Family volunteering map & highlights

From Thailand to Peru, Sri Lanka to South Africa, you can take your family to a wide array of places to volunteer on vital conservation or community led projects, while also taking an opportunity to visit natural and cultural landscapes that will stay with you forever. And often call you back again and again. Most volunteer placements do tend to be in developing countries with some long haul travel, but they have been created with school holidays in mind so that you, and the local project, can still gain as much as possible out of your contribution.
Bears in Romania

1. Bears in Romania

Suited to families with children aged 10+, stay in a Transylvanian mountain town and work in a sanctuary that has rescued over 100 bears from abuse or injury, many having been forced to perform for tourists or, sadly, been hunted. It’s fascinating work, contributing to rehabilitation, feeding and cleaning and giving tours around the sanctuary. One could almost describe this, in fact, as a holiday for care bears.
Desert elephants in Namibia

2. Desert elephants in Namibia

Tracking and monitoring elephants in the golden wilderness of the Namib Desert, as well as spending time with desert communities, helping in their schools and camping in the desert, this really is Namibian nirvana. Far from luxury, you will be roughing it out there on the sands, but doing the real thing – seeing wildlife and leading a wild life.
Elephants in Sri Lanka

3. Elephants in Sri Lanka

On the outskirts of Wasgamuwa NP, this amazing project protects wild elephants, whose numbers have dwindled from 20,000 to 5,000. Working with conservationists and scientists, families track elephants’ grazing trails, monitor them from a treehouse, photograph them, conduct surveys and live as part of the local community. With lots of jungle and wetland trekking, this is recommended for 10+.
Elephants in Thailand

4. Elephants in Thailand

Thailand’s long history of working elephants means that there are now many sanctuaries for the injured and orphaned. Volunteers help with feeding time, bath time and tidy up time, and can work with a mahout or trainer, learning how to elephant whisper and bond with one animal in particular. An extraordinary experience for volunteers of any age, working not only with elephants but also tribal communities.
Horses in South Africa

5. Horses in South Africa

You don’t need to be an expert rider to help in this coastal rehabilitation centre for horses that have been misused an abused. Just loving horses, feeding, grooming them are the main prerequisites. Although rehabilitating them does also mean riding them, so if you can trot and canter a bit, you will be able to enjoy the beach rides too. Minimum age 12 for this one.
Primary school teaching in Peru

6. Primary school teaching in Peru

Enjoy a fantastic cultural exchange (plus the opportunity to easily visit the spectacular Machu Picchu by train) with this two-week family volunteer project at a primary school in Cusco. Adults work as teaching assistants – or teachers if fully qualified – while your kids get to attend lessons and sport sessions while making lots of new friends. Your time and effort helps kids from the local community to thrive and meet their potential.
Monkeys in South Africa

7. Monkeys in South Africa

Working at the largest primate rehabilitation centre in South Africa, this really is one of the most hands on wildlife volunteering projects that your family could wish for. Preparing food, bottle feeding baby monkeys, but also some grafting too such as cleaning the enclosures. The most exciting bit, and educational for children, is that the ultimate aim is to prepare these monkeys for release into the wild.
Sea turtles in Costa Rica

8. Sea turtles in Costa Rica

As well as being one of the most family friendly and adventure filled places to holiday, Costa Rica has a superb conservation record. Put the two together, as well as a turtle nesting season from July-Dec, and you have three school holidays to get out there and help. Work involves monitoring sea turtles that nest here, protecting hatchlings, tagging and collecting data. Day and night, living beside the beach. Bliss.
Help communities in Tanzania

9. Help communities in Tanzania

On the banks of Lake Victoria in Tanzania are some of the poorest communities in East Africa. Whether you’re building water tanks or planting trees, your family can make a big difference to life for families here. Kids as young as seven can build goat sheds and your children might also enjoy playing football with new friends in the village.
Wildlife conservation in Borneo

10. Wildlife conservation in Borneo

Total immersion not only in rainforest life but also in community life, spending time with the Orang Sungai tribe and playing vital role in conservation. Working in a 'Corridor of Life' zone, important habitat for orangutans, pygmy elephants, monkeys and sun bears, work includes wildlife monitoring from Kinabatangan River plus planting trees on its banks.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Family volunteering or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.


Anne Smellie, from our family volunteering holidays supplier, Oyster Worldwide:
“Don’t just go somewhere because it’s easy, somewhere like South Africa because English is spoken. The purpose of a volunteering holiday is culture and conservation, not ease.

If you travel with a good company it will be easy anyway. Think about what you’re passionate about, but above and beyond that. Book your trip with an organisation that you trust, that has a good reputation and that – very importantly – has been out on the trips that they champion. My personal favourites are monkey rehabilitation projects in South Africa, the turtle conservation project in Costa Rica and the family wildlife conservation holiday in Borneo.”
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Surkov Vladimir] [Bears in Romania: Beverly & Pack] [Desert elephants in Namibia: Eric Bauer] [Elephants in Sri Lanka: Kosala Bandara] [Elephants in Thailand: Christian Haugen] [Horses in South Africa: Di Jones] [Peru teaching: Family Volunteering] [Monkeys in S.Africa: Zemlinki!] [Sea turtles in Costa Rica: Oyster Worldwide] [Help communities in Tanzania: DFID - UK Department for International Development] [Wildlife conservation in Borneo: shankar s.]