ISV - Volunteer Projects in New Zealand

This program is no longer offered. View more programs from ISV (International Student Volunteers).

Video and Photos

Yellow-eyed penguins coming home for the night.
Sunrise views from the deck of the Penguin Place lodge.
Jumping from the highest bungy site in New Zealand.

About

As a volunteer in New Zealand with International Student Volunteers (ISV), you have the opportunity to protect and rehabilitate some of the most remarkable landscapes on Earth. ISV partners with local conservation organizations including government and non-government, private reserves, farms and grassroots community groups, to directly benefit rare and endangered New Zealand species. Volunteer assistance is essential to ensure the health and survival of native ecosystems in this country.

Specific tasks involve reforestation initiatives, 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, and all projects with ISV highlight and increase accessibility to beautiful natural environments for future generations. For more details on how to make a difference to this green nation visit ISV's website today.

Related Programs

Questions & Answers

We had about 16 in my group and 8 in the other! It just all depends on the project needs. The first two weeks we all lived together on a marae. We worked together to do all the chores and cooking. The second two weeks about half us continued on to the adventure tour- the other group was really nice but by then we have already bonded to each other so we stuck together in our own groups!

I think i ended up spending around 6500 USD. You can definitely cut down that price but i did almost all the excursions! Also I brought about $300 spending money and my credit card! Don't try to tell yourself you'll just skip doing things like bungee or skdiving because its incredible. best trip of my life! Also its cheaper to skydive here than in the US (only about $450 USD) .

Reviews

9.66 Rating
based on 68 reviews
  • Impact 9.4
  • Support 9.5
  • Fun 8.5
  • Value 9.6
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 1 - 8 of 68
Faya
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Kaitoki project, Manuka trees

Isv- all about safety, they said, while finding our way through the wood covered, muddy, wet steep hills. It wasn't dangerous, but imagine our sarcasm!

Noty only provided ISV a great learning enironment, they also gave us a life among a Maori family to teach us more about cultural identity, tradition and the ancient thoughts on nature, the earth, our modern way of living and travelling as a grest way to safely explore the world without doing it any damage.

Highly recommended expierence both mentally, physically and on a conscious enviromental level ad well as culturally.

And... Thank you for being here, reading comments/revieuws to be inspired, but now it is time for YOU to inspire us. Go out there and have a great time while doing great work!

What would you improve about this program?
More people from around the world! As much as I loved the almost all American group, I hope more and more people from other countries would enter (I am Dutch, for example).
Chloe Roberts
Chloe Roberts
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

ISV New Zealand

This was my second trip through ISV and it was absolutely amazing! I was able to get hands on experience doing things I learn about at my university as well as gain knowledge on certain things that I probably would not have learned sitting in a classroom. I always felt welcomed and accepted by all of the other volunteers and the staff. The work was hard but definitely rewarded and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Completely life changing! I would recommend this to anyone who loves to travel and volunteer!

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Bailey
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

ISV New Zealand

ISV is an amazing program that changed my life. You work towards sustainability goals on a conservation project making lifelong friends. Then you travel the whole country with these amazing people doing crazy thrill-seeking adventures. The volunteering is fun and then you do crazy once-in-a-lifetime things like skydiving from 19,000 feet, Bungy jumping at the first place in the world, and Zorbing down a hillside. Plus you see sights that even a camera cannot capture. It really is a win-win situation. You make a difference in the world, and you gain some unforgettable friends and memories!

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Riley
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

There and Back Again- Penguin Place, New Zealand

When I received word that I would get to spend my project time at Penguin Place conservation reserve, I was over-the-moon excited! This was my second ISV trip, and although I signed up for 2 consecutive trips, I was even more excited the second time around.
New Zealand has always been on my list of places to visit, not just because of its Lord of the Rings appeal, but because of the uniqueness of its geography and species. All throughout the 4-week program, we learned about the history of the islands and their inhabitants, and how humans impacted the flora and fauna, and vice versa.

We got to plan and make our own meals and run our self-contained lodge, under the superb guidance of our project leader, Val. Out of the 10 of us participants in that section, we were from a whopping 6 different countries! Talk about perspective! Not only did we have our scheduled educational sessions about environmental issues, but we would often talk until late about ourselves and how our countries are handling current world situations. It was incredibly eye-opening. I have never felt more at home, while away from home.
The Penguin Place reserve itself is simply stunning. Not everyone gets to work by the Pacific Ocean, recreating habitat for the most endangered penguin species in the world. I consider myself very fortunate to have been placed there, with the group that became a second family to me. Our work was often hard, but extremely rewarding. How could one not want to create a more hospitable landscape for those adorable yellow-eyed penguins? We played games in the morning to warm up; often laughing until we were out of breath. We learned our Māori phrases of the day and tried to use them as often as we could. Waking up every day in Dunedin was like waking up in a travel magazine; it couldn’t have been more beautiful! So it was with heavy hearts we said our goodbyes, but with the hope that we would one day return to a healthier penguin population, and to reconnect with the land we got to know so well.

Fortunately, our adrenaline adventures were just beginning, and I have to say that this adventure tour was better than my first! Our tour leader, Meg, was so fun to be around, and she provided us with really great learning opportunities about local history and culture in every place we visited. From start to finish, the 2 weeks we spent touring New Zealand were filled with unparalleled thrills, amazing cultural experiences, the most spectacular scenery, and enough laughing to make our bellies ache. Yes, we spent a lot of money. A lot. But in my eyes, not doing so and missing out on the fantastic opportunities at our fingertips, would have been a real shame. I figured, you can always work to make more money, but you may never be able to recreate those moments.
My advice: prepare to spend lots of cash. Be open minded about all the new things you could experience. Do not pack a lot of shirts, since you will get lots there. Bring a camera/GoPro with lots of storage space and backup cards. Pack warm clothes. Do not hold back; just do it.

What would you improve about this program?
In my eyes, there is little room for improvement in this program. Yes, it was expensive, but the activities that money goes towards, the food and accommodation, the security of knowing someone has planned it all for you, was worth it.
One thing that all of us on project suggested was to increase the length of the work days on project. Yes, I said increase. We often ended earlier than expected, simply due to the nature of the reserve's operations and tours that were running. All of us said we had lots more energy left in us, and gladly would have kept working for longer.
Faya
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Native Nature Kaitoki project- Waimahae Marae

This trip changed my way of looking at the world. Living with a Maori family, keeping yourself warm by the fireplace, no wifi, lack of signal, a generator that forces us to have a candlelight breakfast. And then there's the Manuka trees we had to plant. Steep up the hills for the greater good. We did something special to restore the native bush in New Zealand- together. ISV projects provided us with responsible tourism knowlegde that changed our whole life during these four volunteer and adventure tour weeks. ISV. Thank you as.

What would you improve about this program?
There have been some minor things; nothing can go perfectly. But that is what made this trip so perfect. ISV provided us with all the information we needed and beyond. It's what you put into it that comes out. This way I can't even remember these minor things. It's really hard to improve a project that hardly needs any improvement. Although the first day of work was hard because we didn't expect such a terrain to work on-but isn't that what made it so good looking back now? It was a challenge we overcame. We set goals and we reached them far beyond our expectations.
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Liz
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Meeting my Whanau and Living in a National Geographic Magazine for a Month = Best Experience Ever!

Honestly, traveling to NZ with ISV was the best decision of my life so far. I have been to many countries with many different programs and also with my family and there was never a moment where I was unhappy in those 4 weeks. I made life-long friends who I instantly clicked with (and that's not super common for me). We called each other "whanau", which means family in Maori. We became a family from sitting every morning, afternoon, and night together sharing meals. We became a family by sharing the hard work we did for 2 weeks on Motuihe Island; I never enjoyed planting trees and track maintenance more in my life just because of the people I got to do it with. I did things I never would have done without their encouragement and lust for adventure (I went skydiving 19,000 feet AND bungee jumping!). We encouraged each other and supported each other and it made the trip a once-in-a-lifetime travel adventure. I love all of them and we still keep in contact :) . I thought the conservation work would suck but our leader and mom, Laura, made it something important and enjoyable, and I learned so much from our discussions in Top House (volunteer house) about our planet and what to do to make it a better place for the generations to come.

Also, NZ is the most beautiful and unique place in the world. The island we stayed on, Motuihe, is growing into what NZ looked like before immigrants ever touched it (which means no mammals!). I honestly cannot pick a favorite place. I fell in love with Motuihe and it's beaches and forests and kiwi birds and tuataras. I loved ever second of the Adventure Tour and I absolutely adored our leader Meg. Every second was filled with adventure and admiration for the beauty that I was surrounded with. We were so spoiled! Everything looks like it is out of a National Geographic magazine. It is the perfect place for someone who loves nature and adventure. It definitely makes you more independent and even though my iPhone broke a week and a half in, it wasn't even a big deal cause all the people I needed I was already surrounded with. I have no regrets from taking this trip. I just wish it could have gone on longer!

It's great for people who have never been out of the country because we do have structure and activities planned out for us, but you also get to explore the cities on your own or with friends and that's great too! It's great for anyone who loves travel and adventure. I fell in love and I wish I didn't have to come home. Never take a moment for granted and live in the moment! Get outside your comfort zone and fall in love with the most beautiful and unique place on Earth! I miss it everyday.

What would you improve about this program?
Some of the hostels were a little sketchy in my opinion and I didn't entirely feel safe. Nothing happened and nothing was stolen but that was my only complaint.

Also I wish we had more free days! Especially in Franz Josef, I wanted to do everything but I had to choose.

Food = emphasize cooking your own meals because in the Adventure Tour I used a lot of money on just going out and eating food (and drinking beer, the drinking age is 18).
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Alexis
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Life Changing Adventure

This trip that I took last summer was amazing, it was life changing. The first two weeks we spent volunteering, planting trees and although we woke up super early it was worth it. When the two weeks were over I had felt so accomplished we all the work we had done. The next two weeks were just as amazing filled with black water rafting, white river rafting, whale watching, visiting Hobbition, OGOing, and so on. These are experiences I've never forget, I made friends with so many new people that I still talk to. I fell in love with New Zealand because of this program and New Zealand beauty.

What would you improve about this program?
I thought the program ran well, I honestly don't think there are any improvements that need to be done. I had a life changing experience and enjoyed every minute.
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Dana
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Great Trip Back to New Zealand

I had originally decided not to volunteer or study abroad during college, however, when I found out I could go back to New Zealand for a month to work on environment conservation projects and explore the country I immediately changed my mind. I travelled to New Zealand with my family in 2007 and fell in love. Travelling with ISV was a great way for me to reconnect with the country. During the first two weeks I lived in a house on Motuihe Island with eight other volunteers and our leader. We completed the entire conservation process from collecting seeds, planting them, weeding the nursery, and finally planting them back in the fields and forests. We also used motion sensor cameras to track kiwi on the island in order to try to calculate their locations as well as any increase in their population. On various evenings our leader lead talks about climate change, sustainability, and conservation. This two weeks was a great opportunity to learn about our impact on the island and bond with the other volunteers.

The second two weeks was an absolute blast. I was able to repeat some of my favorite activities like the shotover jet and seeing the glow worm caves as well as experience new ones. My favorite day involved white water rafting, zorbing, and visiting the Tamaki Maori Village. On our free days, there were always suggestions about other activities to do or things to see.

What would you improve about this program?
This is not necessarily a way that the program could be improved but rather a few tips to save money. ISV is probably one of the more expensive programs but overall I thought it was worth it because everything was very organized, which helped the trip run smoothly. Since they send multiple groups every year they know what hostels and restaurants are best. However, you might save a bit of money by booking your flight separately once you know the ISV group flight times. Also stick to cafes for free meals instead of restaurants (they have great meat pies). Lastly, you could also buy food for sandwiches or things at a grocery store because most of your lunches the second two weeks are not included.