These days, many people are interested in ‘helpful holidays’ – traveling to explore exotic locales while contributing to a cause specific to that area. Not surprisingly, Africa offers many such opportunities. The African continent is home to hundreds of species not found anywhere else on earth. Poaching and encroaching human occupation are reducing both animal populations and the lands on which those animals live. There is great interest around the globe to learn how to assist these unique creatures and their environments.
In fact, some conservation entities offer vacationers the opportunity to volunteer at their South African facilities, providing food, lodging, and plenty to do in exchange for a few hours of labour or participation each day. These vacations can be extremely inexpensive, requiring only airfare and transportation costs to be covered by the traveller. Once there, they can care for wild animals, get involved with local tribes or communities or engage with conservationists in the rescue of endangered species. There are many endangered African species (like the black rhino) that benefit from the attention and awareness raised through this type of global engagement.
Not that it’s a simple prospect. Some volunteer agencies don’t provide a comprehensive program that properly trains and supports its volunteers. Superior conservation agencies like Volunteer Southern Africa provide training for their volunteers, teaching the fundamental lessons and techniques of animal welfare, including how the animals fit into their ecosystem, their natural enemies and symbiotic partners, and how current circumstances threaten their habitats or existence. Those volunteers who book through Volunteer Southern Africa can see firsthand how their experience is ecologically friendly and offered in full respect for the sensitive environment in which it exists. All efforts are made to ensure safety of both human and animal participants, ensuring success for both and priceless memories for the humans.
And as an chance to learn even more about the continent, there are also opportunities to explore the areas outside the conservation camp. Many tour groups offer safaris in which there are thousands of square miles of protected sanctuaries. Whether the traveler is a photographer, naturalist, environmentalist, or just a tourist, they are certain to experience aspects of South Africa that they never knew existed.
In many ways, these ‘conservation vacations’ are being used as a platform to educate visitors from around the world about the beauty and fragility of South African wildlife. In doing so, they are preserving, and sometimes saving, rare and endangered animal species. And they are offering an amazing, life-altering vacation experience to boot.