Meet the orangutans of Matang on your next wildlife conservation trip (Shutterstock)
List Words : Wanderlust Team | 13 May 2019

8 of the best wildlife conservation volunteering trips

From saving whales in Portugal to tracking rhinos in Zimbabwe, these top conservation tours are all about volunteering your time, getting stuck in and importantly, giving back to our planet's wildlife...

1. Save the whales in the Azores

A whale near Mount Pico in the Azores (Shutterstock)

A whale near Mount Pico in the Azores (Shutterstock)

Assist a team of marine biologists in important whale and dolphin conservation research in the beautiful Azores with The Great Projects.

The project combines conservation research with ecotourism, giving you the opportunity to take part in field research as well as conduct whale watching tours.

There’s plenty to see. Faial Island is one of the best destinations for encountering whales and dolphins in the whole world, with more than 25 species of whales and dolphins attracted here by the deep waters and the abundance of food.

The project is run by a team of marine biologists who have been conducting whale photo ID studies in the Azores for over 10 years, and focuses mainly on the individual identification of blue and sperm whales. Dive in and be part of the cause!

Trip: Whale Conservation in The Azores

Who: The Great Projects

When: On the 1st & 15th, Apr to July

How long: Eight days

How much: From £605 (exc. flights)

2. Track Zimbabwe’s endangered rhinos and elephants

A rhino in Zimbabwe (Shutterstock)

A rhino in Zimbabwe (Shutterstock)

Help track Zimbabwe’s threatened rhinos and elephants on this close-knit, family run volunteering programme in the beautiful Mashonaland East Province with The Great Projects.

The project is run in conjunction with the Travers family, who founded the program back in the 1950s. It has grown into a 10,000-acre game reserve. As a volunteer, you will tackle crucial conservation activities such as feeding and walking with the reserve's elephants and rhinos, volunteering at a local school to help educate the children, and supporting general maintenance around the reserve. 

The reserve is home to the big five, so during your stay you might just spot all of Africa’s most famous animals in their natural environment.

Trip: Rhino and Elephant Conservation

Who: The Great Projects

When: Every Monday

How long: Seven days

How much: From £706 (exc. flights)

3. Meet the Orangutans of Matang

An orangutan waiting for your help in the Matang Wildlife Centre (Shutterstock)

An orangutan waiting for your help in the Matang Wildlife Centre (Shutterstock)

Borneo’s orangutan population is under threat from deforestation, mining and forest fires. You can help them on this volunteer programme at the world-renowned Matang Wildlife Centre with The Great Projects.

The Matang Wildlife Centre is a refuge for orangutans that have been injured, orphaned or rescued. You’ll be involved in a range of vital activities including tasks that encourage and promote natural orangutan behaviours.

As a volunteer, you will leave a lasting impact on the lives of these incredible great apes and an array of other exotic animal species, whilst also working towards protecting their future.

Trip: Orangutan Conservation in Borneo

Who: The Great Projects

When: 5th & 19th every month

How long: 14 nights

How much: From £1,280 (exc. flights)

4. Sustainable Galapagos Island Hopping

A sea turtle walking on the beach in the Galapagos Islands (Shutterstock)

A sea turtle walking on the beach in the Galapagos Islands (Shutterstock)

Tour the incredible Galapagos Islands sustainably and help fight invasive species on this affordable seven day adventure with TravelLocal.

The tour is designed to be as sustainable as possible. Day tours are run by former local fishermen who have given up fishing to operate in tourism. Your hotels are first class, but also among the most ecologically responsible on the islands.

You’ll also spend a day at Hacienda Tranquil, participating in their reforestation programme, aimed at removing the invasive species that are threatening endemic species.  

The focus is on the eastern islands of the archipelago. If you want to enjoy the complete Galapagos experience, why not add an eight day cruise of the western islands, on one of the responsibly operated yachts of the Tip Top fleet?

Trip: Sustainable Galapagos Island Hopping

Who: TravelLocal

When: Flexible departures throughout the year

How long: Seven days

How much: From £2,680 (exc. flights)

5. Stay in a Romanian bear sanctuary

A Carpathian brown bear in the Romanian wilderness (Shutterstock)

A Carpathian brown bear in the Romanian wilderness (Shutterstock)

Since opening in 2005, the Romanian Bear Sanctuary has grown to become the country's epicentre for the care of rescued brown bears. Now, it's one of the largest bear sanctuaries in Europe. This is your chance to join the team and help these magnificent animals.

Situated in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, near the city of Brasov, you will spend your days in the forest, at the bear sanctuary, working closely with the full-time members of staff as they endeavour to safely rehouse suffering bears. You will help to prepare food, feed and monitor the bears, assist with sanctuary tours and take part in general bear conservation tasks.

You will also have the chance to see a beautiful side of Eastern Europe, characterised by stunning scenery, warmly welcoming locals and incredibly diverse culture – all making for a unique and unforgettable experience.

Trip: Romanian Bear Sanctuary

Who: The Great Projects

When: Enquire for dates

How long: Seven days

How much: From £925 (exc. flights)

6. Discover Equatorial Guinea

Green Turtle heads to sea at sunrise in Equatorial Guinea (Shutterstock)

Green Turtle heads to sea at sunrise in Equatorial Guinea (Shutterstock)

Discover one of Africa’s most fascinating and least visited countries – and experience the visionary conservation projects that are transforming it – on this adventure through Equatorial Guinea with Undiscovered Destinations, lasting 10 days.

In Moka, you will visit a nature research centre and learn about the work of the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program. In Ureka, you’ll see the work they are doing to protect local turtle nesting sites, and have the chance to see turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. 

In the coastal city of Bata, you’ll find a strong cultural scene, centred mainly around the Spanish, French and Equatoguinean Cultural Centres, which feature musical performances, art displays and other events throughout the year.

A visit to Monte Allen National Park is a sombre reminder of the work still to be done. Once home to forest elephants, Western Lowland Gorillas and chimpanzees, the park has suffered from poaching and neglect. 

Trip: Equatorial Guinea Encompassed

Who: Undiscovered Destinations

When: Nov & Dec

How long: 10 days

How much: From £3,745 (exc. flights)

7. Help out at South Africa's Wildlife Orphanage

A volunteer at the Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa (The Great Projects)

A volunteer at the Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa (The Great Projects)

Help the team at Limpopo's Wildlife Orphanage in teaching children about the importance of wildlife conservation, as part of this inspiring programme run by The Great Projects.

Each Monday, the project welcomes a group of eight local children for one week. The unique, non-profit bush school and wildlife orphanage provides the optimal setting for children to interact with small and large African animals in a safe and secure environment, and as a result, learn about their importance in the surrounding ecosystems.

As a volunteer, you’ll help to teach these children about the animals and their welfare, along with conservation and the country's heritage.

The overall aim of doing so is to encourage youngsters to interact with their surroundings, and discover a passion for caring for their environment and the species residing within it. 

Trip: Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa

Who: The Great Projects

When: Every Saturday

How long: Seven days

How much: From £490 (exc. flights)

8. Protect Raja Ampat's marine diversity

Diving with a turtle in Raja Ampat (Shutterstock)

Diving with a turtle in Raja Ampat (Shutterstock)

Join this expedition to dive unexplored reefs, and partake in marine conservation amongst the islands of the remote Raja Ampat archipelago, in Western Papua with The Great Projects.

Situated within the Coral Triangle, the islands of Raja Ampat are surrounded by one of the most diverse oceans on earth. 80% of the world’s total coral species can be found here, and over 1,300 species of fish call the region home. Six of the seven species of sea turtle are here, too, alongside 27 varieties of marine mammals. 

By joining this expedition, you will work alongside a team of science officers and conservationists in a quest to provide maximum information about the reefs to the local governments and communities. Tasks include habitat mapping and survey dives and community initiatives working towards the overall protection of the reefs.

With two dives per day and plenty of opportunity to make a difference to the local community, this is one project sure to leave its mark on you.

Trip: Marine Conservation in Raja Ampat

Who: The Great Projects

When: Enquire for dates

How long: 14 days

How much: From £1,095 (exc. flights)