Horror stories are abundant, with organisations breeding ‘orphans’, allowing animal interactions and providing promises of releasing the wildlife back into the wild. The rise in “voluntourism” over the last decade has led to the rise in illegitimate organisations taking advantage of eager adventurers.
Volunteering abroad may seem like a great way to spend your hard-earned money, time and skills but not all organisations offering volunteering services are equal. Your intentions may be good, but many of these organisations do not have the interest of conservation at heart.
It is for this very reason that Paul Gardiner started Worldwide Experience, two years after his father Adrian founded the Mantis Collection. The aim of Worldwide Experience is to provide a safe, supervised and structured programme for students and volunteers looking to dedicate their time to wildlife and conservation. And, their philosophy is aimed at responsible travel, education, conservation, sustainability and community.
“It has become a very competitive playing field with lots of people doing it. We play in the ethical space – something we strive to develop and grow,” says Paul Gardiner, CEO of Worldwide Experience. He believes it is vital to make a noise over ethical conservation, and what Worldwide Experience stands for.
Worldwide Experience offers programmes in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Croatia, Madagascar, Rwanda, Mozambique and Mauritius. All of these promise a unique experience.
All the programmes are specially selected and promise to enrich lives. The whale shark conservation programme in Mozambique for example include a diving qualification, participating in coral reef surveys and other marine research, getting involved with the local community and even trying your hand at cooking local cuisine. You will even leave with a few new words from the local language.
If you love baby animals, some time at the rhino orpanage might by right up your alley. These youngsters are victim to poaching and are later released back into the wild once they are old enough to care for themselves.The experience will include cleaning enclosures, hand rearing, exposure to veterinary care, feeding, monitoring and facility maintenance amongst others.
Conservation projects focus on wildlife such as white and black rhino, big cats, leopards, Asian and desert elephants, bears, colobus monkeys and more. Worldwide Experience also offers accredited courses in game ranging, wildlife management and marine guiding amongst others.
But how will the efforts of Worldwide Experience stand out above others? Gardiner thinks it is only a matter of time. “We hope that what we do will lead to others following and that those not ethical will be weeded out. In a world of social media, theres a lot of power in the hands of people,” he says.
Gardiner says the program has met all his expectations since starting it. “We see what our vet and other students go through and the belief they come back with. The more people we can get involved in conservation, the better.”
For more information, visit www. worldwideexperience.com
Written by René de Klerk
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