You can imagine protecting humpback whales alongside marine biologists in Mozambique or falling asleep in a chalet in the forest to the howling of wolves rescued in Portugal. How about tracking elusive snow leopards in Kyrgyzstan or powerful silver gorillas in Rwanda? Or you may prefer to clean up your nearest beach here in the UK or to replenish a historic forest in Scotland.
If so, you are not alone. Last year's sustainable travel report from booking.com shows that nearly three-quarters of the world's travelers are looking for authentic & # 39; experiences that reflect the local culture. The STA Travel (statravel.co.uk), the inaugural trends report reveals an 11% jump in "volunteering", with Thailand and Cambodia being the most popular for students and young travelers looking for a trip with "meaning, culture and purpose".
Justin Francis, founder of Responsible Travel (responsibletravel.com), says: ‘After Covid-19, many of us think of holidays differently. We want to do something good. So volunteering definitely has a chance to be reborn. & # 39; And don't worry, wherever you choose, you'll still have plenty of time to enjoy some sundowners …
Mission in Mozambique
Marine mission: Protect rays and humpback whales alongside marine biologists in Mozambique
Work alongside marine biologists in Jangamo Bay, Mozambique, helping to protect megafauna (rays and humpback whales), identifying sharks and other fish, researching coral reefs and patrolling beaches at night to keep sea turtles safe.
Love The Oceans is a non-profit organization that was recently verified by Prince Harry and Meghan on Instagram – and Jangamo Bay is the only place where it operates. It is fully excavated in the community, building classrooms for local schools and teaching children to swim.
Details: from £ 995 for two weeks, excluding flights (lovetheoceans.org)
Help wolves in Portugal
Iberian wolves would not survive in the wild, so nature came to them in a sanctuary in Mafra, 40 minutes from Lisbon
You would be forgiven for thinking that the Iberian wolf does not need help. It can travel 40 km / h, travel 80 km a day and will eat anything to survive, including bark.
But these wolves were rescued; they would not survive in nature, so nature came to them in a sanctuary in Mafra, 40 minutes from Lisbon.
Volunteers help with food (at deliberately erratic times to imitate nature), while monitoring behavior and contributing to general maintenance.
You sleep in wooden cottages in the forest, dozing to the sound of nature, including howling wolves.
Details: from £ 1,248 for two weeks, excluding flights (oysterworldwide.com)
Take part in a 13-day project in the Kyrgyz Tien Shan Mountains, examining leopards and their prey, including marmots and ibexes
Snow leopards are vulnerable in number, although not in character – their ideal habitat is desolate, they are lonely, they can drop prey three times their weight and jump 19 feet vertically.
Take part in a 13-day project in the Tien Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan, researching leopards and their prey, including marmots and ibexes.
Starting from a mobile camp, you will track trails and death scenes, and set up cameras to capture images of elusive creatures. They are so well camouflaged, it is said that you could see one without knowing it.
Details: £ 2,278, excluding flights (biosphere-expeditions.org)
Gorilla capital: on a private tour with a veterinarian in Rwanda, you will track endangered gorillas, taking samples, conducting health checks and meeting their characters.
Rwanada is the gorilla capital of Africa. On this eight-night tour, you will pass through the capital Kigali, hike the volcanic peaks of Virunga, kayak on Lake Kivu and explore the bamboo forests with specialized trackers to observe families of rare golden monkeys.
On a private tour with a veterinarian, you accompany the endangered gorillas, collecting samples, conducting health checks and meeting their characters.
Primatologist Dian Fossey spent his life with them and noted, "The more you learn about the gorilla's dignity, the more you want to avoid people."
Details: from £ 10,900, excluding flights (blacktomato.com)
Help Romanian bears
Go to Romania to help monitor the welfare of the rescued bears and help with tours. Accommodation is in medieval Brasov
Visit this bear sanctuary, founded by a woman who was appalled by the restaurants that used caged bears to attract customers.
This practice was declared illegal and the sanctuary is home to more than 70 bears rescued in 160 acres of oak and hazel forest, with freshwater pools and hibernation pits, in the Carpathian mountains in Romania.
The bears feed on the forest vegetation and a ton of extra fruits and vegetables that volunteers help distribute daily.
Guests will also monitor the bears' well-being and assist with tours. The accommodations are in medieval Brasov: don't miss Dracula's castle, which is nearby.
Details: from £ 1,299, excluding flights for eight days (responsibletravel.com)
Core team: Harvest helpers pick apples and enjoy swimming in the lake and hiking in the mountains at leisure
No one lived on the Ovre Brekkebakkadn farm in Oppland County for 35 years until 2017. The current owner added solar panels and a wooden hut.
There is a room and a big tent to live in. Participants help out on the farm, and when you're not at work, there is swimming in the lake and hiking in the mountains nearby.
Details: WWOOF annual association (WorldWideOpportunities on Organic Farms, wwoof.org.uk), which links visitors to organic farmers, costs £ 22. Farm stays are free.
Greek bird life
Visit Lake Kerkini National Park in Greece, where you will see birds, including hoopoes with magnificent feathered crowns, golden eagles and Dalmatian pelicans
Start the day with a serenade of shy golden orioles and nightingales before a hike and picnic, with expert guides pointing out all the things that fly and are beautiful in Lake Kerkini National Park, in northern Greece.
There are more than 80 types of butterflies, including Ilex Hairstreak, Freyer's Purple Emperor and Camberwell Beauty. The birds include hoopoes with magnificent feathered crowns, golden eagles and Dalmatian pelicans.
For a week, you will be supporting a charity that invests in local projects.
Details: from £ 1,195 for seven days, excluding flights (greenwings.co)
AND CLOSE TO HOME …
Clean our beaches
Fight plastic: take part in a weekend at Great British Beach – held on almost 500 beaches – and you can become a citizen scientist
A rusty chain saw, a wedding ring and a metal pole that was part of a World War II maritime defense were among the items discovered by volunteers during the previous Great British Beach Clean weekends. Participate in one of the events – held on almost 500 beaches – and you can become a "citizen scientist".
The Marine Conservation Society uses the information collected by its campaigns.
Discarded plastic bags are causing major problems. A recent study showed that all seals, dolphins and whales washed on our backs had traces of plastic in their stomachs.
Details: Free (mcsuk.org)
Be a channel hero
In week-long camps in the Belvoir Valley, you will help dismantle one of the 18 locks on the Grantham Waterway, built during the years of the & # 39; mania of the canal & # 39; 1790s to 1810s – all part of the 10,000 British miles of canals and rivers in need of restoration.
It seems that rebuilding lock chambers, creating concrete foundations and brick or block walls and learning waterway building skills unlock the romance of so many volunteers who are known as #muddymatches. Bring your best steel toe boots.
Details: from £ 70, including food and accommodation (waterways.org.uk)
Rewind a forest
You will plant up to 500 native trees, including rare dwarf willows, juniper and aspen during a week of "rewilding" in Dundreggan, Scotland, a vast acreage that includes remnants of the original Caledonian Forest near Loch Ness.
It's exciting – many trees are financed by people who dedicate them to birth, marriage or death. You mark fences with bamboo, so that the clumsy, flying black hen (similar to fat chickens) does not collide with them and stays in community housing.
Details: from £ 195 including food, accommodation and transport from Inverness (treesforlife.org.uk)