrotters are increasingly pursuing journeys for a greater good, opting for trips that include time to volunteer, work on a conservation project, protect endangered animals or some other activity that allows for giving back while also exploring a new part of the world. Here are 20 opportunities that combine travel with doing good deeds.

Whale and Dolphin Research


Where: The Azores
Help conserve our planet's most treasured marine life with Dive Worldwide's Just Conservation trips. The trips offer the opportunity to work on carefully selected projects alongside renowned scientists while also enjoying encounters with some of the world's most fascinating sea creatures. Dive Worldwide's sperm whales and bottlenose dolphin trip, for instance, allows participants to join a research team in the Azores that's studying the animals to support future conservation of the species. The experience includes studying sperm whale ecology, population, habitat and behavior, and comparing historical data trends. The trip cost is about $1,975 per person and includes hotel accommodations, all meals and transfers to and from the airport. Advanced diving experience is not required. There are a variety of conservation roles available on each Dive Worldwide trip, each with differing levels of physical demand.

Farm Animal Rescue


Where: Australia
Explore Queensland, Australia, while also supporting a registered charity that rescues farm animals from abuse, neglect, and situations where they're in danger. Participants help with daily cleaning of barns and coops, feeding, health checks, light maintenance, monitoring herd movements, and intensive care of ill, old and baby animals. The experience includes free accommodations with Wi-Fi and a swimming pool. It is just one of countless opportunities listed by WorkAway, a site that's designed to connect travelers interested in volunteering and cultural exchange with more than 3,000 hosts in 170 countries.

Cotopaxi Park Service Project


Where: Ecuador
Support conservation initiatives in Ecuador's Cotopaxi National Park and on private reserves within the Podocarpus-El Condor Biosphere. This five-day experience with Adventure Life includes assisting with reforestation efforts by planting and tending saplings and helping to spread information about conservation efforts by creating signage that will be posted in the park and on adjacent reserves. The trip is not all work. It also includes horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking tours in the Ecuadorian highlands. Prices start at $1,348 per person and include four breakfasts, five lunches and four dinners; four nights' accommodations, private guide, gear rental, park entrance fee, and supplies for service projects.

Climate Change Investigation


Where: Red Sea, Egypt
Combine an opportunity for world-class diving with being part of an important research effort being conducted by Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association. The organization is studying the causes of coral bleaching and monitoring the marine ecosystem in the Red Sea. The seven-night trip includes learning how to gather water data with state-of-the-art scientific equipment, conducting onboard and underwater experiments, and nightly lectures about such topics as climate change and marine life. Prices range from about $1,090 to $1,400 and includes meals, dive guides, Wi-Fi, dive insurance, research equipment, and evening lectures.

Leatherback Turtle Conservation


Where: Costa Rica
Launched in 2008, SEE Turtles aims to protect the species through eco-tourism. An independent, Oregon-based non-profit, the organization is focused on protecting endangered turtles throughout Latin America by supporting community-based conservation efforts. It offers volunteer trips to such places as Costa Rica, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Belize. The Costa Rica Leatherback Volunteer Vacation ($1,495) involves spending four nights working with the giant turtles at a research station. Activities range from patrolling nesting beaches at night to collecting eggs and moving them to hatcheries, and working with hatchlings. During downtime, participants can hang out at the beach or explore the surrounding area. Prices include in-country transport, meals, lodging, activities, guides, and a donation to turtle conservation.

Sustainable Development Projects


Where: Ecuador
The youth-travel company Contiki offers various itineraries that allow for visiting communities that work with the company's partner, WE Charity. Participants engage in sustainable development projects alongside local families. Contiki's seven-day Lava Line ME to WE trip ($1,429), for instance, includes visiting the Ecuadoran capital of Quito, crossing the Equatorial line into the Southern hemisphere, and then to Los Rios, where half the trip will be spent working on local initiatives, such as building classrooms or local homes. One downside of these trips, however, is their age limits. They allow 18- to 35-year-olds only. Those over 35 will apparently have to opt for another way to help the planet.

Sanctuary for Bears


Where: Romania
Work with bears at Romania's largest bear sanctuary, a place that was created as a haven for bears that have been abused. Located in the Carpathian Mountains, the sanctuary needs volunteers to help with preparing food, monitoring animal well-being. and leading sanctuary tours. The sanctuary is home to 84 bears, with 20 more due to be rescued. The trip cost, $1,227, includes airport transfers, accommodations in a flat in the center of a medieval city, a donation to the sanctuary, and a book about the sanctuary. The experience also includes a day trip to Dracula's castle and a traditional Romanian meal in the mountains.

Wild Bee Conservation


Where: Costa Rica
Work alongside leading scientists to combat some of the planet's most critical environmental challenges while also experiencing some of the most astounding locations in the world. Earthwatch Institute trips focus on such things as wildlife and ecosystems; climate change; ocean health; and archaeology and culture. The Conserving Wild Bees and Other Pollinators of Costa Rica trip lets participants work with local communities to plant trees around crop areas, creating so-called agroforests, which benefit pollinators like bees. Prices, which include accommodations, food and all research costs, start at $1,750.

Environmental Education Project


Where: Ubud, Bali
International Volunteer HQ offers opportunities around the world for those passionate about eco-volunteering and supporting environmental projects. International volunteers support marine conservation, jungle conservation, and sustainable, organic farming efforts. Volunteer-abroad projects are available year-round in destinations ranging from Italy to Madagascar, Peru and Morocco. The environmental education project in Bali involves teaching young Balinese children about the harm caused by plastic water bottles, food wrappers, and more. Program fees start at $295 per week and include program orientation, accommodation, meals, and around-the-clock in-country support.

Community Project in Africa


Where: Kenya
Similar to Contiki's trips, African Travel offers a four-day ME to WE opportunity in Kenya. This experience allows participants to work alongside Maasai and Kipsigi community members on such projects as helping to build a village school. Participants can also learn the art of traditional Maasai beading from local women and visit a local market and health-care center to learn about the economics of the village. The unique trip ($2,195) also includes a visit with the renowned David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage, which is among the leading organizations in the world working to save elephants.

Sustainable Organic Farming


Where: Ghana
Looking for a short-term volunteer opportunity abroad?, one of the top platforms for social impact travel experiences, offers immersive day activities in a variety of categories including women's empowerment, economic empowerment, environment, animals, and human rights, to name a few. The Accra Organic Farming Tour in Ghana includes learning about sustainable agriculture in Accra while also helping the community expand its own organic farms. You'll also be able to sample fresh produce and learn about organic pesticides. The three-hour experience costs about $62.

Working with Children


Where: Peru
A country known for its ancient ruins and breathtaking landscapes, Peru is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. United Planet offers an opportunity to see the country while also volunteering on a variety of worthwhile projects, including working at an orphanage, or a daycare or after-school program. Participants interact with abused, abandoned, or orphaned children who need mental stimulation and assistance developing healthy social skills. Prices start at $1,995. The fee includes lodging at a local home, two home-cooked meals daily, more than eight hours of Spanish lessons and cultural activities and excursions, as well as in-country airport transportation, and medical travel insurance.

Teaching English Abroad


Where: Sudan
Help Sudanese locals improve their English language skills with the Sudan Volunteer Programme. The U.K.-based organization sends graduates and near graduates to Sudan to teach English at public higher education institutions. Volunteers must pay for their airfare, but the remainder of the trip's costs are covered. In addition, a small stipend is paid to participants. Volunteers can be placed in Khartoum, Omdurman, Wad Medani and Kassala, among other locations.

Supporting the Organic Movement


Where: Thailand
A worldwide movement connecting volunteers with organic farmers and growers, WWOOF (formerly known as Working Weekends on Organic Farms) specializes in linking people who are passionate about healthy food, healthy living and a healthy planet. Volunteers live alongside hosts helping with daily tasks and experiencing life as a farmer. Board and lodging is offered in exchange for a day's work on the farm. Stays can range from one week to many years. Hosts are available in 53 countries. In Thailand for instance, there are dozens of farms offering farm stays, from an organic riceberry farm to a coffee farm in Chiang Rai.

African Wildlife Orphanage


Where: Zimbabwe
GoEco offers hands-on opportunities to do meaningful work on six continents in more than 50 countries. Projects range from humanitarian aid to marine conservation and education. The Zimbabwe wildlife orphanage experience lets participants spend time at a haven for animals that have slim chances of survival in the wild. The animals have been orphaned, abandoned, injured, or born in captivity. Featured on numerous documentaries because of its pioneering work, the orphanage is one of the largest and most successful wildlife rehabilitation and release centers in Africa. Volunteer experiences — which include preparing food, feeding animals, cleaning enclosures and more — range from two to 12 weeks and start at $1,520. Fees cover housing, three meals a day, airport transfers and health insurance.

Women's Empowerment Effort


Where: India
Contribute to increasing gender equality by working with disadvantaged women in India with Global Vision International. This GVI trip brings travelers to Kerala, where in addition to working with women hosting educational lessons or leading health workshops, participants can immerse themselves in Indian culture, kayak along the river, cycle through villages, and spend a night on a houseboat. A two-week experience starts at $1,795 and the organization also offers scholarships for those who cannot afford that price.

Child Education and Health


Where: Morocco
One of the most stunning and colorful countries to visit, there's also a significant need for volunteer support in Morocco, where education and child health are among the most pressing social issues. Cross-Cultural Solutions offers volunteer travel opportunities ranging from one to 12 weeks and starting at $2,490. The price includes accommodations in a traditional Moroccan home as well as cultural activities. Morocco is just one of many destinations where Cross-Cultural Solutions operates.

Elephant Sanctuary


Where: Thailand
A low-cost international volunteer organization, Love Volunteers offers projects in more than 34 countries. Opportunities range from one week to six months. The elephant sanctuary volunteer trip ($619) allows participants to work with elephants at risk of abuse or neglect. Program fees cover accommodations and food and are used to ensure the elephants remain in a healthy, natural environment.

Wildlife Conservation Experience


Where: South Africa
Support community efforts and conservation in South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Malawi, and Zanzibar with Khaya Volunteer Projects. The organization assists local partners and projects focused on children, communities, healthcare, wildlife and education. The Big Five Wildlife Conservation experience in South Africa involves a unique conservation initiative that allows animals to be reintroduced to the area where they once roamed freely. Short-term volunteer projects include game counting and monitoring, nocturnal predator monitoring, and more. Prices start at $675 and include accommodation, meals, and once-a-week laundry service. All training programs are also included.

Global Exchange Program


Where: Medellin, Colombia
For student travelers seeking a way to give back while globetrotting, CAS Trips offers a global exchange program in Medellin, Colombia, that includes taking part in volunteer and charity projects. The Medellin work will focus on helping to regenerate the city's urban landscape as well as on reforestation and sustainability projects in Rio Claro. When not lending a helping hand, participants can enjoy activities such as zip lining, rafting, salsa classes, and more. The trip's cost is $699.