Sink your teeth into the catch of your gap year: a thrilling adventure disguised as a volunteer project, unique travel opportunity, learning experience, and exotic playdate. Bond with wild critters through an animal conservation project abroad, and come back with adventurous stories and note-worthy battle scars.
For project and location inspiration, check out these beastly ideas:
Play with turtles
Whether you’re rooting for the leatherbacks of the hawksbills, a sea turtle conservation program in Grenada is gonna lure you out of your shell and throw you into the deep end. While tagging nesting females and monitoring hatchlings might not eggs-actly what you had envisioned when you signed up to save endangered animals, it does have a certain appeal: Caribbean beaches, the Grenada Cocktail, and cerulean waters.
March with elephants
An elephant never forgets… and neither will you, with an elephant conservation project in Sri Lanka. Chill with Buddha, explore a rainforest paradise, pair up with a mahout, and start (lovingly) waving that baton around. The only crying you’ll be doing on this Teardrop of India is when it’ll be time to say goodbye to your new troop of friends.
Swim with sharks
For those that really want to wrap their jaws around a memorable eco-adventure, consider a shark conservation project in South Africa—the White Shark capital of the world! Practice your cage diving as you hop onto the aquatic preservation wave. If you get bored with sharks, befriend a few seals, whales, or penguins.
Screech with monkeys
Deep in the depths of dense Costa Rican rain forests are monkeys that are howling your name. Don’t be a sloth about it; put on some rubber boots, spray on some bug spray, and help these primates stay in prime shape. Swinging into this adventure will surely leave you with a tall tale to tell.
Lay around with the lions
The mane attraction, when you sign up for a safari program in Zimbabwe will be temporarily adopting your own cub, which you will teach to pounce, bowl for buzzards, and roar as he matures into the rightful king of this pride. Between breeding programs and reintroductions into the wild, your senses of purpose will soar and your spirit will run free among the wildebeest.
Bond with bears
Bear with me; saving brown bears in Romania is actually a lot cooler than it sounds. Since the country boasts more than half of the bear population of Europe, this is a big opportunity to make a significant difference while exploring unspoiled woodlands. Digging your claws and paws into this noble cause sounds sweet as honey, huh?
Is your daredevil heart pounding to the beat of an African drum yet? If so, sign up for your favourite program and head into the wild with your new (fuzzy, rough, or shelled) friends.
This article was written in partnership with GoAbroad.com