ISV - Volunteer Projects in New Zealand

Provider: ISV

If you're interested in conservation and the environment, volunteering in New Zealand with ISV is a perfect fit. ISV works in partnership with local conservation organizations including government and non government organizations (NGOs), private reserves and farms, and local grassroots community groups. While volunteering in New Zealand, you will be getting down and dirty to restore the beauty and natural resources of this green nation.

Your tasks could include: reforestation efforts, reintroducing endangered bird species, weed removal, planting trees, learning from the native Maori, limestone cave restoration, and pioneer mining. You could be placed on either the North or South island of New Zealand. Help ISV highlight and increase accessibility to beautiful natural environments for locals through your volunteer work in New Zealand.

Program Info

Location: 
  • New ZealandAuckland
Volunteer Types: 
Conservation
Program Length: 
2-4 weeks
Cost: 
$2,000 - $5,000 (USD)
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Age Group: 
14-18
Languages: 
English
Application: 
Online Application
Age Requirement
Health Requirement

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Program Reviews (30)

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  • Impact
    95%
  • Support
    97%
  • Fun
    98%
  • Value
    97%
  • Safety
    98%
  • Sarah Mendivil Coon
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    San Jose, CA
    San Jose State University
    The Experience of a Lifetime!
    11/11/2014

    Traveling to New Zealand to volunteer was personally rewarding in so many ways. I was introduced to a new country and culture as well as a group of new people that I not only worked with, but also lived alongside for an entire month. Learning and understanding a different way of life, set of values, and challenges helped me to understand more of my own values and priorities. One of the most humbling realizations while traveling in a new country was seeing how similar people are even from different backgrounds, upbringings, socioeconomic status, etc. Aside from volunteering, traveling and experiencing the country was amazing! New Zealand is a beautiful country with much to offer.

    How could this program be improved?

    The program could have been improved by offering recognition to the individuals in the group that really worked hard (like they are supposed to) during the volunteer project. Many of the individuals seemed like they just signed up to travel to a new country and party, whereas some people to the volunteer work seriously.

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  • Jessica Flores
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Los Angeles, California
    California State University
    Bucket list MUST!
    11/11/2014

    I am from Los Angeles, California and first heard about ISV through my school at Cal State Northridge. I applied and went to New Zealand June 2011 for two weeks. At New Zealand it was winter time and there were about 30-40 international students that went to the program most that were from the states. The two weeks consisted of environmental sustainability volunteer work and there was heavy labor. I enjoyed it mostly because I learned alot about the different species of plants and animals. We also went to a local elementary school and community center to interact more with the community. What I loved was getting to know the indigenous people Maori and their culture.In my group there were alot of 2 week students and our program leader Daryl went out of his way to show us some awesome places around New Zealand to get our money worth. Upon departure we couldn't leave the island due to the cancellation of flights since there was some smoke from a Chile volcano eruption. What was great about having traveler insurance was that we got to stay at the five star hotel next to the airport and it was nice that the program leaders made sure we were settled in our rooms. I stayed an extra 3 days and visited the city of Auckland at my stay.

    If I could go to another ISV trip for four weeks I would definitely go! Some other students that I went to the trip have traveled alot in other organizations like this one and would comment how this program is the best one. I am thankful for the experience and will forever remember this amazing trip.

    How could this program be improved?

    There was some misunderstanding between our staff leaders and community members in terms of what were going to do for volunteer work. We expected to spend the entire day at the beach cleaning up with local school children but only did some of the work due to the misunderstanding. I would also comment on the food that was provided was very basic but a bit more variety would be nice. I would buy some snacks for myself to bring in more variety of food.

    Photos:
    Working on making hiking trails. This was to help avoid locals destroy the bush/forest when riding their motorcycles or hiking for fun by providing them some trails to stay on.
    Cathedral Cove. If you watched Lord of the Rings this place may look familiar. On our way to our volunteer destination we took this detour for a mini adventure.
    The Maori temple we visited. We had the opportunity to get to stay for a night and learned alot about the Maori culture and history.
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  • Kevin Collins
    Age: 25-30
    Male
    Austin Texas
    Texas Tech University
    Great adventure that set me up for many world travels
    11/10/2014

    This was my first step into international travel and 7 years later I still talk about this trip with frequency. This opened me up to trying new experiences on my own. This past summer I spent two months working in Asia and without the ISV trip I'm not sure I would have had the ambition to pursue that opportunity. Great people great fun would recommend to anyone that can afford it.

    How could this program be improved?

    I would have skipped Fiji and stayed with my volunteer group for another week if I could that is how well we got along.

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  • Hannah Hodgson
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    United States
    University of California- Santa Cruz
    New Zealand Conservation - "Sweet As"
    11/09/2014

    Planting native rain forest species on remote Motuihe Island with spectacular views of Auckland by day. Sharing card games, life stories, meals and conservation theories with 7 incredible people from around the world by night. This rustic immersion into the New Zealand native rain forest left me inspired to change my college degree, and 7 years later it leaves a sweet taste in my mouth.

    How could this program be improved?

    It really could not have been changed. The volunteer work and the adventure tout were fantastic!

    Photos:
    The Motuihe Crew on a planting day.
    Karo, we planted hundreds of these on "our" part of the island we named "Pukeko Point"
    During the adventure travel Tara, Niki and I swung over a field of sheep, such an "extreme" Kiwi thing to do!
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  • Kat
    Age: 31-50
    Female
    United States
    California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
    Had the time of my life
    11/08/2014

    I am glad I had chosen to do this program, even though it was many years ago, since July 2008. But looking back at the entire experience, even many moons later, I am glad I still keep in touch with these friends, friends that even come to visit me, or friends that I keep in touch with Facebook still. IT'S a reminder how small our globe is, and that we all share this beautiful planet. Doing the volunteering work and getting our hands dirty, allows for our own self-development for projects that I am still proud about. That balanced with a ton of fun such as bungee jumping, wine-tasting, horseback riding LOTR trails, ziplining the worm caves in Watomoa Black River rafting, and Zorbing! That was just half of the stuff I did. But making the connections, talking about my experiece, I excite fellow travelers and fellow dreamers that this is made possible by such programs, with a non-profit status. I had a lot of doctors, nurses and engineers helping me out then. It wouldn't have been made possible without a community for these opportunities to materialize. But if you put your mind to it, anything can come true. I'm glad I was able to volunteer. I've heard other programs that were just party buses destroyed ambassordorships and trashed the environment. I am glad I was not part of that business. I am glad I was supporting and participating in programs that was sustainable, eco-friendly and community building. There was so much cultural exchange between my group and the Maori at the morae, I am proud to say. We all learned so much!

    How could this program be improved?

    If there was real chicken soup, I wish it were more available. Catching a cold during this period was a bummer.

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  • Morgan Brown
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Yuma, AZ
    Oklahoma State University
    Absolutely mind-blowing
    11/07/2014

    To say the very least, my experiences in New Zealand with ISV absolutely changed my life. The two weeks of volunteer work were difficult, but ever so rewarding. We learned about the delicate ecosystem in NZ and how it's balance affected the local Maori people. We were exposed to the culture and tradition of both the Maori and European Kiwis. We taught school children about our homelands and helped to shape a positive image of foreigners abroad. All of that, plus the two week, high octane, adventure tour, where I thoroughly conquered any fear of heights I might have had, and lived my life to the absolute fullest. Cap it all off with a five day stay in Fiji to unwind, and the adventure was pretty much perfection. Seven years later, and after many other adventures abroad, I know that I'll never be able to top my time with ISV. The people I met are still my friends and the places I saw are engraved in my memory forever. New Zealand is truly the most beautiful place on Earth, and it was an honor to help it stay that way.

    How could this program be improved?

    Communication with my fellow travelers before the tour would have helped.

    Photos:
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  • Amanda Margetts
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    San Diego, California
    California State University
    Best Trip Ever!!
    11/07/2014

    I went to New Zealand in the summer of 2012, and it honestly has been the best experience of my life! I grew so much during my stay in New Zealand. I made life long friends, and after two years we still keep in contact,even though we are in different countries. The experiences from this trip have sparked a sense of wonder that fuels my everyday life, and showed me how to seize the moment and live fully. I wouldn't change anything that happened, and I can't wait to travel again!

    How could this program be improved?

    have more meals covered in the trip.

    Photos:
    Mountains of Queenstown, New Zealand
    Ice Bar
    Writing on a Restaurant's Wall
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  • Eric Robertson
    Age: 25-30
    Male
    Seattle, WA
    Best time ever
    11/07/2014

    I went on a month long adventure in New Zealand, and it honestly was the best time of my life. I really felt like I made a difference, and I had a ton of fun. The group I was with and the event leaders made it a truely memorable and rewarding experience.

    How could this program be improved?

    If I had to change one thing it would be the provided meals, they left a bit to be desired...

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  • Neema Patel
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    United States
    University of North Florida
    A place where eleven people left their heart and soul
    11/07/2014

    Eight years ago I ventured to New Zealand with the International Student Volunteers (ISV) to volunteer in conservation work and explore. There I met incredible people who shared a four week journey through New Zealand. In the picturesque town of Kaikoura where the Southern Alps meet the Pacific Ocean we planted trees, cleared gorse ( a horrible invasive plant), and laid new trails among other activities. In no time at all we became a family cooking meals, telling stories, and learning about the small town we called home. In addition to working hard we also had the opportunities to swim with dolphins, sky dive, tube through caves, kayak, and white water rafting as we traveled from North Island to South Island. In a matter of weeks my new friends and I created a bond which I will never forget. A wonderful experience with my fellow volunteers that we even eight years later we still reminisce about digging holes in the freezing rain and walking down to McDonalds for 50 cent ice cream.

    How could this program be improved?

    The program was eight years ago and I can't recall anything that could have made the experience better.

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  • Shefali
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Montreal
    McGill University
    Fell In Love With New Zealand
    11/07/2014

    My experience with ISV was amazing, the fun activities I did in one month does compare to anything I had previously taken on. I've had itchy feet since and want to travel some more.

    Through ISV I got to see major tourist attractions from Queenstown to Auckland. I went spelunking in dark caves, kayaked with baby seals, did the 3rd highest bungy jump in the world, saw crystal clear water near the Remarkables (mountains in LOTR!), climbed a glacier next to a rainforest, enjoyed geothermal mud baths, and the list goes on..

    I was lucky enough to be at an excellent volunteer location. We were 10 people on a secluded island doing conservation work. It was very refreshing and I absolutely loved the outdoors!

    The staff was very friendly, helpful, and looked out very well for our safety.

    I do not regret a single second of my trip which has thus far been a trip of a lifetime!

    ISV itself is a very flexible organisation; my emails were promptly replied and reasonable requests were indulged.

    How could this program be improved?

    Perhaps make some of the extra attraction (and costs) known prior to the trip so financial arrangements could be made.

    For example, I wanted to see Milford Sounds and do sky diving, but was short of cash. Would have brought more money with me had I known.

    Photos:
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  • Trina
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Calgary, Alberta
    University of Calgary
    Phenomenal in Every Way
    10/23/2014

    There is so much to be said for travelling to a new country and experiencing another culture. To immerse oneself in another way of life expands your views on life as well as provides the opportunity to make life-long friends.

    When people think of travelling to new and exciting destinations I don't think they often count volunteer missions among their travel options. In New Zealand in winter it was often difficult, cold, and wet work but the reward of being able to make a difference and experience life exactly as the Kiwi people live it was a phenomenal gift. There is no better way to familiarize yourself with a culture.

    For my project I was located in the small village of Punakaiki on the west coast of the south island home to the world famous Pancake Rocks. The scenery here is so stunningly beautiful that it is impossible to put into words. For the first two weeks of our trip our small group of volunteers worked at an abandoned open mine site to restore the natural vegetation and remove and invasive species. Every day was an incredible adventure seeing local species of plants and animals, learning about the history of the area, getting to know the locals (especially at the pub!), traversing through the dense bush having sunset fires on the beach, exploring local forests, walking paths, and caverns. But more than that, knowing that I was actively making a difference to preserve such a wonderful and beautiful place.

    The following two weeks of adventure travel were entirely mind-blowing. Skydiving, black water rafting, zorbing, Lord of the Rings tours, pub crawls, local museums, basking in geothermal springs... So many wonderful experiences with amazing people that it can't really even be described.

    I would recommend this trip to anyone who loves adventure, amazing people, beautiful scenery, incredible history, and making a difference in the natural world.
    I truly can't wait until the day I get to return to New Zealand.

    How could this program be improved?

    If I had to change one thing I would have ISV send out a packing list specific to each destination as well as each project. There were many things I brought off the general list that I never used and just took up space.

    Photos:
    Pancake Rocks, Punkaiki
    Overlooking a bay in Abel Tasman National Park
    Skydiving on the south island
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  • Melanie
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Toronto, Canada
    Queen's University
    ISV Volunteer Trip 2011 - New Zealand
    10/14/2014

    Travelling to New Zealand in the summer of 2011 was one of the best volunteer trips I've ever done. My group started on Motuihe Island, just off the coast of Auckland, and did ecological conservation work there for a few weeks. After that, we travelled from Queenstown back up to Auckland, hitting bungee jumping, sky diving, glow worm caves, white water rafting, and volcanoes along the way.

    How could this program be improved?

    Less time on the bus is hard to avoid, but if it was possible - I would limit the amount of time on a bus to about 3-4 hours per day.

    Photos:
    Coming out of the glow-worm caves.
    White water rafting with my group
    Skydiving!
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  • Alissa Azzimmaturo
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Montreal, Canada
    McGill University
    Unforgettable experience with ISV
    10/14/2014

    I loved my ISV experience in New Zealand. I really feel like I connected with the group and came out of my shell. I have traveled more since and I feel like my ISV experience was my staring point to being open to new and unknown adventures. I love the educational aspect of the program and the fact that I "got my hands dirty" for the cause. You really feel like you are contributing to a cause and New Zealand is absolutely beautiful, no doubt about it; I will go back! Our group was housed in the Tauranga region of the north island, in a children's summer camp, during winter over there, and we were subdivided into 3 groups. We alternated for cooking together, educational activities and learning about sustainable development. Our 3 ISV group leaders were AMAZING as well as the program coordinator/bus driver/everything man!! It was so interesting to learn about the Maori culture as well, that feels like a total privilege. We were welcomed to the local Maori community and learned about there history. What initially drew my into this trip was the adventure tour especially since I am an adrenaline junkie. NZ is THE place for extreme sports from skydiving to bungy jumping to jet-boating. The black water rafting is such a unique and amazing experience. Thinking back though, I totally loved everything about this program. ISV is a great company because they really care about giving you the best learning opportunity possible as well as all the cool extras on the adventure tour. They will always make sure you have options if something is cancelled due to bad weather. They give you plenty of tips about where to go, but you don't always have to stick together as a group and are free to choose where you spend your free time, although they will always have suggestions for you and point you to the local tourist point for info. They encourage you to keep a journal, which you should definitely do throughout the whole stay. I did in detail and that was great because you don't remember all the interesting stuff you learn about the culture otherwise.
    This is what makes ISV special: When I went to NZ, we all had to meet in LAX to fly out to NZ. Due to the volcanic ash cloud from Chile, our flight was delayed, for I think 2-3 days. What did ISV do? They sent over 2 ISV reps from their offices who stayed with us at the hotel the flight company booked, did activities with us like taking us to the California beach, movies, the summer solstice festival in Santa Barbara by private coach bus. How cool is that? Plus, they made sure we got to NZ safely and as soon as possible.
    I look back at this trip with nothing but good memories and how close we were as a group. I definitely recommend this trip to anyone who: has a sense of adventure, is environmentally friendly, loves to work hard doing stuff like planting trees and taking out weeds, loves the outdoors, is looking for a trip that combines an excellent volunteer experience with an amazing tour of the country doing one-in-a-lifetime activities. Take plenty of pictures!

    How could this program be improved?

    I think they should make the option to fly with the group not optional but obligatory. I did not book my flight with ISV, thinking I would save money because my parent works for an airline. But due to the volcano ash cloud (i.e. always expect the unexpected), I ending up having to buy a ticket last minute. That's the only dent in my otherwise great trip, and it was not really ISV's faut but my own. I told them that they could use my experience as a cautionary tale. So unless you are certain that nothing bad or unexpected will happen, book the flight with ISV, it saves you the hassle and stress of dealing with bookings in events such as these. This is the reason I gave a 9 out of 10 and not a 10, but honestly the ISV staff was great about all this and I got to stay at the hotel with the others, even though technically I was not booked with ISV for the flight.

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  • Liz B.
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Atlanta, GA
    University of South Florida
    Kiwi for life
    10/13/2014

    Spending time in New Zealand with ISV wasn't just impactful, it has left a lifelong imprint on my life. Not only did we get to help out the environmental scene in NZ, but we were also inducted into a Maori tribe after spending two days with them.

    I learned so much from my instructors and peers and was immersed fully into thie rich culture for four weeks. I wouldn't trade the experiences I had in NZ with ISV for anything in the world.

    How could this program be improved?

    I would make the school credit program a little more enticing and easier to understand.

    Photos:
    Digging down to the hot pools on the beach to enjoy a volcano-heated hot tub
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  • Megan
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Missouri, U.S.
    University of Missouri- Columbia
    Kiwi Experience
    10/11/2014

    This trip would be amazing for anyone interested in sustainability and green community development. The first two weeks were spent planting native tree species, pulling weeds, going to town council meetings in Kaikoura--one of the greenest towns on Earth, touring the recycling center, learning about the impact of waste on plants and animals, and visiting a natural baby seal sanctuary.

    New Zealand, especially the South Island, is completely breath taking. Just keep in mind that southern and northern hemispheres run on opposite seasonal calendars.

    ISV also does adventure tours, so after two volunteering weeks I spent two more traveling the islands and sky diving, kayaking, hiking on glaciers, caving and seeing glow worms, and zorbing.

    How could this program be improved?

    The volunteer work felt overwhelming at times because we could only work on a little at a time. Planting one tree--or removing one invasive weed--is time consuming and difficult, so it was a bit depressing to see whole hillsides covered in invasive weeds knowing that they were growing faster than we could pull them up.

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Alumni Interviews

  • Volunteers exploring New Zealand

    Morning: My mornings almost always involved eating a bowl of muesli and imported peanut butter, going outside to enjoy the spectacular New Zealand views, and then meeting with our partnered non-governmental organization to discuss the environmental conservation project for the day and to reflect upon the work that had already been completed.

    The main reason I chose to volunteer with International Student Volunteers was the variety in the focus and location of each service project. For example, I was able to travel up and down the north island where I gained hands-on experience in a number of areas as I planted hundreds of native species, removed invasive species in an effort to improve the ecosystem, built new trails for future park-goers to enjoy, while also learning about New Zealand's efforts to develop sustainable tourism.

    Afternoon: During my volunteer adventure with ISV, there was rarely a 'typical' afternoon. Some afternoons were spent running around athletic fields with Kiwi children, others were spent learning traditional Maori songs and dances while staying with an indigenous Maori community in a Marae.

    One afternoon we all went to a popular tattoo shop and got traditional Maori tattoos and the next day was spent running away from herds of cows as we planted hundreds of trees near their habitat. ISV provided a perfect mix of educational activities, hands-on service work, and time to engage with the Maori community on a more meaningful, personal level.

    A group of ISV volunteers in New Zealand

    Evening: Our evenings were also varied, but our trip leaders ensured that we would have designated time at the end of each day to discuss the work that had been completed that afternoon and to reflect on what we were taking away from our ISV experience. After reflecting (and scrubbing dirty fingernails), our group would often stay in for the night and bond over dinner, journal, explore the surrounding neighborhood, or meet Kiwis at the local pubs.

    I highly enjoyed getting to know our New Zealand tour guides who shared with us their love of all things New Zealand. Instead of coming into the country as students from the United States with tour guides from the United States to accomplish projects that we felt were important, we were always surrounded by locals who helped us to better understand the country's unique culture and bring us into their community.

    Highlights: During my summer in New Zealand, I went white water rafting on the Kaituna River, black water rafting in glow worm caves, hiked on the Franz Josef Glacier, Zorbed, visited the thermal wonders in Rotorua, kayaked Abel Tasman, and jumped 43 meters off of the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown (the world's first bungy). While I will forever remember the feeling of terror that took over my body as I jumped head first into a river with nothing but a rope attached, I will always appreciate the friendships that were created, the laughs that were had as we drove for hours in the same bus day in and day out, and the memories that I will continue to share with so many wonderful people.

  • Rebecca and fellow volunteers explore New Zealand

    Morning: A typical morning, depending on what type of group was on site at Lake Taupo Christian Camp would involve: instructing high ropes, low ropes, initiatives, rock wall, or abseiling if the group was a school group. If the group was a conference group or a retreat for adults then our volunteer jobs would range from helping the kitchen staff to helping the hosting department which would involve making sure the groups were comfortable and had their morning tea at the appropriate times. When there were no groups on site we would often be doing housekeeping, which obviously involved the cleaning of all the motel-like units as well as the larger lodges. We also did a range of grounds work that included weeding, racking leaves, and the general upkeep of the camp.

    Afternoon: A typical afternoon, again depending on the groups, could range from a continuation of the morning actives such as high ropes, etc. or the kids could change activities and do archery, slug guns, BMX bikes, paintball, and putt putt. With adult groups we would continue our work with the kitchen staff as well as help set up the dining room for dinner and work in the dish room washing dishes during dinner.

    Evening: An evening at Lake Taupo could consist of many different things. The camp staff was a very tight knit group so we (myself and the three other overseas volunteers I lived and worked with) spent a lot of time hanging out together and becoming a part of their camp family. When we weren't spending quality time with the camp staff we often went into town (Taupo) to go to a local gym to swim or just to have dinner with friends. Taupo was about a 30-minute drive from our camp so it was really helpful to have purchased a car while in New Zealand.

    Rebecca volunteered at Lake Taupo New Zealand

    Highlights: The highlight of my volunteer experience in New Zealand would have to be meeting all the amazing people that I was fortunate enough to meet. I learned so much about these people and their culture that it has become a part of me. This experience completely changed my life and opened my eyes to so many new and exciting things I would have never known otherwise. I learned to push my limits, to allow others to be in control, as well as some really important life skills. To go to another country to volunteer already speaks volumes about a person, but to go in expecting nothing and allowing a single trip to turn your world upside down is something that not many people in this world get to experience.

    My overall highlight from New Zealand would be the travel time that I spent with other volunteers from all over the world who were a part of the same organization as myself. We spent about three weeks traveling and getting to see parts of this world that we had never dreamt of seeing. Not only did we get to see some breathtaking views we also pushed our own personal limits and did things such as skydiving, bungee jumping, and cliff jumping. The time that I spent with these amazing people is time that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

  • Cary and ISV group pic

    Morning: Each morning I and the other volunteers would wake up early, make a quick breakfast (which usually consisted of yogurt, eggs, cereal-WeetBix was the famous New Zealand brand, toast, fruit, and other healthy options, and meet at the woolshed close by our house. The volunteer leaders would then describe the day's activities they had scehduled which usually included planting, weeding, beach cleanups, and trail maintenance with tea breaks and a long lunch break at a certain hour. If there was more than one job to do at a time, we would divide our seven person volunteer group into 2 or 3 and split up across the island.

    Afternoon: Afternoons were spent working, usually out of the woolshed on the other side of the island. The weather was very nice at this time of the day and though we did accomplish a lot, the work was laid back and even relaxing. It was easy to be scouting for weeds and suddenly find yourself isolated in nature from the rest of the group, which I found really nice. Surprisingly frequent rainbows and double rainbows made this time even more tranquil and the sight even more beautiful.

    Cary and fellow ISV program participants

    Evening: Evenings were spent back at home with the volunteers hanging out, making dinner (we made a lot of pasta, burgers and veggie burgers, stir fry, and nachos), and included the occasional discussion. These discussions were run by our volunteer leader and focused on living a sustainable lifestyle and how we could continue to do that when we returned home. We also played many different card games and sometimes went on night hikes around the island. I got to know many of my now best friends when we did this, and is one of my favorite parts of the trip when I look back on it.

    Highlights: The highlight of my trip would definitely be getting to live on Motuihe while we volunteered. Aside from myself, the other volunteers, our leaders, and a park ranger, the island was human-free. It is not often that I have been able to experience nature like this-amazingly diverse tidal pools, forests, and wildlife (including the tuatara!), and they were all very healthy communities. Our leader taught us an overview of the ecology of the area and many interesting facts about the animals that lived there. This made me understand the positive impacts our work was having on the island and made me more motivated and involved in the restoration work.

  • New Zealand Beach

    Highlights: The highlight of my volunteer experience was going on night hikes to look at the stars. Our project leaders were friendly, helpful and overall amazing! Another highlight was bonding with the other 7 people I worked with that were from both Canada and the USA.

    I felt the work we did was rewarding and I had a lot of fun doing it with the friends I made. I really enjoyed our project leader taking us around the island on hikes and at low tide. We got to walk on the ocean floor and we looked at the different species that we found and of course took lots of pictures.

    I also liked that we had the freedom to pick from a list of volunteer tasks that needed to be accomplished. This allowed us to really tailor the projects to our groups interests.

    Morning: We had an early start usually 8:30. Our project leader made us oatmeal every morning and we always had fresh kiwi to eat (the best kiwi are the golden kiwi). We would do various volunteer projects on the island I volunteered on such as tree planting, trail maintenance, weeding of invasive species or working in the nursery. We would have morning "tea" (meaning morning snack) around 10:00 and then we would break for lunch around 12-12:30.

    Afternoon: Our project leaders bought various food items for us and we made our lunches individually. Usually they were sandwhiches and we always had fresh fruit including kiwi. Since it was the winter tea and hot chocolate or Milo were a must!

    Our afternoon volunteer project would change to a different task; we would never be doing the same project all day. It was nice I enjoyed the variety. Sometimes we would end early and our project leader would take us on a small informational hike or we would walk along the beach (sometimes we would do this in the morning instead it depended on what we wanted to do).

    Evening: We would end around 4:30 each day and we had free time. Usually we would all have a snack or some tea/Milo/Hot chocolate and sit around the fire. Half of us would make a communal supper that we all shared and the other half would do the dishes. There was no internet or T.V on the island we stayed at.

    After supper and dishes were done, we played board games, card games or wrote in our travel journals about the activities of the day. It was amazing not having any technology it allowed my group to get to know each other and become really close.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with ISV in New Zealand?

    Sam: Some representatives from ISV came to one of our lectures and started talking about this amazing experience they had overseas, and about the difference ISV's involvement is making. I remember wishing that I could go and do something like that, then I realized 'why not?' I went to their info meeting on campus, where they explained everything that we'd be doing at the different locations. The stuff about New Zealand especially caught my attention: white water rafting, jet boats, glacier hiking, aaaaand we get to help restore the environment! It made me so excited I couldn't sleep the next night!

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Sam: We were in New Zealand for 4 weeks, 2 of which were for volunteering. My group (the luckiest as far as I'm concerned) were sent to Motuihe Island, just north of Auckland city. There were 8 volunteers including myself, plus one project leader working for ISV, and one Department of Conservation Ranger working for their government (both cool people). The ten of us were alone on this island for the most part, which was very cool, and everyone bonded instantly. We stayed at a house at the highest point on the island, where we took turns making meals and cutting wood for the fire.

    We'd throw breakfast together and be out the door by 8:30 am. We'd stop at the nursery to hear our 'Maori word of the day' and plan what to do that morning, learning the names of any plants we were going to be using. Loading our supplies into a trailer, we'd all hop on the back of a tractor and head out to a part of the island, maybe to weed Ramnus (which quickly becomes a swear word since it seems like its everywhere), or to plant native trees (like kawa kawa, manuka, or caro). We'd all break for 'morning tea' (usually a muesli bar), sometimes joined by fantails. Fantail birds are always easy to recognize by their fan-like tails (original name, eh?). Then, we'd continue until lunch. After lunch, we'd do something else, like digging up old fence posts, or beach cleaning (the beach cleaning allowed us to completely surround the island by the end of the 2 weeks).

    On rainy days, we'd do nursery work: plant seedlings into bigger containers and weed existing containers. After the working day was over, we'd all pile back onto the tractor and head home. On sunny days, we would all jump into ocean before dinner (it was their winter though, so not the warmest water you'd expect), someone would cut more wood and make a fire, and 2 people would be cooking. Once we were all curled around the fire, sometimes with a local treat our DoC Ranger would give us, our project leader would show us what the birds we saw that day were called and what they sounded like. After a day like that, rarely would anyone stay up past 9:00 pm though (I think our best was 10:00 pm). One night, we went out looking for a kiwi bird and found an old nest (no kiwi bird, but we did see a few morepork!).

    We worked everyday (weekends too) except for 2 days off, where we went to Auckland. On one of those days, we detoured to Rangitoto for the first half of the day, it's a volcano! We got to explore lava caves and climb up to the rim of the dormant crater (reeeeally nice view from there), and we also got to see how our island compared to this one (we were doing pretty good too, we had much less Ramnus). By the time it was over, everyone was so attached to Motuihe that we stared at it as we left on the boat until it disappeared into the horizon.

    View of Rangitoto Volcano in New Zealand
    View of Rangitoto Volcano in New Zealand

    What made this experience unique and special?

    Sam: This experience was extremely special, to each of us. We had to keep reminding each other 'Guys, we're in New Zealand!', because it all felt so surreal. We were pretty much alone, on an island, on the other side of the world. We were starting to know more about their culture and fauna than we did our own. The scenery was so otherworldly and beautiful. The people we were with became like family (or 'whanoa'), we were from all over (Canada, US, England, Ireland) and no one knew each other beforehand. It was amazing! And this is all before the adventure tour part of it, the last two weeks where we got to travel the length of NZ by bus doing a lot of neat stuff.

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Sam: After doing something like this, I can't wait to go travelling again, not as a tourist but as a traveller. Experiencing a country is so much different than just visiting one. It also makes you want to become more involved back home.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with ISV in New Zealand?

    Kerri: I first heard about ISV through my university. They send student representatives to lectures at the University of Manitoba as well as many other schools in North America. This was a 2 minute presentation that got me thinking about volunteering abroad. I also have a friend who had travelled with ISV in Australia. After looking into ISV's website, the volunteer opportunity in New Zealand caught my eye but the adventure activities possible in New Zealand would make it a trip of a life time.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Kerri: I volunteered in Tawharanui Regional Park, north of Auckland. My job was labelled as a conservation job, but prior to going I had little idea of what that would entail.

    Our general day is as follows: We would wake up at 6:30-7 am, prepare breakfast and our lunches for the day. Waking up at that time was not required but the sunrises each morning were unique from the previous day and completely breathtaking. We would meet with our volunteer coordinator and the Park Ranger. We would then discuss the day's goals and be briefed on the purpose of our work (relating to kiwi bird safety or to help remove unwanted rodents from the park) as well as any safety precautions.

    Our work was different each day which was nice, that have some change. We removed trees that were encroaching on a predator fence, removed barbed wire that posed a threat to kiwi birds, helped prepare from a community tree planting day, built 2 solar panels, planted around 10,000 trees along with the aid of the community as well as a few other jobs around the park. The days were tiring but the jobs that we did were fun and required some physical exertion.

    By the end of the day we were all quite tired but were required to have group discussions related to conservation and sustainability. After the day's work was finished we walked over to the beach to watch the sun set then got back to the volunteer house to cook dinner. Nights ended early but we often spent them watching the stars and chatting with our fellow volunteers and newly made friends.

    On the weekends we were able to hike the trails around the peninsula, catch up on sleep or take a ride into a nearby town called Matakana. On Saturdays, Matakana was alive and busy with a farmers market, cafes and shops.

    Conservation Volunteers in New Zealand
    Conservation Volunteers in New Zealand

    What made this experience unique and special?

    Kerri: Tawharanui is by far the most beautiful place I have been to. I went in New Zealand's winter but the entire park was green and lush. Working in a place that seems removed from the rest of the world where the beauty of nature is magnified, made working there such a pleasure. New Zealander's are truly passionate about conservation and adjusting to sustainable life, making it the perfect place do to this type of volunteer work. On the community planting days we were able to interact with different locals who were all more than friendly.

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Kerri: After spending 2 weeks volunteering at Tawharanui, I definitely live back home in a way that is more conscious of the environment. Living minimally at the volunteer house (no dryer for the washing machine and no plastic bags for groceries) has translated to every day life. I try to make sure I use energy efficiently, compost whenever I can and minimize waste products such as plastic bags. In a professional sense, I believe my volunteer experience will give me a degree of uniqueness in Medical school applications.

    One of the best parts about volunteering with ISV was that at the end of the two week volunteer period we then proceeded to experience a 2 week adventure tour. This included sky diving, bungee jumping, underground caving, zorbing, white water rafting and many other things. Each on of my experiences in New Zealand were unbelievable and make me want to return as soon as possible.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with ISV in New Zealand?

    Alissa: I choose to volunteer with ISV because they truly care about providing an educational and fun experience. Safety is their first priority and they have a great reputation. I really wanted to gain experience by volunteering and I also love to travel. I have to say that with New Zealand, the first thing that attracted me to the program was the adrenaline-packed adventure tour and it is definitely worth it! My volunteer experience greatly enriched my whole trip to New Zealand and gave me a better appreciation of conservation efforts made in the country, as well as educating me about sustainability and ways to continue to apply what I had learned when returning back home. I also felt like I was part of the community, especially with our encounter with the Maori, which was very special. I decided to volunteer to try a new experience, meet new people and do amazing activities, while learning about a new country. Finally I would just like to add, that I ended up enjoying my volunteer experience much more than I had anticipated, it's a very meaningful thing to do and you feel good about it.

    Volunteers in New Zealand with ISV
    Volunteers in New Zealand with ISV

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Alissa: We stayed our first two first at Aongatete Lodge, which was where we did our volunteer work. The lodge serves as a summer camp for kids during the summer, and we used it during the winter. A typical day of volunteering would include getting up early to help out in the kitchen, either preparing breakfast or setting out everything so that everyone could pack a good lunch (usually sandwiches) for the day. We were divided into three subgroups and alternated doing different tasks on different days; very organized. After breakfast our Kuaka coordinator would arrive and would instruct us on what we would be doing for that day.

    Most of the time we would have a short bus ride to get us on site. Most of our work involved tree planting and weeding, which I really liked and we also did track building and monitoring (tracking efforts to get rid of pests in specific areas). We would usually work until noon, have lunch and then work a few hours more. At night, we prepared supper and spent time in our groups doing educational activities and having discussions. When we were not doing that, we spent time in the common room/cafeteria and played games (i learned about 5 new card games) and listened to music and movies. That was for our first two weeks, then we travelled all over the place and stayed in the best hostels!

    New Zealand's beautiful countryside
    Help preserve New Zealand's beautiful countryside

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Alissa: This experience has opened my eyes to different ways in which I can be involved in volunteering and also what concrete things I can do to play my part in helping the environment. Making us aware and helping us plan and apply sustainable development and responsible tourism was included in my ISV program. It has also opened my eyes and made me realize that I love to travel and would like to live abroad someday--and surely return to New Zealand. I met people from all over, made friends and I realized the importance of finding work that is meaningful to me. Academically, I would love to be able to find other opportunities to volunteer, maybe with people as well, like teaching for example. Personally, this was a very new experience for me, as I tend to be somewhat reserved, but this trip is all about teamwork so I loved meeting people and I also loved the idea of doing something new and exciting everyday.

About the provider

Our mission is to support sustainable development programs around the world through life changing student volunteer programs designed to positively impact our world and to educate, inspire and result in more active global citizens.

Program destinations include South Africa, Costa Rica, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic. ISV has won multiple awards, and over 30,000 participants from around the world have experienced our volunteer, educational, cultural and adventure programs.Volunteers can join small teams for two-week projects in conservation or community development, followed by a two week adventure tour. Many university students earn academic credit for their involvement. Local staff carefully oversee programs and volunteers abroad. ISV is recognized as one of the highest rated volunteer and travel organizations in the world. ISV is a non-profit organization in California, USA and its Australian operations are based in Sydney. Begin your ISV Adventure!