5 Amazing Vacations that Help You Save the World


Why not help save the sea turtles while on vacay? (Photo: Thinkstock)

Next time you’re on vacation, how about saving the world while you’re at it? Ok, perhaps not the whole world, but every little bit helps-right? Around the globe, companies are offering travelers the chance to join in their conservation efforts with hands-on, a-once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Whether your passionate about nature, culture, or wildlife, these five voluntourism adventures are equal parts thrilling and worthwhile.

Help Protect the Rhinos in South Africa


(Photo: Gerry van der Walt)

Imagine flying over the African bush in a helicopter tracking an elusive white rhino. Once spotted, the veterinarian is alerted and your ground team goes into action. Tranquilizing a grown rhino is no easy feat, and once he’s out you have little time to waste. Guests of Wild Eye’s Madikwe Conservation Safaris take part in a vital program that helps researchers monitor the safety and health of the South Africa’s endangered rhinos and support anti-poaching efforts. Guests help the veterinary staff measure the horns, insert microchips, cut unique identifying patterns called notches that are cut into its ears, and monitor the breathing of the animal. Depending on what’s needed in the area, you may also help to collar wild dogs and cheetah or brand lions.

Related: On the Frontlines of the Rhino “Genocide”: Saving a Species on the Brink

Maximum number of guests: 6

Cost: Starts at $2700/per person, depending on the needs within the reserve. The price includes lodging and fees for the vet, helicopter, and other tools.

Stay: Four days/3 nights: two out of the four days will be dedicated to conservation efforts the other two days will include general game drives.

Kid friendly: Children 12 years and older

Success stories: So far they have notched and tagged 50 rhinos, branded 30 lions, collared multiple buffalo, elephants, lions, cheetahs, and wild dogs, in addition patching up an injured lion, releasing a wayward python, and purchasing nearly $15,000 worth of clothing and equipment for the anti-poaching team.

Related: Feel Great Now: 8 Ways to Save a Rhino Today

Indulge Your Inner Darwin on a Private Island


Enjoy the beauty of the island and do some good. (Photo: Guana Island)

On the private island of Guana in the British Virgin Islands, you’ll enjoy all the amenities of a luxury resort: 852 acres of pristine wilderness, sunset cruises, water sports, spa treatments, seven beaches on which to frolic, and a whole lot of gorgeous. But that’s not all – three years ago, owner Dr. Henry Jarecki, offered visitors the chance to work alongside researchers whom he hosts on the island each year. Guests are encouraged to join the scientists on their field explorations and can assist with note taking and the catching and tagging of iguanas, birds, and other wildlife. At night, the day’s events and findings are discussed over cocktails.

Cost: Accommodations start at $695/night. There’s no additional charge for joining the scientists and guests can be involved as much or as little as they like.

Stay: The excursions are offered two months out of the year, and focus on marine life in August and terrestrial projects in October.

Kid friendly: Kids are allowed but the resort mainly caters to couples and excursions are not designed with children in mind.

Success stories: Past projects included the Guana Wildlife Sanctuary’s reintroduction of the roseate flamingo into the British Virgin Islands, as well as the identification of the Agave Weevil as the culprit behind the devastating mortality of the century plant indigenous to the area.

WATCH: Exploring the British Virgin Islands

Bodyguard Sea Turtles in Mexico


Sea turtles need bodyguards, too. (Photo: Sarah Salky)

For only a few months a year, Huatulco, Mexico on the country’s Pacific coast, becomes a maternity ward for hundreds of tiny olive ridley sea turtles. Under the cover of darkness they hatch from their sand-covered nests and venture towards the ocean to begin their grand adventure. But for baby turtles, it’s an arduous journey – a gauntlet of hungry crabs and sea birds await them, and that’s where you come in. At night you’ll patrol three remote settings along with naturalists and other guests in a quest to keep the turtles safe from poachers and predators. It’s one of nature’s most unique spectacles, and you’ll be smack dab in the middle of it thanks to the World Wildlife Fund and Natural Habitat Adventures that have teamed up to offer this unique experience. During the day you’ll explore a variety of stunning ecosystems in Huatulco teaming with numerous coastal species and other indigenous wildlife.

Maximum number of guests: 8

Cost: Prices start at $2595 per person based on double occupancy, not including airfare. A portion of the cost goes to support WWF’s global conservation efforts.

Stay: It’s a six-day excursion. Three of the five nights focus on the hatching of the sea turtles with outings going as late as 1am.

Kid friendly: Children 10 years of age and older welcome.

Success stories: Thanks to guest protection, over 2700 sea turtles have safely found their way to the ocean.

Related: The Cutest Thing You’ll Ever See: How to Be Besties With a Baby Sea Turtle

Save Machu Picchu From the Ravages of Time


A little TLC for Machu Picchu (Photo: Peter Murphy)

Ask 10 people what’s on their travel bucket list, and chances are more than a few will say Machu Picchu – for good reason. High up on the eastern slope of the Andes, this ancient Incan citadel was voted one of the Seven “New” Wonders of the World, and is one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. If you love history and exploring the remains of ancient civilizations, Conservation Volunteers International Program (ConservationVIP) will whisk you away for 10 days, immersing you in Peruvian culture, cuisine, and the history of the Lost City that includes visits to Cusco, Ollantaytambo, and the Machu Picchu sanctuary. In return, you’ll help members of Peru’s National Institute of Culture and the National Service for Protected Area Management protect the site from the ravages of nature, time and tourism. Projects may include, among other tasks, removing destructive foliage from delicate stone structures, repairing 500 year-old walking trails, or replanting some of the area’s natural vegetation.

Maximum number of guests: 18

Cost: $2,950 per person, not including international airfare

Stay: Available in June and November only.10 days in total of which four full days are dedicated to the tasks undertaken at Machu Picchu

Kid friendly: 18+ and older only

Success stories: Since 2008, guests have contributed almost 6,000 volunteer hours to Machu Picchu that includes cleaning approximately 53,000 square feet of stone terraces and walls; maintaining approximately 18 miles of trail, including repairing or installing 245 water diversions; cleared 13,000 square feet of vegetation and planted over 300 trees.

Related: My Friends Bailed, So I Mastered Maccu Picchu Alone

Improve Your Photography Skills While Working with Those in Need in Exotic Countries


Photography can help save the world. (Photo: Michael Bonocore)

People who want to combine their passion for travel, their love of photography and the desire to help others, will find nirvana with The Giving Lens. Led by professional travel photographers, TGL plans trips to some of the world’s most beautiful locations in Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Australia, Peru, and Myanmar, to name a few, and works with local NGO’s to determine the best way photographers can be of help. (All photographic skill levels are welcome but interested travelers must apply for the opportunity.) In addition, travelers will also assist with non-photographic projects that vary in focus depending on need. On an upcoming 2014 trip to Cambodia, TGL has teamed up with Anjali House, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the country’s children, food, healthcare, clean water, and education. You’ll work with Anjali’s award-winning photography club by partaking in cultural activities as well as conducting workshops and photo-walks to encourage self-expression and creativity with at-risk and street youths. Travelers will also benefit from guest-focused workshops while photographing the ancient temple of Angkor Wat as well as other lesser-known religious sites in the area and the extraordinary floating villages along the Tonle Sap river.

Cost: Varies. Cambodia is $2700/per person based on double occupancy, not including international flight. Anywhere between 20%-50% of the fee is donated to the local NGO depending on the trip.

Maximum number of guests: 10-12 depending on the trip

Cost: Varies. Cambodia is $2700 per person based on double occupancy, not including international flight. Anywhere between 20 percent -50 percent of the fee is donated to the local NGO depending on the trip.

Stay: Varies by trip

Kid friendly: Not suitable for children

Success: In just two previous trips to Cambodia, TGL has raised nearly $16K for Anjali House

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