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Israel - Desert Wildlife Program
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Israel - Desert Wildlife Program

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    6

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    8

Volunteering in the Hai Bar nature reserve in the Negev Desert- An amazing experience

Volunteering on a Wildlife Reserve and Safari in Israel’s Negev was an amazing way to travel, engage in meaningful volunteer work in Israel, and be outside in nature helping to take care of animals.
This Go Eco experience allowed me to learn more about Israel’s society and culture and challenge myself to learn new things in a beautiful outdoor environment.
From the first time that I viewed GoEco’s colorful and inviting website to the time I that I boarded the plane to start my adventure was a short time span of about two months. My quick decision to go with Go Eco was due to their professional and friendly staff who guided me through the first initial inquiries on the phone. Go Eco also helped me coordinate this trip so that my cousin who lives in another country could also share in this adventure.
We both easily booked our exciting volunteer experience, and our flights and hostel stays. In the weeks leading up to our departure, my cousin and I had fun planning and booking our weekend trips via email, as we learned we would be off during the weekends. I recommend that anyone volunteering book amazing and really fun tours while you are in the beautiful country of Israel. It is super easy to get around by public transportation from one end of the country to the other, and you can stay in hostels to cut down on costs. You will feel safe exploring different cities and regions of the country. Go Eco offers you a discount if you book with an additional person, and now my cousin and I have this shared memory together to look back on.
Our volunteer experience started in Jerusalem with an Orientation Tour for all of the volunteers led by Yan. We were both happily surprised by his wonderful tour. We had previously toured Jerusalem separately, but on Yan’s comprehensive and all day tour, we saw many things we had not seen before and had a great time meeting all of the other volunteers. It also made for an easier transition to the rest of the trip. For our Hai Bar Project during those two weeks, our group of volunteers consisted of all female professionals (lawyer, professor, TV coordinator, engineer) and we were living and working together in the middle of nowhere on a safari with park rangers. We bonded and enjoyed meals together at night. We quickly adapted to the routine of the safari and reserve. The rangers were very kind and funny. It was challenging and interesting to be part of their work team. It was up to each volunteer as well to get to know them and ask questions. By working hard you gained their utmost respect right away. Our commute to work was a breath-taking jeep ride through the safari at day break. We would see the sun coming up behind the Red Mountains with Jordan in the background, and see the Orex herd and ostriches starting their day. Most of the mornings were spent on preparing the food, feeding the animals, and cleaning the cages, and helping the rangers on the safari. The afternoons were reserved for other projects that included things like building enclosures or cages, cleaning out certain areas or painting or varnishing picnic tables. There were also night feedings that you could participate in which I really recommend. As is true in any setting, what you put in you get back. I encourage anyone coming here to try new things and ask to go on the night feedings, you get so much out of it. You should also be prepared for hard work and living in a cabin, that although really nicely furnished, is in the middle of a safari.
The rangers would teach us about the specifics of each animal species and how to approach them when feeding or handling certain animals. It was a treat to work on an actual safari and live right on the safari itself overlooking such a beautiful desert landscape. Highlights included cooking our dinner at night under the stars in our outside fire pit and getting to know things about the animals, geographical area, and Israel as a country from the rangers. We were also able to get in close proximity with some of the animals like the parrots, owls, porcupines, eagles, and lizards. The ostriches lived literally right next to the volunteer house and we could hear their calls at night. There were so many great take away experiences from my volunteer time at the Hai Bar, that it is difficult to name just a few. It far exceeded any expectations. Some highlights for me were the opportunity to live and work in a breathtaking setting, the new friendships I made with people I am still keeping in touch with, the chance to combine exciting travel with volunteer work, the fun camaraderie between volunteers and the Hai Bar park rangers, challenging myself in new settings and with the physical demands of the day-to-day jobs, knowing that I was directly helping the environment and animals of Israel, and recharging by being a team player in a completely new work environment. I highly recommend this volunteer experience.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

It's an amazing and unforgettable trip

I stayed in Hai-Bar almost 3 weeks, have to say that I enjoyed every day with rangers and the other volunteers. Highly recommend this project!!!
It was a big surprise that not only the bus fee from Jerusalem to Hai-Bar was included in project, but also that we had food budgets every week (for basic food, but no candy or alcohol). So I nearly had no extra expenses within project period, which truly saved a lot.
The accommodation is comfortable and safe enough for us to stay, A/C, television and washing machine works well. You can have bonfire and barbecue freely at night with other volunteers and rangers.
You will run into different situations and missions almost every day in Hai-Bar, even if I have stayed there for 3 weeks. Because animals change every day, we have to handle various occasions, that's why this program attracts me so much. Rangers are all sooo though and gentle, couldn't be better.

First 2 weeks, we had 3 volunteers together, the work in safari was also separated, so that everyone could have various experiences. We had a quiet and simple life together. Another 4 volunteers joined us the third week, who took a lot of surprises and energies to us. They are all so nice to get along with, and I felt huge culture differences with them. But in a conclusion, my English listening and speaking progressed sooo much through this program. And I could not be luckier to come across and live with these guys!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

The best thing I have ever done

When I first decided I wanted to volunteer, I searched so many websites and eventually I came by GoEco’s website. I read so many positive experiences, I thought to myself, this has to be something that I do! I have never really liked Christmas in the UK, so I thought Israel would be the perfect place to go, as Christmas isn’t really celebrated. I made the most PERFECT decision. I then decided which project I wanted to do, working with animals was at the top of my list. So, without any hesitation I confirmed my place on the website. I had all of the details within a week, the office in Israel are so quick at replying, and really look after every volunteer who books through them.
The time came, the flights were super cheap. I paid around £120 return from London with EasyJet to Tel Aviv. Day 1 of the 3 weeks experience was just the start of what was to come, it was awesome. We met Yan, a Coordinator for GoEco, and he took us around Jerusalem for the day. I felt that it was important to spend the day doing this, as we learnt so much about the country, the culture, and also told what the next few weeks would entail.
The next day, Yan took us to the bus station and we got on the 4 hour bus journey to the desert. We got off at the bus stop and one of the rangers picked us up. My first impressions were exactly how I expected, in the middle of no where, perfect. We were taken to the volunteers house, which is just so lovely. 2 bedrooms, a nice bathroom, a HUGE living room with a smart TV and a computer, a well equipped kitchen, and a washing machine outside. There’s also a fire outside which was great at night time. The volunteers house is in between two of the rangers houses, so there was always someone around, and they are very sociable. It’s also at the very end of the safari, so the Ostriches are literally a stones throw away, you can hear them making their calls in the night quite clearly. Night fell on the first evening there, I remember walking outside and looking up at the sky and being speechless. When you live in a big city like London, its not very often that you see stars, let alone shooting stars and the line of the Milkyway! It’s breath taking. After star gazing was over, we lit a fire, and sat under the stars for the rest of the evening and got to know each other.
6am wake up…. For a 7am start. That was a bit of a shock to the system, I’m usually quite lazy in the morning! A ranger picked us up in a truck, and we rode through the safari to the office to start our first day of work. We met all of the rangers, who each are so individual, lovely and unique its hard to explain, but you will see for yourself when you book this experience. Quickly we learnt what we were to do for the next few weeks! Basically, every morning we would prepare food to feed the animals in the rehabilitation centre. We would first clean the toilets that the public use (they visit the safari only), this was one of my favourite jobs, which I’m sure the rangers appreciated. Then we would go into each cage, apart from a few dangerous animals only professionals can enter, such as leopards, the wolf, and the hyena. We would clean the floor, change the water, and give them food. Some animals are fed at night time, so if you stay for a few more hours each day, you get to do this too. I found I got more out of the project by working 7am until 4pm every day rather than the 7-2pm which is required. I LOVE the animals there. On the reserve there are White Oryx, Ostrich, Addex, and two types of donkey. And in the rehabilitation centre there are wild cats, caracal, a wolf, tortoises, a hyena, parrots, owls, raptures, leopards, jackal (love them), and many others. Other duties included, preparing new enclosures, counting the Gazelle, measuring trees, painting, and feeding the safari animals. One day I got to spend the whole day with the vet and learn about his job, and another day I made toys for the cats. Every day was different!
Work would be Sunday to Thursday and the rest of the time was free time to do whatever you like. You have to bear in mind that the nearest bus stop is a 40 minute walk, but the trick is to just makes friends with the rangers and they will take you where you need to go (and it’s always nice to bring them back something sweet in return!). On my first weekend, I decided to take a trip to Jordan through a local tour company in Eilat. It cost in total around $500, which included everything! Including Visas. I was so glad I did it. I spent 2 days in Petra and 1 in Wadi Rum. I also took a day off from the reserve which they were totally fine with. Waking up in Wadi Rum on Christmas morning was a totally unique experience.
The second weekend was quite chilled out. Me and one of the other girls went to Eilat, we went to the camel ranch, lay on the beach, went out for New Years Eve, and we also visited the Coral Reef which also has volunteers and we made some new friends there as we snorkelled in the Red Sea! We also swam with wild dolphins, which really made me want to learn to dive, which I did the next weekend!
At night times we would sit around the fire, cook food on the fire or in the oven, watch music videos, or generally just talk! One thing that’s changed me since doing this experience is that I now don’t feel like I need much. I’m less materialistic than I was before. I think being in an environment in the middle of nowhere does that to you, it makes you appreciate what you have, and it also allows you to listen to other people more. The rangers were so lovely, I cooked a BBQ for them on my last day as a thank you. The girls I was volunteering with were great, we had such a good time, and if I could rewind and do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing, it was perfect. I made some amazing friends, people that I will keep in touch with forever. I don’t even feel that this blog explains just how amazing this experience was, and I could probably stand up for a few hours and talk about it! I loved Israel that much I stayed in the country for an extra 2 weeks, and explored from the south all the way up the Golan Heights.
In general, I feel a much better person, and I’ve learnt a real value in life (I also now get up a lot earlier in the mornings!) It’s the best thing I’ve done with my life and I have a totally different perspective now! I can’t wait to go back.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Day to Day Life

    6

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Community Engagement

    7

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

Total immerse into the nature.

It will certainly be one of the best experience you ever have if you choose to go to this program. GoEco made everything easy for you whether you are afraid of Middle East or simply afraid of travelling on your own. They made your journey worry-free and if you had problems, there were always people willing to help you. First thing first, the nature reserve is beautiful on its own. Different kind of animals and some are pretty rare to be seen such as Caracal. You would not be disappointed if you are an animal lover. Nature lover as well, locate in desert does not mean is purely hot and dry. Particular at night, the sky is the treasure. The rangers are a friendly bunch, they have sense of humor and willing to offer help all the time. If you are not physically fit, I would not recommend you to this program because some work require a bit of the physique. Though it should not be a big problem, heart matters most.

The accommodation is alright. It provides what you need from day to night. Perhaps you could feel boring sometimes but you are always welcome to call the rangers to arrange something such as go swimming to the nearby kibbutz or simply go to Eilat by bus.

I would not hesitate to go back. I love everything in the Hai Bar and Israel.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    10

I want to go back so badly

When my friend and I picked this program, we mainly chose it because it's cheap. But the experience is far from cheap! GoEco arranged a great introduction to both Israel and the project without leaving us on our own. And the rangers on the project are so wonderful, though slightly crazy, people - they are creating a great atmosphere at work! They are quite concerned about the volunteers, too, so be prepared to be told to drink tons and tons of water!
Our apartment was a bit disappointing to begin with, since we had hoped to only be two persons in each apartment, with our own kitchens. In reality we were 6 volunteers sharing the same apartment, kitchen and bathroom. It was quite scary at first, but it made it so easy to hang out with the other volunteers, and created a great social life during the project.
The work itself was a bit though sometimes, but it was so worth it. We did a ton of cleaning, yet I wouldn't mind cleaning a bit more, if I just could stay there a bit longer.

I absolutely loved it. Loved the animals, loved the atmosphere, loved the surroundings. Loved the people.