Wednesday 3 November 2010

Volunteer Vacations

Feel like you need a vacation but don’t want to feel guilty from taking off too much time from work?? Then make your vacation make a difference!

One of my favorite volunteer vacations is below. I mean how cool would it be to be up close and personal with tigers?!?!

Meditating in a Tiger Temple (

Destination: Kanchanaburi, Thailand

You may not think that Buddhism and the lives of man-eating tigers have anything in common, but if you choose to volunteer in Kanchanaburi, you'll see why they do.

You may have seen the Kanchanaburi's Tiger Temple, and its charismatic big cats, on one of many adventure or animal television programs. The tigers, most of whom were orphaned by poachers, are cared for by saffronrobed Thai monks, making the forest monastery a television producer's dream.

While the tigers here are stars, they are also semi-wild animals that need plenty of care and attention from the monks, as well as international volunteers. Those who come live as monks, meditating, seeking inner guidance, walking full-grown tigers on leashes, feeding them, and generally caring for them and the many other animals at the sanctuary. This program is a unique opportunity to blend tigers and Buddhism.

Your days are spent in meditation and prayer sessions with the monks and the abbot, as well as feeding the animals, cleaning cages, and working on new naturally styled enclosures that will serve as a new home for the tigers. It's tough work and long hours for a 6-day workweek. The well-known tigers also get visitors throughout the day, sometimes entire busloads, so you may need to help get them ready as well as teach what you've learned about tiger conservation and the perils facing this endangered species. Tourists are also able to interact with some of the tigers, and volunteers are on hand to keep the visitors (and the cats) safe. If the need arises, you may also assist the veterinarian, do some data work and administrative office help, and small maintenance chores.

You'll be living a Buddhist lifestyle at the sanctuary, in very simple forest shelters for solitary, hermit-like exploration, or in separate men's and women's rooms with electricity and showers available. Your free time is expected to be spent in meditation, and there are some specific rules about behavior and conduct at this active monastery: no perfume or jewelry; white clothes must be worn for meditation; no dancing or singing; no sleeping on a luxurious bed; and certain foods can only be eaten at certain times (all meals are provided). It's a reverent and ascetic environment dedicated to inner searching as well as caring for the tigers. There is a certainty that the tigers were monks in a former life, so they are brethren and treated that way.

Your Next Step: Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastery (Tiger Temple) (tel. 034-531-557; The monks require a minimum 1-month commitment, with expectations of a 6-day workweek, daily meditation, and temple services. Meals and accommodations are provided. No fee for volunteers.

Don't Miss: Not far from the Tiger Temple is the Lopburi Monkey Temple, San Phra Kan. Here among the ruins of a once grand stone temple are hundreds of monkeys freely running, playing, sleeping, and swinging from the trees. They may try to jump on your back, but while used to humans, make no mistake: these are still wild animals (and they tend to be extraordinarily curious about glasses and jewelry, so remove any shiny objects before heading into the temple area).

Official Tourism Website:

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There are thousands of countries where you can volunteer and lend a helping hand.

ISV, International Student Volunteers, are always looking for people to take an adventure out in the wild to work with animals and people. Whether it’s teaching English to underprivileged children or helping to conserve wildlife, you can combine recreation with conservation and community development.