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Help a child in Nairobi: Micato Safaris
The gist: This is a traditional luxury safari (you are going to see rhinos, people!) with a philanthropic twist: In the midst of their travels, all guests are encouraged to spend a few hours volunteering with AmericaShare, a nonprofit devoted to bettering the lives of children in Nairobi.
Accommodations: Deluxe hotels, lodges and camps--like this
Cost: From $7,500 for ten days
Save sea turtles in Costa Rica: GoVoluntouring
The gist: Though some time is blocked off for swimming, you’ll spend the bulk of your vacation cleaning beaches, relocating nests and rescuing turtles on the gorgeous shores of Costa Rica. (Don’t worry--you’ll learn how to do all this during training.)
Accommodations: Depending on the trip, you might be in a hut, tent, bungalow or more traditional house. In any case, there’s a good chance you’ll be without electricity--and you may have to source your own water from a nearby well. In other words, this adventure is not for the faint of heart.
Cost: From $1,000 for seven days
Teach HIV awareness in Cambodia: Global Service Corps
The gist: On this two- or four-week volunteering adventure, you’ll provide vital wellness education to disadvantaged kids and adults all over Cambodia. After a couple days of training, you’ll be ready to lead workshops focused on HIV/AIDS prevention, drug and alcohol abuse awareness, hygiene, nutrition and issues related to domestic violence.
Accommodations: Local hotels and guesthouses in Phnom Penh, which probably won’t be fancy but will have modern conveniences
Cost: From $2,356 for two weeks
Study jaguars, pumas and primates in the Amazon: Biosphere Expeditions
The gist: As part of a small international team, you’ll assist local biologists with an ongoing survey of biodiversity in Peru. On foot and via canoe, you’ll help track animals and record endangered species. A word of warning: Part of the deal is that you have to get up at 5 a.m. every day.
Accommodations: Base camp is a large, riverside wooden jungle lodge with single, twin and double rooms (showers and toilets included). It ain’t fancy, but it’s kind of beautiful.
Cost: $1,850 for six nights
Install solar panels in Nicaragua: GRID Alternatives
The gist: Transform an off-the-grid community by helping to install solar panels in schools, hospitals and homes. You don’t need to know Spanish--or understand anything about solar electricity--to help out, and the program encourages you to bring along the entire brood. (Read: Kids are welcome!)
Accommodations: While in training, you’ll stay in a fancy hotel with a pool, spa and restaurant. While working with the community, you’ll stay, well, in the community--in rural houses with no running water or electricity.
Cost: $1,600 for nine days
Save elephants and replant trees in Thailand: Hands Up Holidays
The gist: After a day of sightseeing in Bangkok, guests are whisked to Chiang Mai for five days on an elephant reserve. There, you?ll feed and bathe your own little baby Dumbo, replant trees in deforested areas and learn about general rain-forest rehabilitation. There?s also plenty of time for relaxing by the gorgeous infinity pool.
Accommodations: Four- and five-star hotels
Cost: From $3,950 for 12 days
Eco scuba dive in Seychelles: GoEco
The gist: The coral reefs need your help! Head to the Indian Ocean and spend your days collecting data on coral reefs, sea turtles, tropical fish and plankton. Volunteers learn how to identify many indigenous species while traveling amidst idyllic desert islands.
Accommodations: Bare-bones mixed dorms with shared bathrooms. Prima donnas not welcome.
Cost: $3,310 for four weeks
Serve food to needy New Yorkers: Giveback Getaways
The gist: For those looking for something a little less all-encompassing, the Ritz-Carlton has a terrific program in place called Give Back Getaways. Here, guests are invited to partake in half-day volunteer efforts--all coordinated through the hotel. We particularly like the New York branch, which facilitates trips to a local soup kitchen.
Accommodations: Um, the Ritz
Cost: Complimentary with cost of stay
Maybe you want to bike the Napa Valley. Maybe you want to learn all about Renaissance Dutch painting. Maybe you want to drink strawberry mojitos and read Danielle Steel.
What you do with your vacation is none of our business. That said, if you’ve always wanted to know more about trips with an altruistic bent (voluntourism is the buzzy term), we’ve got good news: There are now more ways than ever to travel the world while helping local communities and ecosystems.
Check out our slideshow of trips designed to do some good--from a luxury safari to a rugged trek through the Amazon jungle.
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