Mother Nature was pretty generous when it came to Australia. Sandy beaches, crystal blue waters, tropical rainforests and some weird and wonderful critters that inhabit them too. (Sorry platypus, I’m looking at you).

But admittedly over the past 200 years, this great land down under has taken a hammering. Forests cleared, waterways polluted and native wildlife populations depleted.

And it is this eco-undoing, coupled with a growing interest in the lesser-known corners of Oz, which has fostered many volunteer-holiday programs to spring up around Australia.

So forget manicures and margaritas, these are holidays with a difference. Breaks that are about learning, bettering yourself and making a meaningful difference. Here’s some inspiration for a getaway that gives…

Ningaloo Turtle Program –
Set in WA’s spectacular North West Cape near Exmouth, this award-winning voluntary program involves “turtle trackers”, to record data on the nesting habits of local green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles. You may also get the chance to camp on Ningaloo Reef, visit isolated beaches and assist in turtle rescues. Then after a few hours of helping out each day, you’re free to continue exploring the Ningaloo coast.
ningalooturtles.org.au

Arnhem Land Marine Rescue Project –
North East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory may be virtually free from development, but this stunning coastline faces environmental threats from unwanted marine debris, carried in by ocean currents. Discarded fishing nets, empty bottles and plastic bags are all washed up, but you can help keep the area pristine on board this seven-day project. It involves working alongside local Yolngu Aboriginal Rangers, collecting and disposing of waste, scouting for entangled animals and freeing them, while exploring the incredible Arnhem Coast.
worldexpeditions.com/au

Great Barrier Reef Restoration Protect –
Soak up one of the world’s most dramatic landscapes while helping to preserve it. Volunteer projects rotate every couple weeks here, giving you the chance to experience different environmental focuses. Among the ongoing tasks are planting trees, gathering environmental data, removing feral species, building fencing and hiking trails, weed control and other restoration work. Not a bad way to enjoy one of Australia’s most scenic natural habitats…
gviaustralia.com.au

Tasmanian Eco Tour –
This one-week experience takes you through some of the most spectacular natural areas in Tasmania. Explore Cradle Mountain and Freycinet National Parks; walk to cascading waterfalls and through beautiful rainforests, stroll along white sandy beaches and experience close encounters with wildlife. Along the way help make a difference in the World Heritage Wilderness Region, undertaking marine debris surveys along the East Coast.
conservationvolunteers.com.au

Wilsons Promontory Wildlife Monitoring –
Situated at the southernmost point of Australia’s mainland in Victoria, this spectacular location is boasts stunning coastline, mountain range, forests and some special wildlife species. As part of the five-day program, you’ll alongside a Parks Victoria Ranger as part of a small group, checking traps, recording data and seeing lots of resident wildlife. This is a unique way to experience this iconic national park.
conservationvolunteers.com.au