Habitat conservation holidays travel guide


Habitat conservation holidays take place around the world, and they all share common themes. They are about using your time off to do something fun, physical, satisfying and worthwhile. They involve travelling to remote regions, being immersed in a different culture and working on a project that directly benefits local landscapes, people and wildlife. Just remember that you’re not here to hug a monkey then go to the beach. Conservation holidays involve work, from planting trees to clearing scrub, sometimes in hot or humid conditions. You will have training and a timetable, perhaps including early starts, but don’t be put off. Getting up at 4am to count birds in Belize is much easier than getting up at 4am back home. There is free time, too; evenings and days off to explore, swim, or just hang out with new friends. This is an authentic travel experience, in which work, play and making a difference merge beautifully together.
Read more in our habitat conservation holidays travel guide.

Is a habitat conservation holiday for you?

Responsible Travel recommends

Go on a habitat conservation holiday if…

… you love being active outdoors. Although there is time to kick back, habitat conservation can get physical – think digging, pulling up non-native plants, fencing and restoring paths.
… you are happy to rough it. Accommodation is generally simple, from bungalows to tents, with rooms often shared and communal living the norm.
… you want a holiday, too. Most volunteering breaks include free time and days off, so you have the chance to explore or relax.
… you’re also interested in wildlife conservation. Many holidays include work with animals, from tracking tortoises to monitoring manatees.

Don’t go on a habitat conservation holiday if…

…you prefer to please yourself on holiday. You’ll have a work schedule, shifts and set hours, which vary trip to trip. Some include six days a week of work, others are more equally balanced with free time.
… you don’t do long haul. Some of the most exciting habitat conservation projects take place in far flung and remote destinations.
… you’re exhausted just running upstairs. While you don’t need to be an Olympian to handle this kind of trip, a good level of fitness is recommended.
…you’re not the sociable type. You will be working and living with other volunteers, project leaders and permanent staff, meeting local people and sometimes helping to prepare meals alongside other duties.
If you'd like to chat about habitat conservation or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Rosy & team.
01273 823 700

What do habitat conservation holidays entail?

Responsible Travel recommends

What kind of work will I be doing?

Habitat conservation is, obviously, a broad label, but generally implies working on the land. This might mean physical tasks such as planting trees, clearing weeds or invasive species, construction work, putting up fences or maintaining paths. Not all tasks are this physical, though, and you may spend a relaxed afternoon collecting seeds or tending plants in a nursery.
Habitat conservation holidays often involve some work with local wildlife, too. In the Seychelles, you might be maintaining trails one day, and monitoring turtle nests the next. In Belize, you could team tree planting with monitoring amphibians, construction with downloading footage from camera traps. Wildlife and habitat conservation go hand in hand, after all, and a variety of tasks and objectives brings pace and interest to a holiday.
Sometimes habitat conservation holidays respond to natural disasters. In Australia, for instance, volunteers were involved in helping farmers to get back on their feet after floods in 2011. Participants helped with rebuilding fences, clearing the land and replanting.

Who goes on these trips?

Habitat conservation holidays are sociable and inclusive. People from all around the world, of all ages and backgrounds, take part, leaving with a crowd of new friends, as well as wonderful memories. There’s usually no upper age limit and solo travellers are welcome, but often you need to be 18 or older to participate. It’s largely due to the physical nature of the work – jobs like scrub clearing and path maintenance are too arduous for youngsters. That said, many organisations are flexible and will consider young people of all ages, depending on the project’s demands.
Another huge appeal of a habitat conservation holiday is that no previous experience is needed. You don’t need to bring specific skills or qualifications, just a willingness to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. You will also need a reasonable level of fitness to cope with the work, as you’ll be active every day and may be walking a lot alongside your work.

Why are they so beneficial?

Crucially, you won’t be taking work away from local people. You will be supporting existing projects that employ local and overseas staff full time and need extra manpower, often doing work that simply wouldn’t get done otherwise. You’ll have the opportunity to work alongside and meet local people, too, and you’ll be contributing to the area’s economy, by eating locally sourced food, shopping and exploring the region.
Patricia, volunteering in Madagascar, in one of our holiday reviews: "The project in my opinion is a huge benefit to the local community as both the locals as well as the research staff work hand in hand as best as possible. The education about the nature is not one party teaching the other but rather both teaching each other with local guides who know the area inside out even in the dark and with the research staff teaching children how to protect this area in a sustainable way."

How long do the trips last?

Although a few tailor made habitat conservation holidays exist, most have fixed departures, with between five and 15 volunteers travelling at any time. They will then be working with conservation experts. This may just be a couple of guides, or can mean joining an already established project team. Trips vary in length; typically a week or two, although some projects require you to commit to longer. It’s often possible to volunteer for as long as you like – just ask.

Why should I pay to volunteer?

Although you are volunteering your time, a habitat conservation holiday is not free to join. This is still a holiday, booked through a specialist tour operator, and costs money like any other trip. You pay for accommodation and food, plus all the extras: inductions, support while on the ground, transfers, use of a bike or mobile phone, even a uniform. You should also expect guidance before you leave, help with visas and support if you’re fundraising to pay for your trip. You are also paying for reliability and reputation. The best responsible, well organised conservation holidays are run by organisations that have a long term relationship with hand-picked projects set up to deliver genuine benefit. Remember that even with this fee, a habitat conservation holiday is often an economical way to visit a remote, otherwise prohibitively expensive destination, connecting you with its people and wildlife in a way few travellers experience.
Anne Smellie, from our specialist supplier Oyster Worldwide, explains what goes into the cost of a habitat conservation holiday: "There are a huge number of projects out there, some genuine and some less genuine. We make sure you are choosing the best project in terms of ethics, safety, accessibility and knowledge of the country. It can take us a couple of years to get from first contact with a project to first volunteer on the ground. We visit all of the projects and know them intimately before anyone goes anywhere. Doing that research takes time and money. You are also paying for what’s included: accommodation, food, transfers from the airport, help and support, full time staff there who can look after you. Projects are taking on unskilled volunteers and families up for making a genuine contribution, but it costs them more money to do this than using fully trained people who can hit the ground running. We also give everyone a full briefing before they travel and an induction once there. It’s not like going to a resort where you just need to find out where the pool and the bar are. You need to be prepared culturally, work out if you’re fit enough, find out about the language and if you need to learn it. A lot of detail goes into preparing."
Written by Joanna Simmons
Seychelles Island conservation holiday

Seychelles Island conservation holiday

Volunteer on an exclusive island paradise in the Seychelles!

From US $2800 4 Weeks ex flights
Conservation volunteering in Belize

Conservation volunteering in Belize

Join an award winning research team in Belize

From £895 7 Days ex flights
Elephant & wildlife conservation volunteering in Sri Lanka

Elephant & wildlife conservation volunteering in Sri Lanka

Help wild elephants and wildlife in Sri Lanka

From £945 7 Days ex flights
Volunteer with turtles in Costa Rica

Volunteer with turtles in Costa Rica

Protect nesting turtles on Costa Rica's beautiful beaches

From £989 7 Days ex flights
Family volunteering with turtles in Costa Rica

Family volunteering with turtles in Costa Rica

Family turtle conservation volunteering in Costa Rica

From £749 7 Days ex flights
Family volunteering in Borneo

Family volunteering in Borneo

Family wildlife conservation volunteering project in Borneo

From £699 7 Days ex flights
Malawi conservation volunteering experience

Malawi conservation volunteering experience

2-12 weeks exploring and researching the Wild Heart of Africa

From £1370 14 Days ex flights
Big five conservation in South Africa

Big five conservation in South Africa

Volunteer with the Big Five in South Africa.

From £495 8 Days ex flights
Amazon conservation project in Peru

Amazon conservation project in Peru

Help conserve the species of the incredible Amazon jungle.

From £1295 16 Days ex flights
South Africa wildlife volunteering holiday

South Africa wildlife volunteering holiday

Conservation & animal care in a South African Big 5 Reserve

From £709 7 Days ex flights
Victoria Falls volunteer project, Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls volunteer project, Zimbabwe

Work with Victoria Falls' wildlife and communities

From £1120 14 Days ex flights
Wildlife conservation in South Africa

Wildlife conservation in South Africa

Protect wildlife in a stunning coastal reserve

From £795 7 Days ex flights
Photo credits: [Page banner: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region] [Topbox - Taking notes in a forest: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ] [Monitoring turtle tracks, Seychelles: Dr Mary Gillham Archive Project] [Who goes on these trips?: Frontierofficial] [Why are they so beneficial?: Frontierofficial] [Why should I pay to volunteer?: Pacific Southwest Region ]