10 Incredibly Rewarding Vacation Destinations Where You Can Volunteer with Animals

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Animal lovers can get up close and personal with beautiful creatures at these incredible spots.
Updated Feb. 7, 2024
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If you are seeking a vacation that fills your heart and carries great meaning, then consider one where you’re spending time with animals. These excursions go beyond what you’d see at a zoo, but enable you to be one with wildlife, often in their natural habitat, helping them thrive. The experience is likely to enlighten you, and offer an incredibly unique opportunity to merge with nature.

Here are 10 beautiful vacation spots where you can volunteer with a variety of animals — from sea critters to island pups to elephants — all around the world.

SEE Turtles in Costa Rica

Courtesy of seeturtles.org Baby sea turtle

SEE Turtles volunteers are invited to spend four nights along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast helping endangered leatherback sea turtles. You’ll have the opportunity to walk the beach at night, help measure turtles, move eggs to hatcheries, and potentially help with hatchlings.

During downtime, guests can enjoy the beautiful beaches, help clean, or explore the many other types of wildlife in the area. The trips cost $1,795 per person, and that includes transportation around the country, meals, lodging, activities, and a donation to the turtle conservation. Travelers have to cover their own airfare to Costa Rica.

Pro tip: Since airfare is not included for many of these volunteer packages, it’s worth it to look into getting one of the best travel credit cards so you can rack up rewards miles for these trips.

Elephant Nature Park in Thailand

Courtesy of elephantnaturepark.org Elephants

Located in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the Elephant Nature Park offers volunteers the unique opportunity to feed, bathe, and care for elephants all while learning about the local culture. The organization has several different options for volunteers, ranging from full immersive experiences to single day visits for those who may be looking into how to save money.

Several of their volunteer packages include seven days of accommodations and meals. The “Journey to Freedom” option includes shared lodging in a remote area and interacting with the animals daily. The experience costs around $450.

Walk With Donkeys Sanctuary in Greece

Courtesy of tripadvisor.com Donkey

Dubbed “wild glamping with donkeys,” the experience at Walk With Donkeys Sanctuary invites volunteers to spend time immersed in nature and interact with local animals in a remote area of Crete. There are many opportunities to help with donkeys and dogs, making sure they get exercise and tending to their needs.

Accommodations are in luxury tents and vegetarian meals are provided to guests during their stay. The organization’s website encourages those interested to email for pricing and booking information.

Bat Conservation in Australia

Courtesy of animalexperienceinternational.com Bats hanging upside down

For those who adore winged mammals, the Bat Conservation in northern Queensland, Australia, may be the best excursion ever. Volunteers here help rehabilitate bats that are sick, injured, or orphaned. Guests stay in luxury tent gazebos right next to the bat hospital so they can help out with every aspect of care of these important creatures.

Visitors are hosted from October to March, during the organization’s busy season, and accommodations for one week cost about $1,465. Travel to and from the airport is included, as are meals and lodging. You can apply to stay for one to four weeks.

Bear Sanctuary in Romania

Courtesy of oysterworldwide.com Man volunteering at bear sanctuary

A visit to the tranquil Bear Sanctuary may enrich the lives of bears that were abused thanks to your contribution of helping to care for them. Located in the Carpathian Mountains, just outside the medieval city of Brasov in Romania, this retreat is home to over 100 of these beloved and majestic animals.

Bookings are open any time throughout the year for one to four weeks. Accommodations cost just over $1,100 for the week and include a small flat in Brasov, which is a short walk from the sanctuary. Pickup and dropoff from the airport is included, but volunteers will be expected to fend for themselves when it comes to food.

Wildlife Sanctuary in Namibia

Courtesy of conservationtravelafrica.org Volunteer feeding baby baboon

The Namibian Wildlife Sanctuary includes 8,000 beautiful acres where volunteers work together to improve the lives of the country’s orphaned and injured animals. As a volunteer, you will focus on rehabilitation and release of primates, antelopes, leopards, cheetahs, and a variety of other animals. This will include things like food preparation, habitat enrichment, orphan care, and health checks.

Volunteers will be housed in either shared rooms, large tents, or bush tents depending on how many people you travel with — and you’ll receive three meals per day. Packages start at $1,195 for two week stays, but particularly ambitious travelers can stay for up to 12 weeks.

Samboja Lestari Orangutan Volunteer Project in Indonesia

Courtesy of thegreatprojects.com Baby orangutans

Samboja Lestari is an area of restored tropical rainforest near the city of East Kalimantan, Indonesia. The nearly 5,000-acre sanctuary is a safe haven for orphaned orangutans rescued from areas of habitat loss. Volunteers with the Orangutan Volunteer Project assist with a range of care activities for orangutans as well as sun bears.

Volunteers will be given shared rooms in the Samboja Ecolodge, provided with three meals per day, and can choose to stay for either 12 nights or 26 nights. The 12-night trip costs $1,813 and the 26-night trip costs $2,793.

Animal Care Volunteer Project in Croatia

Courtesy of volunteerhq.org Animal volunteers in Croatia

Those who participate in International Volunteer HQ’s Animal Care Project will help care for abandoned cats and dogs in the seaside town of Split in Croatia. It’s an opportunity to help animals you may be more familiar with in a country you may have never visited.

Volunteers spend quality time caring for and feeding the animals. The cost of this experience starts at $549 per week. Volunteers are housed in a modern hostel, given three meals per day, and have plenty of free time to enjoy the beautiful coastal area in between their acts of kindness helping the local strays.

The Mighty Roar Dog Sanctuary in Sri Lanka

Courtesy of themightyroar.com Dogs playing at dog sanctuary

Located just outside of Galle, the Sri Lanka Dog Sanctuary is home to around 1,500 dogs and 100 cats. The center is always looking for volunteers to help provide food and care for sick, disabled, or otherwise vulnerable stray animals. Sri Lanka has a huge amount of strays wandering its streets, so there’s a need for volunteers year-round.

Guests are housed in shared accommodations and are expected to work at the sanctuary from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day. The rest of their time, including weekends, can be spent enjoying the area. Volunteers can stay for just one week or up to 24 weeks. The fee for one week is around $250.

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Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah

Courtesy of bestfriends.org Two goats

If you want to help out some furry friends but stay domestic, the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, is a great option.

Volunteers can stay on the sanctuary’s grounds and help feed puppies, care for wildcats, and clean the bunny house. The sanctuary has four basic cabins on site that go for around $60-$70 and is located nearby Zion National Park and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, making it a great stop if you’re traveling across the American West.

Bottom line

rugercm/Adobe puppy playing vet's stethoscope

If you want to make caring for vulnerable animals part of your travel plans, there are options all over the world. However, most of the international destinations listed here require a few specific things from volunteers, aside from the volunteer fee.

Make sure you look up any vaccine requirements in the country you are planning to travel to, particularly what their current COVID-19 guidelines are. Many of these destinations also require volunteers to have travel insurance, so be sure to check their rules before you sign up.

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Author Details

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.

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