Travelling for pure adventure is great, but combining activities with volunteering takes travel to another level. If you are planning a meaningful adventure, then check out the 11 best countries to volunteer in.
Many organised voluntary programs are fairly adventurous in themselves. Plus there is normally time for more adventure before or after the voluntary work, or during days off.
Other types of volunteering are more of a case of helping out in exchange for a bed, meals and various adventures. This offers you the chance to spend more time in a destination without eating into your travel budget. Which is great as part of longer overland tips.
11 best countries to volunteer
You can find a meaningful adventure in any country you choose to visit. However, some countries stand out. If you are an adventure seeker, below are 11 of the best countries in which to volunteer.
Meaningful adventures in Africa
With so much poverty, Africa is often the first choice for meaningful travel. There are volunteer schemes all over the continent and plenty of adventures to boot. From helping orphaned kids in Uganda to sports coaching in Morocco and eco projects in Madagascar to archeology in Angola – there is something for everyone!
Head to Mozambique, where you could volunteer with dolphins or whale sharks. Both programs involve tracking and observing this marine wildlife. Expect both time on the water in boats and beneath the waves diving.
You might want to work with children instead. Take on a mentorship role in an orphanage and help children with their day-to-day lives, including school, homework and meals.
While on a meaningful adventure in Mozambique, you should camp along one of the beautiful beaches as part of a hiking or horse riding adventure. Sail up and down the stunning coastline, snorkel or dive on the pristine reefs or surf the many empty breaks.
South Africa is one of the best countries to volunteer and has many adventures. Volunteer with big cats to help feed, exercise and clean the enclosures of lions, cheetahs and leopards.
Or you could volunteer with great white sharks. Search for and observe these magnificent creatures and their habits. You could even find yourself looking into the eyes of a shark through an underwater cage.
Too much adventure? Take the excitement down a notch by getting your hands dirty and helping to build a school. Nail boards, pour cement and lay tiles by volunteering with school construction. In your free time take a safari. You could also try sea kayaking, sandboarding, kitesurfing, surfing, scuba diving, trekking and even skiing.
One of the best countries to volunteer in Africa is Tanzania, it’s also one of the most adventurous. There are conservation and animal welfare projects aplenty, such as working with park rangers in the Serengeti or working with the Masai people.
But as with much of Africa, the most rewarding projects are working to improve the lives of local people. There are building, farming, teaching, medical and commercial projects. All of which help those in extreme poverty to have a better life – so Go Make a Difference.
Of course a visit to Tanzania would not be complete without trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro – Africa’s tallest mountain. It is also one of the best places to safari and sailing a dhow around Zanzibar is an unforgettable experience.
Meaningful adventure in Asia
Some of the best countries to volunteer are in Asia. India is always popular and there are interesting options from Georgia to Japan. Turtle conservation in Sri Lanka is a great choice as are community service projects in Nepal – as adventure goes Nepal is up there with the best.
Volunteer by working at a wildlife rescue in Indonesia. Sun bears, orangutans and leopards are just a few animals you could care for. Need something a bit more tame? Volunteer as a farming assistant to help farmers maintain their crops and care for their animals.
You could also volunteer in Indonesia as an English teacher. Give students a head start to a successful future by helping them become bilingual. While in Indonesia be sure to visit volcanic islands, camp in the rainforest and go on a riverboat ride.
In terms of having a meaningful adventure Indonesia is incredible. Scuba diving and sea kayaking are exceptional and there is some of the best surf on the planet. On land there is plenty of trekking and a few spots with good mountain biking.
Assisting with elephant conservation is a popular volunteer option in Thailand. You’ll feed, bathe and exercise these incredible creatures. Or you could help with primate conservation by preparing food for and making sure enclosures remain clean.
Assisting with teaching English in schools is another way to volunteer in Thailand. You would be responsible for helping children with English vocabulary and grammar. You can also help with after school programs such as drama clubs.
If you decide to get adventurous in Thailand, you could try bamboo rafting, kayaking and scuba diving. There are also a few places to surf and kitesurf. Trekking is very popular, particularly in the north and west of Thailand.
Australiasian meaningful adventures
If you would like to head down under for some antipodean volunteering then you are spoilt for choice. From helping communities on remote Polynesian islands, to wildlife projects in the Australian outback there is something for everyone.
Visit Fiji and help with marine conservation. Scuba dive off a remote island to locate and monitor coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove forests. Become trained in marine research and record key observations to help make a difference.
Or work in an orphanage and help children with their daily routines, including meals, education and activities. There are also community development roles, journalism and healthcare opportunities in Fiji. If you want to be active sport coaching is also available.
While in Fiji, make time to scuba dive for your own pleasure,plus zipline and hike through the rainforest. There are some great surf breaks in Fiji, plus a few areas with world class kite and windsurfing.
If you are looking for meaningful adventure then New Zealand is one of the best countries to volunteer. Not only is it one of the most beautiful places on earth. But it’s easy to travel around, locals are friendly and it takes adventure to the next level.
If you want to be in the outdoors then help maintain hiking and biking trails. You’ll be trekking around, living in the wilderness, seeing the country and making a difference. Many farms will give you bed and board in exchange for helping out with everything from moving animals to milking cows.
If you’re in New Zealand, you need to make time for its many adventures. Glacier climbing, bungee jumping, jet-boating, skydiving and blackwater rafting are some of the well known activities. Whilst its one of the best places to ski and snowboard in the southern hemisphere.
Meaningful adventures in the Americas
Many parts of central and southern America run voluntary schemes that help poorer communities. But there are also a multitude of eco, conservation and wildlife opportunities. From Belize to Bolivia to Brazil there are exciting programs to join and plenty of adventures to be had.
Costa Rica is known for its sea turtle conservation and is one of the best countries to volunteer. You could help build and maintain a protected area. Then observe tiny turtles as they hatch and keep track of eggs along the beach.
You can also assist with housing projects building new homes for those in need. Or help with environmental management by educating locals on conservation. Collaborate with the local community to work towards solutions for problems such as overfishing, pollution and deforestation.
Take some time to enjoy yourself while on a meaningful adventure in Costa Rica. It is great for rafting, snorkeling, diving and surfing. There are also extreme activities such as rappelling alongside waterfalls and canyoning to try.
Ecuador is home to both the Galapagos Islands and part of the Amazon rainforest. Help preserve these habitats in one of the best countries to volunteer. Assist in research projects or help with reforestation by collecting, classifying and planting seeds. You could also observe a variety of mammals, birds, frogs, butterflies to help with conservation.
If you’d rather stay away from rainforests, take to the streets and volunteer with the local children. Work with kids who have a troubled family at a ‘before and after’ school program. Assist with homework and take part in fun games and activities.
As far as adventuring goes, Ecuador is a great country for rock climbing, mountaineering, trekking and horse riding. In the water there is spectacular diving, plus some good surf, kite and windsurf conditions can be found.
Meaningful adventure in Europe
Of course you don’t have to travel halfway around the world to volunteer. If you want to get outdoors you can find voluntary trail maintenance teams all over the UK. Also the National Trust is always looking for helpers.
Throughout Europe you can normally get a free bed and food by helping out on farms. There are also conservation schemes available everywhere from Albania to Austria and Serbia to Spain.
Head to Greece and work in a sea turtle rescue centre. You’ll patrol the beach, count eggs, care for turtles and release these tiny creatures into the ocean. Or you could monitor dolphins, taking note of behaviours and distinguishing marks to help conserve these sea mammals.
If water isn’t your thing, you might be more suited to volunteer on a ranch. Here you will feed and care for horses plus give riding lessons to young Greeks and tourists. Or perhaps you’d rather volunteer on one of the archeological digs for a meaningful adventure.
While in Greece, don’t forget to do some adventuring! Caving, hiking and exploring lost cities are just a few options on land. On the water windsurfing, kitesurfing and sailing are very popular.
Travel to Southeastern Europe and volunteer in Bosnia. Sports lovers can follow their passions by coaching Bosnian children the basic skills for a variety of sports.
If you’d rather get your hands dirty, help at a renovation project. Volunteers are involved in every aspect of renovating, from tearing down the old, to building the new. Alternatively help in the planting and harvesting of crops on Bosnian farmland.
It is one of the best countries to volunteer in Europe if you wish to go rafting, asTara Canyon is the second deepest on earth. While in Bosnia you could also find yourself mountain biking, hiking, fishing and kayaking.
If you are planning a meaningful adventure then we hope one of the 11 best countries to volunteer appeal to you. Wherever you go, be sure to check out our adventure travel discounts as you could save a fortune.