Imagine a travel experience where you could interact with local wildlife, make a difference in the world, and maybe even get paid to do it! As a wildlife biologist I am interested in the unique opportunities available in the field of wildlife conservation. Some of the most interesting travel experiences are focus on volunteer positions and conservation oriented short term employment. Wildlife travel could turn out to be the most interesting and educational experience of your life, and probably one of the cheapest!
There are tons of paid wildlife job openings, unpaid volunteer positions offering free room and board, and pay-to-play wildlife ecotourism experiences. Here are a few of the most interesting ones I have found.
Sea Turtle Conservation and Research
Join the Leatherback Trust at their Sea Turtle Biology Training Camp in Playa Cabuyal Costa Rica! Volunteers can participate in researching the nesting ecology of green sea turtles, tracking turtles with radio telemetry. This is considered a volunteer position, they charge $16 per day to international volunteers to cover food and lodging at the training camp. Work at this location is truly rustic, housing is provided but there is no hot water, cell phone service or internet. Visit their website here.
King Cobra Radio Telemetry
Definitely not your typical wildlife experience. As a wildlife biologist who has tracked condors, fish and lizards using radio telemetry, an opportunity to track wild cobras would be an adventure!
Sakaerat Conservation provides an amazing tropical location to perform ecological studies at the Sakaerat Biological Reserve, Thailand. Duties include tracking wild cobras, provide outreach to local villagers, and monitor camera traps. This is an unpaid position providing free room and board for volunteers. Visit their website here.
Jaguar Rescue Center Animal Care
Support their rehabilitation efforts and help save wild animals of Costa Rica. The Rescue Center in Punta Cocles offers visitors wildlife viewing experiences including jaguars, monkeys, toucans and sloths for as low as $20. For the more adventurous traveler join the Center as an intern or animal care volunteer! Visit their website here.
Orangutan Rehabilitation Volunteer
The Orangutan Health Project in Sumatra Indonesia seeks year-round volunteers for two week increments. What an awesome experience to interact with wild orangutans and experience a rustic Indonesian setting. Volunteers will assist field assistants in data collection, organizing samples, preparing data sheets and cleaning. This is a volunteer position that includes free housing and meals. Housing and food is very basic and you will be camping for up to 4 nights in the jungle. Click here for more information about the program.
Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp
Supporting more than 25 rescued elephants the Golden Triangle Elephant Camp in Chiang Rai Thailand was established in a traditional mahout, or elephant trainers, village. This is an ecotourism location where you pay to interact with rescue elephants. Working with rescue elephants you have the opportunity to learn to “drive” the elephants and even perform yoga on top of one! Check out their website for more information.
Tolga Bat Hospital Care Worker
These cute little flying foxes are not your typical creepy bat most people think of. The Tolga Bat Hospital in Atherton Australia rehabilitates about 10 species of local bats with afflictions ranging from barbed wire injury to tick paralysis and orphaned baby bats. They offer free tent “housing” for volunteers or you can bring your own tent. If you’re not into the volunteering aspect they offer tours of their facility starting as low as $20. Visit their website for more information about their programs.
California Condor Internship
The Ventana Wildlife Society in Big Sur California is working to recover the critically endangered California condor in one of the most beautiful, rugged and remote locations on the central California coast. They offer volunteer positions and paid internships to monitor and track wild flying and nesting condors. Visit their website for more information.
Elephant, monkey, cheetah rehabilitation Intern
Assist with caring for rescue elephants, monkeys and cheetahs at the rehabilitation facility in Magaliesberg Africa. Duties will include cleaning and feeding animals, behavioral observations, assisting with outreach and educational programs. The program is run by Volunteer Africa and is considered a volunteer position costing the participant about $500 per week. The price includes transportation to the facility, accommodation and meals. Visit their website for more information about the program.
Bird Banding in American Samoa
The Institute of Bird Populations is a non-profit group studying bird population declines around the world since 1989. They are seeking research assistants on the island of Ta’u, Tutuila, and Ofu-Olosega, to assist with banding birds. This is a paid position which includes airfare from San Francisco, housing and a $40 per diem. Click here for more information.
Feline Monitoring Volunteer
These ain’t your average house cats! Raven Adventures operates a monitoring and conservation project out of the Aula Global Biological Reserve in the cloud forests of Monteverde, Costa Rica. You will assist with documenting the movement and population wild cats including jaguars, pumas, margay and jaguarondi. Volunteers will monitor these felines using camera traps, track pads, animal tracking and photography. Check out their website here.