ISV - Volunteer Projects in New Zealand

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Program Update:

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


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.

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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) .


based on 68 reviews
  • Impact 9.4
  • Support 9.5
  • Fun 8.5
  • Value 9.6
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 61 - 68 of 68
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my month in the land of White Cloud (New Zealand)

When we first got to NZ we were taught 2 local songs that we would need to sing when we were "adopted" into the Maori tribe we were working with. The words were easy and a nice catchy tune. Our first few days we were planting local trees for a nature habitat, then off to do track work to a huge Kauri tree so the handicap people could reach the tree. It was mostly a lot of digging but we had fun doing it. We then spent 2 days of "weeding" at another nature habitat pulling up invasive and non-native plants. For the weekend during the first 2 weeks we went to Mount Maunganui spent a night on the town and got to do a bone carving necklace. Our last work week was spent on the Maori burial ground digging up more non-native plants. Let me tell you gorse really hurts, spines about an inch long can go through jeans like they were butter. Also went to a place for the mentally challenged and helped them transfer seedlings into bigger pots. Even though they couldn't live like normal they had huge hearts and a lot more compassion. We even spent 2 days with the towns' school becoming buddies and learning a new game could "bull run", I didn't play but watched. Those kids could tackle better than our football players. Learned more about the culture and people during our last 2 weeks when we toured both islands.
Our living quarters were in houses that could hold 8-12 people, no heat, so best to bring very warm clothes. There were chances to go into town or ask one of our guides to get things for us. During my time for the work weeks it kinda rained- alot. Gumboots are a lifesaver, save your shoes for when you go to town or for the adventure tour. We cooked our own food as a group and cleaned as a group. Laundry was provided by our guest but dried in the main hall with the fireplace. Best not to have your unmentionables washed, but do them yourself and dried where the water heater was stored in your house.
Once the work weeks were done, we met up with another ISV group for the adventure tour and the start of very long bus rides with beautiful scenery. Best to bring along an ipod or other mp3 player so you don't get to bored. Cameras are a must so bring batteries and a couple of memory cards cause you will want to remember every detail of your trip. One day while everybody was four-wheeling, I found myself wanting to explore the town of Nelson. Went to a couple of museums there and found the jeweler that made the One Ring for LOTR. Even found a trail that lead me overlooking Nelson. It was breathtaking, could see all the way to the sea. There was also a local farmers market going on the same day that we were there. Bought some local fish for dinner since we were staying in a hostel and had to prepare our own meals. Good thing one of our guys was a budding cook. The other group we picked up had come from the islands that were working with the penguins. By the stories they told us; we had the better part of the working weeks. In Rotorua, we were staying at the same hostel as the All Blacks 21. The guys were so nice to us, even though we later found out that if anything happened their chances of playing on the All Black team would be nil.
The month that I spent there really changed my life and made me want to bring some of the lessons I learned back to the states. Even though it has been 4 yrs since I came back it only seems like yesterday that we were in Queenstown hitting up the local bars and shops or soaking in the hot springs at Rotorua.
If you ever get a chance to go- DO IT. Don't hold back. IT was the trip of a lifetime (maxed out my cards) but I really didn't care. If I had the chance to go again I would do it without hesitation. One of the saying they told us was to stay positive, people there were the happiest I have ever seen.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Absolutely Unforgettable

We did a ton of cool stuff, travelling the entire length of NZ and stopping in various places known only by the locals, and doing stuff like hiking up Franz Josef Glacier, white water rafting (down a 6 m waterfall, btw), black water rafting (the river is inside a cave!), zorbing, riding the world's longest flying fox, skiing Cardrona, ATVing across mountains, seeing rare kiwi birds, and riding the Shotover Jet in 4 inches of water! Some people went bungee jumping where it was first invented, and skydiving on their free time. Every ISV program has 5 awesome activities included, but you're going to need to pay for an 'Optional Activity Package' (OAP) for an additional 5 programs (about $350 last year), and yes, you do want it, literally everyone had it on my trip. The activities vary depending on the country but its always fun.

However, the most memorable and fulfilling part of ISV is the first two weeks. Yes, rafting and all that was exciting, and that takes place in the adventure tour part of the trip. Before exploring the country, you have to go to work. Depending on the country you choose, it will either be helping people or helping the environment. NZ is a developed country, but it also has a very fragile ecosystem. Before humans came along, there were absolutely no mammals around, no poisonous plants, and no grass. Birds, like the Pukeko and Kiwi, have taken to the ground. But with the people came dogs, possums, snakes, weeds, etc... Ridding the entire country of this stuff in one go is impossible, so they've started with islands. That way, its harder for the invading species to repopulate cleared areas. In any case, their methods work, and we got to see the difference student volunteers are making. It is really rewarding to know that your effort isn't for nothing. Our location was on Motuihe Island (mow-two-ee-hey for the native Maori people, or mow-tuh-hee for the locals). We were told about its history, from Maori legends, to escaped fugitives in the 1800s, to a WW2 lookout point. We were taught Maori words, how to identify native birds and fauna, and how to talk like the locals (Kia Ora = hello , Sweet as = Cool , etc). I can't even begin to describe everything, but it was really cool. But of course, we were there to work too. Every morning we wake each other up at 7:30, prepare breakfast and head out by 8:30. The entire morning, we are doing one thing, be it planting trees, weeding (ramnus [a type of weed] became a swear word, it was so annoying), digging up fences, beach cleaning, nursery work (potting and weeding) on the really windy days, and other stuff. We break an hour for lunch, then resume with something else until 5:30. By that time, you're tired, some are sore, and everyone's asleep by 9:00, literally. But you're doing all this with 8 other students from around the world, a project leader from ISV who is usually a crazy enthusiastic local, and someone from the local volunteer organization who helps. These guys become like family. Its really hard to convey in words just how much fun we had on the island.

When you're done the volunteer portion, and travelling around the country, people will ask what brings you to their country. When you tell them about everything you did, you might be shocked to hear a very sincere 'Thank you'.

Yes, I recommend this program
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This was a trip of a lifetime. The volunteer aspect of my trip was unforgettable. The location was great and our volunteer coordinator was a great leader and teacher about conservation. With my group and the help of the community we planted over 10,000 trees in our stay. Each night we cooked our own meals and huddled around the fireplace playing card games and learning about some of the NZ culture. At the end of our volunteer experience we truly could see the impact we made on the regional park we worked at and had made some amazing friends. The second part of the trip was the adventure tour. There are so many places to see and wild things to do in New Zealand but ISV allowed us to experience it all. We stayed in youth hostels along the way. Breakfasts were generally included and there were always close grocery stores to buy supplies to make dinners. We experienced everything NZ has to offers. I went bungee jumping in Queenstown, Skydiving in Abel Tasman National Park, spurlunking in Waitomo, and hiked the Franz Josef Glacier. Those are just the highlights of the trip but there were many more unforgettable experiences. At the end of the trip we experienced difficulties getting back to North America due to an ash cloud from an erupted volcano. Flights were not flying out of New Zealand but ISV was there to make sure all our families back home knew the troubles and that we would be taken care of. I cannot wait to go on my next ISV trip. They offer so many great programs that I cannot decide which one to go on next!

Yes, I recommend this program
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New Zealand

New Zealand is a very beautiful country. By volunteering here, it has helped me see that and help restore that natural look. Daily activities included carving new paths, planting trees, and cutting invasive weeds to allow sunlight to reach the native plant species. This trip wasn't just about the volunteering; it included a whole new cultural experience. I lived on a marae in a suburb of Wellington, and it was beautiful. It was built by Bruce Stewart and a few friends, and is still being added on to. He and his daughter taught me and my group much about the Maori culture, such as a powhiri, a formal greeting, a few songs, the haka (also performed by the New Zealand national rugby team, the 2011 World Champion All Blacks!) My personal favourite is the hangi, where they cook food underground on hot coals. In addition to this, I also got to tour the country, doing activities such as hiking a glacier, bungee jumping, and whitewater and blackwater rafting, just to name a few. I traveled from Queenstown to Auckland, and got to see much of the amazing country! This experience has impacted me in a way that can't just be described in words. I came back to the U.S. feeling empty, as I wanted to be out volunteering and exploring other cultures. The world is here for us to explore; it gives us life, and it is up to us to give back.

Yes, I recommend this program
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I wish I was still there

When I signed up with ISV in October 2010, I had no idea of what to expect once I set foot in New Zealand in May 2011. Turns out, what was awaiting me was an unbelievable experience that I will cherish forever. Not only did I make the best of friends, experience a different culture, travel the whole country, I also made a difference. My group planted around 2000 trees, removed numerous weeds, prepared plants for future ISV groups and I also saved an endangered bird. Our project site looked straight out of a movie, unbelievable scenery I never would have seen if I would not have travelled with ISV. By volunteering, I got to see and experience a side of New Zealand I would never have experienced if I had been travelling by myself. During the first two weeks of my trip, we had a weekend off and we were unsure of what to do with our free time. We asked the locals of Punakaiki and our project leader what we should do and they suggested we take a two day hike, on the Croesus Track near Barrytown. Turns out, that hike is the most memorable part of my trip.

For the last two weeks, we hopped on a bus and drove across the whole country, seeing unbelievable sights, doing many adrenaline packed activities such as white water rafting, black water rafting, glacier hiking, bungy jumping are countless others. I fell in love with New Zealand, its culture, its people and its beauty, and I will never forget the experience I had travelling with ISV.

Yes, I recommend this program
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ISV New Zealand

I signed up for this program not knowing what to expect, but I ended up having one of the best summers ever. The first two weeks I did volunteer work. It was hard, but rewarding. We actually got to make a difference in the community. It was also a great time to get to know the other students on the trip. For the final two weeks we traveled the country and had an adventure. I did more things in those two weeks than I ever thought to do in my whole life. I went zorbing, sky diving, bungee jumping, I saw Lord of the Rings scenes, went white water rafting, and much more. I made so many friends and did so many things - it was just a great experience overall.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Everything I did on this program was well worth the preparation. From helping save some of the local birds to planting trees, I felt that everything we did made an actual difference. Not only that but we were able to volunteer in different activities everyday so that we were able to make a difference in different parts of New Zealand. Whilst volunteering we were also able to do each project with the local people and learn about a very different and refreshing culture. When I left New Zealand, because of ISV and their volunteer project, I left as a new, productive, and much happier member of society with a completely new outlook on life.

Yes, I recommend this program
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ISV = Best way to travel!!

Traveling with ISV is a great way to see the world. Not only do you get to see the world, you get to do meaningful work while you travel. The volunteer work is meaningful and yet fun. It truly is a unique way to experience the culture and way of life in a new place.

ISV also gives you the opportunity to tour the land and plans awesome activities for you. Having your accommodations and most of your meals covered makes things a lot easier on you. All the activities are amazing, things you would never think you could ever do (white water rafting down the worlds largest commercially rafted waterfall, black water rafting in the caves of New Zealand, zorbing! and many many more).

All and all, traveling with ISV is amazing, and what a great way to see the world while lending a helping hand!

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.