Holidays don’t just have to be about relaxing on the beach or city sightseeing – you can give something back by volunteering your time, with some amazing animal causes to help. You don’t need months free to be able to make a difference with your holiday time either. Here are five opportunities to volunteer with animals around the world which you can take part in even if you only have a week or less to spare.
1.Animal shelter in the USA
Best Friends is the US’ biggest ‘no-kill’ animal shelter, set among 3700 acres of countryside outside Kanab in Utah. They look after over 1700 ill or unwanted animals, including dogs, cats, horses, pigs, rabbits and birds. You can volunteer with them for anything from half a day, helping to feed, clean and socialise the animals – you can even take a dog back to your hotel for an overnight stay. When you’re not volunteering the area is full of spectacular landscapes to explore, with Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon within easy reach.
2. Elephant sanctuary in Thailand
Located outside of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, the Elephant Nature Park is dedicated to the conservation of the endangered Asian elephant. They take care of disabled, blind and orphaned elephants and those which have been badly treated, as well as other rescued animals. You can visit the park for a day and help bathe the elephants, or volunteer for a week and help out with feeding and caring for them. There’s also free time to learn more about Thai culture and you can visit the temples and markets of Chiang Mai.
3. Bear tracking in Sweden
Get away from everything out into the wilderness of Northern Sweden to help with a bear conservation project. The week-long volunteering trip involves tracking brown bears in the Sonfjällets National Park. You stay in a cosy wooden cabin in the forest and spend the days in hideouts looking out for bears. You might also see other local wildlife like lynx, reindeer and wolverine too. There’s also time to explore the National Park, with opportunities for hiking, canoeing and fly fishing.
4. Monkey sanctuary in South Africa
South Africa’s International Primate Rescue’s sanctuary is home to many different species of monkey, including capuchins, macaques, marmosets and squirrel monkeys. Volunteers learn all about primate behaviour and help out with cleaning and feeding the monkeys, and once during the week they get to spend time in the enclosures with them. The sanctuary is based just outside Pretoria and they organise trips for volunteers in their free time to local villages, and other nature and animal sanctuaries in the area.
5. Sea turtle research in Costa Rica
On Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, Ostional National Wildlife Refuge is a nesting site for three of the world’s seven types of sea turtle. In a natural phenomenon called ‘arribadas’, thousands of Olive Ridley turtles leave the sea and crawl up the beach to lay their eggs. During the week-long volunteer programme you help improve knowledge about the species to plan future conservation strategies. Volunteers patrol at night to look for nesting female turtles, who are measured and tagged. And in the daytime there’s free time to spend on the beach.