How to get the most out of your conservation volunteering experience

Conservation volunteering can be an amazing experience, especially if you have the chance to volunteer abroad. Holidays are great, I am sure most of us love sitting on a beach with a cocktail, however conservation volunteering holidays offer you the chance to do something completely different and something that can really make a difference. Even if you do not go abroad you are still contributing to our knowledge and understanding of wildlife and thereby hopefully helping its preservation. We are surrounded by such a beautiful, vast and varied environment, it is wonderful to be given the opportunity to explore it and ensure its survival for future generations.

One of the great things about conservation volunteering is there are generally very few requirements other than a basic level of physical fitness. You do not need any training or scientific knowledge. This is for anyone who is passionate about protecting wildlife; there are often trips that focus on specific subsets of animals so you can pick a cause or a creature that particularly appeals to you. For example I have loved snow leopards from a very young age; going on a conservation volunteering holiday, tracking them and their habits to help wild snow leopards survive is pretty much a childhood dream come true. Trips like this can mean you end up doing things you never realistically thought you would. When you envision all the things you would like to achieve in your lifetime, isn’t contributing to help save the natural environment and its inhabitants one of them?

Getting the most out of your conservation trip starts with picking the right trip and organisation for you; basically, do your research. Find a trip that inspires you, this means however the trip goes you will feel satisfied knowing that you contributed to a cause that really matters to you, that you emphasise with. Usually the trips are centred on a certain subset of animals in a particular area, there is something for everyone; pandas, elephants, tigers, dolphins, gorillas, wolves, sharks etc.

When you have chosen a cause that captures your interest, then you need to look at the organisations that run this. Obviously it is best to find an organisation that is widely reputable and that you can trust. There are also subtler issues; although you are unlikely to be living in luxury whilst conservation volunteering, it is important you are travelling with a company that caters to and is considerate of your needs. You are paying for this experience after all and after a long day of travelling you want to be comfortable and well rested. Look at what kind of accommodation you will be offered.

Another important consideration when planning your expedition is what will be expected of you on the trip. This will be detailed by any good organisation but it is important to think about what you are comfortable and capable of doing. It is important to travel with an organisation that is flexible and understands if you may need a day of resting or some time to yourself.

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Alice is a keen traveller, having recently been to South America and volunteered in South Africa she is currently working on behalf of Biosphere Expeditions, a conservation volunteering organization offering a wide range of overseas expeditions.

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