Brought to light by the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove, Save Japan Dolphins is a volunteer program that asks for help on local and international levels. One of the least “inclusive” of the eco-trips on this list, you do have to coordinate your own travel to Japan, meals, and lodging in the town of Taiji. Once you get in touch with the team in Taiji, however, you’ll be asked to help in any number of ways in the ongoing effort to save the dolphins in Japan. In light of the earthquake that hit Japan, these dolphins need help more than ever.
Going on safari is an adventure you remember for a lifetime. Now, though, you can book your safari as part of South Africa’s Wildlife Conservation Volunteer Holiday program and work deep within the bush with a team of scientists and conservationists in tracking and identifying wild animals. This trip, situated on the Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve, offers accommodations (a tented camp with working bathrooms and a communal kitchen) and a chance to get up close and personal with plenty of big game.
Costa Rica is a destination for any nature-loving traveler. You can find laid back trips like bird watching and ecological tours with Hacienda Baru, as well as adventures like working with Parismina as a volunteer to help save the sea turtles. Parismina offers a number of lodging options from homestays to hotels that often include some meals. The Punta Mona farm in Costa Rica is another location offering an array of ways to visit and get involved in their programs. Whether a full on internship or visiting the farm as a guest, you can experience “permaculture” firsthand and help with community service and garden projects.
In Costa Rica, try chorreadas (corn pancake served with sour cream) for a local snack.
Traveling to the Galápagos Islands is considered an adventure unlike any other. Going with Natural Habitat Adventures, though, allows you to not only experience the excitement of new animals and wildlife, but volunteer with children or at a forest reserve along the way. Offering accommodations and most meals, these trips let you to dig deeper than the average Galápagos cruise and see the community up close.
Ecuador's most exotic dishes and ingredients are used with frequency in the Galápagos. For the adventurous eater, try tronquito or caldo de pata. For others, try snacking on yucca or a homemade "aji" (hot sauce).
If you’re looking for an eco-adventure stateside, look no further than the EarthWatch Institute. They arrange trips across the U.S. (and the world) letting you take a deeper look at plant life in California, climate change and caterpillars in Arizona, and songbirds in the Rocky Mountains. They also plan trips specifically designed for teens. Then, if Alaska is on your mind, Mountain Travel Sobek offers an Arctic Wildlife Refuge River Journey on Alaska’s Hulahula River.
For most, the Koiyaki Wilderness Camp in Kenya provides a completely different perspective on life. An ecolodge dedicated to Maasai Mara conservation and supporting local tribes, this wilderness camp offers visitors a chance to take walking safaris with local Maasai guides, experience game drives, and indulge in meals prepared by local chefs. The camp also accepts up to 25 students each year for an intensive training program to learn to work as a guide in the Maasai Mara ecotourism industry.
Students wanting an international volunteering experience before heading off to college can choose to travel and work with Rustic Pathways. Only for kids under 18, some of Rustic Pathways' most eye-opening environmental trips are in Thailand. One trip, Two Strong Trees, allows students to help design an environmental walk in a mixed species forest. Another trip positions students to help in elephant conservation. Students also have the opportunity to learn Muay Thai while in Thailand as well as improving photography skills as they tour the country.
While you're in Thailand, test your capacity for spicy foods by trying some native Thai chili peppers: bird's eye chili, "prik kee noo" pepper, yellow chili, or the banana stalk chili are all locally grown.
While you’d be learning more than volunteering, trekking to Antarctica is about as eco-adventurous as you can get. Working with Polar Cruises, you’ll be able to decide exactly how “adventurous” you get as you head south. Go on an Icebreaker to experience ice conditions that no other ship can handle and you’ll travel with naturalists, lecturers, and various Antarctica experts. Their Expedition ships are smaller, offering space for up to 122 passengers on the largest ship, and they provide an intimate look at the natural habitat of Antarctica’s indigenous wildlife.
The only fish that is said to be exclusive to the region is called "wem," which may be hard to find. On a cruise or expedition, your food will likely be prepared for you onboard.