The Leap

The Leap

About

The Leap has been leading the field in planet saving gap year experiences and career enhancing internships since 2000, providing award winning programs across Africa, Asia and South America. They are the first UK company to be accredited by the Gap Year Association, about which they are very proud.

Reducing plastic in our oceans, protecting turtles and saving the rhino is just the tip of the melting iceberg.

Their team programs are unique as they provide a combination of projects, in different locations, with the aim to provide different challenges in different places every few weeks. Projects are a mix of conservation and community.

They take great care in making sure their volunteers have chosen the right program to meet their own goals and expectations.

Volunteers travel as a team so a great social life comes as standard and many hands ensure the work gets completed.

Website
theleap.co.uk
Founded
2000
Headquarters

121 High Street
Marlborough
Wiltshire
sn81lz
United Kingdom

Looking for a January/February Departure?

We still have a few spaces left in our Tanzania, Ecuador, Cambodia and Costa Rica teams heading off in Jan and Feb. Just get in touch for more information.

Reviews

Default avatar
Catrin
6/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had my sights set on travelling to Central America this summer and due to my friends having other commitments I found myself organizing a solo trip to Costa Rica. A friend of mine suggested going on an organized trip and she then recommended The Leap having used them in her gap year to go to Tanzania in which she had a great experience teaching and volunteering.

Before flying, the three-week leapers arranged to meet at the airport and we met the rest of the 6-week leapers out there who had arrived a few days before us. We thought it was strange at the time that we didn’t all start the ‘program’ as one group but we realized that no specific program had been planned for either the 3 week or 6 week leap volunteers.

The trip that we had signed up to was entitled ‘Costa Rica Turtles’ but the turtle conserving was very minimal. This element of our trip was brought forward to our second week of the trip when we asked our camp leader about it which also made room for a trip to Monteverde. When at the turtle project there was a lot of free time. It became apparent that project organizsers had been expecting us in the third week of our trip and not the second and therefore volunteering tasks hadn’t been prepared for us. The highlight of our stay here was of course seeing mothering turtles laying their eggs which was extremely special. However on a 3 week turtle conservation trip to Costa Rica, 9 hours of turtle conservation did not match up to the trips description. Another group in our camp had a much more hands on experience as they attended in the third week as planned, having busy days volunteering and even dance classes included.

Furthermore, the leap had described the Spanish lessons as optional, 45 minute extras to our trip should we be interested. However, it became clear these were part of our daily schedule and lasted for an hour and a half each day. Whilst it was great to learn Spanish, it was not the main reason we were there and the trip began to feel like something quite different to what had been sold to us.

The most memorable parts of the trip were the extra activities that we paid for which included a waterfall tour, a day tour on ATVs, a trip to Monteverde and surfing lessons. These varied in price from $45 for the waterfall tour to $160 for the surfing lessons. This added up which became costly especially when the trip was expensive in the first instance. It was lucky that my group had budgeted for these as the trip would have felt empty without them. Before arrived, I was aware that Costa Rica was expensive but I did not anticipate the extra activities to take up most of my budget considering that we were already on an organized trip.

The last week of the trip worked well when we mentioned to our leaders that we wanted to be busy and more involved. Our itinerary then included daily surfing, Spanish and volunteering - it was a shame that the trip did not start of in this vain. The most enjoyable volunteering activity we took part in was the beach clean-up. This was the most efficiently ran exercise and we could see we were making a direct difference to Banana Beach. It was done by a smaller group of volunteers that used at the project meaning that we could get hands on. Meli, Brandon and Edwin were all great leaders and we felt particularly safe and encouraged when working with them. It was a shame that the three week leapers did not get involved in the bridge project that the six week leapers started after our arrival.

Overall I had an amazing time and made some really great friends. I would recommend this trip to gap year/students looking for a chilled out holiday with some volunteering but not as a turtle conservation/volunteering program in the first instance. I would also recommend checking items on the kit list with the leap (i.e mosquito net and sleeping bag) before coming as it was not necessary to have these things.

Response from The Leap

Hi Catrin,

Thank you for your feedback and we are delighted to read you had a great time overall.

I’ve gone through your review with Chris and Meli to get a better understanding and to see how and where we can improve.

Moving forward we will make it clearer that the 3 and 6 week programs are completely different – date, itinerary etc and that the turtle program only includes one week of Turtles.
I am glad that Chris and Meli could change the order of itinerary for you so you could go to Monteverde. Perhaps in the future we don’t change the itinerary to avoid putting pressure on Cirenas. Chris told us that you had extra days of turtles on the other beach?
I am glad you mentioned to Chris that you wanted to be kept busier and that they delivered.
Surfing has never been included in the 3 week program but we have now included it avoid disappointment.
We will highlight the cost of activities in Costa Rica – it is an expensive country, I understand that.
We will make sure the Spanish Teachers highlight that it’s optional at the beginning and the volunteering projects will be busier – Meli is in charge of this role.

Best wishes and many thanks for your constructive feedback - it is so helpful and can only make the program better.

Milly

Default avatar
Grace
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had a really fantastic time overall but I found I was promised things that weren't delivered... Volunteering and spanish lessons were spaced apart by 1 or 2 hrs so we wasted time hanging around at camp. There were no turtles this time of year, and the animal sanctuary they replaced it with was fine but not what I had signed up to the programme for. Meli Sophie and Pablo were awesome but when they left we had no group leader and volunteering felt half-hearted. It would have made a big difference if we had group leaders that were there for the whole time.
I wasn't told much about the volunteering and I was not expecting to be doing litter-picking and recycling for the majority of days. We taught english to children on friday mornings which was fun and helped my spanish a lot.
The excursions at the weekend were expensive- Isla Tortuga was $60 and the waterfalls trip was $35. I was not expecting to have to pay that much when I had payed over £4,000 already. We also had to pay for the zipline and canopy tour in Monteverde which came to $85... I was surprised this was not included! I don't remember being told this when I booked the trip. Bring plenty of spending money because Teresa is expensive and you will want to do trips at the weekend- for example renting quad bikes was about $60 per quad for 24hrs.
The surf lessons were great and I picked it up really quickly. I only had 4 lessons included and it was $50 per lesson after that which I had not prepared for in my budget. I would recommend buying your own surfboard there if you take to it and avoid going during rainy season as the surf conditions aren't ideal.
Santa Teresa has a great vibe and nightlife, and the locals are friendly! I really would recommend Jakera. I think it was the people and location that made the trip. It felt like home and after 2 months I was so sad to leave.
A big thank you to the staff as well they were fantastic. When I brought up issues they were quickly resolved and compensated for. I felt like the staff at Jakera would do anything to make your experience better, and the issue was more the Leap not giving the right information about the programme. My biggest complaint is that I expected more for the amount of money I payed. I think the agency fees are excessive- for example If you book directly with Jakera it is 2 weeks shorter but you save about £500 and you have 8 yoga lessons included.
The leap were however very helpful when I booked the trip and answered all my questions.. booking was super easy and I felt very supported during the trip. So I suppose this is the extra you're paying for and if it's your first time travelling and money is not an issue then you might find this helpful.

What would you improve about this program?
I would like more activities to be included and for them to be organised more efficiently. I found myself bored on multiple occasions which just led me to spend more money. I was hoping to not have to think about entertaining myself- I expected to be super busy the whole day.
Response from The Leap

Hi Grace,

Thank you for taking the time to give us your feedback on our program in Costa Rica, which we will discuss with our partners In Costa Rica.

Just a couple of thoughts that I would love to discuss further with you…

• With regard the cost issue - our program in Costa Rica is different from what is available through Jakera, especially when it comes to the project mix and back up - so very hard to compare the prices. Moving forward however, we will endeavour to do a better job in our program details and make sure they get read.

• Feedback about there being not enough to do – there is so much to do which I experienced first-hand when I was there with you, it's just a matter of saying yes to all the opportunities Jakera arrange. It was a shame you missed seeing the turtles hatching and helping with the community surf afternoon. You would have loved those experiences. Moving forward I will ask the team to not give anyone the option of attending. With regard to the animal verses the turtle sanctuary. I know this was a joint decision by everyone to head to the animal sanctuary instead. I am sorry you didn't like it. In future we can discuss not giving everyone a choice and always sticking with plan A.

• I am sorry that you didn't expect to do so much with the recycling project. This project is a huge part of what we do in Costa Rica - keeping the beaches clean directly helps with the turtle conservation and plastic ocean commitment we support. Moving forward I will ask Chris and his team to better explain the big picture with the community plastic oceans commitment.

• Lastly - Costa Rica is indeed an expensive country and despite us describing this in the program details, the reality still can come as a shock, we will do better at highlighting this in the future.

Overall, I am pleased you had a great time and appreciated the team element, flexibility and level of support on the ground - giving you the confidence to then head off to Cuba. I hope you had a good time there.

Have a lovely summer,
Milly

Default avatar
Isaac
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

If you love being outdoors, being with surrounded by like minded adventurers, and going on worldview changing experiences then THIS is the trip to go on!

There's nothing NOT to love about The Leap's Madagascar program and MRCI - the Malagasy organization you'll be volunteering for. When you arrive on Nosy Be, one of MRCI's charismatic staff members will meet you at the airport and take you across the small island to the port, where you'll hop on an incredibly scenic boat ride to your basecamp on Nosy Komba: Turtle Cove. The boat will drop you off at the beach where you'll get your first glimpse of paradise on Earth. As you walk up into the camp, which is built and blended into the rocky hillside, you'll be greeted by other (inevitably glowing and happy) volunteers who can help show you the ropes.

If you're starting with Marine and it is your first time diving (like it was mine), within days the team will have you underwater, practicing your skills, exploring the reef, and well over those powerful nerves you get when you first realize you are breathing underwater! Then time will fly and before you know it you'll be going on fish and coral survey dives, cleaning freshly planted baby coral and getting to know the resident sea turtles.

If you're starting on Forest, be prepared for a solid leg workout but also stunning views and immersion into the natural landscape. As a part of the forest team you get to learn all about the island's fauna and go on surveys where you search out and identify the all the little creatures; the data collected all goes on record to help current and future conservation efforts there! You'll also get to meet the Lemurs local to Ampangorinana, or "Ampang", the nearby village. They're cute, but be careful not to get peed on!

Being in the Community program, for me, was possibly the most rewarding part of the whole experience. Connecting one-on-one with locals and getting to know all about their lives in Madagascar through teaching them English was incredible. I had the pleasure of becoming good friends with Julian, a 23 year old Wiz Khalifa lover, and Silver, a 65 year old barbecue master, both of whom I know I'll never forget.

On Island Outreach, you'll get to do bits and pieces of the other 3 programs on a bunch of Islands in the area, traveling between them on MRCI's ship "Spirit of Malala". The ship's crew is hospitable and hilarious - Abdu and Johnny will get you wherever you need to get in style (rustic style, at least). And not to mention Patrick, the Malala's onboard chef, who can whip you up some of the tastiest barracuda you'll ever have.

On weekends, you'll have time off from whichever program you are on to explore Nosy Be or just relax around camp (which is never a bad idea because there's always an open hammock, an intriguing book in the camp's library, or someone looking to play a game of cards). If you do choose to spend the weekend on Nosy Be, there's a magnificent list of places to go and things to do. You can visit the island's sacred waterfall, ride horses on the beach, or hit up the bars in Ambatoloaka. There's always something happening on the weekend that you're going to want to be a part of.

The worst part of this trip is that eventually, you have to leave. If it was up to me I'd still be enjoying the endless 80° weather and honing my fish identifying skills right now. So don't even bother continuing to look for your Overseas Experience - this is the one you want.

Lucy
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

(If you want to receive £100 off your trip use the code 39733 in your booking form)
My brother and I went to Costa Rica in July and had a great time. The house we stayed in was really nice and all the staff working there were extremely helpful. I would 100% recommend this trip. Upon arrival we were greeted in a lovely hotel by a boy named Marco who was our « guide » during the trip, we then travelled to the house in Puntarenas which took about 6 hours. We personally stayed for 3 weeks and did lots of activities, the only sad thing was that we were looking forward to turtle conservation, however July was not to right time to visit because it is not hatching season. I will definitely be going back in October at some point to help with turtle hatching.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I can think of is perhaps slightly more efficient transport.
Brooke
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This trip was honestly amazing and I would highly recommend anyone to take the opportunity to do it. The leap is an awesome company who takes care of every aspect of your trip to make sure you can enjoy it to the fullest.
I met amazing staff and locals over the 6 weeks and also amazing people who I still stay in contact with and I can’t wait to see during the rest of my travels.
The outreach was definitely a highlight as you get to explore more islands and do different activities. The locals are amazing and the sense of community and the appreciation for volunteers makes it so worth doing. I did forest conservation because I love animals and hiking but with the leap your programme is flexible and if you prefer to teach you can switch over as well which you don’t get with other company’s.
It’s a shame that there’s bad reviews from people that I was there with because the leap had nothing to do with it - it was their overall behaviour that ruined it for them- so those reviews aren’t worth reading
What you should know is GO THROUGH THE LEAP!

Programs

Displaying 10 - 10 of 10

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Amy Betteridge

Amy is a 19-year-old who has developed a taste for traveling. She loves playing the viola, and helping out at her local Brownies. After finishing college, she decided not to go to university and instead to get a job to earn some money, to be able to explore the world.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose to volunteer in Madagascar as it has fantastic and unique wildlife, a great climate (especially in the dry season), and is somewhere different! I decided to go to Madagascar via the Leap as this is a very hands on company that guarantee a safe and adventure filled program.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The Leap are very good in helping to give options for flights, insurance, advice on the destination, and packing requirements and suggestions. They also sorted transport to and from the airport.

When booking flights for the trip, if done through the Leap, they nearly 100% of the time succeed in getting everyone who is on the same program at the same time, onto the same flights, which is brilliant to know that you won't be alone, and will have peers starting the adventure at the same time!

The Leap are also great at answering any questions and queries, from advice on what to pack, to what the local culture is like, and even firsthand descriptions from staff and volunteers who have been to the destination before.

The only thing I really had to organize was getting to and from the airport at home, which is simple enough to do!

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Bring a good head torch! Incredibly handy to have!

You will create some incredible memories, with some amazing people, who you undoubtedly will still be in contact with on returning home!

You will lose some things, gain others, and realize that actually, you don't need that thing. Mundane things at home, will seem either insignificant, or such a luxury, for example, the variety of food! Cold showers will become the norm, and make you appreciate hot water, but also realize you can easily adapt.

Your eyes will be opened, so take the chance, grab the opportunity with both hands, and jump in!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Monday to Friday on the camp in Madagascar (the Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute) you wake up around 5-6 am if on Marine or Forest Surveys, a bit later if Teaching. On Forest, you eat breakfast, put your walking boots and go out on a 3-5 hour walk, surveying either lemurs, birds, or reptiles, dependent on what walk you have been put on.

After lunch, (beans and rice, maybe some chicken, maybe some zebu, maybe some pasta), you do data entry to input the mornings survey results and findings into the database, ready to be sent off. It is also important to use any free time to revise birds and reptiles species, to be able to identify them on walks, as well as to pass the small test!

Dinner is around 6pm, and afterwards is free time until 10, usually filled with guitar playing and card games!

If you are on teaching, your day is filled with planning for your class or classes in advance, and then teaching 1 or 2 classes. The classes range in skill levels, and can be kids classes, teenagers, or adults - all are great fun, eager to learn, and really friendly!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

Once I was there I was fine - being able to board planes with people doing the same thing as you, eases some tension and nervousness that may exist!

When on camp, I found it easy to settle in and create routines, but when it comes to doing the programs I found teaching a challenge. The confidence I needed to stand in front of a class and try to teach English eventually arrived after shadowing a lesson, and teaching with some friends.

It helps to have people around who've had slightly more experience than you and so it spreads to everyone; the ability to stand in front of strangers and teach!

What's it like to live in a different way of life than you're used to?

For at least two weeks I found Madagascar completely surreal - the views, the people, the colors, and the differences! From bright yellow tuk tuks, which try and overcharge us "tourists", to fitting 7 people in a taxi, not to forget eating fresh mangos and jackfruit straight from the tree, as well as getting a pirogue home from class!

Surprisingly, after not very long, these things become normal, and after 10 weeks, it definitely feels like home! So immerse yourself in this new way of life, learn the language, chat to the locals, and have some fun!

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Milly Day

Job Title
Overseas Manager

What position do you hold at The Leap and why do you like working there?

My position is Overseas Manager, which is a great role, as it means I do a mix of sales, marketing, operations and some out of the office stuff such as gap year fairs and talks. I love working at The Leap, not just because I enjoy the job itself, but because we have a great office environment and I work with a really fun and inspirational team.

Did you volunteer or intern abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

I haven’t actually done either, but having worked here for a few months now, I’m dying to volunteer in Ecuador and Venezuela. South America holds a special place for me, plus the projects we have in those countries are really interesting and varied. Spanish lessons are included too — doesn’t get much better than that!

What does the future hold for The Leap - any exciting new programs to share?

We have a new placement in Borneo, which consists of teaching, spending time in national parks, visiting an orangutan rehabilitation centre, trekking through the rainforest and carrying out clean ups on the beach, to name a few things. Our placements in Cuba and Madagascar are also relatively new and seem to be going very well.

How does your organization differ from other ones in the industry?

Where to start! I think what really makes us stand out is the variety of projects we offer and the quality of both our products and service. With The Leap, you can do everything from teaching to building to working with animals to helping disabled kids and much, much more, and that’s just on the volunteer side! As well as this, we offer a range of fun and exciting activities, such as white water rafting, scuba diving, mountain climbing and safaris. We provide authentic meals, in-country transport, comfortable accommodation and 24hr support too, which many gap year companies don’t do.

What is one thing you would tell any future participant?

The more you put in, the more you’ll get out of the experience, so be sure to work hard and make the most of every minute your time away!

How do you think volunteer/intern abroad will change over the next 10 years?

I think we’ll continue discovering new and exciting projects and working with fantastic people to go on making the world a better place. Sounds awfully cheesy doesn’t it, haha.

More Interviews

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