Summon your animal-loving spirit for travel adventures with wildlife.
For some, travel is a reason to unwind and do nothing. But for others, it’s the perfect time to contribute time, money, and energy to a good cause, like helping animals. There are hotels and resorts around the world that offer hands-on opportunities to care for and support species from big cats to turtles and bumblebees. Of course, volunteers should enlist with a sense of responsibility around their duties, but then, with travel comes a bit of fun and relaxation to enjoy too. Here’s a look at seven accommodations that would love your help caring for their local fauna.
La Senda Verde Wildlife Sanctuary
WHERE: Yungas, Bolivia
Conservationists who’d leap at the chance to work with a variety of rescued animals will love the two-week-long volunteer program at La Senda Verde. This locally-run non-profit rescues parrots, macaws, turtles, tortoises, bears, wild cats, monkeys, and other Bolivian wildlife, inviting travelers to their ecotourism resort for a rotational program helping the animals with professional guidance. There’s also a four-week volunteer “Care Bear” program caring for three rare Andean Spectacled Bears alongside veterinarian specialists.
Shamwari Conservation Experience
WHERE: South Africa
Deep in South Africa’s Shamwari Game Reserve, volunteers spend a minimum of two weeks investing in the care of big cats and other “big five” animals (lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros). The Shamwari Conservation Experience hosts guest-volunteers inside of its three buildings, all with shared amenities like fireplaces and plunge pools. But when they’re not lounging, guests get hands-on involvement in environmental and sustainability projects, including individual care for animals rescued from circuses and zoos before they’re released into the wild.
Catskill Animal Sanctuary
WHERE: Saugerties, New York
Cultivate your inner rancher for a spell by volunteering at the 123-acre Catskill Animal Sanctuary in upstate New York. This refuge saves and cares for 11 different species of abandoned, abused, and neglected farm animals—and survives with only a small staff, donations, and a rotation of trained volunteers. Guests can stay overnight in the sanctuary’s refurbished 1813 homestead, enjoying vegan meals and looking after about 300 rescued, mostly four-legged residents.
Maple Leaf Adventures
WHERE: British Columbia, Canada
Cruising along the west coast of Canada yields visions of scenic fjords, verdant rainforests, and picturesque islands. But joining a Maple Leaf Adventures “expedition cruises” includes glimpses of bears, whales, wolves, and hawks, either from a classic wooden schooner or tugboat, or along nature hikes with local wildlife experts. Part of every trip’s proceeds is devoted to local conservation organizations and Maple Leaf partners. And guests can rest assured the local fauna is well respected since the company co-founded the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of B.C.
Misool Private Island Resrot
WHERE: Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Indonesia’s Raja Ampat islands are home to some of the most beautiful tropical hideaways on earth—and some of the most biodiverse reefs. At Misool Resort, which occupies a private island, its namesake charitable foundation operates a marine reserve, supports a shark and manta sanctuary, and leads community recycling and sustainability efforts. Each night’s stay results in a contribution to the foundation, and visitors can see the results of protected coral reefs and sea life through dives, snorkeling, and other nature expeditions.
WHERE: Carate, Costa Rica
On the southernmost Costa Rican peninsula, both the Pacific Ocean and Corcovado National Park let guests of Finca Exotica ecolodge and organic farm get closer to rich flora and fauna. As a resort, the lodge offers recreational packages to travelers to explore nature by horseback, kayak, and hikes. Or you can stay for a minimum of four weeks helping in the Saimiri Wildlife Refuge, or as part of the Sea Turtle Conservation program to help protect nests and care for turtle hatchlings.
InterContinental Times Square
WHERE: New York City, New York
While many resorts focus their animal-care programs on larger creatures, the InterContinental Times Square is supporting the America’s diminishing bee population with a rooftop apiary. (The InterContinental Boston has one too.) Up on the roof, the hotel grows herbs and flowers for tens of thousands of resident bees, which can pollinate within about a two-mile area from the hives. Guests get to enjoy the fresh honey in the restaurant as well as in the bar’s specialty cocktails.