Step Out of Your Self On These Worldwide Voluntours.
You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you,” wrote John Bunyan in his spiritual treatise The Pilgrim’s Progress. Little could he have imagined the excesses and external stimulations of our era, a time in which selfies seek to proclaim the meaning of our existence in the world, and texts take the place of deeper, heartfelt conversations. When that feeling of listlessness and meaninglessness strikes, consider that perhaps your heart space needs a boost. You can pry your soul open to its full extension with a dose of simple selflessness. Time off from the grind doesn’t need to be all about you. Consider these “voluntours” as the spirit’s best medicine.
Always dreamed of exotic Fiji? Most visitors to this island nation spend their days at five-star resorts to dive, boat, or hike the verdant tropical landscapes in search of jaw-dropping waterfalls. Consider mixing philanthropy with tropical repose when you travel to this Pacific island nation’s Yasawa Islands as a volunteer with Vinaka Fiji. Incorporating 27 villages, the rugged, poverty-stricken Yasawa Islands subsist far below the world standard for health and prosperity. Clean drinking water is scarce and health care remains nearly nonexistent. Help to enhance the lifestyle of the villagers during one- to 26-week stints as part of the Vinaka Fiji Trust. Opt to tutor children in the schools, plant crops, install water tanks, or staff the baby clam nurseries, among other needed tasks. vinakafiji.org.fj
Known for its sensible, affordable, earth-conscious clothing, REI has throngs of fans. Touting an homage and respect for nature that sets a standard, REI has also created a spectrum of adventures that authentically immerse its customers into world cultures. Make a difference when you sign up for one of its volunteer vacations—jaunts that place you side by side with local park rangers and expedition leaders to protect destinations for future travelers. With volunteer trips that take you from the Scottish Highlands to Patagonia, REI curates impactful opportunities to improve the world, such as giant tortoise conservation in the Galapagos Islands or trail restoration around the world’s national parks. rei.com/adventures
Africa ignites the soul. Most travelers there espouse a love for animals, and yearn to protect wildlife. Many, as a nod to their transformative experiences in the bush, would love to do more to help endangered species in the wild. Now there’s a way to help. AndBeyond, a luxury safari outfitter, joins safari-goers with scientists in an effort to catalog rhinos in the wild. For the guest-funded activity, known as “rhino notching,” animal lovers will travel with veterinarians and conservationists by helicopter in search of rhinos. Finding one, the team tranquilizes it from the air, then lands to gather important data from the sleeping animal to ensure it is healthy and safe. If needed, guests may assist in notching the ears or placing tracking devices in the horn, to allow the team to continue tracking the welfare of the creature. When finished, the vets give the rhino an antidote and the team quickly exits the scene. andbeyond.com
Birds of Bali
Wildlife buffs and bird lovers can flock to be a part of Friends of the National Parks organization in Indonesia, a group bent on ensuring a harmonious relationship among habitat, communities, and wildlife. On Nusa Penida, a secluded, undeveloped island off the coast of Bali, work to save the last Bali starlings and other birds. Combine charitable work with a conventional stay in Bali’s Sanur Beach area, located a 45-minute ferry ride away. Inland on the slopes of Mount Batukaru at Besikalung Wildlife Sanctuary, be on the front lines with experts to guard birds, monkeys, and other wildlife threatened by poachers and illegal animal traders. fnpf.org
Stay for Good
Be magnanimous, and the reward will be a warm feeling in your heart. But Soneva, one of the biggest names in sustainable travel, wants to give you something more for your efforts. Visit any of its three properties (two in the Maldives and one in Thailand) to take part in its new eco-campaign, “Stay for Good.” Under its tutelage, enrolled guests can work alongside the resort’s marine biologists, horticulturists, mycologists, ecologists, and community engagement managers to support local sustainability initiatives. Snorkeling with scientists to identify turtles, participating in mangrove cleanup, and gardening comprise some of the possible activities. In return, guests will receive complimentary bonus nights at the resorts. soneva.com
The Whale Shark Project
Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez “the largest aquarium in the world.” In that marine-life-rich haven, the colossal whale shark lurks, feeding on plankton. While vacationers can opt to swim with the massive fish on an organized excursion, nature lovers may prefer to take that recreational activity one step further. The Whale Shark Research Project in San Felipe, Baja California, invites marine aficionados to tender their time to the service of these gentle giants. No background in science or marine biology is required, only a passion for the sea—and its creatures. Participants will be matched with jobs appropriate to their experience and interest. Expect to collect data, do research, spread education, and have the opportunity to breast stroke alongside the fascinating creatures more times than you ever thought possible. whalesharkrp.com
Namu Travel Tours
Balance your footprints on the earth with a customized, eco-friendly, luxury tour to Costa Rica. Namu Travel, a green and conscious outfitter, designs jaunts through cloud forests, fishing expeditions, and afternoons on untrammeled beaches. The hotels are chosen specifically for their sustainable standards, each offering local and onsite tours, which support the regional economy. In all, local sourcing for the restaurants is paramount. On a voluntour with Namu, expect options that encompass working in the rainforest and interfacing with a local community. namutravel.com