ISV - Volunteer Projects in New Zealand

Video and Photos

Program Update:

ISV will only be conducting programs for this coming summer, 2018 in the Dominican Republic.

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

97%
based on 68 reviews
  • Impact 9.4
  • Support 9.5
  • Fun 8.5
  • Value 9.6
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 1 - 15 of 68
Faya
9/10

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!

How can this program be improved?
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).
Yes, I recommend this program
Chloe Roberts
Chloe Roberts
10/10

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!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Bailey
10/10

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!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Riley
10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?
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.
Yes, I recommend this program
Faya
9/10

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.

How can this program be improved?
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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Liz
10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?
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).
Yes, I recommend this program
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Alexis
10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?
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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Dana
9/10

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.

How can this program be improved?
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.
Yes, I recommend this program
Laura
10/10

New Zealand 2016

This summer I traveled to New Zealand for four weeks to volunteer and experience much of what the country has to offer. The trip was even better than expected as we hit many of the major sites and cities in the country, but mostly because of the project I was assigned. For the first two weeks I lived on a Maraea belonging to a local Maori family. I learned so much about their customs and culture that I know I will carry with me back home in the US.

For my volunteer project, I spent two weeks planting manuka trees on the land surrounding the maraea in order to improve the water quality in the rivers and streams. After two weeks, I began the adventure tour and was able to participate in activities like white water rafting, black water rafting, and touring Hobbiton. Black Water Rafting was easily my favorite adventure activity because I was able to conquer my fears and climb waterfalls and repel down a 16-story shaft into the caves.

I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone wishing to experience New Zealand. It is one of the most beautiful countries and has a lot to offer. Personally, I made friends that I know I will have for the rest of my life. This program is what you make of it individually, and because I went into it with an open mind, I know that I made the most of my month in New Zealand.

How can this program be improved?
The only thing I wish would have been different would be having a few extra days in the big cities to explore on our own more.
Yes, I recommend this program
Tara
10/10

New Zealand- The Real Experience

Howdy!
This past summer 2016, i went to New Zealand with ISV. 2 weeks of volunteering and 2 weeks of touring the country! In the first 2 weeks my group and I went to a maori farm and lived there- no power, no internet, no problem! These 2 weeks were the best part of the trip, we all learned how to live sustainably while also being immersed into maori culture. The actual volunteer part was planting manuka trees on the hills, the point of this was to provide a better filtered water for future generations. Although the work was hard, it was the best part of the trip. Now the second 2 weeks was jammed pack with fun. From Aukland, we flew down to queenstown where i went bungee jumping, horseback riding, and exploring the town itself! Next stop was franz josef, a small town with extreme adrenaline- here you can do the highest tandem skydive at 19000 feet or take a tour of the franz josef glacier. You can also go to a kiwi experience where you can see two actual kiwis! From here, kaikoura was the next stop! Kaikoura is the marine wildlife capital of NZ. You can go whale watching, swim with dolphins, and fishing. If you can come here in the winter you can visit a natural seal colony and see seal pups play upstream in a waterfall. After, wellington is the next stop! here we went to te papa musuem. There are loads to do in wellington, I suggest cuban street- so many great restaurants and bars! The next stop was Rotorua, here we went to a polynesian spa, white water rafting on level 5 rapids (7 m waterfall!), and did OGO (THIS WAS SO FUN!!!). Our last stop before heading back to the US was the small town of waitomo. This town is known for their glo worm caves.
Volunteering with ISV led me to some experiences I would've probably never done myself. Although the adventure tour was crazy fun, the first two weeks of being on the farm, planting trees, and living off the grid was the best part of the trip!

How can this program be improved?
It would be a good idea to probably screen people better that want to volunteer. Some people were just a bit too crazy and complained the whole time on the volunteer trip!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Eva
10/10

The Adventure of a Lifetime

I'm afraid of heights. Deathly afraid. I can't dive and I hate being anything but right side up. So, logically, I went bungy jumping. I did the highest jump in New Zealand, the 134 meter Nevis bungy- that's an 8 1/2 second freefall, folks- and I didn't hesitate for a second.
Of course, the surge of adrenaline and the celebratory post-bungy Fergburger really made that particular experience memorable, but the jump really marked a turning point in my entire ISV experience. The pride I felt in myself not only encompassed the fact that I had overcome some of my greatest fears, but it also made me realize that I had more to be proud of: the volunteer work that my fellow students and I had done in Northland. My group planted 11 1/2 thousand manuka plants in the span of two weeks, shattering the previous record of 9 1/2 thousand. I am proud because the work we did will have a definite positive impact on the local environment; the manuka we planted will help purify the waterways, and it's pioneering property will help ensure the continuation of the practice of sustainable forestry. The work we did may also have a noted social impact, and will one day help to create jobs in a notably poor part of the country.
As my pride grew, so did my appreciation of those with whom I had worked grow. During my entire experience with ISV, I found the staff to be extremely obliging, helpful, and understanding. They answered all of my questions by email or phone. Additionally, the payment method was simple, and the information provided by ISV was very clear. The project leaders and adventure tour leader made sure that we were safe and happy, and rally took the time to get to know us. The entire experience was very well organized, and I never felt unsafe.
The grates souvenirs that brought back from New Zealand, however, are the friends that I made. I truly believe that we will be friendsfor life- we are already planning our own trips together- and I left New Zealand grateful that I'd been able to make my own, small, positive impact on the country, and mindful of my personal impact as a tourist on my host country.
My experience with ISV was truly and undeniably incredible. It was worth every penny. My admiration for New Zealand and its culture has grown immensely, and I'm sure that I will return, if not as a visitor, then as a resident.
Kia ora.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Lauren
9/10

Eye-opening and Community Building

The best part of my trip was the people with whom I was grouped. None of us were particularly involved in environmental efforts before the trip and we all said at one point or another that this was not the type of trip we would normally sign up for. Yet, we had all signed up, we were all there, and we were making the absolute most of our time there. I was so impressed with the way that we all came together to complete tasks, the way that everyone gave their best effort every day, and the way that we were able to support each other during the trip and after. We became a sort of family, which is something I never expected.

I was shocked at how invested I became in New Zealand's flora. I learned more about the native plants of New Zealand than I know about plants in my own state back home and I started to care for them almost the way you would for a pet. I became concerned about their safety and got excited when I saw one out in nature. I also became really interested and invested in the culture of the Maori people, the native people of New Zealand. I hope that this attitude will continue to grow in me and that it will be a lasting, positive change.

Lastly, you could not ask for better adventure activities than the ones that ISV has planned for their groups. I'm a bit of an adrenaline junkie, so the opportunity to do OGO, Black Water Rafting, and Bungee (yes "bungee", not "bungy") Jumping was a definite highlight of my trip. If you aren't quite as keen to do those things, though, they have plenty of other activities that you're sure to enjoy, like Hobbiton and Whale Watching.

Overall, I really enjoyed and highly recommend this trip.

(If I were to do it again, though, I would make more of an effort to fundraise. If people are unsure why they should donate money to this trip, tell them that a majority of New Zealand's unique habitat has been destroyed and that restoring it is crucial to ensuring that we continue to have clean water and diversity in nature. Any trip that you are a part of in New Zealand will be working toward these goals by planting trees, building fences, cutting down invasive species, educating the public, or building habitats for native bird species.)

How can this program be improved?
Create a formal 1:1 outlet by which volunteers can voice their concerns and disagreements to their site leaders. Doing so in a group setting makes the leaders go on the defensive and is unproductive for everyone.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Tyler
10/10

Taonga

ISV has helped me grow so much as an individual. In New Zealand I was the opportunity to stay with an amazing host family that taught me all about their land and culture. I fell in love with it and them! All of the people I met, things I have learned, and things I experienced on this trip are something that I will truly treasure (taonga) for the rest of my life. From planting 12,000 trees to embracing a feeling of euphoria by bungy jumping from the Kawarau Bridge, the world's first bungy site. New Zealand was a life changing experience for me and I will miss it so so much.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Harley
10/10

The Best Life Changing Experience I Ever Could've Imagined

It's hard to even put into words everything that the ISV program has done for me. I had super high expectations for this trip: I was going to feel good about giving back to a community, explore all of New Zealand, and find myself along the way. This trip exceeded my expectations by far! I have never been so carefree happy in my entire life. I got to work on an awesome project restoring an island by planting trees, weeding, seed collecting, beach cleanup, monitoring rare New Zealand animals, and even more. Nothing was more rewarding than those two weeks. And then to go explore the country from south to north seeing everything that New Zealand has to offer. Every time I turned my head it was another perfect screen saver image. Then to not only be able to give back and explore, but genuinely learn the culture as we went too was something you don’t always necessarily get abroad. But the best part about the entire trip was the people I got to meet along the way. My project leader and adventure tour leader were truly amazing. They were both so kind and caring, made me feel safe the entire time, and taught me so much. And the team I worked with volunteering, they’re such great people and I know I made lifelong friendships with them. I indeed felt like I made a family by the end of that month, my whanau. I know I couldn’t have gotten this experience with any other program; I didn’t want it to come to an end. I recommend this program to every student! It’s honestly one of the best experiences and completely worthwhile. I just want to thank ISV for everything they have done. I appreciate it greatly for giving me the opportunity to have the best life changing experience I ever could’ve imagined. I would travel with them every summer if I could.

How can this program be improved?
Honestly, I can't think of anything that would make this trip better. I loved everything about it. They pick such cool projects and pack in so much adventure traveling throughout New Zealand, and it's all completely amazing.
Yes, I recommend this program
Kara
10/10

Go to New Zealand. NOW.

It is hard to even begin to summarize my experience because I think every aspect of it was truly amazing. I have never left the North American continent, so heading over to New Zealand was a big trip for me. From the moment I stepped off the plane, I loved being there. We had a random day off in Auckland which does not normally happen, but I was glad because I did not go on the Adventure Tour and had a chance to explore an urban part of New Zealand. I would recommend going on the adventure because everyone I know who did had a really great time, but I was perfectly okay with just volunteering. I, personally, wanted to go to New Zealand for the purpose of volunteering.

Most of our time was spent on the marae. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. It was such a treat to wake up in the morning and be in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

The work was totally fine. Leaders were accommodating to each person's individual ability and it truly was not that difficult of a task. After the first day or so you get the hang of it and you move right along. It is really nothing to be worried about and it helps knowing that you are planting trees for a purpose. I cannot lie and say I loved every second of planting, but on the whole, I did enjoy doing it especially because it was going to make a difference in the environment and in the lives of the people who lived there. There are also a few off days, which were great for exploring. One off day we went on a hike and the other one was spent in a town called Paihia doing a variety of things.

I enjoyed doing the chores we had to do because I learned a few skills in the kitchen and how to maintain a fire. We were separated into groups and rotated chores daily (chores did not take very long to do and were never hard). There is a huge sense of learning to rely on other people and community through this. Food was always really good, sleeping arrangements were interesting (because it is basically a massive sleepover for two weeks- everyone is in the same room. I would not have wanted it any other way.), and bathroom facilities were great. There is no electricity, but a generator is used at night for dinner until bed and then turned on in the morning to wake everyone up and to make breakfast (lunch was packed for the workday at breakfast-time, but don't worry-snacks were available during downtimes). You will definitely need a good flashlight.

I live in a city, so going out into rural New Zealand and living on a farm for two weeks was an incredibly enlightening experience. I especially loved the farm dogs.

But not only were we planting trees to better the environment, the experiences we had helped us better ourselves. I learned so much about Maori culture and the family whose land we were living on are probably the nicest people I have ever met. They were all so welcoming and made you feel right at home. Take advantage of after-work tea time.

I was fully immersed into a situation I had never, in the slightest, been in before, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Yes, I recommend this program

About ISV (International Student Volunteers)

ISV’s 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.

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