Volunteer on islands in New Zealand

Volunteer on Islands in New Zealand

Something you definitely shouldn’t miss on a trip to New Zealand is a visit to an island wildlife sanctuary. Even better, if you have the time, would be to give it a go and spend a few days or a week volunteering for some conservation group. DOC, New Zealand’s government conservation organization, has plenty of opportunities listed on their website, but there are many other organizations to volunteer for too. Trying it out can be a great experience and a way to learn new things about conservation work and New Zealand wildlife.

Tasks differ a lot and depends on which island you are at, during which season, your own skills and so forth. Various islands are at various stages of development. Some islands recently converted to reserves will for example need volunteers for replanting. Others may need help with track maintenance, monitoring, weeding, collecting seeds or (occasionally) handling wild animals.

Some islands are easy to go to, while others are difficult. Some require you to stay for a minimum of several weeks. Others are simple day outs in small groups, perfect for weekends or days off.

I hope that this post will help you find a volunteering opportunity you want to apply to! But if it doesn’t and you continue your search and find something else that is not mentioned here, don’t hesitate to let me know so I can update the post!

If you are interested in volunteering on the north or south island, I’ve written a post about it before. You can read it by clicking here.

  • Auckland / Hauraki Bay

Just outside of Auckland in Hauraki bay are several islands sanctuaries. The most interesting perhaps is The Little Barrier island, but it’s the one too that you will be least likely to be accepted to. But since they accept only a small number of skilled volunteers, working ten hour days for several weeks at a time, perhaps you’d rather not go anyway! Most islands require you to stay for a working week, from a Monday until a Friday, or a full week, working for about five hours per day, giving you plenty of time to explore!

Tiritiri Matangi is full off all kinds of wildlife, from birds to insects and reptiles. You will be doing all kinds of stuff around the island for a week, seeing and hearing birds as you work. First day you’ll get a free tour of the island and the last day you’ll have completely off.


Help out monitoring shore plovers on Motutapu. Motutapu is a pest free island with plenty of wildlife and a variety of tasks to do. Just next door is Rangitoto, which you can even walk across to.


General volunteering on Motutapu


Little Motuihe island also needs volunteers! The smallest island of them all? Apply to help out with some maintenance.


Kawau island is the island in Hauraki bay with the most focus on historical buildings. They accept 1 week-volunteers for maintenance work.


Finally, the Little Barrier Island is perhaps the most interesting of them all. DOC calls it “our jewel in the crown for conservation” and “one of the most important reserves of its kind in the world”. While it is a bit tricky to reach in many ways, ranging from transport to the strict quarantine rules, it should be well worth it if you decide to go. There are two ways to visit as a volunteer. One of them being with DOC, staying for two weeks, and the other with Little Barrier Island Supporter Trust, staying over a weekend.



  • Chatham Islands

Requiring a lot both in terms of work, time, skills and commitment, volunteering on the Chatham islands would nontheless probably be an amazing experience. But expect your application to be rejected, unless you have relevant previous experience!


  • Bay of Islands

Planting trees, grasses and bushes on the newly formed island reserves of the Bay of Islands.


Project Island Song arranges all kinds of volunteer activities on various islands in the Bay of Islands. If you want to try out weeding, planting, bird monitoring or any other of the activities mentioned on their website, just let them know!


  • Wellington

Wellington has a fair bit of volunteering opportunities too. Mostly on Kapiti Island but also a Matiu or Somes island.





Volunteer with FOMI on Mana Island outside Wellington. They do all kinds of things on the islands and if you want to join them for a weekend (it seems their groups usually leave Wellington at Friday and return on Sunday), just send them an email and ask when the next trip is. Their website doesn’t really offer much info.



  • South island

The south island has lots of opportunities, but while in the north much of the efforts seems to be concentrated mostly around Auckland and Wellington, in the south are it’s much more spread out. You’ll also be able to find islands in lakes, with several island sanctuaries located in lakes in Fiordland and outside of Queenstown.

Kakapo Recovery Project (Codfish Island and Anchor Island)

These two islands both have populations of the extremely rare kakapo. Both are part of the Kakapo Recovery project and gives volunteers the opportunity to stay for two weeks helping out with various tasks. You can work with the birds, helping out with nest minding or supplementary feeding, or you can help the researchers focusing on their research by volunteering as a cook, cooking for up to 25 people at a time. Ferry ticket is provided and you will get a 300 dollar contribution towards food and transportation too.


Pomona Island & Rona Island

Located in the Fiordland national park, Pomona and Rona are the largest islands in lake Manapouri, with Pomona being the largest island in any lake in New Zealand! Pomona Island Charitable Trust do conservation work on both island. You can read about the islands and the volunteering opportunities on them here. The trust only do one day volunteer stuff, never anything overnight. But worth to try perhaps if you are spending some time down in Fiordland and would like to do some stuff on days off!

Coal Island

Coal Island accept volunteers, but it costs about 850 dollars per person. The islands are remote and some volunteers gets flown in on helicopter. The money is used to cover costs and to continue conservation work on the island, which had it’s first endangered species transfer as recently as 2012. So if you have plenty of cash and want to help out not only with your work but with your dollars too, have a look here:


Pigeon Island

Pigeon Island is one of the islands in Lake Wakatipu outside of Queenstown. Volunteers will be able to help out with any activities on the island, which so far seems to be in it’s early stages towards becoming a great bird sanctuary. There’s some planting, weeding and track maintenance. For anyone interested in establishing a nature reserve.

For a cost of 90 dollars, food, transportation and accommodation is provided. Pickup in Queenstown. 5 days volunteering.

Contact invercargill@doc.govt.nz

Ulva Island

A short boat ride from Stewart Island, Ulva Island is part of the Rakiura national park. DOC calls it “the jewel in the crown of Rakiura national park”. They need volunteer rangers staying for a minimum of two weeks at a time. 1-2 volunteers accepted. Food is provided.

Contact invercargill@doc.govt.nz

Stewart Island

Also known as Rakiura, Stewart island is the third largest island in New Zealand. Most of it is covered by the Rakiura National Park. There’s plenty of volunteering opportunities of all kinds on the island, and if you want to know more about it have a look here. Many of the listings are for other parts of the far south, such as Otago.

  • Before you go

Mostly you will get free transportation out to the island you’ll volunteer, but in worst case you at least always get a subsidized rate on the ferry ticket. And a few ten dollars bills more or less won’t really matter!

Accommodation is free on any overnight volunteering trip. While it’s no luxury accommodation, you will often get the chance to spend time with researchers, rangers, volunteers and other interesting people!

Buying food enough for a two week trip is really quite difficult! It’s easy to forget about things you take for granted while at home and then suddenly realize you are missing. So make sure to spend some time on thinking it through properly, write a list and don’t be worried about possibly bringing too much food, because it’s a lot better with too much than too little!

One week on Tiritiri Matangi, volunteering for DOC

Tiritiri Matangi is a small island in the Hauraki gulf of New Zealand. Just a short ferry trip from Auckland, it’s still a world away. Most of the island was up until the 1970’s leased as farmland, but as the lease expired and conservation biologists made an attempt to introduce threathened species onto the island, Tiritiri Matangi got a new purpose. Allthough only about 6% of the native forest still remained on the island and it was heavily infested with pacific rats, it was still a safer place for endangered animals than mainland New Zealand, which was infested by more challenging predators. Various kinds of skinks, geckos, weta and birds had survived their on their own (allthough in small populations) even before the conservation work began. Now, as the goal was to restore a native ecosystem best possible, they not only – following the eradication of pacific rats – saw their populations grow, but they were also joined by other endangered animals, such as the iconic takahe, the tuatara, and ofcourse kiwis.

The island was planted with native plants in the hundreds of thousands, all by volunteer labor. At first hardy species were planted, to give shelter to more vulnerable species that would grow beneath them. In most places throughout the island, the forest is no older than 30 or 40 years, and 40% of the island is covered by grasses (in order for the critically endangered takahe to be able to feed), but there are a several larger patches of old growth forest and lots of small patches of groups of very old trees – some of them almost a thousand years old. The most widely visited two larger patches are easily accessible from the wharf, while the others are off trail and reserved for research purposes.

Tiritiri Matangi was from early on a project that depended on volunteer labor. Among the paths, the buildings, the boardwalks, trees and often even animals themselves, none have not been touched by the volunteer labor that has been consistent on the island for decades, performing services such as maintenence, weeding, guiding and planting. It has been called the most successful conservation project in New Zealand and is by now so successful indeed that they do not need to import species anylonger – but instead send them to other places around New Zealand.

I volunteered for one week on Tiritiri Matangi, arriving the 5th and leaving the 11th of August 2018. It was an amazing week, possibly the best I had in New Zealand, and I’d like to promote it a bit. I have so far not met a single backpacker who went there, no less stayed there for a bit of volunteering. So just in case there are others out there that are interested in trying this amazing thing out, I will give a bit of a description of my experience. And in case no one was interested from the start I do hope that at least a bit of interest is sparked by now, because it’s really a great chance to experience New Zealand native wildlife. As a day visitors it will be pretty much impossible for you to spot kiwi, tuatara and other nocturnal animals, and even the animals active during the day are more cautious and go off to hide in the bush. Not everyone sees a takahe during a day visit, while it’s impossible to not see plenty of them during a quiet day.

Day 1, Sunday

Arriving on the ferry, the island looks a bit like a forest floating on the sea. A thick forest covers most of the visible parts of the island. I have arrived with the only ferry company actually taking passengers to Tiritiri, which has daily morning departures from Auckland. DOC (the department of conservation) has provided me a volunteer’s ticket, giving me a free return ticket along with bunkhouse accommodation and a complimentary group tour as an introduction to the island.

At the dock I am met up first by a volunteer from Friends of Tiritiri Matangi, who instructs me about what to do with my backpack and my bags of food (and there’s quite a lot of food – as there are no food available on the island, volunteers must bring suplies enough for a week!). I’m also asked to look through my bag one more time, in case a mouse, skink, some ants or other possible foreign harmful species have slipped down during the night. If for example rainbow skinks would get a foothold on the island, it could very well mean the local extinction of the island’s endangered native skinks. I had already looked before departure, but gave it another go. Better be careful! No skinks or other animals or seeds in my open bag, I put them in the trunk of a vehicle and later listen to the DOC ranger’s introduction and greeting.

I soon meet the other volunteer (there are two new volunteers per week), a young engineer from Auckland who has come for a bit of a birding holiday. He had never seen most native birds before and thought that it was about time.

We are taken on a tour of part of the island along with a small group of other visitors, five in total. We visit the wattle valley and the east coast, before we head up to the visitors center (filled to the brim with information about the various birds and the work done on the island) where the group disbands and me and the other volunteer, Michael, go for lunch.

Meeting up with the ranger Vonny after lunch, we are given another sort of a tour of the island, but this time with her showing us places relevant for us as volunteers. We walk around for perhaps an hour before we go for a bit of a drive around the island in a small golf wagon, Vonny showing us tracks that needs maintence. She’s showing us a total of four places or so and tells us that there is quite a lot of freedom of choice. We can work with any of the tasks when we want. She also tells us a lot of things about the island and other things, and throughout the week on the island she is very helpful in trying to spot different kinds of animals. The tuatara, for example, she tells us come down to the wharf in the evenings, to soak up the last of the heat stored in the concrete wharf. It’s perhaps the best place to see tuatara.

Soon enough, the ”tour” is over and we are left with the whole day off, told that we will start tomorrow morning filling the throughs with water for the birds along the wattle valley track and in the area around the visitor center and the lighthouse.

Me and Michael decide to take the chance to walk the East Coast track, which our tour guide had told us was her favorite track on the island. Even though it runs along the whole coast, it does not take more than an hour to walk it, and there’s lots of viewpoints to see the other islands of the Hauraki gulf, along with the more closeby patches of old growth forest. We stumble upon two takahe, feeding off the grass on a path through the forest. Big, blue, extremely gentle and cautious ground dwelling birds with sharp red beaks, I think I’ve never before seen an animal that endangered, with only a few hundred individuals left alive, believed extinct for decades until by chance they were stumbled upon in one of the most remote parts of the fiordlands, only a small isolated population still alive.

We sit down and stay quiet. Soon the birds, still aware of us but no longer scared, come out and continue feeding. Soft strange sounds, unlike those from other birds, are heard as they forage for edible roots.

Day 2, Monday

The island is empty today. Two days per week – Monday and Tuesday-, there are no ferries arriving to the island. It must be in order to give the birds some peace and quiet, because as me and Michael leave the volunteer’s bunkhouse in the morning, we are amazed by how many pukoke and even takahe we can see in the fields around the lighthouse.

We will fill the throughs with water, for the birds to swim and bathe in. There are a small number of throughs in two parts of the island, both in order for visitors to more easily be able to see birds, and in order for birds to always have access to water. Volunteers change the water in the throughs daily. While walking from through to through, we see birds of all kinds. Mostly such birds as tui, hihi, bellbirds and forest pidgeons, but throughout the week we also manage to see parakeets, quail and even the elusive kokako. Further up towards the lighthouse, and during the night, other animals can be seen at the throughs. The pateke, takahe, pukeko and even kiwi.

After filling the throughs, we head to the visitor center to clean it out. While washing the floor and cleaning the windows, and at the outside sweeping leaves, we leisurly take breaks to read some of the signs. I had never before been very interested in birds, but while immersed in a place like this, completely surrounded by birds and information about them, it’s difficult not to get pulled along. And since I’m interested in general about environmental conservation, the signs about the work on the island are really interesting. I even read a little book about Tiritiri Matangi and it’s birds during my stay, available in the volunteers’ bunkhouse.

After lunch, we head out to improve one of the tracks for a few hours before we finish for the day, withdrawing a bit until the evening, when we go out to try to find kiwis.

Following the popular Kawerau track in the dark, we listen for the snuffling sounds the kiwi makes when it clears it’s nose. Probing the ground with it’s beak, the kiwi get it’s nostrils stuffed with earth, and has the blow it’s nose to open up it’s airways. After walking around for perhaps an hour, seeing nothing more than the tail of a tuatara, disappearing into a bush, we finally decide to sit down and switch of the lights. We use infrared lights but are concerned that the kiwis are cautious even about these. And true enough, after sitting down quietly for a few minutes, we hear a ruffling and snuffling little beast approach us. Another one is soon heard a bit further down the path.

Turning on the infrared lights again, we observe the two kiwis for a few minutes while they forage among the fallen leaves.

Day 3, Tuesday

Having filled the throughs and cleaning the visitor center, we head out to improve one more of the tracks. It’s in the furthest northern end of the island, with fifty meters or so of it passing through an area prone to flooding. Extending the ditch to drain rain water out down a gentle slope, we dig and cut flax for an hour or two before we’re done and go to have lunch at one of the old maori village sites, located on the top of a small hill with views on three sides of the ocean. If it weren’t for the map telling us, we’d never have thought that a village had once existed there, and true enough, the only trace the archaeologists have found seems to be traces of meals eaten a long ago. One wonder how the island would have looked like.

Going for a bit of a walk we decide to make a beach cleanup for much of the rest of the workday. Seeing seabirds feels a bit odd, so close to the more strange and exotic looking species that lives just a few hundred meters up into the forest.

On the way back, for the first time we hear a kokako. Gently slipping into the bush, we manage to get a good view of it and for a minute or two we stand there, until – not having made another sound – it flies away.

Day 4, Wednesday

We clean the throughs extra thorougly today, as in a few hours the first visitors of the week will appear. While, much later, we are in a northern part of the island, cutting shrubs on the sides of a path, we encounter some of the visitors. People with big cameras. Couples. Several asians.

The workday passes by quickly, mostly spent on cutting shrubs, but when we are done for the day we still have several hours before the sunset. We decide to head for one of the oldgrowth parts of the forest, which has no information about it anywhere and no trails on the map. It’s the biggest and furthest continious patch of old growth forest on the island, shaped like a long arm following a small creek. Perhaps it did not make sense to cut it down, since most of the land is too steep to farm anyway, and much of it is soggy and would get flooded during rains.

We manage to find a way to enter it from the pohutukawa creek on the east coast. A small almost invisble opening, probably meant for researchers to use. The track is lined with nesting boxes for the island’s hihi or stitchbird. It takes about an hour and a half all in all, walking up to pohutukawa creek, through the forest and back to the accommodation, but it was a very interesting part of the island, with plenty of old growth trees, some of them just vaguely similar to their younger cousins around the freshly planted parts of the island.

In the evening we go out again. We have been talking to a few visitors who are staying in the bunkhouse, there is space enough for perhaps 20 people or so, with most rooms having about 5 people each. Unless in high season, you’ll probably rarely find it very busy. Some of them go out early but me and Michael wait until perhaps 8 or so until we go. We have been out early before and not had much luck with either the penguins, tuatara or kiwi (which we only saw once). But today we depart at eight and manage to see not only all these various birds mentioned above, but also the pateke, which we did not even know existed until the moment we saw them. Small, cute and very endangered, these native ducks almost makes you want to try out that oldtimer’s activity, duckfeeding. We also saw a slightly less cute side of life on the island, when we encountered a tuatara (the perhaps closest living relative to the dinosaurs – actually even a dinosaur itself!) about to devour a lost and lone little baby penguin.

It’s raining a lot but it doesn’t bother us. It’s still warm enough, and it’s amazing to finally be able to see some penguins, a few of them very close up, and in the end even a lone kiwi, which quickly runs of into the bush, not at all satisfying our curiosity.

Day 5, Thursday

The tui have started fighting. We’ve been told that they are the most aggressive native birds and we can clearly see it now. They are fighting over dominance over the wattle trees, that are about to start flowering, producing an abundance of food. After doing all the throughs we head over to the two tracks we had been digging ditches for, to see how they survived the rain. The one through the wet area has seen it’s better days but it’s still better than when we got started on it. While we go to continue cutting bushes along another track, we suddenly hear a kokako. Again, we leave everything where it is and tries to locate where the bird could be. Carefully walking through the thick undergrowth, we manage to spot the kokako. We had only seen it once before and only for a minute, sitting on a branch, completely quiet. This time we had more luck. For several minutes we stood there listening, as the kokako sang, until suddenly it left, taking much of the strangeness of the world with it.

Later on, we walk down the nearby track which we saw two kiwis on one of the first nights, and we notice that it was just in front of the perhaps biggest tree we had so far seen on an island. Completely unaware of it back then, we had assumed it was like any other patch of forest, but now during the day we could see further than with the dim flashlights.

When we come back after lunch we start cleaning out the aviaries. These are a group of three little rooms in which the rangers keeps birds while they prepare to send them to other parts of New Zealand. Filled with various plants, our job is to get the twigs and brances and leaves out, jumble them upon a vehicle and then dispose of them in a remote corner of the southern grasslands. While it was the job of all which had the least fresh air, it was still very enjoyable and we managed to find in the remains of the plants not only skinks and beetles (and spiders), but also the massive wetapunga – ”God of Ugly Things” in Maori – which is a giant grasshopper-looking insect. It was a small wetapunga, but I really think it was the same species. It looks different from other weta. If you would see an adult one, they are massive – larger than your hand!

Picking this finger sized one up with a twig, I leave it in a hopefully quite safe place, where it managed to hide until nightfall, which is the time of the day when they usually awake.

What we did during nightfall was the same as usual – we went out to look for kiwis. This time, we thought, we should finally get a bit more lucky and see kiwis from up close and for a bit of a longer time. Within three minutes, we had a kiwi running towards us. When it noticed, it got scared and hid, but then it came out again and came to look at us. It was so curious that it even came up to smell the foot of my friend, standing just centimeters from him. As another kiwi was heard a bit further up, it ran off and disappeared.

The rest of the walk, we see nothing, but when returning through the same patch of forest, again, we spot the same kiwi. At first cautious, again curiosity got the better of it and it came up real close, but this time to me. Standing just a few centimeters from me, it runs off again when another kiwi comes out of a bush.

For several minutes we see him trying to seduce a slightly reluctant female. From only a few meters, this was the closest we ever came two kiwis, and the longest we ever got to observe any.

Day 6, Friday

We finish cleaning out the aviary before we start digging up heavy rubble onto a vehicle, in order to fill out the little sorry looking path passing through the wetlands. All kinds of rubble, it’s used instead of gravel as transporting gravel to the island is both expensive and risky – it would be possible to introduce various species (for example ants) that could damage the ecosystem.

It’s the heaviest work so far, digging up various rocks and other rubble, and we manage to see only a horrible looking centipede and a skink. I think that most people would not have been asked to do this job, the volunteer said that volunteers are given tasks depending on such things as fitness, and that’s why me and this other young guy got to do so much of the heavy work. Anyway, after a while we’re done and now we just have to go to unload it onto the track which is a lot easier. We are given the rest of the day off, as a thanks I guess for having exhausted ourselves. And since for saturday – the last day – we only have to fill the throughs, we basically have 24 hours until the ferry, during which we can do whatever we feel like.

Trying to spot the elusive rifleman, the only bird we have not yet seen – supposedly the smallest bird in New Zealand, which could be why we hadn’t seen it – we headed out towards the only other contiguos patch of old growth forest we had not visited. It’s a lot harder to navigate through and not really rewarding, dense and rugged and marshy, filled with weta nesting boxes. But now at least we have been everywhere on the island and almost anything is worth a try.

Falling asleep later on, I go for a short walk, hearing kiwis outside the bunkhouse. Somehow I do not even bother much to try to see them. The experience the day before was a good last one and I just wanted to enjoy the quiet of the evening and the rotating lights of the lighthouse, the view of distant Auckland and it’s city lights.

Day 7, Saturday

Surprisingly, the last day was one passed almost doing nothing, despite the fact that almost the whole day was off. I finished up the last of my food (having brought almost exactly as much as I needed to not be hungry – but a fair bit less variety than I would have needed to enjoy my meals) and went with Michael for a walk up the east coast to do a last beach cleanup. We did a total of three beach cleanups during the stay, finding all sorts of things, from rubber wheels to a New Zealand Royal Navy hat and plenty of interesting remains of sea creatures.

Coming back to the visitor center, I read the last few signs and realize that the Rifleman does not exist on the island, despite what the other signs have said. They are just a bit ahead of their time: the rifleman will soon get introduced. Having been wanting to see it for several days and been joking about it not being a real bird, but a joke, it’s something of a revelation. Walking down towards the ferry, I laugh about it a bit with Michael when he suddenly says: ”Look there! It’s a yellowhead!”. Supposedly the Yellowhead is an even rarer bird which is very new to the island. I didn’t even know that the species existed. So in some strange way, the lack of riflemen was weighed up for. And as if providing an extra little reconciliatory bonus, Tiritiri Matangi gave us a view of a stingray laying to rest in shallow water, just down by the wharf, as the ferry came in and we were ready to leave.

Useful links:


Official website


Information from DOC


Application  for and information about volunteering


Two other volunteers writing about their week on the island

Last advice:

Bring lots of food!

Orchard work in Motueka (with 10 telephone numbers!)

While Motueka may not be the most interesting town in New Zealand, lots of people do stop by there for it’s proximity to Abel Tasman national park or for the many farm jobs available in the area. This post will be geared towards orchard work and long term stays. If you want to find information about the things to do in the area, there is some at the bottom of the post.

  • Accommodation

There are 3 options for backpacker accommodation in Motueka. While it’s difficult to say which one is the best, it’s easy to say which one is the worst.

Happy Apple Backpackers is known to be the worst backpackers in Motueka. There are several reasons for this. The first and foremost perhaps is the owner, who has some anger management problems. Several Tripadvisor reviews mention being scolded by the owner and I personally have friends who got scolded for various odd reasons. These scoldings were not simple telling offs but cursing, shouting, threats about being kicked out – for such things as waiting with washing the dishes until after having eaten the meal. One friend had his big bag of groceries taken out of the fridge and put on the free shelf, since it was marked only with his name and not the checkout date. Since he had stayed there for a month or more and did not have a planned checked out date, he wrote only his name. The manager knew who he was and that he would not check out any time soon.

There are other reasons to not stay in Happy Apple. Some of these include:

  • Hot water showers lasts for five minutes and are more often than not broken.
  • The backpackers is far from town (a long walk from the closest super market)
  • It’s the most expensive backpackers in Motueka and charges the same for people to sleep in their van at the parking as they charge for people to sleep in a hostel bed.
  • If you check out even ten minutes late, you’ll not only risk getting scolded but also get charged an extra 10 dollars.
  • Plates and cutlery are personal. You get your kitchen stuff at check in and then have to keep it through the duration of your stay. Feels like a prison almost.
  • Guests are under no conditions allowed…

White Elephant and Laughing Kiwi are both good backpackers, closer to town, cheaper (god knows why) and overall just a lot better. The White Elephant is probably the best hostel for those looking to stay for a while as workers. The owner tries her best to make sure you find a job and feel good during your stay in Motueka. Overall I’d recommend The White Elephant the most. You can find their website here.

  • Work

While you can earn more than the minimum wage working as a picker or on other contracted work, most people working in packhouses and doing various stuff around orchards earn only minimum wage.

These are different employers found in and around the area.

0274992912 (Hops)

0276942255 (Pears)

035289567 (Packhouse)

035287831 (Packhouse)

0212776571 (Grapes & Apple)

0275727232 (Vineyard)

02041509933 (Apple)

0274588198 (Apple)

0272833949 (Kiwi)

You will also often find listing on http://www.seasonaljobs.co.nz/ and on backpackerboard.

If you have some numbers that you want to share just share them in a comment or message and I’ll add them later. It’s better people can sort out a job before arriving. I met a lot of people who just sat around for days, making phone calls and waiting for text replies, simply because they could not find work fast enough.

  • What to do in Motueka?

That’s a question a lot of people ask themselves. The answer is that there is not so very much to do in Motueka. You can have a nice few days off but will quickly run out of stuff to do. Luckily the climate is great, it’s close to the coast and since you’re (if you’re reading this) probably there to work in an orchard, you’ll often work 6 days per week anyway.

For a day off, the inlet walkway  leading to the shipwreck in Motueka wharf and to the sandspit, is great. The sandspit is a wellknown site for migratory birds and one of the most important sites in the region. Even if you are not a birdwatcher, it’s great just sitting by the coast a sunny day and watching all those wading birds during low tide. Or if you want to relax properly, there is a saltwater swimming pool close to the sandspit too.

The Motueka saturday market is well worth to visit for sampling snacks, buying groceries and so forth. A lot of farmers live in the area and if you arrive late, you can grab some really cheap and good quality locally grown veggies and fruits. But it’s better to arrive early. It’s a really nice little market. For other shopping, there are plenty of second hand shops around.

You could also help out as a volunteer for Keep Motueka Beautiful (just send them an email) or why not ask for information about volunteering at the local DOC office. If you want to know more about volunteering in New Zealand, you could have a look at this post and it’s list of different volunteer jobs.

  • Out of town

It’s a lot easier to find nice things to do in the area around Motueka! I won’t write anything about the Abel Tasman coast, since it’s

The Ngarau caves are situated on the top of Takaka hill (and the drive up the hill is an experience in itself!) and possible to visit with a guided tour, costing 20 dollars per adult. It’s a beautiful little cave and very worthwhile. Tours depart hourly. The area around the caves are beautiful and nice to have a stroll around in after a completed tour.

You can reach inland Abel Tasman national park if you drive half an hour further from the Ngarau caves. At the end of the road towards Harwoods Hole (right after the Ngarau Caves) you will find a car park and can do a 40 minute walk to the deepest vertical hole in New Zealand…

If already up at the hill, why not go a bit further up to Pupu springs, boasting some of the cleanest waters in the world. Depending on who you ask it’s either among the cleanest in the southern hemisphere or the world. See DOC’s information here.

At the absolute top of the south island just outside of Collingwood, you will find the Farewell Spit nature reserve, which is one of the oddest geographical features of the areas. The spit stretches 35 km into the sea and is a more strictly protected nature reserve than a national park. While it’s closed down for the public, it’s open for tour operators and it’s possible to find information about the area and the tours here (expensive though!).

Very close to Motueka, you can find something a bit different and not typical for New Zealand. Why not join the local hare krishna community for a very tasty, healthy and affordable meal and some chanting.

Conservation volunteering in New Zealand – 50+ links to various positions

New Zealand is perhaps one of the countries in the world where it’s the easiest to volunteer for environmental organizations. Ranging from day outs planting native trees to multiple month full time ranger positions, anyone interested in environmental volunteering in New Zealand should be able to find what they are looking for. While there are plenty of long term positions that require a lot of commitment, most volunteer work is done in a leisurely manner a few hours at a time at an ongoing basis. Many volunteer groups work in such a way that they for example meet up for 3 hours of planting native trees and weeding every other Friday. It’s a common social activity for locals and a way to learn more about this interesting part of kiwi culture. This post will be a bit about what kind of volunteering positions you normally can expect to find, how to get the position and why it’s a win-win for everyone and you should give it a go. It ends with a link list to various organizations etc that are looking for volunteers. The list is by no means complete but unless you are looking for something very specific, it will offer more than enough to choose from and several ideas about how to continue the search on your own, in case you did not find what you were looking for.

Finally there are many job positions available for those who want to work with environmental conservation and so forth. You can find some links under a separate section in the list at the bottom. Be aware that these jobs are often unavailable to people who are not New Zealand residents.

If you miss something in this post, let me know and I’ll update it!

  • Requirements

Requirements are different for different positions. Most positions have very few requirements but the more long term and popular one’s with limited capacity can often be tricky. They often take into consideration level of fitness (with volunteer ranger positions often requiring a high level of fitness), education (favoring those who are educated in or study relevant topics), employment history (past volunteering or work for environmental organizations are often a bonus), skills (for example: do you know how to use monitoring equipment?) and future plans (it’s sometimes a bonus to see the volunteering more as a stepping stone than a once in a lifetime interesting experience). So if you want to volunteer as a wildlife ranger, be prepared for some rough competition and possibly having to either volunteer a few months or not at all. If you want something more short term and less demanding, luckily a lot less is demanded in terms of commitment and previous experience. Sometimes you don’t even need to apply, but can just show up. If you anyway, no matter what wants to try for one of the more demanding positions and for example stay a month in the NZ wilderness monitoring wild kiwi, New Zealand’s department of conservation (DOC) has several online courses that you can take to better your odds . Don’t be intimidated by the fact that it’s more difficult to get a volunteer position as a ranger, but be aware that you have to put some effort if you want to get it. Even if it’s still lots of time until you want to start volunteering, start looking for positions already now. Many of the applications close months before the actual volunteering starts, so if you want to make sure to get a position it’s best to start early. Also try to find a local organization back home to volunteer with once in a while. By getting some experience and learning more, you will better your odds of being accepted. Put an effort into writing your CV. Think of previous experiences and how they could be helpful for you. Even if it’s not related to actual biological conservation, it could for example be helpful to have worked in a pet shop, as some common volunteering tasks are not at all very different from such work, only that instead of taking care of guinea pigs you’ll be taking care of endangered wildlife.

You can volunteer even if you are only on a tourist visa. However, for some of the perks, you may need a work visa or residency. If a volunteering position offers you let’s say free food, then it’s counted as working for compensation and you would need a work visa.

  • Costs

Generally speaking it’s for free to volunteer. That means that it won’t cost you anything to do the actual work. But as most long term positions do not provide much more than accommodation and most short term positions offer nothing at all, you will have to put some money aside for such things as food and transportation. Often such things as transportation can be coordinated, so that you – if you don’t have your own transportation – can go with others. If you don’t have equipment, then don’t worry. Unless you are going to do something very demanding, you most likely don’t even need it. But if there is something that you do need but don’t want to buy new, for example a good pair of boots, often you can find them cheap in one of the many second hand shops that are scattered across the country.

If you want to spend a bit more you could do some “voluntourism”. By paying a organization some money, they will arrange your volunteering experience. I don’t know almost anything about these organizations and how they are in New Zealand, but from what little I’ve seen there seems to be some good value options, where food, transportation and accommodation is included, without it costing ridiculous amounts of money as it sometimes does. Perhaps some of them will lend you the equipment you need.

  • Tasks

Volunteer’s tasks usually includes one or several of the following: weeding, planting native trees, pest control, trapping pests, monitor wildlife, nurse native plants, nurse endangered wildlife mark and maintain tracks, guide visitors, clean facilities, gather seeds. Some tasks require some skills. For example managing kiwi chicks. Others are more simple. For example to survey a fenced in nature reserve to make sure that the fence has not been damaged. Many provide ample opportunities of learning a job. Much of the conservation work revolves around minimizing the harmful effects of invasive species. Some of it requires killing introduced predators by placing traps in the nature. 

Some volunteering tasks can be done online or in other ways, without having to leave the computer.

  • where

You can find volunteering work almost anywhere in New Zealand. If you want to volunteer in a certain city or for a certain nature reserve, it’s often enough to visit their official website to apply. The link list below gives you a very wide range of possible volunteering positions, but in case you don’t find what you are looking for, do some searches of your own and probably you will find something. If you manage to find a organization or project that you want to volunteer for but they don’t have any application form or information online, try to just send them an email and ask. Environmental volunteering is very widespread throughout New Zealand and quite likely many will be open for suggestions, even if at first glance it does not look like it.

  • Benefits

There are many benefits to volunteering. Some of them are for you, other for the organizations you volunteer for, and most of them – of course – for the nature that you help preserve.

You will, depending on what you do, learn new skills, experience New Zealand’s unique nature from close up, meet a lot of interesting people and – if you want that – get valuable experience for future employment in conservation. As conservation work globally is underfunded and very competitive (with lots of people wanting to do it for a living, but few positions available), conservation experience is often a stepping stone required for a paid job, even for those with education. 

Most conservation organizations in New Zealand to some extent depend on volunteers. They would not be able to do their work without volunteers. Many of the even relatively small organizations receive hundreds of thousands of hours of volunteer work per year. That’s millions of New Zealand dollars per year that they don’t have to spend. For a organization that does not actually strive to make money but to preserve endangered species and ecosystems, it would not be possible to pay for all this labor. Had it not been for volunteers, many endangered species’ of New Zealand would be extinct.

Finally, if you have any questions or things to add, let me know and I will update the post! Hopefully it will make it easier for people to find what they are looking for.

  • DOC – the department of conservation

DOC is short for Department of Conservation and is the government body responsible for conservation work throughout New Zealand. Not only is their website great for those who want to volunteer, but they also have free online courses in such things as the use of monitoring equipment and the nature of New Zealand. It’s with DOC you will find many of the most interesting positions, for example as a kiwi tracking ranger in the remote wilderness, but they list all kinds of positions all over the country. Be aware that many of the more interesting positions have lots of applicants.


  • Cities and areas

Many cities have their own volunteering websites. Here are a few examples. If you want to find volunteering opportunities for e.g. Hamilton, just visit their website and see if you can find volunteering opportunities there. Most volunteering activities offered in the links below are not actually inside the cities, but close by and within easy reach. Often such things as transportation can be arranged with other volunteers, if you lack your own means of transport.






  • Islands

Much of the most interesting stuff is going on on islands. Islands often work as sanctuaries for rare and endangered species, since it’s relatively easy to keep a small isolated island free of introduced predators. Small isolated islands are also often the least used by humans. Some of them have not been used for farming or logging. The Little Barrier Island for example has been called the most intact ecosystem in New Zealand.Since there are so many different kinds of volunteering opportunities on so many different islands I wrote a post specifically about volunteering on islands. Click here if you want to read it.

  • Portals

These links lead to portals for different organizations. Various organizations offer different positions in different places. Most of the links lead to relatively similar volunteering opportunities, so only if you are after something very specific will you ever need to look through more than a few of them.










  • Killing trees?

Around the top of the north Island some brave volunteers are waging a war against the pine trees. Not the typical conservation volunteers (who are sometimes called “treehuggers”), these people kill trees by the hundreds. The reason is that pines, as an introduced species in New Zealand, are harming the New Zealand environment. Local plants, mushrooms, wildlife etc, is of course adapted to local trees, with which they have evolved together. The amount of species found in pine forests are vastly lower than the amount of species found in native forests. You’ll notice it if you compare the sounds in a pine forest compared to a native forest: while you’ll hear plenty of birds in the latter, the former is eerily quiet. So if you are up in the area around Marlborough and want to do a different kind of treehugger activity, try this out!


  • Cleanup events

Cleaning beaches, rivers and all kinds of places around New Zealand. You can even organize your own events and have interested people showing up helping out. So if you have no plans for a day off, why not check if there are any cleanup events going on nearby! Shared transportation can be arranged if you lack your own.


  • Events, paperwork, fundraising, office, online

Allthough most work takes place outdoors, some stuff require regular office or remote computer workers. If you want to help out with things such as fundraising, perhaps you will find something in the links below!



WWF also has some opportunities. On their website it says: “Unfortunately we don’t have an intern programme. But we do occasionally need casual volunteers to do administrative work at our office in Wellington. Interested? Email your CV to our office.” You may contact them on info@wwf.org.nz

  • Volunteer at a sanctuary

Sanctuaries are very important in NZ conservation work. Many endangered New Zealand animals such as kiwis are kept only until they are big enough to survive by themselves in nature. Most wild kiwi chicks gets eaten by predators introduced from other parts of the world. By helping out at these centers you can both experience many rare species from up close and help them survive in the wild. Most of the animals you will work with will at some point be released into the wild.











  • zoo positions

Similar jobs to sanctuaries, but with more international wildlife. NZ zoos are acclaimed for their conservation work and you will be able to help out with preserving endangered species etc. New Zealand zoos are well known for their focus on conservation work and could be a great way to learn more.



  • Pay to volunteer

These are a few websites for those who do not mind paying a bit to volunteer. Often transportation, food and accommodation is included and the overall price will not be much higher than if you would pay for everything yourself. I have not included any of the more expensive volunteering websites in this list. Some organizations charge up to a 150 New Zealand dollars per day for you to help out with various tasks!





  • Job applications

Most of the links here are to advertisement platforms that are not specifically used for conservation jobs. Some of the links below lead to search results for the word “conservation”. If you instead search for things such as “wildlife” different results may appear. Many sites have pretty much the same jobs listed, but if you are very keen to land a real conservation job it could be worth to have a quick look at a few of them. The most useful links are the three first one’s. Sign up for “conservationjobs” newsletter for weekly updates about upcoming positions. Also, many regions and cities etc have their own websites where current vacancies are listed. For example Southland lists positions here. If you want to find jobs in a specific place, try to find their websites.









Upcoming homestays in India – make a request!

I have an India trip coming up and want to try something out! I want to ask the readers (the few that are) what kind of homestay they would like to visit if they ever go to India. And if it is possible for me to find such a homestay, I would like to list it along with the other homestays! Most likely no more than three people will let me know what they would like to try, so if you are one of those three it’s not like you will have too much competition!

So do you want to stay in the jungle or along the coast, a village or a metropolis, with christians, hindus or muslims, in a foodie or art heaven? Just send me a message through the contact form and I’ll see what I can do!

(By the way, I’ll bring my camera this time too, so it won’t be like the Moroccan homestay, which I took exactly 0 photos of.)

4 things before you climb Jebel Toubkal

Toubkal is both beautiful and accessible. It’s the highest mountain in North Africa and the highest in any arab country and in no way an easy hike. But most people who set out seem to make it to the top. When I was there I even saw a group of friends in their sixties. They weren’t the fastest, but eventually they reached the summit. Most probably almost anyone reading this will too. But in order to make the trip as enjoyable as possible, it would be good to keep a few things in mind ahead of the ascent.

  1. Leave your backpack at the refuge. A day hike from Imlil lays a group of 3 refugees. These are basically mountain huts for hikers. They are staffed and it’s possible both to eat and sleep in them. They all have the same prices. 150 dirham for a dormitory. 250-300 (I don’t remember exactly) for dormitory plus dinner and breakfast. These places aren’t really what you would call cozy and the food is only enjoyable because you just spent six hours hiking, but the places do their jobs. There are no villages or other buildings up at that altitude (the closest village being a three hour walk or so down the mountain), so there’s no reason to complain. Make use of these places not only by having a good nights rest and perhaps something to eat but also as a storage for your bags when you climb Toubkal. To bring only a daypack with some fruits, water and sandwhiches will make the hike a lot less demanding and a lot more fun. Staff are used to people leaving their bags and do not charge extra for it. The most famous refuge is Les Mouflons, which has it’s own website here.
  2. Don’t go for the sunrise. Most people visiting Toubkal try to climb it before sunrise in order to get to enjoy the view. I’m sure that the view is very beautiful, but there are a few reasons why I would recommend people to sleep in and start the ascent after sunrise. The number one reason is that a lot of people I talked to, as I met them when they were on their way dawn and I on my way up, regretted not doing just that. Yes, it’s Morocco and it’s supposed to be warm, but really, nights at 4000 meters altitude are not. And to reach the peak by sunrise you will have to wake up by 3 o’clock or so and walk the entire way up in the dark. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s windy. And when you reach the peak you stand there for 20 minutes, waiting for the sun to rise so that you can get back down and pull a blanket over you. I met some people who were running down back to the refugee. They had not enjoyed the ascent, they had not enjoyed the descent, and they had probably not even really enjoyed the sunrise, but they had caught some nice photos of it. Make yourself a favor and go after breakfast. You body will have rested better, making it less likely to react negatively to the altitude or the physical strain of the ascent, and you will be able to enjoy the changing sceneries as you come higher and higher up the mountain. When you reach the peak you can sit up there warm and comfortable in the sun for half an hour having lunch. Then you can head back down. Also, the risk of injury will be way lower if you walk when it’s bright. There is a lot of slippery gravel on the path and some sections are very steep.
  3. Don’t worry too much. I met a few people who had wanted to go to Toubkal just to eventually decide not to. All of this “highest in North Africa” and “highest in any arab country” seems to intimidate people. Truth is that most reasonably fit people who give it a go will reach the top. The only thing is that while some may not find the hike very demanding, others will have to suffer a bit to reach the peak. While some can climb the mountain spending only one night in a refuge, others will perhaps be better of spending two nights in the refuges and acclimatize properly (actually I would recommend anyone to spend two nights up there). Most people will reach the peak if they are rested enough and bring some energizing snacks. And even those who don’t will get to enjoy the landscapes. It’s not as if the area is ugly except for when seen from the peak. Worst case scenario you will still encounter better views than anything you will find in Chefchaouen (or break a leg, stumbling over a rock you didn’t see, as the sun had not yet risen and you were too tired to focus).
  4. There are other hikes. If you just want to go hiking, there are plenty of options in Morocco. Toubkal is the most famous and it offers beautiful views of the surrounding landscapes. However, if altitude and views alone is not what you long for, perhaps you should consider going for another hike. Walkopedia lists different hikes and gives useful information about hiking in Morocco. Depending on what you want to do, some places will be better or worse than Toubkal. If you want to experience local culture, live in a berber village where few tourists have ever been, be close to the peaks of the mountains and eat fabulous food, perhaps the small homestay listed on this website is the place for you. It’s very different from the typical Toubkal experience in the sense that you will not stay in a refuge but in a family home in a berber village. The area rarely sees foreign visitors and most likely you and your friends will be the only non-berbers around. The peaks aren’t as high and the landscapes not as dramatic, but the area and the host has a charm entirely it’s own.

Atlas village homestay, Morocco

Out of the blue in Agadir, I met an amazigh called Ridouane. It was by complete chance as I just wanted to ask someone for the way to the long distance taxi station. He said that it was just a few minutes away and that he would take me in his car. Not only that, but he also told me (after getting to know that I would go only a short distance with the shared taxi) that he would take me the whole way to my destination, free of charge. On the way we continued talking and he wanted to know more about my trip in Morocco. He was curious about what I thought about the amazigh culture. I told him that actually I did not know too much about it but that I would like to get to know more. He asked me “Why not come visit my home village for a few days?” and I took him up on his offer. We went to Taroudant and spent the night with his family in his appartment before early the next day we went together with some of his friends into the countryside north of Taroudant, high up in the Atlas mountains. It’s a beautiful little village reached only on winding roads, only a few hours hike below the peaks of the mountains. Ridouane has been working on village charity projects to develop the village. Water supply has been improved and a school for the women has been opened. It’s a very special place rarely visited by foreigners. It is practically untouched by tourism and filled with curious, friendly and very hospitable locals.

After spending four days up there with Ridouane and his friends, I asked him if it wouldn’t be a good idea for them to try to get volunteers and tourists to the village. We were at that time out gathering wild growing thyme and rosemary on the steep slopes overlooking the village and started talking about different options and ideas. Ridouane was most of all interested in getting volunteers to visit, but also thought that welcoming tourists would be a good idea, as it would be a chance for them to experience the amazigh culture and a chance for the village to get some capital to invest in things such as improving education. Right now they need to buy study desks for the women’s school.

Ridouane is now a member of workaway.info, as it will enable him to find volunteers, and I have offered to try to help out finding some tourists. As always on Anthropolodgy, 100% of the money spent stays with the locals. There are no fees of any kind involved. So even if you don’t go for the volunteering option, which would be for free, you will contribute a lot to the local community.

The different options are:

  1. Volunteer. A maximum workload of 5 hours per day, 5 days per week, with two days off. Free of charge food and accomodation. Long term volunteers preferred.
  2. Tourist. 0 hours work, 7 days per week. Private room. Meals included in the price. More suitable for short term visitors. 250 dirham/22 euro per day.

Contact us through the contact form with any reservations or questions and we will get back to you soon! And if you want to earn a few easy bucks and help Anthropolodgy out with our hosting fees, you can click here.

Independent travelling in Tibetan areas

There are Tibetan areas in China outside of the Tibet autonomous region. These can be find in Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai, Yunnan and Sichuan. Travelling in these areas is generally a lot easier than travelling in the Tibet autonomous region, as you don’t need any special permits or tour guides to enter them. We have a host with contacts throughout the tibetan areas. If enough interest is shown in this, the host contacts will get added to this website soon. Just let me know through the contact form if it’s worth the effort.

Why the Inner Mongolian homestays are temporarily closed

There has been a lot of problems recently for the host families in Inner Mongolia! First in East Ujimqin Banner, where one of the family members suddenly became seriously ill and hospitalized. Because of this, guests could no longer be received. Ofcourse they could still go to the Xilnhot homestay, but that too has become impossible now, as the host family now has to apply for a special permit to continue receiving guests. This is because the homestay is located in a sensitive area. Last but not least it’s late autumn and about time to close anyway, as it will be too cold to visit during the winter.

As soon as there are any news the information on this site will be updated! Until then only the Bazernik and Nannuoshan homestays are open – perhaps with one or a few more being added before the end of this year! If you want to get to know as soon as new homestays are added or when the Inner Mongolian ones are open again, it’s just to follow us on Facebook!