Longstay & Backpacker

Environmental Gap Year Programmes

Given the growing awareness of the need to look after the environment, environmental gap year programs have been growing in popularity. Many are now acutely aware of the need to preserve the planet and to protect endangered animals.

You may have been inspired by Greta Thunberg, feel the need to give back to a community less fortunate than your own or want to help save endangered wildlife during your gap year. Whatever your motivation, there are a variety of gap year environmental programmes and volunteer wildlife projects around the world.

In this article, we have selected some volunteer eco-projects abroad that aim to assist vulnerable communities and protect endangered animals. These offer not only the chance to volunteer abroad in small communities but also provide you with the opportunity to travel to more uncommon gap year destinations.

Environmental Volunteer Programs in Kenya

Kenya sits on the east coast of Africa. It is safe within safari destinations and national parks, reserves and wildlife conservancies but be sure to follow the advice on the GOV.UK website before booking a trip or travelling. It is worth noting that the Foreign and Commonwealth office report that 100,000 UK residents visit Kenya every year and most are trouble-free.

If you decide to participate in a environmental volunteer program in Kenya it is sure to be a rewarding experience. Kenyan farmers always need an extra pair of hands and school children are delighted to have an opportunity to learn English from a native speaker.

Environmental Gap Year Programmes in Kenya

Some benefits of an environmental programs officer placement

  • Help to develop new methods of farming while you learn about soil-less environments.
  • Sustain yearly crop cycles from planting new ones
  • Feed and care for livestock
  • Learn new gardening skills, while picking and trying new foods.
  • Work with children to improve their English skills

What are the requirements of the environmental program?

  • Good grammar and English
  • Police clearance
  • A good level of fitness
  • Up to date vaccinations

If you stay long enough for a break after your hard work, be sure to experience a wildlife park like Amboseli National Park where you will get up close to elephants, zebras, cheetahs and many other exotic animals. You can of course also marvel at the views of the awesome Mount Kilimanjaro, just over the border in Tanzania.

Other locations to find environmental volunteer programs include:

  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Canada
  • China

Try an Environmental Health Program in the Philippines

If you have a passion for nutritional health and like to encourage people to live healthier and happier lives, then a visit to the Philippines may teach you something new and make a positive impact to nutritionally deficient communities. It is a sad fact that obesity is a serious issue for Pacific island communities.

The benefits of participating in an environmental health programme:

  • Gain work experience in a clinic, and shadow health professionals.
  • Learn more about dietary requirements essential to good nutritional health.
  • Experience the culture first hand when making house calls
  • Grow the invaluable experience you require to be a medical professional

Where else can I do an environmental health program?

  • Fiji
  • Vietnam
  • Malaysia
  • Laos, Southeast Asia

Volunteering projects abroad with animals

Volunteer to work with elephants

Doing volunteer work in an elephant sanctuary or elephant orphanage is very rewarding. Some volunteer projects help to place older elephants in sanctuaries, where they can retire happily instead of working in harsh environments. They carry out invaluable work so that the local community are educated about why elephants are becoming an endangered species.

Environmental gap year projects with elephants

The benefits of this volunteer work can include:

  • Get a unique chance to bond with elephants when feeding them
  • Learn all about elephant welfare
  • Contribute to local community projects to enhance the lives of local people such as teaching English and flood protection.

In return for your help, you may also gain new skills from living and working closely within a small community. For example, learn how to cook like an Indian or experience colourful Thai cooking!


  • The Chiang Mai province of Thailand
  • Parts of Africa, for example, Kenya and Sri Lanka
  • South Africa
  • India

Join a sea turtle conservation project

Sadly there are seven different types of turtles which are all in endangered, due to human activities and environmental changes. This has led to an increase in sea turtles conservation research projects and turtle conservation projects around the world.

Working with a trained biologist you will take part in various activities to protect turtles … all while living and working on a paradise beach location.

Benefits of being a turtle conservation volunteer:

  • Take on ‘Project Turtle Watch’ in the evenings to see turtles hatching their young
  • Clean young turtles up and nurture them back to good health
  • Give older babies back their freedom by placing them back in the ocean when they are ready
  • Witness turtles nesting

Locations to take part in marine turtle conservation projects:

  • Kefalonia, Greece
  • Quepos, Costa Rica
  • Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka
  • Malaysia

As you will be in a location by the sea you will also have opportunities to do some marine conservation volunteer diving.

If you think outside of the box, there are many wildlife conservation volunteer opportunities abroad that you can choose from. Maybe you’ll be a marine conservation volunteer or a jungle conservation volunteer – all you have to do is pick the location most suitable to you and the cause that you care about most!

What are the benefits of conservation volunteering?

  • If you’re studying biology or veterinary medicine, a volunteer program working with animals will enhance your CV.
  • You will learn new skills such as cooking, diving or snorkelling.
  • Live life to the full while working in a beautiful location.
  • Learn new languages and gain insights into different far-flung cultures.

Green Gap Year locations in South America

… If you’d like to simply reduce your carbon footprint while on your gap year (if you forget the element of air travel) the following locations are suitable green options:

  • Aruba. A country that is implanting a ban on all single-use plastics and reef-destroying sunscreens to help keep the Caribbean Sea clean.
  • Costa Rica, which promotes sustainable tourism, for instance, 90% of the country’s energy is created via renewable sources.

Environmental Gap Year Program Costs

Environmental Gap Year Programmes and projects abroad cost from as little as £250 for a week during the Christmas holidays, with all your food, accommodation, equipment and research material included.

Long and short term volunteer projects abroad are optional. Although the real costs will come down to your location and how many weeks or months you decide to stay.

Items not usually included are your flights, visa and insurance. You can always do some environmental projects fundraising if you are very passionate about a particular project you want to do during your gap year and we can assist you with the insurance, with our peace of mind protection policies.

If you want to extend your adventure around the world or do more than one programme within 18 months we have three levels of cover to benefit you during your gap year. Another key feature is that you can return home up to two times, for that friend’s wedding or a period of recuperation, before setting off for your next trip. To share your travels, you will want to take your phone, which is why the gadget cover on our Longstay and Longstay Plus policies is key.

You can view all the key features of our Longstay & Backpacker policy here.

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