If you’re one to raise funds for environmental non-profits, or volunteer with conservation agencies, there are exceptional travel experiences that are great in terms of the places and creatures you see, the work you do, and the incredible people you will have the opportunity to meet. Here are a few options that make our nature lover’s destination guide.
Scuba Diving and Conservation
SODWANA BAY, SOUTH AFRICA
Combining a love of the ocean with the chance to conserve its fragile ecosystems is an incredibly rewarding opportunity for scuba divers with a green heart. Sodwana Bay is home to 50kms of underwater habitat that constitutes one of the world’s most southerly tropical reef systems. In 2000, the bay became internationally known after divers rediscovered the prehistoric coelacanth in the depths of the park’s Jesser Canyon, but it is for the incredible biodiversity of the area’s shallower reefs that most divers flock there. Volunteer with non-profits like the Oceanic Society and Pod Volunteer, from identifying whale sharks to monitoring manta rays and turtles, to reef surveys, there’s loads of ways you can be helpful.
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full”]ADDED BENEFIT If you are a beginner, you will be given your PADI Open Water training during your first week. Qualified Open Water divers can complete a PADI Advanced Open Water course, or depending on the length of your stay, choose from a range of dive speciality courses (eg Deep Diver, Nitrox, Peak Performance Buoyancy, etc) or the Rescue Diver course.[/box]
Swim with Humpback Whales
From August to October each year, the gentle female giants of the sea give birth in the sheltered waters of French Polynesia. You will witness the bond between mother and calf, the song of the male humpback and the unique behaviour that can only be experienced first hand in the Tahitian waters.
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full”]HOT TIP Book the ‘Magical Humpbacks in Tahiti’ tour with Responsible Travel and spend nine nights on the beautiful island of Moorea with sparkling turquoise lagoons; and the immensely knowledgeable wildlife photographer Dr
Olivier Betremieux. [/box]
Ultimate Primates Trip
UGANDA AND RWANDA
To trek into the rain forest and sit with a family of wild mountain gorillas, looking into the eyes of a huge silverback at close range, watching babies cling to their mothers, laughing at youngsters playing in the trees, is a life-enhancing experience for a wildlife lover. To capture amazing photographs of such encounters, travel with Natural Habitat Adventures, an organisation that partners with World Wildlife Fund and boasts of an expedition leader who is both a primate naturalist and an accomplished photographer.
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full”]HARDCORE VALUE The itinerary is unique that it takes you deep into primate territory that others don’t have access to.[/box]
Sea Turtles, Coral reefs and Culture
See two sides of Cuba—art and science. Join a group to explore the coastal wildlife and valleys–snorkel, dive, see nesting sea turtles, rare birds and visit organic farms. Embrace Cuban culture with tours of historic Havana, live jazz performances, authentic Cuban food, and visits to museums and markets. Meet and learn from Cuban marine biologists and conservationists. This programme is offered with SEE Turtles, Cuba Marine Research & Conservation Program, and Altruvistas.
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full”]HARDCORE VALUE An impressive lineup of Cuban insiders will entertain and enlighten all along the way. On the coast, biologist Dr Julia Azanza will guide the group through the fragile sea turtle nesting site visits.[/box]
Close encounters with Jaguars
The Pantanal holds the world’s highest density of wild jaguars; stay in the heart of this region for amazing sightings. Unlike in other areas, jaguars here are active during the day, offering excellent chances to see these elusive cats in the wild. Along the way, also expect to see giant river otters, anteaters, tapir, capybaras, hyacinth macaw, and the world’s largest stork, the jabiru. The Oceanic Society organises a nine-day expedition, guided by award-winning nature photographer Pete Oxford, that ends at South Wild Pantanal Lodge. Here, more than 300 bird species have been recorded. Expedition dates: July 16-26, 2017.
[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full”]ADDED BENEFIT You will be staying at the only hotel that’s inside the Iguassu National Park, so you’ll also be just a short walk from the incredible falls—allowing you to visit the falls at dawn and dusk when other visitors have vacated the park.[/box]