GVI runs volunteer projects abroad in more than a dozen countries around the world, allowing you to make an impact through hands-on conservation work at our remote research stations. Discover offbeat locations, rare species and unique ecosystems for an unforgettable adventure. Join our global community of like-minded people and make a difference through projects that contribute to the protection of fragile ecosystems and endangered species.
With over 25 years’ experience in running sustainable development initiatives that are rated tops on Trustpilot, our award-winning volunteer programs offer you the opportunity to make a real difference while exploring some of the world’s most captivating destinations. Engage in on-the-ground conservation work that addresses important environmental challenges – from restoring damaged coastal ecosystems to preserving wildlife habitats and the species that inhabit them. Grounded in science, our volunteer projects are carefully curated using data analysis, allowing you to contribute to global conservation efforts and research that’s been cited over 1,000 times on Google Scholar. Join us on this incredible adventure, where you can expand your knowledge, develop essential skills, and leave a positive, lasting impact on this planet we call home.
With a focus on wildlife conservation, marine conservation, endangered species, habitats and ecosystems, citizen science, climate change, and volunteering with animals, we offer volunteer projects abroad in:
At GVI, we know that collaborative work makes the biggest impact. That’s why our volunteer projects are locally-led, with decision-making shared between GVI, local organisations, government and community leaders. Collaborative work is also part of our commitment to ethical best practices. Sustainability is at the core of everything we do, as we strive to create long-term positive outcomes. Our international volunteer programs are built on a foundation of ethical practices, guided by a strong code of conduct and a dedicated team of scientists and PHD-qualified impact directors who ensure our initiatives prioritise the well-being of both people and the environment.
Our dedication to making an impact as ethically as possible and upholding the best operational standards is represented in our badge of ethics, ten ethical commitments and our stances on working ethically with wildlife, marine life and the environment.
GVI runs a range of volunteer projects abroad that are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and focus on addressing critical global issues. Our global volunteer projects are focused on nature conservation, both on land and below water.
Whether you’re a student looking for gap year or summer break ideas, a retiree, a career breaker, or simply have a few weeks of annual leave and want to take a break and switch off from the stresses of everyday life, an overseas volunteer program is the ideal way to travel to travel to extraordinary locations while contributing towards:
With plenty of international volunteering opportunities to choose from, you’re sure to find one that you’re passionate about.
Volunteers on our programs stand to benefit with opportunities for personal and professional development. All of our international volunteer programs offer an optional pre-program course in wildlife conservation, marine conservation or community development, at no extra cost. You’ll receive a certificate from the University of Richmond after successfully completing the course.
And teens who enrol in an under-18 program can complete our optional Leading Teams For Impact online course. Created in partnership with the University of Richmond, after successfully completing the course you’ll receive a certificate to add to your college or job applications.
Students who are looking for career-enhancing work experience in line with their field of study are encouraged to apply for our international internship programs. Our internship programs offer many of the same benefits as our volunteer programs, but have an added focus on the specific professional development and skills needed to land a job in the industry.
If your interests lie in community development initiatives, head on over to our People site, where you’ll find our range of programs that focus on:
GVI runs global volunteer projects in over a dozen countries around the world, taking you to some truly extraordinary locations. With our scientific approach and impactful project work giving us rare access to extraordinary locations, picture yourself off the beaten track, exploring unique conservation areas with rare species and amazing ecosystems. You could work to protect Fiji’s coral reefs, conserve Mexico’s marine ecosystems, study lemurs in Madagascar or work with iconic species like lions and rhinos in South Africa.
There are also opportunities to travel and sightsee while volunteering abroad. All volunteer work takes place during the week and usually operates during regular office hours. This means that there’s plenty of time in the evening to visit the local area or take short trips on the weekend.
Some volunteers also choose to extend their time abroad by travelling to nearby locations before and after their volunteer project for the full volunteer holiday abroad experience. And some of our programs already include adventure activities, like our teen volunteering programs.
In Africa we run volunteer projects in Madagascar, Seychelles and South Africa.
When you volunteer in Madagascar you’ll be based on our research station on the island of Nosy Be. Wildlife conservation volunteers experience the diverse ecosystems of rainforests, oceans, and tropical coasts while working alongside local experts and other volunteers to conserve endangered lemurs, black lemurs, Hawks’ sportive lemurs, panther chameleons, dwarf chameleons, green turtles and hawksbill turtles.
In your free time you can hike to the highest peak of Lokobe National Park for breathtaking ocean and island views. Or experience the vibrant atmosphere of Hell-Ville, Nosy Be’s capital, with its bars, restaurants and markets. And don’t miss the opportunity to snorkel and dive in the coral wonderlands of Nosy Tanikely’s marine protected area.
GVI runs volunteering projects from Mahe Island in Seychelles, with our main partner in the region being the Seychelles National Parks Authority. Our research station in Cap Ternay is situated right next to the Baie Ternay National Park, located on the main Seychelles island of Mahe. Based in a marine protected area teeming with marine life and abundant coral reefs, you’ll dive daily, contribute to research, and have the opportunity to earn advanced PADI diving qualifications.
When you join our climate change and coral bleaching program you’ll assist with coral rehabilitation and learn about efforts to combat coral bleaching. Or you could take part in marine species research, conservation surveys and marine plastic pollution cleanups through our marine conservation expedition program.
Weekends in Seychelles are your time to explore. Discover hidden beaches, spot giant tortoises and hop on a ferry to nearby islands like La Digue. Hop on a bike and head to Grand Anse, voted the world’s best beach – and don’t miss the chance to visit the Veuve Nature Reserve and encounter the rare black paradise flycatcher bird.
In South Africa, GVI runs wildlife conservation programs from a private game reserve in Limpopo. Against the backdrop of the Drakensberg mountain range, which forms part of the Great Escarpment, this protected area is a stronghold for many key African species like the Big Five – buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhino. Our research station is located only 45 minutes away from the famous Kruger National Park, one of the largest nature reserves in Africa.
Joining a wildlife research expedition in South Africa offers an opportunity to protect the environment and immerse yourself in its rich biodiversity. With its diverse landscapes and a staggering number of mammal, bird, and plant species, South Africa is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. You’ll have the chance to work alongside experienced conservationists, gaining valuable knowledge about wildlife behaviour, ecology and conservation efforts – from tracking and monitoring animals to actively participating in conservation initiatives.
During your free time, travel the picturesque Panorama Route, taking in the breathtaking views of the Drakensberg, go bungee jumping or glide through the landscape on a zipline tour. You could also travel further south and explore Cape Town, from hiking Table Mountain to relaxing on beautiful beaches, visiting the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, meeting penguins at Boulders Beach, and paying a visit to the Robben Island Museum.
In Asia, we offer wildlife and coastal conservation volunteering projects in two regions of Thailand – the mountainous area of Chiang Mai and the coastal region of Phang Nga.
Our Northern Thailand program is located about an hour from the city of Chiang Mai. Here, volunteers work alongside the Karen cultural community, in the village of Huay Pakoot, to assist with reintegrating Asian elephants relieved from the tourism industry back into their natural forest habitat. Or join our gibbon conservation volunteer program and contribute to the preservation of endangered white-handed gibbons. Track, photograph and document their behaviour while exploring the breathtaking mountains and forests of Northern Thailand.
In Chiang Mai, volunteers are spoilt for choice with things to do during their free time. Explore magnificent temples, wander through vibrant markets and indulge in delicious street food. Thrill-seekers can enjoy ziplining and bamboo rafting adventures, while nature lovers can explore jungles and waterfalls.
In the province of Phang Nga, we work in the village of Bam Nam Khem on coastal and marine conservation projects. In partnership with the Thai Royal Navy, our sea turtle conservation volunteers help to raise sea turtles at conservation and research centres. The purpose of this project is to help sea turtles hatchlings grow to a size where they are more likely to succeed in the wild. Unfortunately, local beaches are currently too eroded to support the nests. When these young sea turtles are released back into the ocean they help threatened sea turtle populations to regenerate faster.
Volunteers can also participate in coastal conservation projects, such as organising plastic cleanups, and snorkel in crystal-clear waters to contribute to coral reef conservation surveys.
Your free time in Phang Nga will be packed with unforgettable moments. You can go snorkelling or diving, discover hidden caves and limestone cliffs on kayak excursions, immerse yourself in Thai culture with cooking classes and market visits, or trek through jungles to find hidden waterfalls.
From the Pacific island nation of Fiji you can participate in marine conservation initiatives.
If you’re interested in marine conservation and would like to earn professional diving qualifications, join our dedicated team of conservation volunteers on the main island of Viti Levu, in Dawasamu. We focus on researching the effects of climate change, overfishing and plastic pollution on coastal habitats, coral reefs and marine species. Working closely with local partner organisations, such as the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network, we work towards finding sustainable solutions to these challenges. Here you’ll survey the health of the reefs and remove invasive species. You could also work in partnership with Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries to improve sustainable fishing practices.
Before diving into our marine conservation programs, you’ll earn our exclusive qualification: the PADI Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Specialty. This unique course teaches you cutting-edge techniques for underwater coral reef surveys. Plus, while exploring Fiji’s stunning waters, you can also earn a range of other PADI certifications.
Make the most of your free time by scuba-diving, exploring nearby islands, and enjoying the surrounding areas. You can also take a trip to the city of Suva for a taste of local culture and delicious food.
Our projects in Europe are based in Greece and the Canary Islands of Spain. These projects focus on coastal and marine conservation, and endangered species preservation.
Each year, during the European summer of June, July, August and September, GVI volunteers gather on the beaches of the small town of Giannitsochori.
This region is one of the most significant loggerhead sea turtle nesting areas in the Mediterranean. Our volunteers survey beaches in the morning and the evening, looking for mother sea turtle tracks, nests and baby sea turtles. As a sea turtle volunteer, you’ll install protections around nests and might even get involved in mother sea turtle tagging. Later in the season, you might even see baby sea turtles hatch from their nests.
Discover the wonders of Greece during your free time. Visit Olympia, the ancient site of the Olympic Games, with its impressive ruins and sacred temples dedicated to Greek gods. Or take a trip to the breathtaking Neda waterfall near Figalia, where you can swim in pools and marvel at the cascading falls.
GVI runs marine conservation projects in one location in Spain. Our research station in the Canary Islands is located on the island of Tenerife. The warm Atlantic Ocean that surrounds Tenerife is inhabited by pods of dolphins, whales, sea turtles and other marine life.
GVI’s marine conservation efforts in this region focus on dolphin and whale conservation, and also contribute towards the conservation of other marine life. Here, we monitor and collect data on cetaceans and other marine populations. The data we collect contributes to scientific research towards sustainable marine conservation, sustainable tourism, ethical fishing regulations and environmental conservation.
Part of your time as a volunteer will be spent on a boat with fellow volunteers and GVI staff members to monitor whale and dolphin behaviour, take photographs and record the amount of cetaceans you spot. Tenerife’s biodiversity marks the island as a popular tourist destination. You’ll get involved in educating tourists about the importance of ethical dolphin and whale watching tours, which will contribute towards efforts to alleviate dolphin and whale species endangerment.
During your free time, you can catch the perfect wave while surfing, hike to the summit of Mount Teide, explore bustling local markets, and savour mouthwatering Spanish cuisine as you soak in the stunning vistas of this volcanic island.
We run volunteer projects in Costa Rica and Mexico.
From the beach town of Puerto Morelos on the Caribbean coast, we run marine conservation programs as well as the opportunity to earn various PADI certifications, including Open Water, Advanced Open Water Diver and the unique Coral Reef Researcher Distinctive Speciality.
Our marine conservation volunteers in Mexico help to study and preserve the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest reef system in the world. Volunteers on this program play a vital role in reef conservation. They conduct surveys to assess reef health, cultivate coral fragments in a lab for transplantation, and help reduce marine plastic pollution through beach and ocean cleanups while documenting the collected waste.
Experience the magic of Puerto Morelos during your free time! Relax on pristine beaches, uncover the secrets of the ancient Mayan civilization as you explore nearby ruins, and dive into the hidden world of cenotes, where you can swim in crystal-clear waters and take in the mystical beauty of underwater caves. And, of course, indulge in the authentic flavours of Mexican cuisine with mouthwatering dishes like tacos, tamales and ceviche.
Our conservation volunteering programs are based in Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve, which is a protected, coastal rainforest with a high density of wildlife, several lagoons and canals. Here, volunteers are stationed at a remote research station within the reserve. The main species you’d focus on researching are tropical birds, reptiles, jungle cats and sea turtles. You’d also conduct biodiversity surveys of the surrounding forest and bird surveys while canoeing along the canals. This data is delivered to park management, the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment and Energy, and other partners.
Our Costa Rica volunteer projects offer the perfect opportunity to explore during your free time. From stunning beaches like Punta Uva for surfing, to snorkelling adventures, hiking, ziplining and white-water rafting, there’s something for every adventurer. Travel to Cahuita or Manzanillo for a more off-the-beaten-track experience, or explore the numerous breathtaking national parks.
We offer a diversity of volunteer projects to give international volunteers the opportunity to contribute to a cause they are motivated to address. All our projects are aligned to the objectives set by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
As experts in running international volunteering projects, we know that it’s also important that volunteer work is aligned to your individual learning goals. Our volunteer projects feature many opportunities for you to try out different types of tasks aligned with your diverse interests. For example, those keen to contribute to ethical tourism can travel to Tenerife where our marine conservation programs focus on responsible whale watching, beach cleanups, and supporting local communities’ sustainable development initiatives.
We specialise in volunteer projects for participants of all ages. On all our volunteer programs, we provide a pre-departure program before you arrive at your chosen volunteer location. The program support coordinator and program manager will host a pre-departure call for all volunteers booked onto the program to answer any last minute questions you might have and offer support for any pre-program jitters.
If you’re a career breaker, are looking for a career change, or are an older adult who’s looking to make a positive impact, you’re also welcome to join one of our volunteer projects abroad. There is no maximum age restriction for joining any of our volunteer projects abroad.
You will also receive training material prior to your departure to guide you on everything you need to know before you travel to your program location. All practical, program-specific training will be provided by trained GVI staff members on-the-ground.
We also have volunteer opportunities for groups. These are available to volunteer families and friends, as well as corporate, college, university and high school groups looking to volunteer abroad. Many of our educational groups also follow our service-learning curriculum.
Most of our volunteer programs around the world run throughout the year, including many that run over Christmas time. But some are seasonal. These seasonal changes are due to natural events like the nesting times of sea turtles or school vacation days and days of national observance in the countries in which we operate.
GVI offers both wildlife and marine conservation programs allowing you to contribute to UN SDGs 14 and 15: Life Below Water and Life on Land. Most of the work that you’ll carry out is research based, making our conservation volunteering programs perfect for those looking to participate in projects that contribute to ongoing scientific research.
There are also opportunities to be more involved in hands-on conservation activities like helping to raise baby sea turtles and participating in beach cleanups. GVI does not support animal handling, unless for necessary health checks or for ethical scientific research. Any necessary contact made with animals will be supervised by trained staff members. For more information on our animal handling policies, read our stance on animal proximity and handling.
You will also work with local community members to increase awareness of activities that affect local habitats and species. This is an important aspect of all our conservation projects. When people understand the work needed to be done and why, they’re able to continue the work without input from GVI. Learn more about GVI responsible exit strategies here.
If you’re looking for projects in animal conservation, you’ll find plenty of opportunities with GVI. Our wildlife conservation programs allow you to contribute to UN SDG 15: Life on Land.
If you’re on the lookout for big cat conservation volunteer projects, you can join us in Costa Rica and South Africa. Here our volunteers contribute to the work of national, regional and international organisations working to preserve big cat species.
In Costa Rica, you can work on a jaguar conservation volunteer project. You’ll walk the Caribbean coastline, taking note of signs of jaguars in the area like paw prints. Another jaguar conservation volunteering task is setting up, maintaining and monitoring camera traps.
In South Africa, you have the opportunity to collect data on both lions and leopards. You’ll also collect data on cheetahs and other predators like the spotted hyena. Our cheetah program is set up in partnership with the Endangered Wildlife Fund’s cheetah metapopulation project.
We also offer two opportunities, in South Africa and in Thailand, for international participants to volunteer with elephants. In South Africa, you’ll work with a local organisation, Elephants Alive, to research the most effective method of preventing African elephants from damaging rare native plant species. In Thailand, you’ll work with members of a local community to reintegrate endangered Asian elephants that were relieved from the tourism industry back into their natural habitat.
Another megaherbivore that we support is the rhinoceros. If you volunteer on our anti-rhino poaching volunteer project in South Africa, you will learn about what is done by local organisations and individuals to protect these animals.
And if you’re an avid birder, you can contribute to conservation objectives by joining one of our bird watching volunteer projects in South Africa and Costa Rica. These citizen science projects allow you to collect data that assists with other conservation objectives. Birds are important indicators of the health of a habitat and provide a range of information for conservationists.
These bird watching projects in South Africa contribute to the South African Bird Atlas, the largest project of its kind in Southern Africa. In Costa Rica, you can travel along the canals to record numbers of waterfowl. This information is then forwarded to the Ministry of the Environment and Energy.
If you’ve always had an interest in reptiles and amphibians, you can join our research project in Costa Rica.
GVI collaborated with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) to offer our marine conservation participants an exclusive benefit when they join a program for two weeks or more. By joining any one of our marine conservation programs for a minimum of two weeks, you will receive the Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Speciality course for free. This course will be provided as part of your training and is a speciality segment of the PADI Divemaster course offered on our internship programs.
This focus on surveying corals is directly related to the environmental importance of these living underwater habitats. Corals provide a nursing ground for fish species, absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and protect communities and environments along coastlines from the effects of tropical storms.
All GVI marine conservation volunteers complete underwater surveys. Some programs specialise in coral surveys. If you’re interested in coral research specifically, we recommend that you book one of these speciality volunteering programs in Fiji, Mexico and Seychelles. If you don’t select one of these programs, you’ll still gain exposure to coral reef conservation and earn your PADI Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Specialty, but you might also conduct surveys of fish and other marine species.
Beach and reef plastic pollution cleanups are also an important part of all our marine, coastal and island conservation projects. If you’d like to focus specifically on this environmental issue, book one of our plastic pollution volunteer programs in Thailand and Fiji.
As a marine conservation volunteer, you’ll also get involved in environmental education, working with local communities to increase awareness about the importance of sustainable fishing and tour operations, preventing plastic pollution and using reef-friendly sunscreen.
GVI marine conservation programs offer various other opportunities for PADI certifications. In Fiji, you have the opportunity to earn your PADI Open Water Diver certification. In Seychelles and Thailand, you can earn your PADI Divemaster certification. Some programs that involve scuba-diving in Mexico allow you the opportunity to earn your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification.
Under-18s who already have their PADI Open Water Diver certification can earn their PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification as part of the under-18 Mexico program. And if you volunteer on the advanced divers marine conservation expedition in Mexico, you can earn your PADI Coral Reef Researcher Distinctive Speciality certification, as well as your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification.
If you’re not keen on diving or getting out into the open water, but would like to help conserve marine animals, why not consider one of our coastal conservation programs? On this type of program, you can volunteer with sea turtles. Our sea turtle volunteer projects are based in Costa Rica, Greece, Seychelles and Thailand. Here, you and your fellow volunteers also conduct regular beach cleanups.
If your interests lie in the area of community development we run a wide range of international volunteer programs with a focus on teaching, public health, women’s empowerment, gender equality and early childhood development.
Our community development projects allow you to contribute mainly to UN SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being, SDG4: Quality Education and SDG5: Gender Equality.
UN SDG 4: Quality Education contributes to many of the other UN SDGs, like Goal 5: Gender Equality. Depending on the program you join, you’ll contribute to the education of primary and high school learners, or adults.
On our teaching programs, you will assist local teachers in the classroom to provide learners with more support. On some of our teaching programs, you will also run sports lessons after school. Education for adults creates opportunities for adults to empower themselves – both with academic knowledge and professional skills. And this helps to further other global efforts, like creating sustainable economic growth and greater equality.
GVI runs teaching projects in Cambodia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Madagascar, Nepal and South Africa. On our teaching programs, you’ll work with local teachers to improve English literacy among local community members. Volunteers in different locations work with different age groups, from toddlers and primary school learners, to adults. You might work in local primary and high schools, or at informal educational institutions. In some of our locations, we also assist in numeracy. In others, we assist with computer skills.
In Thailand, you can choose to join one of our teaching internships and earn your Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate.
GVI runs a number of projects for women’s empowerment around the world that allow you to contribute to UN SDG 5: Gender Equality. These projects focus mainly on assisting women with developing their professional and business skill sets. You’ll help conduct workshops on business, conversational English and computer skills.
On some of our women’s empowerment volunteer projects, we also work with men and boys to increase awareness of gender inequality. In locations and communities where we offer teaching volunteer projects, we also contribute to the education of girls. We run these women’s empowerment volunteer projects in Cambodia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Madagascar, Nepal and South Africa.
Public health resources are urgently needed, and public health volunteering with GVI is one of the most vital ways to make a difference. As a volunteer, you could run workshops on various topics such as nutrition, hygiene, fitness, reproductive health, disease prevention and first aid.
Early childhood development researchers have found that there are certain critical ages for developing important skills related to language, numbers and other significant competencies. This is why it’s important for children to have access to quality learning experiences from an early age.
When you volunteer on one of these projects, you’ll work with local educators specialising in early childhood development. You’ll run educational games related to learning numbers, colours, letters, shapes and other important topics. You might also arrange sports and arts and crafts lessons to help develop the children’s fine motor skills. You might also read English stories to children to improve their understanding of the English language. This helps them to improve their English literacy skills, which is important for gaining further education later on.
Regular physical exercise is important for everyone’s health, but it also helps children develop their muscles and gross motor skills. Physical exercise lessons also help children build healthier lifestyles. Sports is a popular tool to facilitate regular physical exercise for children and it also builds other skills like teamwork, communication and confidence performing individually and in a team context.
In South Africa we run sports projects where volunteers facilitate sports lessons with local primary school students. On our projects in South Africa, the most popular sport is soccer. On sports programs, you’ll help introduce types of physical exercise in line with the physical education curriculum in each country. In this way, you’ll contribute towards UN SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being and UN SDG 4: Quality Education.
GVI volunteer construction projects are aligned to UN SDGs 3: Good Health and Well-being, 4: Quality Education, 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, and 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.
In Nepal, construction volunteers work with GVI staff and local community members to improve learning facilities at schools in the Pokhara region. In Fiji, we run sustainable building volunteer projects. Our construction volunteers work in the district of Dawasamu, on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu. If you become a construction volunteer, you’ll assist local community members with constructing and maintaining recycling stations and rainwater harvesting systems.
The well-being and safety of all our participants is imperative to GVI. That is why we do not allow participants to do any specialised construction work that they are not qualified to do. For more information, read our stance on construction, medical and veterinary volunteering.