Google wildlife conservation volunteering abroad and what do you see? Lots of images of young people, usually young women; that’s what. So, obviously not for those of us with a few more years under our belts.
Well, this was me when I first volunteered with Wildlife ACT 4 years ago:
I was 66. And I have recently come back from my second (but not last) visit at considerably nearer 70.
Why Consider Wildlife Conservation Volunteering Abroad?
Yes, it can be tough. It’s Zululand, not Disneyland and you aren’t there to say “aww” and have chefs serve you haute cuisine after a long couple of hours looking for the Big 5. Drives can be very long and uncomfortable – both physically and mentally – and then you have to cook your own supper and breakfast! Rather a small price to pay for making a genuine difference, I think. (And the price is small. Bear in mind that whilst in Africa you aren’t paying bills at home, so the major cost is just your airfare, but your money makes a real difference on the ground).
You’ll learn things you never thought possible. You’ll see things which people paying a fortune for a luxury lodge will never see. You’ll meet wonderful people from all over the world.
It’s ruined me for commercial safaris (and I have done some both in South Africa and India) – there really is no comparison. With Wildlife ACT you will see the Big 5 (though I’m still waiting to see a leopard), the Ugly 5; possibly even the Little 5, but there is so much more to the volunteering experience than that. Whatever you think of Africa, you’ll go home with a new understanding:
- Of how endangered wildlife and the whole ecosystem is being managed and why.
- About poaching: why it happens and what is being done about it.
- Of how Wildlife ACT is working with local communities and organisations to preserve the ecosystems for the long term.
Just as a beginning.
Is there an Age Limit for Wildlife Conservation Volunteering Abroad?
Think you’re too old? Only if you think you are. Travel with a friend, a partner, an offspring or alone. It doesn’t matter. By the time you’re picked up at Richard’s Bay Airport, you’ll already have made new friends.
Think you’re not fit enough? If you can get onto the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser and sit on a bench, you’re fit enough. Take a cushion if you think you’ll need one. (I have back damage and manage just fine: best physio I’ve ever had).
Worried about safety? There is a professional monitor to worry about it for you. S/he is there to make sure that you are safe and take no unnecessary risks. Take malaria tablets if you want to. Take industrial strength bug spray and use it. Always follow your monitor’s advice.
You will also go home with hundreds of pictures, amazing memories – and before you know it you’ll be checking your diary to see when you can manage your next visit. South Africa worms its way into your heart and keeps a bit of it until you go back.
– Written by Sue Shearman
Wildlife ACT is recognised as a reputable wildlife organisation by numerous world-renowned conservation authorities such as Wildlands, Panthera and the Wildlife Conservation Network. Their Endangered Species Monitoring programme, which caters for those seeking wildlife conservation volunteering abroad for over 50s, is unmatched. Their volunteering projects are Fair Trade Tourism certified and Wildlife ACT was awarded at the African Responsible Tourism Awards in the category: Best for Habitat and Species Conservation.