The Ngatokimatawhaorua is the largest war waka (canoe) in the world. It is named after the great canoe of Kupe, the traditional Polynesian ancestor of the Maori people. It was one of the great ocean-going voyaging canoes used in the migrations that settled New Zealand. Volunteer vacationers traveling to New Zealand will work alongside the Maori to restore these incredible vessels.
Volunteer vacations are becoming more and more popular with boomers and couples with discretionary income, because they want more than the same ole, same ole cruise or tour. Those type of vacations were usually satisfying at the time, probably cost a bundle, and unless a diary was kept, memories of those vacations usually fade away. Volunteer vacations are inspiring, exciting, and create memories that last forever.
In our fast-paced world, vacations also need to fill the need for greater satisfaction and accomplishment, even when vacationing people still have a concern for the environment, for abused and abandoned children, and for communities devastated by natural disasters, resulting in a greater desire to ‘give back.’ Additionally, studies have shown that volunteering leads to healthier and longer lives, and a wonderful feeling of self-assurance and independence.
This desire to ‘give back’ is matched by an increasing number of volunteer travel opportunities. The trend toward ‘volunteer vacations’ has become more popular within the travel industry, with more companies providing meaningful travel of all types. There’s been a lot of discussion about what a volunteer vacation actually is. What it comes down to is what someone wants from their holiday. We’re all different, with a huge variable of likes and dislikes, wants and needs. To say one type of volunteer vacation is better than the other, is a lesson in futility.
Following is a description of two types of volunteer holidays: “A Taste of Volunteering” and “Voluntourism.”
“A TASTE OF VOLUNTEERING” is two-thirds traditional sightseeing holidays: hiking, snorkeling, kayaking or just relaxing, with accommodations ranging from 5 star resorts to comfortable homestays. The other one-third of the holiday is helping with community development projects. Projects range from building a house for homeless children in Argentina, farm development program in Fiji, working with deaf, blind and AIDS orphans in Cambodia, working in Children’s Village in China, or helping in a new orphanage in Mexico.
Prices can range from a high of $29,900 for a glorious 18-day holiday in New Zealand, where you’ll sail on the stunning Bay of Islands and take a Maori cultural tour, fly down to North Island in a helicopter, whale watch in Kaikoura, take a Heli-hike on the Franz Josef Glacier, walk, fly, and jet-boat on the “Siberia Experience.” For your volunteer project you’ll become immersed in the intriguing Maori culture; your hosts will regale you fascinating stores as you help them preserve their culture by restoring a ‘waka,’ a traditional Maori war canoe.
Ngatokimatawhaorua, like many Polynesian names are impossible to pronounce, and Hawkes Bay, New Zealand is believed to have the world’s longest place name (your challenge – try and pronounce it… I certainly can’t): Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuaakitanarahu.
A 7-Day volunteer vacation in Mexico could cost as little as $1,500. You’ll go catamaran sailing and snorkeling, choose to zip-line and rappel, or visit the UNESCO World Heritage Mayan ruins of Chitzen Itza or nearby to the Sian Kaan biosphere reserve, or swim in the unique cenotes that dot the peninsula. Choose from a variety of volunteer projects: volunteering in a medical clinic, computer training or web design, photography, or plumbing and electrical assistance.
“VOLUNTOURISM” is spending your entire holiday in a volunteer project, affordable volunteer vacations can cost as little as $160 for a one-week program volunteering in an orphanage in Nepal, to about $1000 for a one-week volunteer program in South Africa. In order for touring companies to offer low-cost volunteer vacations, the accommodations and transportation to and from the volunteer site can be at the volunteer’s expense, additional costs may also include application fees and other in-country expenses. Expect accommodations to be tent camping, or a stay at a youth hostel, or a homestay. Of course, if roughing it doesn’t fit your lifestyle, most companies offer upgrades to resorts, hotels, and bed and breakfasts
Almost all volunteer programs include a cultural exchange within the community, establishing bonds between volunteers and the local people in the community, often creating forever friends. Whether its building houses, teaching English to local children, campaigning to save an endangered species, such as turtles or elephants, or improving sanitation and living conditions in slums. The volunteer holiday is a shared experience by the whole family; young children and teenagers will develop a lifelong desire to “do something good,” while experiencing new places, meeting new people, and learning how some of the rest of the world lives; you can’t bring greater meaning to one’s life than this experience.