From tagging (and swimming with) sharks to renovating homes for ill children, volunteer vacations could offer richly rewarding experiences.
Vacation time can mean relaxing on the beach or unwinding in a luxury hotel—and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it can also mean choosing opportunities to give back so your time off is fulfilling as well as refreshing. Otherwise known as voluntourism, it’s a chance to undertake unique and enriching experiences, whether that means swimming with sharks in the South Pacific or rebuilding homes in South America.
Here are four voluntourism options that could be worth a closer look.
Tag—and swim with—sharks
What it’s about: Dive in the cobalt blue waters of the South Pacific as you help scientists protect one of the most endangered marine animals on the planet. Based at the island of Fiji, you’ll work as a research assistant, getting a chance to see these amazing ocean predators up close. You’ll also learn how to safely feed, identify, and tag sharks in their natural habitat. Organizers can teach you how to scuba dive if you’ve never done so before; if you’re an experienced diver, you can also earn a Divemaster certification during your visit. On land, you’ll live in shared lodging with other volunteers in Pacific Harbour, considered the adventure capital of Fiji.
What it costs: ranges from $4,215 for two weeks to $31,465 for a year
More information: Learn more about Projects Abroad’s shark conservation program.
Help improve homes in Bolivia
What it’s about: Many homes in Bolivia have issues with water and sanitation, and they could also have unstable roofs and dirt floors that pose health risks. As a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Global Village, you’ll assist with disaster recovery work, help take care of minor and major home repairs, and work with vulnerable populations including children or others in need. Your stay also includes the opportunity to visit cathedrals and museums, and interact with the local community.
What it costs: $2,140 (9-day program)
More information: Learn more about the housing project in Bolivia.
Study climate change in the Arctic
What it’s about: Help researchers measure the impacts of global warming and climate change near Churchill, a small town in northeastern Canada on the Hudson Bay. During the summer or fall, you’ll have a chance to don waist-high waders to take water samples and check the abundance of fish and frogs; you can also help monitor tree health by taking tree core samples for study. In the winter, you’ll travel between research sites on a sled pulled by a snowmobile, with the chance to build and sleep in an igloo for one night.
What it costs: The 11-day program costs $3,675 to $3,695.
More information: Learn more about Earthwatch Institute’s arctic program.
Help malnourished children in Tanzania
What it’s about: Your visit to the African country of Tanzania can help fight the impaired growth many children there experience due to poor nutrition and other causes. As a volunteer, you’ll participate in activities such as distributing nutritional supplements, planting EarthBox gardens to produce fruits and vegetables, accompanying staff on home visits, and presenting parent workshops. In your free time, you can attend local events and experience the local culture; you can also enjoy a safari in nearby Ruaha National Park, East Africa’s largest park.
What it costs: Prices start at $2,295 for one week, $2,395 for two weeks and $2,495 for three weeks (a $233 discount applies when registering six months in advance while an additional $200 discount applies if you travel with another volunteer). All program costs (including air fare) are tax-deductible for U.S. taxpayers.
More information: Learn more about Global Volunteers’ Tanzania program.
This information is provided for educational and illustrative purposes only.