Ecotourists Save the World

Cover photo from Ecotourists Save the World. Photo: Courtesy Penguin Books

If you could help save wildlife and their habitats from destruction, would you do it? What if it involved traveling to a far-off location to live in relatively primitive conditions, work long hours, and complete difficult, sometimes dangerous, tasks? Oh, and you might have to pay to do it.
Is that your idea of a good time? Then Ecotourists Save the World is a book you’ll want to read.

In partnership with the National Wildlife Federation, writer Pamela Brodowsky has compiled an extensive resource of volunteer opportunities to protect wildlife around the world. You’ll find, as the subtitle says, “More Than 300 International Adventures to Conserve, Preserve, and Rehabilitate Wildlife and Habitats.”


In the introduction, Brodowsky writes,

Did you know … one in three amphibians, nearly half of all turtles and tortoises, one in four mammals, one in five sharks and rays, and one in eight bird species are now considered at risk of extinction? Habitat destruction, exploitation, pollution, and climate change are taking their toll on our world’s species and the places that they inhabit.

The cool thing is, you can do something about it. (We all can.) In Ecotourists Save the World, you’ll learn about opportunities to volunteer doing a host of interesting tasks in amazing places, like Brazil, Bolivia, Scotland, Thailand, Fiji, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Greece, Peru… And, in North America, you can serve in British Columbia, Manitoba, California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and more.

A Fee for Your Service

In all locations, you have to provide your own transportation to get there.

Some groups charge no fee participation at all. In exchange for your service, you may get accommodations (though these are not described in detail, so be sure to ask if comfort and amenities matter to you), meals, ground transfers, and sometimes “in-country emergency support” — and let’s not forget training.

At other sites, you’ll pay significant fees in addition to volunteering your time. But if you were planning a vacation, you’d have to budget for food and accommodations, anyway.

If you’re wondering why someone would pay for the privilege of volunteering, consider this: There are significant costs associated with training, feeding, and housing people. For every dollar a refuge or wilderness program has to allocate to support volunteers, that’s a dollar taken away from the work they could be doing to help the animals.

Choosing a Project

Take a quick flip through Ecotourists Save the World, and you’ll find volunteer opportunities galore. But it will take much more than a quick flip to decide on the one that’s right for you. Each entry provides the following details to help you make a considered decision:

  • Contact
  • Location
  • Category (conservation, preservation, or rehabilitation)
  • Cost
  • Dates & Duration
  • To Apply
  • Field Notes

The Field Notes section is especially useful, as you’ll learn “whether the project is suitable for families, groups, and/or solo travelers; any age restrictions; special skills or other requirements needed to participate; cautions or warnings for safety and comfort; and, in some instances, recommendations of local sites to visit and activities to enjoy while in service.”

Just a Sampling

Following are a few of the 300 projects you can choose from. If any of these whet your appetite, pick up the book to learn the details. (It sells for US$18.95/$23.50 CAN.) But before you make any plans, read the warning on the copyright page. In essence, the message is: There are potential hazards; for the best experience, be prepared and be careful.

A group of black rhinos recline in a road. Photo: © markoflaherty - Fotolia.com

Saving Kenya’s Black Rhinos: “Volunteers manage the local vegetation — the main food source of the black rhino — and observe the animals to improve further conservation efforts…. Location: Nairobi, Kenya…. Cost: US#2,850 for 15 days. Fee includes accommodations, meals, and training…. Field Notes: Participants must be at least 18 years old…. in good physical condition and be able to walk long distances.”

Lost World Expedition: “Participants assist scientists with fieldwork, conducting observational surveys to determine [the jaguar's and the puma's] distribution patterns in one of earth’s most threatened ecosystems… [and] conduct interviews in local communities… Location: Curitiba, Brazil…. Cost: US$1,690 for 12 nights. Fee includes accommodations, meals, training, and in-country emergency support…. Field Notes: No specific skills are required. The program is open to all ages. Participants must feel comfortable hiking through mountainous terrain. Positions are suitable for families, groups, and solo travelers.”

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge: “Volunteers help with research projects focused on endangered animals, conduct surveys of local bird populations, and help with sea turtle recovery projects (including nest relocation efforts and species inventories)…. Location: Rio Hondo, TX [USA]…. Cost: Free in exchange for service. Full RV hookups are provided…. Field Notes: Positions are suitable for families, groups, and solo travelers. All ages are welcome.”

Kilauea Lighthouse at Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge: “Volunteers help replant and maintain native coastal plants, and work on public educational campaigns that focus on wildlife conservation. Participants may also lead tours…. Location: Kilauea, HI [USA]…. Cost: Free in exchange for service. Accommodation is provided…. Field Notes: This project is suitable for families, groups, and solo travelers.”

Elusive and Unknown Cat Project: “Participants help record leopard sightings and collect data on the distribution of leopards and their prey throughout the region. Volunteers also help document interspecies interactions among the leopard, wolf, and striped hyena…. Location: Dhofar, Oman…. Cost: US $1,950 for 12 nights. Fee includes accommodations, meals, ground transfers, project orientation, training, and support…. Field Notes: There are no specific skills or age requirements that need to be met for participation int this project, but volunteers must be able to walk great lengths and over mountainous terrain. Positions are suitable for adult groups and solo travelers.”

Volunteers at the Elephant Orphanage bathe and care for baby elephants. Photo: © Gail Johnson - Fotolia.com

Elephant Orphanage: “Participants assist with daily elephant bathing duties, cleaning and maintaining enclosures, and hand-feeding of the extremely young. The Elephant Orphanage is home to many young elephants that are lost or abandoned by their mothers. Here the elephants are fed, nursed, and taken care of by professional handlers and volunteers. This project is a rare opportunity for those interested in working with elephants….. Location: Kegalle, Sri Lanka…. Cost: US$650–$953 for 1–3 weeks; extended stays are available for an additional fee. Fee includes accommodations and three meals per day. Airport pickup and transfers are additional…Field Notes: No special skills are required to participate. Positions are suitable for adult groups and solo travelers.”

Dolphin Conservation Project: “Participants … work alongside marine biologists in teh Ionian Sea. Volunteers contribute to a research study of the behavioral patterns, ecology, and conservation status of the aresa’s dolphin population… learn and contribute to all aspects of fieldwork, including observation techniques and photo identification procedures….. Location: Greece…. Cost: US$850–$1,000 for 1 week. Fee includes accommodations, meals, ground transfers, orientation, training,and in-country emergency support…. Field Notes: Participants must be at least 18 years old…. in good physical condition and have the ability to speak English. This project uses inflatable boats for observation needs and sun exposure is at a maximum. Positions are suitable for adult groups and solo travelers.”

Cone flowers at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. Photo: Courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge: Volunteers help collect native seeds for replanting in an effort to recreate the pre-1800s prairie ecosystem. Participants also work to maintain the park’s hiking trails and assist with general refuge maintenance projects…. Location: Prairie City, IA [USA]… Cost: Free in exchange for service. Housing is provided…. Field Notes: Training is provided on-site. Positions are suitable for families, groups, and solo travelers.”

If you do head off to an ecotourist, volunteer adventure — whether one described in this book or another you’ve found on your own — please write and let us know.

The Small Print

Blue  Planet Green Living received a complimentary copy of Ecotourists Save the World. Other than the review copy, we received no compensation or incentive for reviewing the book. No one influences the content of any of our reviews other than the writer. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

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  1. Ecotourists Save the World | Eco-FamilyFun - Green Living Tips On Saving Money For The Family on May 13th, 2010 12:53 pm

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