GoEco

Program Reviews

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Elli
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

As someone who has been to many volunteer programs in Israel, I can honestly say they are all worth attending. From the Wildlife Center in the south to the Vegan Bakery in Tel Aviv, each program offers unique and immeasurable traveling experiences.

It's not often one has the opportunity to sink their teeth into Israeli culture using a completely different lens than that of a usual tourist. The work I accomplished, the people I met, and the places I visited made this experience hard to forget. If you're looking for a meaningful volunteer experience, GoEco will help you find the most suitable one for you as they did for me.

Happy traveling!

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guy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Going to Sri Lanka and volunteering in the babies orphanage on Kandy was the best decision I have ever made. Being there and feeling the positivity of the work youre doing and the impact you have of other people's life is undescribable. That feeling you get when you pick a baby up from his crib and he is wrapping he's arms around your neck and not letting go is the best and worse feeling ever. You can actually feel how desperate those kids are for love and you can't even start to imagine going back home and leaving them there.
I had a lot of fun but I would really recommend trying to go for a longer period of time, since you also have introduction week at the start of the program, which leaves you with a shorter time for volunteer work.
Introduction week was truly amazing, befriending your roomates and volunteer colleagues while getting to know the sri lankan culture through trips to temples, cultural dance show, batik house, cooking lesson and more.
The food was very good though really spicy and very repetitive.
The accomodation was very clean, comfortable and safe.
I would advise on bringing your own medication as the hospital neraby is not very hygienic and it is worth to avoid the visit.
Registering through GoEco was amazing, you really feel like everything is being taken care of and the treatment was very personal.
Picturs unfortunately only available from intoduction week since you cant take pictures of the orhanage or the babies.

Silvia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteering with this programme was the best decision I could have possibly taken. It was such an amazing experience getting to wake up everyday to the lions roaring. The staff there was super nice and the volunteers were the most funny people I have ever met!
We got to prepare the food and feed all the animals everyday, water them ad help with the cleaning of the house. On weekends we helped with the tours that came to see the animals and we also had a lot of free time to spend time with some of the animals. Also, we did some trips to the city to have dinner out, go to the mall and buy the groceries.

Let's Meet My Valentine :-P
Kate
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

YES!
Volunteering in the strikingly homey desert wilderness, under a pacific supervision of well-fitting rangers, to cater for hygienic, dietary and safety well-being and convalescence of exotic and endangered animals, thereto reach far over to provide welcoming conditions for visitors so that they can peacefully mingle with locally typical, Bible-related species, and learn of their life cycle and threats of extinction. This is the CORE of your delightful input in the reserve of Hai Bar Yotvata and only a FRAME of your captivating experience.

UNEARTHLY PARADISE
Situated in the respectably CULTIVATED Arava borderline of the Negev DESERT, the animal reserve with its embedded residential area (incl. spacious volunteer bungalow), is encircled with picturesque range of mountains and a highway to Eilat, the longest Israeli road. Being a European with immoderate density of buildings and forests, I got astonished at the scenery, evocating both freedom and firmness at the same time. I fell in love instantly.

AFTER THE WORKSHIFT? SHIFT TO EXPLORATION
Topped with moderate climate of Israeli post-winter and pre-spring February stay, I felt fresh enough to EXPLORE the safe pathways to nearby kibbutzim of less than 20min of walking distance. Just be well equipped and let people know, for the health insurance was already your entry ticket anyway. Since you may volunteer in a group or most likely happen to be joining already active volunteers, eventual loneliness shall be nothing but your own choice. Let alone the MYRIAD of unique local trip opportunities, neighbouring rangers and fenced animal-run, sources of in-house fun from a guitar, books, board games, over YouTube channels on TV and Internet in general, to household or the porch, which appears to be the most favourite relax-zone. After all, peace and quiet is all you need after work sometimes.

WHAT IS, WHAT ISN’T ON DAILY MENU?
You are doomed to fall for mountainous valley, occasional acacias or palm kibutzes as they deliver an exciting scene, detached from dense civilization, yet close to Eilat. Wadi, caves and wilderness are just around the highway. Sun rises above the strap of nearby Jordanian mountain ridges. You are going to enjoy the daily pickup with a jeep, work side by side with experienced rangers and see how HANDY can be the shopping done once a week per your reserves, within generous budget for the whole board of the volunteer house. Everyone shall profit from healthy detachment from mass media, although still with fast wireless Internet access and telescreen. MODERN FACILITIES are deemed a ‘five star hotel’ amidst the desert and protected animals. WHAT’S INCLUDED? Housing, all energy supply, Internet, sufficient grocery stipend, gas for the jeep, eventual transfers should you need, liquids and bathrooms on workplace, working tools and first-hand expert explanations!!!

UNIQUE WORK CONDITIONS
Other than that, sand becomes a nostalgic article which the work leaves you with thereafter. All the year round, you will get a constant rangers’ care for organism hydratation. No worries about failing in the tasks - here the rangers see to the good work and so they actively partake in the alike physical work that we do and provide a constant unbiased supervision, not only to save the animals, but to protect the volunteers too. Stemming from situation, look forward to rare assignments of breathtaking character, with high responsibility and honour, for they require professional or emergent execution. Living next door to animals’ yard and continuously discovering diverse forms of reptiles and insects around entail the routine that many may find MISSING BACK HOME.

NEWIE-VOLUNTEERS, STRETCH YOUR EARS
Believe it or not, great diversity of local animals will occupy your mind on daily bases. Not only are you free to give a helping hand at weekends. Not only a beautiful grasshopper, a pert ant, an attractive lizard and other cute tiny beings may pay you a visit. Maybe that the rangers with their patient expert eye will help you see the WELL-CAMOUFLAGED WILDLIFE and international MIGRATING BIRDS, with which the very typical Hoopoe or fabulous Flamingos, for their PECULIAR story. Value added depicts the chance of being invited to extra tours within the regular inspections. So get ready, make sure your eye or photo lens are clean!

Appreciation is always the key to sustainable relationships rather than taking things for granted. Workplace is not a holiday resort. Rangers are there for the reserve, but for you too - SPEAK to them, NOTE them when you need to leave for the restroom, when you feel sick, if you are close to run out of food supply, if you plan to take a TRIP OUTSIDE (e.g. to Eilat with its Doplhine Reef, Underwater World, artistic downtown, its considerable airport and many cultural sites; to ancient Timna mining site and close canyon-like serpentines; to surrounding kibutzes; to a walking distance lookout point; a bus drive either to Dead Sea or Beer Sheva) and, of course, when you are not sure about UNDERSTANDING the instructions.

Do not be afraid to ask as they, too, appreciate openness, trust, cooperation, interaction, initiative, relevant questions (and compliments as everyone), for it enhances work experience and MOTIVATION on both sides. Load the phone numbers of recommended rangers onto your mobile CONTACT LIST.

Should you decide to apply through GoEco, remember that there is a person you can always turned to as well; plus they will see to it that you adapt yourself comfortably and introduce you to peculiarities of wonderful Jerusalem in the company of a friendly knowledgeable guide.

YOU ARE GOING TO SURVIVE WITH SMILE, BUT STILL
Wear heal-and-toe closed shoes, best possibly protecting your ankles too. Keep your head covered, as you are exposed to sun. Sunglasses may well protect your eyes from sand in eventual wind and sandstorm. Sunscreen may come handy even in winter months. Basically take all RECEIVED ADVICE before departure and meanwhile the stay into account, for the reserve has a lot to deal with inside and the wilderness around to take on another issue. Don’t underestimate local conditions in the first place as there might not be a vehicle available to take you to hospital WHEN IT IS TOO LATE or to do the shopping when you are already out of all the supply. Remember that running the reserve does not comprise mere ‘Good morning’ to animals, let alone they are not the only ‘beings’ there - an essential part features an embedded campsite, lodging huts and safari. Besides, also the cared-for wild fauna consists of both herbivores, as well as CARNIVORES (predators). Hence do not expect the hyena, leopard, wolfs, jackals, wild cats, caracals, vultures, eagles etc. to feed on SOYA MEAT.

POST-PROGRAM CONSEQUENCES
Grateful for each second and for the natural ‘embarkment’ on board of rangers’ brotherhood, I felt and do feel like showing my APPRECIATION here and there. The last night I went through nostalgic break-down as I realized the strong bonds with the fun, talented, intelligent, proud, respectful and hospitable people, as well as with Hai Bar wrapped in charming mountains and peculiar animals’ sounds (how was I supposed to DISACCUSTOM MYSELF from ostrich wooing, donkey heehaws and rangers’ quizzical comments). I have remained surprised how FRIENDLY the DESERT SETTINGS can be, how ‘at-home’ I felt the whole month, what a HEALTHY RESTORATION it was from stressful daily life, from the ‘omnipresent’ business surrounding, traffic and construction noise, from the air pollution and cases of ill-treatment or indifference to animals back home.

Like others, I REDISCOVERED my self-reliance and REINFORCED active listening. I should say that I SHALL COME AGAIN! For many international people I talked to, it is still a relatively UNIQUE RESCUE AND RECOVERY PROGRAM in Israel. Nor is the Internet explicitly ‘flooded’ with rich information on this distinct natural legacy and reservists’ endeavour after its nature SUSTAINABILITY in CONSTANT FIGHTS with the municipal, business and ministry deputies, searching for compromise with desired growth of infrastructure and income.

CHECK IT OUT!

What would you improve about this program?
A good word on experienced reality derives progress. Every volunteer already has the chance to express openly and leave a feedback. I personally learned on the place how the housing conditions, communication reserves and volunteers' imprudence have developed since program's first striving years.
It needs to get promoted in large, emphasizing that people with particular insight, interests, thinking green, enthusiasm and creative ideas may bring not only sustainability of the program, but its gradual development for good.
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Neil
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I was a volunteer at a wildlife sanctuary for 3 weeks from November 4th until December 1st 2017. The sanctuary takes in orphaned or injured animals and looks after them with the aim for them to be released back into the wild. For some animals or birds release is not a practical option so they live out their lives at the sanctuary. There is a large range of animals and birds including lions, leopards, monkeys, antelope, crocodiles, sheep, meer-cats, eagles, owls and geese. The work is all directly or indirectly aimed at helping the animals, we did a lot of food preparation, enclosure cleaning and general improvements, but we also had trips offsite to look at camera traps or collect food/bedding for the animals. The sanctuary staff organized trips away for us as well, for example, we had three days in Victoria Falls.

What would you improve about this program?
The main issues were related to the economic situation in Zimbabwe, it was difficult to purchase things such as freezers as the currency is in a mess. It would also help to have a specific volunteer coordinator as it was done as part of another job.
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Tamara
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

As I said, best two weeks of my entire life!
South Africa has become my favorite place on earth, I would totally say it's my second home.
The interaction with the animals is amazing, much more than I could ever ask for! You really get to create a strong bond with them. Our lion cubs Malakai, Malia and Nairobi stole my heart as well as the ostrich Josephine and its babies :)
And the people you meet there...they become your family!

Can't wait to go back!!!

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Lara
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Words cannot describe what an amazing time I had volunteering! First of all, the setting is just stunning as the place is surrounded by mountain chains. You can admire this view while walking the elephants, or if you go within the next few months, the 3 lion cubs. Malia, Nairobi and Malakkai were the absolute highlight as we had a lot of interaction with them and it broke my heart to leave them!
Everyday is different; from injecting goats, horse riding in the morning to chasing animals out of places where they aren't supposed to be! Everything was so overwhelming in the beginning and it was still at times after two or even 4 weeks because you experience so many different, new things.
Whatever excursion you want to do, the lovely Less will make it possible. I went to a monkey sanctuary, reptile farm, skydiving (twice), etc...
Of course the people you meet are a crucial part of your experience and you won't be disappointed: they are all amazing! They come literally from all over the world and still you all connect, because you are all there for the same reason: Your love for animals and traveling! Fun is guaranteed and it gets never boring!
The best part, however, were the different animals: the gracious tigers, the stunning lions (they are taller than you think!), the beautiful elephants, the playful leopard Selati, the super chilled zebra Jack an Roxy, the hyena, my personal favourite!
I enjoyed every second of my stay and I left a piece of my heart at this amazing farm in South Africa with all of those beautiful animals! I will definitely go back!!!

Read my full story
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Bethany
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I found GoEco by chance while preparing to spend a month in Italy on my own. I knew I wanted to find an ocean related volunteer opportunity for at least a week to break up my travels. When I read about the Dolphin Project, I was excited. I did a little bit of research ahead of time on the Mediterranean and cetaceans, but the information sent directly from the project was most helpful in preparing.

The Sunday we stepped onto the boat happened to be my birthday. The group was gradually introduced to each other and the crew as we each arrived. First mate, Rossana briefed us, the volunteers, on the purpose and the scope of the project as well as general operations, while we sat on the deck and munched on slices of sweet watermelon.
After the briefing, we walked to a private cove with a hotel and restuarant, where we swam in the sea and dipped in warm pools. While I floated on my back in the cool water I had to acknowledge, this was a perfect day. We enjoyed a lovely dinner and watched the sun set before walking back to the harbor. I slept on the deck that night and every night during my time on the Jean Gab.

Have I mentioned the beautiful Jean Gab? She is incredibly stunning and so lovingly maintained. It is hard to believe she is nearing 100 years old. I immediately fell in love with boat life as well. I loved how everything had a place and everyone had a job. I also loved the fresh air and the rocking that lulled me to sleep anytime I let it. Angelo, her captain is clearly in love with her as well. After seeing his garden in the harbor, I decided that I too could live on a boat. To think I had been nervous about spending a whole week on a boat.

I no longer remember exactly what I had expected prior to boarding the boat. I do remember being a little nervous about seasickness and preparing myself to be a little bored at times, knowing we would be on watch only in shifts. I struggled with neither.
With four native Italian speakers on board, I was able to listen, practice and ask and endless amount of questions, most beginning with "Como se dice...?". In the weeks following my time on the Jean Gab, Italians frequently commented, "Oh, you speak some Italian" and I would respond,"I DO?!" I also loaded my bag with books to keep me entertained and to give my eyes a rest between watch. I also did my best to learn as much as possible about Italian cooking from Angelo and others. When prompted, he would give lectures on olive oil, different types of pasta and seasonal ingredients. All in Italian of course!

From the moment we left the harbor that first morning, Rossana began educating us on the local wildlife. She has such an eye for spotting a bird or splash of tuna in the distance. She was easy to listen to because of her passion and so knowledgeable.
On our second day at sea we encountered a pod of 20 or more spinner dolphins. Time speeds up when you are watching these animals.
There were days where we saw only birds and tuna, but we enjoyed working as a team to document what we did see and we finished some of the slower days, anchoring in a quiet cove to cool off and swim. One day, while we were doing just this, a small motorboat with just a driver pulled up to the Jean Gab and called out to Angelo. Then he tossed up a whole, chilled, watermelon. It seemed that everyone knew Angelo. In the evenings, I usually had time to go for a walk or a swim or generally stretch my legs before dinner.
Our last day out, we had the opportunity to track down a young male sperm whale named, Brunone. It is a labor of love to find these beauties. We listened and moved and stopped and watched. Until finally, Rossana spotted his spray in the distance with binoculars. Our efforts were rewarded and we were fortunate to encounter him for a short period and log his activity.

By the time we said our goodbyes, our little crew had begun to feel like family. I felt lucky to have met such a great group. I gave myself a couple of days after the week of volunteering to explore Ischia and unwind. I hiked to the top of the volcanic island, bathed in the thermal pools and explored several picturesque beaches. I highly recommend giving yourself some extra time on either end of your trip to see Ischia. I plan to go back annually if possible. And I will definitely use GoEco to help me find opportunities on future travels wherever I go.

Helpful tips for the enjoyment of life on the Jean Gab-

I did not struggle with seasickness, but this could be in part because I took a non drowsy Dramamine the first day at sea. I think it still made me a little drowsy, but there was plenty of time to nap between shifts.

I slept great, but that would be due in large part to my eye mask and ear plugs. Sleeping on the deck was nice and cool, but there was light and noise from the town center. If you struggle with sleep, take precaution. I wish I'd brought extra ear plugs to share.

I also wore an all natural bug repellent to sleep each night to prevent bug bites. I still got a few, but they did not keep me up.

Sunscreen is an obvious one, but keeping it handy and plentiful is important. I also wore a sun hat to protect my face. I would suggest a hat with a strap for when the wind picks up.

Boredom will not be a problem if you enjoy reading, language learning, napping, chatting and cooking. Definitely bring reading material and ask for a job if you need something to do. I worked hard to earn the title of best sous chef from Angelo.

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elena
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This was a once in a lifetime experience that I recommend to anyone who loves animals. It was a real dream come true and I enjoyed every single second of it. It was amazing to work alongside and interact with such amazing animals, who each have their own background story as to why they are at the sanctuary. All of the leaders and the manager were so knowledgeable and welcoming from the second we got there. My only regret is not staying for longer (2 weeks), but I will be returning in the near future.

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Annika
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

When I first decided I wanted to volunteer, I searched so many websites and eventually I came by GoEco’s website. I read so many positive experiences, I thought to myself, this has to be something that I do! I have never really liked Christmas in the UK, so I thought Israel would be the perfect place to go, as Christmas isn’t really celebrated. I made the most PERFECT decision. I then decided which project I wanted to do, working with animals was at the top of my list. So, without any hesitation I confirmed my place on the website. I had all of the details within a week, the office in Israel are so quick at replying, and really look after every volunteer who books through them.
The time came, the flights were super cheap. I paid around £120 return from London with EasyJet to Tel Aviv. Day 1 of the 3 weeks experience was just the start of what was to come, it was awesome. We met Yan, a Coordinator for GoEco, and he took us around Jerusalem for the day. I felt that it was important to spend the day doing this, as we learnt so much about the country, the culture, and also told what the next few weeks would entail.
The next day, Yan took us to the bus station and we got on the 4 hour bus journey to the desert. We got off at the bus stop and one of the rangers picked us up. My first impressions were exactly how I expected, in the middle of no where, perfect. We were taken to the volunteers house, which is just so lovely. 2 bedrooms, a nice bathroom, a HUGE living room with a smart TV and a computer, a well equipped kitchen, and a washing machine outside. There’s also a fire outside which was great at night time. The volunteers house is in between two of the rangers houses, so there was always someone around, and they are very sociable. It’s also at the very end of the safari, so the Ostriches are literally a stones throw away, you can hear them making their calls in the night quite clearly. Night fell on the first evening there, I remember walking outside and looking up at the sky and being speechless. When you live in a big city like London, its not very often that you see stars, let alone shooting stars and the line of the Milkyway! It’s breath taking. After star gazing was over, we lit a fire, and sat under the stars for the rest of the evening and got to know each other.
6am wake up…. For a 7am start. That was a bit of a shock to the system, I’m usually quite lazy in the morning! A ranger picked us up in a truck, and we rode through the safari to the office to start our first day of work. We met all of the rangers, who each are so individual, lovely and unique its hard to explain, but you will see for yourself when you book this experience. Quickly we learnt what we were to do for the next few weeks! Basically, every morning we would prepare food to feed the animals in the rehabilitation centre. We would first clean the toilets that the public use (they visit the safari only), this was one of my favourite jobs, which I’m sure the rangers appreciated. Then we would go into each cage, apart from a few dangerous animals only professionals can enter, such as leopards, the wolf, and the hyena. We would clean the floor, change the water, and give them food. Some animals are fed at night time, so if you stay for a few more hours each day, you get to do this too. I found I got more out of the project by working 7am until 4pm every day rather than the 7-2pm which is required. I LOVE the animals there. On the reserve there are White Oryx, Ostrich, Addex, and two types of donkey. And in the rehabilitation centre there are wild cats, caracal, a wolf, tortoises, a hyena, parrots, owls, raptures, leopards, jackal (love them), and many others. Other duties included, preparing new enclosures, counting the Gazelle, measuring trees, painting, and feeding the safari animals. One day I got to spend the whole day with the vet and learn about his job, and another day I made toys for the cats. Every day was different!
Work would be Sunday to Thursday and the rest of the time was free time to do whatever you like. You have to bear in mind that the nearest bus stop is a 40 minute walk, but the trick is to just makes friends with the rangers and they will take you where you need to go (and it’s always nice to bring them back something sweet in return!). On my first weekend, I decided to take a trip to Jordan through a local tour company in Eilat. It cost in total around $500, which included everything! Including Visas. I was so glad I did it. I spent 2 days in Petra and 1 in Wadi Rum. I also took a day off from the reserve which they were totally fine with. Waking up in Wadi Rum on Christmas morning was a totally unique experience.
The second weekend was quite chilled out. Me and one of the other girls went to Eilat, we went to the camel ranch, lay on the beach, went out for New Years Eve, and we also visited the Coral Reef which also has volunteers and we made some new friends there as we snorkelled in the Red Sea! We also swam with wild dolphins, which really made me want to learn to dive, which I did the next weekend!
At night times we would sit around the fire, cook food on the fire or in the oven, watch music videos, or generally just talk! One thing that’s changed me since doing this experience is that I now don’t feel like I need much. I’m less materialistic than I was before. I think being in an environment in the middle of nowhere does that to you, it makes you appreciate what you have, and it also allows you to listen to other people more. The rangers were so lovely, I cooked a BBQ for them on my last day as a thank you. The girls I was volunteering with were great, we had such a good time, and if I could rewind and do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing, it was perfect. I made some amazing friends, people that I will keep in touch with forever. I don’t even feel that this blog explains just how amazing this experience was, and I could probably stand up for a few hours and talk about it! I loved Israel that much I stayed in the country for an extra 2 weeks, and explored from the south all the way up the Golan Heights.
In general, I feel a much better person, and I’ve learnt a real value in life (I also now get up a lot earlier in the mornings!) It’s the best thing I’ve done with my life and I have a totally different perspective now! I can’t wait to go back.

What would you improve about this program?
It's perfect!