Berkeley, California (EastBayDaily) — The 20 nations that make up continental Latin America span the greatest latitudinal range of any region in the world, resulting in a tremendous diversity of wildlife and ecosystems—and the region’s volunteer opportunities are nearly as diverse as its ecology. Now, just in time for Earth Day, Amy E. Robertson shares six ideas for taking an environmentally focused volunteer vacation.
1. Save sea turtles in Costa Rica: A classic volunteer trip for Latin America, sea turtle conservation includes monitoring mother turtles, protecting eggs from animals and poachers, and helping newly hatched turtles complete their race from nest to sea. ASTOP in Parismina offers a highly recommended homestay program to volunteers for just $27 per day. For those tight on time, Endangered Wildlife Trust allows guests at its Casa Grande to make just a two-night volunteer commitment.
2. Help turtles beyond Costa Rica: Digging a little deeper, travelers will find unique opportunities to support sea turtles across the Americas. RED Sustainable Travel in Mexico offers gourmet meals and beach campouts as part of its packages. ProTECTor welcomes volunteers in Honduras, where conservancy is underdeveloped, and ICAPO in El Salvador and Nicaragua protects the hawksbill, one of the most endangered sea turtles on the planet.
3. Go wild for wildlife: Maybe it’s not turtles, but chinchillas, dolphins, finches, iguanas, macaws, monkeys, tapirs, or other animals that warm your heart. Popular adventures range from feeding animals and cleaning cages at animal refuges and rehabilitation centers such as Inti Wara Yassi in Bolivia to monitoring the movements of jaguars and giant anteaters with Earthwatch in Brazil or Biosphere Expeditions in Peru.
4. Plant, plot, protect: Latin America’s wildlife is dependent on the diversity of its plant life. Travelers can plant trees in the cloud forest of Brazil with Iracambi or care for orchids in Panama with APROVACA. Volunteers can plot forests and coral reefs or support national park rangers in Chile with Conservación Patagónica or in Colombia with the national park service.
5. Focus on farming: Initiatives across Latin America promote organic farming and permaculture (natural and edible landscaping that sustains itself and the gardener). Travelers with a day to spare in Mexico can lend a hand at the earthworm farm or the organic gardens of SiKanda. Volunteers might farm three of Latin America’s key crops (coffee, beans, and corn) with Guardabarranco in Nicaragua, collect seeds in Costa Rica with Wanderland, or learn the basics of organic farming and permaculture at Río Muchacho in Ecuador.
6: Educate about the environment: Not everyone has heard of “the three Rs” (reduce, reuse, recycle), and volunteers can teach school children about recycling or promote community awareness of the interconnectedness of the local ecosystem. One unique organization is Long Way Home in Guatemala, which models green and alternative building practices (like schools made of reused tires and trash-filled bottles), but there are volunteer opportunities in environmental education across all of Latin America with both local and international organizations.
Trips with international organizations typically take care of all the details for you, while locally based organizations often offer greater interaction with the community—and lower prices. Time commitments range from an afternoon squeezed into an already-planned trip to a month-long, full-time effort. There are experiences suitable for families, student groups, independent travelers, and retirees. Whatever your interests, availability, age, and ability, there is a volunteer opportunity to enrich your vacation along with the Earth.
For Earth Day this year, what better way to honor our planet than by planning a vacation to give back to it? Throughout the month of April, travelers can get inspired and informed with a free ebook download of Robertson’s guidebook, Moon Volunteer Vacations in Latin America, from their favorite ebooksellers.
For more information on volunteer vacation opportunities, visit Moon.com and read Amy E. Robertson’s pieces “Questions to Ask About Volunteering in Another Country” and “Coming Full-Circle: How Volunteer Vacations Impacted My Life.”
About Moon Travel Guides & Moon.com: Moon Travel Guides make independent travel and outdoor exploration fun and accessible. With expert writers delivering a mix of honest insight, first-rate strategic advice, and an essential dose of humor, Moon guidebooks ensure that travelers have an uncommon and entirely satisfying travel experience. Moon not only guides, Moon inspires. Based in Berkeley, California, Moon is published by Avalon Travel, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Visit Moon online at moon.com.