Volunteer in Europe with Conservation Organizations
Volunteering for conservation projects is a fantastic way to see endangered species in the wild, meet interesting people from all over the world, and travel to beautiful areas. Several European wildlife and conservation organizations are looking for volunteers to work with endangered species and spaces. One week is often enough, but many volunteers spend an entire summer or longer on the projects.
As assistant editor for Green Volunteers: The World Guide to Voluntary Work in Nature Conservation, which lists hundreds of projects throughout the world and over 70 in Europe, I visited a few of the many conservation projects in the Mediterranean that accepts volunteers. Accessing the database of volunteer projects involves a small fee, but is well worth the cost considering the treasure-trove of options you will find.
The Tethys Research Institute (based in Milan), takes groups of volunteers to scan the horizon for whales. Every day was exciting, whether it was watching a group of the rare Rissos dolphins, with young calves leaping and swimming all around our boat, or a fin whale, one of the largest whale species in the world, swimming alongside us and dwarfing our 66-foot motor-sailer. At night we had dinner on the boat and discussed the days work or walked into one of the towns along the coast before settling down on deck for a contented sleep under the stars.
Many of the projects in Greece are very affordable for the low-budget traveler because volunteers stay in their own tents and pay a small daily food allowance.
Archelon works to study, protect, and rehabilitate the various species of sea turtle that nest on the beaches of Greece. Loggerhead sea turtles were nesting when I came to visit the projects on the islands of Zakynthos and Crete. The work was hard but highly rewarding. A hatchling watch starts at 5 a.m. to ensure that any late hatchlings make it to the water before the sun rises and they become disorientated and exhausted. The group receive little or no funding and must rely heavily upon volunteers to provide labor and revenue.
Hellenic Ornithological Society is trying to protect one of the last populations in the world of the rare birds.
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Extremely dedicated and prepared researchers are involved in similar projects all over Europe. The cost that is required to volunteer is often less than that of similar projects offered by private sending organizations. I cannot think of a better way to do something to make a difference with my vacation time.