Although travelers who seek adventure may not realize it, they have a lot in common with those who combine travel with volunteering. Adventure travel and volunteer travel both offer a unique perspective on a new destination. Whether you’re zip lining over a forest in Costa Rica or building a school for a local community in Russia, you are engaging with your travel destination on a whole new level.
If you’re an adventurer who’s new to the volunteering abroad world, don’t fret, there are an infinite number of ways to get involved in voluntourism. Some people may want to volunteer in the development office of an NGO in Peru or teach English to Chinese students. However, these more stationary positions might not be right for you. There are plenty of ways to get outside and explore a new place while contributing to the local community at the same time. These five countries offer many wonderful opportunities to volunteer for those with an adventurous spirit.
South Africa is a great place for a volunteer interested in conservation. More than 20,000 different plant species can be found in South Africa, making it one of the world’s megadiverse nations. Its wildlife also makes South Africa a popular safari destination. Volunteers can work on local wildlife reserves where activities may include building fences, clearing trails, tracking and counting wildlife, feeding animals, and more. Popular national parks include Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga and Addo Elephant National Park. With numerous exciting ways to spend your free time after volunteering, you will never get bored. The South African coast, a popular scuba diving destination, is a great place to volunteer with marine life, conservation, and just relax.
Ecuador is known all over the world for its beautifully unique landscapes and wildlife. The most popular types of volunteering in Ecuador are conservation and teaching. While the two can be mutually exclusive, there are also great opportunities to teach about sustainable practices when it comes to wildlife and environmental conservation. The Amazon rainforest and the Galapagos Islands’ extreme biodiversity ensure that the outdoor explorer will stay busy in Ecuador. Various endangered and near-endangered plants and animals in Ecuador benefit from volunteer work that focuses on protecting these rare species (like jaguars, pumas, and the howler monkey.) Unfortunately, human development and tourism has had large impacts on the endangerment of these precious animals and their habitats. Anyone looking for an adventure in Ecuador should look into volunteering on a beach or in a forest in this beautiful country.
Cambodia, located in Southeast Asia, is full of activities to keep a volunteer busy in their free time. Try viewing the cities and ancient ruins by bicycle or scuba diving to see the natural underwater wonders. A true Cambodian adventure goes beyond fun outdoor activities. As a volunteer you will live like a local while contributing to community development. Lend a hand in Cambodia to fight growing social issues that separate the rich from the poor. Volunteers are needed to support refugees and homeless, work in health clinics, teach children, and more.
Ghana is another great place to get outdoors and experience one-of-a-kind sights throughout the country. Similar to the other destinations on this list, Ghana has a number of national parks and coastal areas where volunteers can get their hands dirty. Help protect endangered elephants, monkeys, and birds throughout the country in wildlife reserves and parks. Sports fans will especially enjoy volunteering in Ghana – children in Ghana are particularly interested in sports, which lends to volunteer projects in sports development and coaching. Playing sports with kids at local school is one of the most fun ways to contribute to youth empowerment. Whatever your interest may be, there are a number of ways to get involved with Ghana’s local community.
A volunteer trip to Thailand isn’t complete without a cultural adventure and a volunteer project. The coast of Thailand and surrounding islands offer great breathtaking opportunities to snorkel, scuba, surf, and more. If water sports aren’t your thing, exploring Thailand’s tropical forests is another great way to spend your time. The different types of forest regions in Thailand are great for those interested in local conservation and the impact of tourism on the land and wildlife. Thailand has a number of elephant sanctuaries where you can get up close and personal with these giant animals who are exploited regularly. Give back to the local community by promoting sustainability, volunteering at a national park, or teaching English at a school or monastery.
No matter what kind of adventure travel you’re interested in, there are plenty of ways to explore the world while volunteering, too. Whatever efforts you can make to have a positive and meaningful impact on your host community are important. Step outside of your comfort zone and find an adventure volunteer program that fits your needs and interests.
Katie studied public relations, journalism, and Spanish at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA and is now working with Go Overseas in the Bay Area. Her experiences with traveling abroad combined with her passion for Latin American culture and community service fuel her writing and creativity. Follow Katie on Twitter @VolunteeReviews, Google+ and her Blog.