No matter what program a student chooses, chances are they’ll encounter some interesting wildlife. If they’re lucky, they’ll see a monkey, manta ray, or another animal they don’t commonly see at home. In some particular programs though, special moments with wildlife are part of the adventure.
Here are some program options for animal lovers:
The Best Program for Sea and Land Animal Viewing –
African Environmental Conservation in Tanzania
This program allows students to step into the pages of National Geographic. First up is a reef-service project in the Mwambao Coastal Community, where students will begin to see the marine habitat. While in this region, students will sail out into the Indian Ocean in a dhow, which is an Arabic-style boat. During this part of the trip, students can snorkel and view flying fish and other marine life.
Later, students take to the land, learning about environmental issues at the Jane Goodall Institute, followed by a safari outing at Tarangire National Park. It is known for its elephant herds and migrating animals that are abundant during the dry season, which lasts from June to July. Among the animals that move into the area during this time are wildebeest, gazelles and zebras, along with some predators like lions and leopards.
An Unforgettable Program for Elephant Lovers –
Southeast Asian Adventurer in Laos and Thailand
This program includes stops amid some stunning landscapes. Along the way the students visit a water buffalo farm and then have a special experience trekking with elephants. Students visit the Mandalao Elephant Center, known for its sustainable elephant tourism. Teens feed the elephants bananas and other treats. Then they stroll with these majestic creatures through the farmland and jungle.
A Great Option for Students Interested in Animal Care –
In this program, students learn about animal caretaking from zookeepers at the Australia Zoo and staff at a local Wildlife Hospital. Students train for zoo service by learning about caretaking, captive breeding programs, and enrichment activities. They spend a day shadowing a zoo keeper – helping with enclosure cleaning, preparing food and feeding the animals.
Later students head to Australia’s east coast to look for humpback whales and kayak out into Byron Bay to search for dolphins. Then the students travel to a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Toowoomba. There students will use the skills they learned at the zoo and perform a wide range of tasks, including a student-treasured moment – bottle feeding baby joeys.
The Program with One of the Most Photographed Rustic Animal Moments –
Moroccan Wanderer: College and High School
So it may actually be a tie between sea turtle photos and camel photos, but the Rustic camel ride in Morocco definitely is one of the most frequently captured moments. Students take a sunset camel ride through the Sahara desert to reach their Bedouin camp, where they will sleep and view the stars.
Educational Options for Marine Life Conservation –
Rustic has two programs dedicated to this specialty:
Marine Life and Coastal Restoration – Dominican Republic
In this program, students learn about marine species that are critical to reef health and how reefs are important habitats for sea life ranging from small fish to giant manatees. They explore the history of invasive species like lionfish and may catch a glimpse of crabs. Later the students take a turtle walk and help preserve eggs that are important to protect for turtle conservation.
In this program students visit a fishing village where they do crab trapping and work on reef projects for the local fish habitat. They snorkel in one of southeast Asia’s best diving spots, giving views of local aquatic life. Later, one of the highlights of the program is a boat ride in the Gulf of Thailand to search for indigenous pink dolphins. Along the way, students also spend a day at Hillside Elephant Retreat where they wash and swim with four retired elephants.
The Best Programs at Natural World UNESCO Sites –
Great Barrier Reef Dive Expedition – Australia
This program offers the unique opportunity to learn firsthand about the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem. They also visit Fitzroy Island Turtle Rehabilitation Center, where injured turtles are treated and released back into the ocean. During this trip, students learn to scuba dive and spend seven nights on a boat. During dives, students are expected to see turtles, parrotfish, and Maori wrasse fish. They also frequently swim with dwarf minke whales and collect data on their behavior.
Students will see reams of wildlife during this program in the world-famous Galapagos Islands. They have a chance to see giant tortoises at several locations. The first stop is the Galapaguera Tortoise Center where they’ll see baby giant tortoises before they are released into national parks. They’ll also visit the Charles Darwin Research Center where they can see giant tortoises, and towards the end of the trip they visit Flamingo Lagoon, which has one of the biggest colonies of flamingos in Galapagos and also has a tortoise breeding center.
In addition, the students will snorkel amid tropical fish, sea turtles, rays, and black-tipped reef sharks. They’ll take a yacht tour to an uninhabited island to see the wildlife there and then travel to Isabela Island where they’ll take in views of adorable blue-footed booby birds, Galapagos sea lions, green sea turtles, and marine iguanas.
An Unforgettable Program for Sea Turtle Enthusiasts
Turtle Conservation Project – Costa Rica
This program is dedicated to saving sea turtles from poachers, pollution and other threats. Projects include constructing a hatchery and monitoring the beach at night for turtle nests.
We’ll have more on this popular program in our blog on turtle conservation. For more information about animal conservation, please view our video below, and for details about this program and other ones available, please visit our program page.
Mary is the Lead Editor at Rustic Pathways. She has been a writer and editor for nearly 20 years. Prior to covering student travel, Mary created content for the music education company J.W. Pepper & Son. She also was a writer and producer at CNN International and a communications director for a social service agency and a K-12 private school.