Gap Year 100: the best travel companies for volunteering

There are dozens of options for volunteering in Africa

<< Part one: Learning a skill/language | Part three: Working Abroad >>

Our annual directory of the best gap year travel companies and websites.

VOLUNTEERING

19. Action Aid (01460 238000; www.actionaid.org.uk
Working to end violence against women and girls and help change their lives. Community-building projects take place across Asia, and Africa including libraries and classrooms. Trips require a registration fee of £300, plus a sponsorship target of £2,999.

20. Africa & Asia Venture (01380 729009; www.aventure.co.uk
Offers, teaching and community placements lasting from five to 16 weeks in Africa and Asia. A 5-week project in Kenya costs from £1,945, including accommodation and meals but excluding flights. 

21. African Conservation Experience (+44 1454 269 182; www.conservationafrica.net

Working in rehabilitation centres with hands on animal care in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. Their Care for Wild project, in South Africa enables volunteers to care for Wild African Rhinos in the reserve's sanctuary - five nights including flights costs £2400.  

22. African Impact (0800 098 8440; www.africanimpact.com)

They've designed various topical projects - a handful of plastic recycling initiatives, for instance - which aim to bring about impactful and lasting change in their local communities. Volunteers on their 'girl empowerment' project in Tanzania will live in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro while leading workshops and classes on everything from computer literacy to family planning. It runs from two to 12 weeks and starts at £869, including all accommodation and meals. 

23. All Hands Volunteers (https://www.hands.org/)

A disaster-relief organisation which enables people to volunteer on projects which help those whose lives have been destroyed by natural disasters all over the world. Lend a hand on their Mexico Earthquake Relief program by helping to rebuild schools in the southern state of Chiapas under the guidance of construction and engineering specialists. 

24. Big Beyond (0800 644 6203; www.bigbeyond.org)
Offer bespoke volunteer programmes in conservation and development projects in adventurous corners of rural Africa. Get involved with their Gender Empowerment Project in Tanzania (two weeks from £777 including accommodation and food) or, for £1199, spend two weeks with the Maasai helping to conserve wildlife in Kenya.

25. Blue Ventures (0 207 697 8598; www.blueventures.org
Specialises in marine conservation in Belize, Madagascar and Timor-Leste. A six-week volunteer expedition in Madagascar costs from £2,650, from £2,850 in Belize, and from £2,450 in Timor-Leste. Accommodation is in eco-cabins shared by a maximum of four volunteers. A 9-day lionfish project in Belize costs £875.



26. British Exploring Society (020 7591 3141; www.britishexploring.org)
Discoverers of true remoteness in the Jungle, Desert, Arctic and Mountain. A five week 'paddle expedition' which takes in the Canadian Yukon by Canoe costs £4,100, while a three week jungle trek in the Peruvian Amazon costs £3,800. Alternatively, become an expedition leader by embarking on 9 months of training, and a 6 week expedition in the Indian Himalayas. It costs £4,950 and you'll leave with various internationally-recognised qualifications - in First Aid and Off Site Safety Management, for instance.

27. BUNAC (033 3999 7516; www.bunac.org
Offers worthwhile work, volunteer, intern abroad and summer camp programmes across the globe ranging from 12 days to 23 months. Hang with the orangutans in the rainforests of Borneo, go diving in crystal blue waters and hike Mount Kinabulu before volunteering in the Philippines and experiencing local life. Their four week 'Volunteer Borneo and the Philippines' expedition costs from £2,543. 

28. Camps International (01425 485390; www.campsinternational.com
Offers a 2-week to 3-month volunteering programmes for 18-25 year olds. Live alongside rural communities and within stunning biodiversity areas, while you contribute to sustainable project initiatives across Africa, South-east Asia and South America. Help build schools in the charming Kenyan village of Muhaka: £1,635 for one month. 

29. Changing Worlds (02081 238702; www.changing-worlds.com)
Offers a variety of opportunities overseas including volunteering in disadvantaged communities, paid work placements, internships, courses and qualifications and adventure tours. It's all hands on deck in Costa Rica where, for four weeks and from £1,000 upwards, you can assist in the rescue and rehabilitation of local marine life. 






30. CREES (0207 193 8759; www.crees-manu.org)
Founded in 2002, volunteers live in Peru’s Manu Biosphere Reserve, one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. Theory is taught on tropical ecology, climate change, sustainable agriculture and species recognition, followed by hands-on training in the field. Prices start at $1,950, for a 2 week trip, including accommodation in the biosphere. They also offer a 6-month conservation internship for $6500 and a 3-month multimedia internship for $4750. 

31. Coral Cay Conservation (020 7620 1411; www.coralcay.org
Award-winning specialists in coral reef and tropical forest conservation in various countries. A Divemaster and Conservation Internship comprises a few weeks of training in the UK before 20 weeks spent practicing abroad. Or volunteer at a fish sanctuary in he Philippines for anywhere between two and 16 weeks. Four weeks in the Philippines costs £1,780, including accommodation, food and PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water training.



32. Volunteering Matters (020 3780 5870; www.volunteeringmatters.org.uk
Offers volunteering opportunities to more than 150,000 people each year, most within Britain. Action Earth Scotland offers green-fingered volunteers the oppurtunity to try their hand at landscaping and Help at Hand Befriending is a worthwhile scheme aimed to tackle loneliness amongst Britain's elderly. Accommodation, meals and an allowance provided.

33. Earthwatch Institute (01865 318 831; www.earthwatch.org
An international environmental charity dedicated to scientific field research and promoting sustainable development across the world. Help conserve wildlife within the Amazon Basin while seeking pink river doplphins, and other exotic fish in the Samiria River Peru - £2,425 for 12 days. 

34. Ecoteer (01480 451986; www.ecoteer.com
Most placements are in ecotourism. Further volunteer opportunities are available within conservation, humanitarian aid and teaching. Conserve the beaches of Malaysia's Perhentian Islands. Prices start from £300. 







35. Frontier (020 7613 2422; www.frontier.ac.uk
Frontier has over 300 projects in countries throughout Asia, Africa, South America, Europe and Australasia, offering unlimited adventures and excursions in beautiful locations. Placements are 1-30 weeks, starting at £299, excluding flights. 

36. Forum (forum.ids.org)

Forum, or International Forum for Volunteering in Development, is a global network of volunteering operations. All participating organisations have to sign a member's charter thereby agreeing to uphold certain standards of sustainability. Browse through their 'members' for a full list of charities. 

37. PMGY (0800 321 3564; www.planmygapyear.co.uk
Volunteering opportunities in 17 countries across the world, PMGY placed 2,000 volunteers in 2014. Placements from one week to nine months. Two to four week experience programmes that combine volunteer work and adventure travel available. The Ghana Medical Volunteers programme ranges from 2-24 weeks, costs from £459, including accommodation and meals.

38. Gap Year South Africa (+27 71 383 7155; www.gapyearsouthafrica.com
Offers community development, teaching opportunities, sports coaching and surfing projects in Cape Town. Their aim is to empower underprivileged communities with essential life skills so they can sustain themselves after volunteers have left. A three-month community volunteering project starts from £300 per week, including accommodation.

39. Global Volunteer Projects (0191 222 0404; www.globalvolunteerprojects.org)
Projects in Ghana, Tanzania, China, India, Cambodia, Mexico and Romania which range in subject from medicine to journalism to conservation. Assist with government-sponsored schemes aimed at combatting the spread of HIV in India and Uganda or those looking to break into journalism might consider joining the editorial team of a local newspaper in Mexico. A four-week turtle-conservation expedition in Mexico costs from £995, additional months are £895 thereafter. Language and culture courses are included. 

40. Gapforce (0207 384 3028; www.gapforce.org)
Gapforce have crafted a range of trips which combine conservation, environmental protection and global aid all over the world. Try your hand as a park ranger on their 'South Africa Game Reserve Volunteering' package - £1950 for a month, including meals and accommodation. Volunteer in Ghana, as a teacher, in a medical clinic or newspaper. Prices vary for each but there's a £300 deposit. 



41. International Volunteer HQ (0808 234 1621; volunteerhq.org)

Established in 2007, IVHQ place thousands of volunteers in projects across 40 countries. Those who apply for one of their 200+ projects online are assigned a 'volunteer travel expert' to chaperone and advise them through the rest of the process. Work with NGOs in Cambodia to either provide medical care, computer support or teach in a school from £290 for two weeks, including accommodation and meals. 

42. I-to-I (0113 205 4610; www.i-to-i.com
Teach english abroad in 20 countries with I-to-I. Their 50-day 'Thailand TEFL internship' package include 120 hours of online TEFL-training (the qualification's mandatory for those who want to teach English abroad) followed by a placement in a Thai school, punctuated by fun excursions: £1,195, including accommodation while abroad. 

43. Inter-Cultural Youth Exchange (020 7681 0983; www.icye.org.uk
Three-week to 12-month social, community and environmental projects available in countries throughout Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Regardless of project, six months cost £4,500 and 12 months, £5,200. Projects vary from working with children in deprived areas of Mexico to women's rights work, disability support and HIV/Aids prevention work. 



44. International Citizen Service (020 8780 7400; www.volunteerics.org)
10 to 12-week placements in 28 countries for people aged 18-25. Projects include working to raise awareness of HIV and business training for women in Malawi. Volunteers are required to fund-raise at least £800.

45. Latin Link (0118 957 7100; latinlink.org.uk)
Sends teams to work with Christian missionaries in Latin America. They run 6-24 month placements during which volunteers work alongside a local church or with a Christian-run project. The placement costs between £9,000-£24,000 depending on length. Or, try one of their one month projects. Their Costa Rica trip to Los Guido, Desamparados costs £995 excluding flights. 

46. Lattitude (0118 370 4720; www.lattitude.org.uk
Offers volunteer placements worldwide. Projects, which range from three to twelve months, include teaching, medical and conservation work. 6 month teaching placement in Castilla y Leon in Spain costs £1,500.

47. Madventure (0191 645 0888; www.madventurer.com
School, College and University group-based projects worldwide, charity challenges and volunteering adventures for individual travellers from one to four weeks. Trips start at £750. 



48. Pod Volunteer (01242 241 181; podvolunteer.org)

A charity which has partnered with animal sanctuaries, conservation projects and educational projects around the world to offer various volunteering schemes. Help monitor, observe and protect the elephants on the fringe of Sri Lanka's Knuckles mountain range on their 'Sri Lankan Elephant and Wildlife' project, from £945 for one week. 

49. Projects Abroad (01273 007230; www.projects-abroad.co.uk
Organises overseas volunteer placements, ranging from teaching and conservation to human-rights projects and journalism. A nine week placement working in specialist care centres focused on malnutriton and HIV in Nepal costs £995 for one week, which includes food and accommodation.

50. Project Trust 
(01879 230444; www.projecttrust.org.uk
Send over 300 school-leavers overseas on volunteering trips each year. Either teach English at a school (primary or secondary) or help with the day-to-day care of those with mental and physical disabilities through one of their 'social care' projects. Projects last eight or 12 months. Volunteers must raise at least £5,500 for eight months and £6,200 for 12 months.


51. Quest (01273 777206; www.questoverseas.com
Community and conservation schemes and adventure travel in Africa and South America. Each project requires a payment to Quest, to cover the cost of the trip, and an additional payment which goes directly to the host-project. Eight weeks in Bolivia - six weeks in a wild animal refuge and two weeks on expedition - costs from £2,125 plus an additional £850 which is donated to the animal charity.

52. Raleigh International (020 7183 1270; www.raleighinternational.org
Community and environmental projects of five to 10 weeks, in Malaysian Borneo, Costa Rica, Tanzania, Nepal or Nicaragua. Five-week expeditions have a fund raising target of £2,350 full - flights and visas are extra.

53. Restless Development (020 7633 3350; www.restlessdevelopment.org)
A youth-led agency that offers volunteer projects and training across Africa and South Asia, and the UK. The fundraising target is around £800. 

54. Ripple Africa (01280 822891; www.rippleafrica.org)

A charity whose aim is to 'empower local communities by delivering a hand up not a hand out' in Malawi. Get involved with their education, environment and healthcare schemes for which they recommend volunteers stay for a minimum of 3 weeks. 

55. TCV (01302 388883; www.tcv.org.uk
Organise environmental projects with volunteers within local communities in the UK. Participants can expect to plant trees, build stiles, clear footpaths or plant public vegetable patches. One of TCV's aims is to improve pre-existing green spaces and to create more in urban spaces. Use their postcode search tool to find projects close-by. 

56. Voluntary Service Overseas (0208 780 7500; www.vsointernational.org)
One of the most experienced charity organisations in the world, working in 24 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Their key areas are education, health and livelihood. Volunteering opportunities last from 10-12 weeks, during which participants live and work in communities alongside British and local volunteers, and are facilitated by ICS (see 43). Travel, vaccinations, expenses, insurance and accommodation are all covered by VSO. 

57. The Leap
 (01672 519 922; www.theleap.co.uk
Offers trips for people aged 18-27, from 6 weeks or longer. Courses in Africa, Asia and South America include team volunteering, internships and equine courses. Not sure what you'd like to do? Take their gap year quiz. A four-week tour of Peru, taking in Lake Titicaca, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, costs £2235 - accommodation, meals and in-country support included. 

58. The National Trust (0344 800 1895; www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Get to know some of Britain's best assets by volunteering with The National Trust either as a room guide in their historic property portfolio, in their gardens or by helping conserve coast and countryside. 

59. The Scientific Exploration Society (01747 853353; www.ses-explore.org
The SES was established in 1969 and has been combining adventure with innovative and valuable scientific research through their expeditions across the world ever since. SES members are invited to participate in various expeditions led by experienced explorers and professionals in their respective fields. 











60. Think Pacific (0113 335 9919; www.thinkpacific.com)
Travel to the islands of the South Pacific on a volunteer expedition that begins with a five-day castaway induction. All projects - during which volunteers teach and coach children in remote schools - run to the Fiji islands and are organised in partnership with the Fijian government. Courses run for one or two months and cost from £1,295.

61. Travel Teacher (www.travelteacher.co.uk)

Those looking for teaching experience can head to Fiji or The Cook Islands with Travel Teacher where they'll play a vital role in local schools while exploring their chosen destination on the side. Those enrolled with Travel Teacher receive a course of pre-departure teacher training and will graduate with a YMCA-accredited award. Courses range from four to six weeks. The former costs £1,863 plus £50 registration fee. 

62. Travellers Worldwide (01903 502595; www.travellersworldwide.com)
Courses, volunteering and internship opportunities all over the world. Volunteer on a conservation for Monkey & Primate Rehabilitaion, near Cordoba in Argentina - £1,445 for one week and £225 for each week thereafter, including accommodation, food and 24-hour emergency support.

63. GVI (01727 250 250; www.gvi.co.uk)
Offer over 150 different volunteer abroad projects in 25 countries all over the world, involving conservation, education and community projects. A 'Community Development Internship' in the Fiji islands lasts anywhere between six to 12 weeks and costs from £342 per week. Scholarships of up to £1500 are also available. 

64. The Book Bus Foundation (0208 0999 280; www.thebookbus.org
The Book Bus literacy scheme offers the chance to volunteer as a Book Bus reading mentor and share the joy of reading with primary school children in Africa and South America. Two week placements in Zambia costs from £1,170, excluding flights.

65. STA Travel (0333 321 0099; www.statravel.co.uk)
Offers a range of volunteer programmes, working with animals, children and communities in Mexico, Borneo and Thailand. Experience life as a park ranger on the Shamwari Big Five Game Reserve in South Africa by booking onto their 'Shamwari Conservation Experience'. It lasts from two to 12 weeks and costs from £782.




66. Worldwide Experience (01483 860560; www.worldwideexperience.com)
Specialises in unique and life changing volunteer experiences across Africa covering wildlife conservation, community & rural projects, hands on wildlife veterinary work.

<< Part one: Learning a skill/language | Part three: Working Abroad >>