Thursday, 19 January 2012 2:18 PM
Travellers are increasingly looking for ways in which they can give something back to the destinations they visit. South America has a plethora of beautiful locations to explore and there are numerous opportunities to volunteer during a trip to the continent.
Whether wildlife is your passion, you want to be able to help local communities or would like to give children a good start in life by teaching them English, there will be a project to suit you.
Wildlife and conservation
Ecuador is just one of the countries you may be keen to visit if you want to get stuck into conservation work.
Being a volunteer in Ecuador could see you helping preserve the unique ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands, looking after the stunning cloud forest in the valley of Mindo or assisting at an animal rehabilitation centre.
Meanwhile, Costa Rica could be a great choice if you want to do something involving marine life.
There are projects on both the country's Caribbean and Pacific coasts that will see you helping to protect and clean up the nesting beaches used by turtles. One of your duties will be carrying out night patrols on the stretches of sand to ensure that all is well.
This is not the only option to assist with conservation efforts if you embark on voluntary work in Costa Rica, though.
You can also assist with the reforestation of sections of the Volcan Tenorio National Park, which is home to large swathes of cloud and rainforest, as well as waterfalls and hot springs.
One of the best ways to get under the skin of the country you are visiting is to work in the local communities, giving you a unique opportunity to learn about everyday life.
If you volunteer in Peru, for example, you can work with underprivileged children in the country's capital Lima, or head out to the Andean city of Cusco where there are many kids who will benefit from your enthusiasm and assistance.
As well as playing games with the children and getting involved in various activities like sports or arts and crafts, you could help give them a great start in life by teaching them English.
There are numerous projects in South America dedicated to doing just that in local communities, while others combine your English lessons with other duties to encourage children to learn more.
If you would prefer hands-on work to that based in the classroom, a Costa Rican project to build homes for underprivileged families could be the best way to go.
Many people in the nation live in sub-standard properties, so helping to put a roof over their heads and provide a dwelling with proper sanitation can make a big difference to their lives.
Other projects to consider
If you want to combine a special interest of yours with voluntary work, there are opportunities to do so in South America.
For example, if you are a history buff, you may want to consider joining a scheme to help with the archaeological excavation of one of Peru's ancient landmarks.
Located in Lima, Huaca Pucllana is a ceremonial site dating back to the fifth century and assistance is always needed with the careful excavation of the ruins, as well as the cleaning and restoration of any artefacts recovered from the dig.
Meanwhile, if sports are more your thing, you could combine a turtle conservation project in Costa Rica with surfing on the Pacific coast. During your time here you will be preparing the turtle hatcheries for the nesting season, as well as receiving surfing lessons.