Panda Experience

London Life Coach & Relationship Expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about Voluntour packages from STA Travel. Follow Sloan Life Coach on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s Life Coaching website www.sloansw.com

Part 1 of our Voluntour series will be looking at the Panda Conservation Adventure. It is normally for two weeks, and the cost is that of just over £1000.  This project is based in China’s Sichuan province and the itinerary includes Shanghai and Beijing.

STA Travel is offering Voluntour packages in many different countries as a way to learn about the people and the place you are visiting on a far deeper level than just your average holiday or backpacking tour. The Voluntour series is a fantastic way to contribute to combating poverty; protecting the environment and improving the lives of all those you meet. You will be touched by this experience.  It is extremely unique and allows you to develop new skills, increase confidence and have a fresh perspective on life.

Panda Experience Overview

It will come as no surprise to those of you who know my work with WSPA and particularly my love of pandas that I choose to start with this Voluntour for the series.  There are thought to be less than 1000 pandas left in the wild with about 80% in Sichuan province. The reserve where this project takes place is called Bifenxia Panda Reserve and houses approximately 70 pandas.

Bifenxia is aiming to prevent the extinction of pandas by providing a good breeding environment for them so they can be released back in into the wild.  If you choose this project you will be able to help in preparing meals, gathering bamboo, cleaning the panda enclosures and assisting the researchers. This centre is known as the largest panda reserve in the world and you will be able to observe these shy solitary creatures up close and personal. It is a genuinely remarkable experience.

The accommodation for this Voluntour is mainly hotels and guest houses. The in-country support comes in the form of a volunteer project coordinator, a chief experience officer and local guides. Meals will not be included so a budget of approximately £150 per person is suggested.

This Voluntour also allows you to explore China; there will be an optional orientational walk of Shanghai, a Shaolin Kung Fu display and lesson, a Terracotta Warrior tour and a trip to the Forbidden City. A two week package also allows you the ability to absorb in the culture and history of the ancient Tang Dynasty in Xi’an and even the chance to visit the Sichuan Opera. If you book this package it will not be long before you are travelling to Tiananmen Square all while admiring the view of the rolling countryside later that day and even climbing the Great Wall of China.

Those of you who wish to extend their stay can do so, or alternatively you can make the most of your time and even learn Mandarin Chinese at the Cyups University in Beijing which costs approximately just under £600. This is one of the most prestigious universities in Beijing, they can tailor a language program to fit your needs be it evening classes or one to one teaching. Packages outside you 14 days can include accommodation at the University and courses can be from 1 month to a whole year.

All in all this Voluntour is definitely top of my list and one I am proud to start the series with.

Volunteer Projects Overview

Voluntour provides a wide range of products and wherever you choose there will be guidance from an in country project coordinator. They will most likely be from the local area or live in the community as a volunteer themselves. They will help you get settled and provide an excellent support system insuring you get the most out of you Voluntour.

Most projects will require you to work as part of a team but you will not be required to speak the local language.  English will be the main language. You do not need any special skills just enthusiasm and a wish to participate and learn. However, the projects involving working with children will require a series of forms that will need to be completed before you travel.

Whichever city or project you choose you will be welcomed by your in project coordinator, you will be transferred to the site of the project, settled into your accommodation and be given a briefing of what to expect.

There are different levels of comfort for your stay but all tours allow you a way to give back to the community you are visiting either by lending a helping hand to someone, working in conversation, working directly with animals, working directly with children or with the community as a whole. The community projects tend to be based in the sectors of health, education, conservation and small business opportunities.

The accommodation may be in the form of a volunteer house, which provides the comfort of a home, rooms can be twin, multishare and often have shared bathrooms and kitchen facilities, alternatively there is on site accommodation and in the more remote areas there will be the chance of home stays giving you a truly unique experience. You will be sharing obviously with other volunteers.

For those of you who prefer the camping aspects some project do offer this and these will be clearly indicated. Alternatively offer guest houses, hotels and lodges for those of you who want a little more privacy. These locations are all stunning and a truly breathtaking experience.

For more information of these packages visit the STA Travel Website.

The Elephant Experience

London Life Coach & Relationship Expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about Voluntour packages from STA Travel. Follow Sloan Life Coach on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s Life Coaching website www.sloansw.com

Part 2 of the Voluntour series will be looking at the Elephant Adventure. This project is based in Sri Lanka. It is normally for 2 weeks and the cost is that of just over £700. There is an extension to 28 days which costs just under £1000 and 42 days can also be bought at just over £1250.

STA Travel is offering Voluntour packages in many different countries as a way to learn about the people and the place you are visiting on a far deeper level than just your average holiday or backpacking tour. The Voluntour series is a fantastic way to contribute to combating poverty; protecting the environment and improving the lives of all those you meet. You will be touched by this experience.  It is extremely unique and allows you to develop new skills, increase confidence and have a fresh perspective on life.

Elephant Experience Overview

If pandas are not your thing but you are still interested in an animal adventure, you can travel to Sri Lanka and learn about Asian elephants. On this tour you can  work in rural communities and monitor wild elephant population is Wasgamuwa National Park while exploring the amazing island of Sri Lanka.

Volunteers work by helping scientists establish the first trans-climatic zone national park in the country. The project is currently in the early phase which involves conducting surveys and ecological studies of the magnificent Sri Lankan elephants. These animals are endangered and the project helps in assisting human elephant conflict resolution so that we can help this much loved species. The idea being to build up sustainable wildlife conservations and create strategies with a view to protecting the elephant over a long term period.

There are currently less than 3500 Sri Lankan elephants in the wild thus making them an endangered species. The Sri Lankan elephant has suffered from habit loss and fragmentation and also degradation of its local environment, not to mention the trade of ivory resulting in an increase in poaching and harm to these magnificent creatures.

If you volunteer for this project you will be helping to halt the threats an ensure a long term conservation of this species. They project still needs to be backed by political will and financial support but volunteers like you in these early phases are invaluable.

Volunteering on this project means you will have early starts in the morning followed by meetings with the field staff, departing either on foot or bicycle where the project is coordinated. At your destination point you will be conducting surveys, interviewing local villagers and also have the great pleasure of direct elephant observations. Afternoons are spent either resting or collating data from earlier that morning. Free time and evenings are often spent socialising with the other volunteers and also exploring the beautiful island of Sri Lanka.

The accommodation is a multi share basic volunteer house the in country support is an in-country volunteer project coordinator and other staff. In this holiday all meals are included although it is suggested to allow approximately £60 a month for other sundries.

If you wish to extend your visit there is the offer of the Sri Lanka Eexperience which lasts 8 days for approx £800 per person. You will have the opportunity to go on a game drive through Uda Walawe National Park where you may see more elephants and indeed see leopards and crocodiles before returning to the more urban jungle areas of Colombo. This beautifully experience where you can scramble over rock fortresses and see stunning old rock paintings is definitely one to put in the diary.

Volunteer Projects Overview

Voluntour provides a wide range of products and wherever you choose there will be guidance from an in country project coordinator. They will most likely be from the local area or live in the community as a volunteer themselves. They will help you get settled and provide an excellent support system insuring you get the most out of you Voluntour.

Most projects will require you to work as part of a team but you will not be required to speak the local language.  English will be the main language. You do not need any special skills just enthusiasm and a wish to participate and learn. However, the projects involving working with children will require a series of forms that will need to be completed before you travel.

Whichever city or project you choose you will be welcomed by your in project coordinator, you will be transferred to the site of the project, settled into your accommodation and be given a briefing of what to expect.

There are different levels of comfort for your stay but all tours allow you a way to give back to the community you are visiting either by lending a helping hand to someone, working in conversation, working directly with animals, working directly with children or with the community as a whole. The community projects tend to be based in the sectors of health, education, conservation and small business opportunities.

The accommodation may be in the form of a volunteer house, which provides the comfort of a home, rooms can be twin, multishare and often have shared bathrooms and kitchen facilities, alternatively there is on site accommodation and in the more remote areas there will be the chance of home stays giving you a truly unique experience. You will be sharing obviously with other volunteers.

For those of you who prefer the camping aspects some project do offer this and these will be clearly indicated. Alternatively offer guest houses, hotels and lodges for those of you who want a little more privacy. These locations are all stunning and a truly breathtaking experience.

For more information of these packages visit the STA Travel Website.