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FEATURE ARTICLE 2
New Zealand & VolunTourism
Cate Dowman, aka the "Caffeinated Traveller", is a New Zealand native. She is an avid blogger and, as you might have guessed, has a rather strong affinity for caffeine. What prompted her to blog on the subject of New Zealand and VolunTourism is still a bit of a mystery. Nonetheless, she has graciously taken time from her travels and life in Asia to share her thoughts and insights with us on the intersection of travel and voluntary service in her homeland.
Voluntourism is a growing industry within the travel area and widely debated as to the value it provides. Cambodia, Vietnam, Bolivia, Galapagos are some of the popular destinations for voluntourists - myself included. Other countries, wealthy in their own right and hardly in need of financial aid, also carry out volunteer programmes; New Zealand being one of them.
For some eager travellers, New Zealand as a volunteer destination doesn't sound as sexy as a developing country, but it offers just as much satisfaction and fulfillment. True you will unlikely hear calls for help from orphanages, hospitals, or schools (thankfully). Instead you will hear calls for help to conserve its natural heritage, and protect its natural environment.
New Zealand's Potential For Voluntourism
It’s a country abundant in untapped opportunities in voluntourism. Because New Zealand is home to some of the rarest birds in the world, and has much of its land designated under national parks, the ongoing upkeep, maintenance and preservation is demanding. Volunteer programmes have been running for a considerable time. The smaller ones are popular with locals but it’s the bigger programmes which involve time and dedication, that would attract the overseas voluntourist.
Aside from monetary needs, there is one qualification required for volunteering in New Zealand. You can come from anywhere in the world, you can differ in backgrounds, wealth, lifestyle it doesn’t matter. What you will need is the ability to share a common bond with each other: a love for nature.
One of the more extensive programmes available is currently run by the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC). These usually occur during New Zealand’s summer seasons. Sometimes preference is given to locals over international visitors, but being a government department, it doesn’t prejudice.
I spent my time helping out on trail maintenance. It was back breaking work and I still remember the pain and stiffness suffered over the following week. I can also remember the satisfaction I felt. Satisfaction in not only helping to maintain a beautiful trail, but seeing the smiles of thanks on peoples faces as they walked past. Or in sharing the heart felt gratitude from older walkers long past in years to volunteer themselves, although still young enough to enjoy.
If you are quick and organised, the choice of programme could be yours. From kiwi surveys, to penguin studies, island upkeep, to a six month stint on an island in the Kermadecs - Raoul.
One of New Zealand’s remoter islands, on this programme you spend six months with a group of volunteers working on weed control and general upkeep of island facilities. This is a non touristed island, truly natural. Travelling to the island is by boat, which shows you just how remote you will be. The Kermadecs are located well north of New Zealand, with a sub tropical climate.
If long periods of isolation doesn’t attract, you can help in saving the rarest breed of parrots from extinction - Kakapo. Only thirty or so of these magnificent birds exist. I love these birds, extremely difficult to spot in the bush, but maybe you could be one of the lucky ones. This would be a story you will take home and never forget.
Copyright © Karen Bolitho, All Rights Reserved
Some of DOC’s programmes involve physical exertion and require specific skills. These are all clearly stated in the programmes outline found on DOC’s website.
Other Volunteer Groups To Consider
New Zealand Trust for Conservation Volunteers
A smaller organization, New Zealand Trust for Conservation Volunteers has a specific focus on ecology sustainability. The trust provides some interesting volunteer work, seabird monitoring through to offshore bush maintenance, and historic building preservation. There are some wonderful opportunities on offer here where you can really be at one with nature.
Volunteering in New Zealand is about discovering more of this country's wildlife; the furry kind and the two-legged beer drinking kind. It all makes for a unique experience. If you are fortunate enough, you may get to volunteer on this majestic place, with kiwis and spectacular scenery – Stewart Island.
In your free time there is plenty of opportunity for kayaking around the inlets, trekking around the island, even fishing. Or simply just enjoy the famous southern hospitality on offer 24/7.
How could you say no to this?
Information And Details
Some informative websites that are worth checking out: New Zealand Trust for Conservation Volunteers, a good choice if you want a non-government experience. Transitions abroad also has some good information, and DOC volunteer programmes provides an extensive list of available programmes.
About Cate Dowman
Yes I am a self-confessed caffeine addict with a love for travel and a curious nature. It all adds up to a highly charged caffeinated fueled blogger and blog.
My home country is NZ, the coffee is good down there, but I have spent the past 6 years living and working in Asia. As a result I have become addicted to travelling around Asia in an attempt to find good coffee,tea, and very special insights. I have also lived in the UK and Australia. In a way my lifestyle is nomadic, but I can stay still in one place long enough to absorb the culture around me.
My kind of travel is usually to places that are emerging from the duldrums. Just before the resorts set in. I like to go overland where possible and access places labelled off limits. My next big adventure you can join me on will be my trip through Central Asia in August 09. For now I want to show you my expat life in Korea, tell you more about life in New Zealand, and my recent adventure into North Korea.
I want my blog to give you special insights into the world of travel: things that you never knew or thought about before. With any luck your next trip will be where I have been or currently visiting.
Comments on my blog are appreciated and welcomed.
Cate aka the “Caffeinated Traveller“
Have a question? - contact me at: caffeinatedtraveller [AT] gmail [DOT] com
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