While travel for most folks focus on the “Who,” “What,” “Why,” “When,” and “Where” of a particular destination, there are many who are also incorporating the “How”—as in “How can I help”—into their travel plans.
It’s just this willingness to expand their horizons that has brought new light, and new outreach and participation, in experiencing the priceless benefits of a Volunteer Vacation.
Just check the internet these days, and you’ll find a wealth of Volunteer Vacation opportunities for a wide variety of focuses, interests, ages, worldwide destinations and more. Following are a handful of organizations offering opportunities where you can lend you time and talent, and truly enrich your life in the process.
Trinidad, Tobago and Turtles
Encouraging safe, eco-friendly tourism that protects the natural habitat, as well as brings international attention to the endangered leatherback turtle, is among the focuses of several environmental organizations in the dual-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.
Every March through September as many as 12,000 beautiful, massive, 800 pound leatherback turtles amble from the pounding surf in which they have traveled for thousands of miles, to the shores in Grand Riviere Beach in Trinidad to lay their eggs on the very beaches where they hatched. In the process, these creatures offer visitors an unprecedented opportunity to witness this extraordinary life-cycle process up-close and personal.
According to the Hon. Stephen Cadiz, Minister of Tourism, “Each year, Trinidad and Tobago welcomes visitors from all over the world who are interested in seeing the turtles in their natural habitat as well as the opportunity to aid researchers who are tirelessly working to record data about the turtle population. It is vitally important to the world eco-system and our own tourism that, worldwide, everything is done to protect the endangered turtles.”
Accommodations offering “Voluntourism” experiences include Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel, (www.mtplaisir.com), Acajou (www.acajoutrinidad.com), and Anise Resort and Spa (www.aniseresortandspa.com) in Trinidad, and Turtle Beach Hotel (www.rexresorts.com/tobago/hotel-tobago-turtle-beach-by-rex-resorts.html) in Tobago.
Local and international organizations working in this effort include Turtle Village Trust (www.turtlevillagetrust.org), Nature Seekers (www.natureseekers.org), See Turtles (www.seeturtles.org/40/trinidad-sea-turtles.html), and Save Our Sea Turtles (http://sos-tobago.org).
Elephants Never Forget
And neither will you after helping to save the endangered Indian Elephant in Jaipur, India. A unique opportunity to volunteer in a wildlife conservation project is being offered by the organization United Planet at the Jaipur Elephant Sanctuary. Their goal is to raise awareness about and help save the endangered Indian elephant population.
The fun, educational and rewarding environment of this program, the first of its kind for this well established organization representing causes such as wildlife conservation, women’s empowerment, social development, and healthcare, encompasses hands-on, interactive care and rescue of the elephants for volunteers from all over the world, coupled with what they call a “complete cultural immersion” experience.
According to the organization’s representatives, “Elephants have long been an important part of Indian culture and religion – and volunteers can help ensure that these animals receive proper care and respect. Volunteers choosing to work on the Elephant Sanctuary Quest will live and work along side local people, feeding the elephants, bathing and cleaning them, and performing general maintenance and upkeep of the facility. Volunteers will learn first-hand how to care for the majestic creatures while developing relationships with both the animals and their handlers.”
In addition to the opportunity in Jaipur, the organization also offers short and long term volunteer abroad programs in over 40 countries.
I’ve got a few more enlightening volunteer travel destinations coming up.