Last minute gap year, career break and holidays with a difference

Infinite possibilities for last minute gap year, career breaks and holidays with a difference!

Last minute gap year, career break and holidays with a difference

Left your gap year career break or holiday with a difference plans to the last-minute? Worried it might be too late to take that trip of a lifetime? Don’t panic! – Check out your options and we’ll make it happen…

Special volunteering offers:

We are very excited to have some extra spaces on our animal volunteering projects with bears in Romania and turtles in Costa Rica. To reflect this we are currently offering some extra motivation to get more people on these projects:

  •  Bears: Save £50 on trips of 2 weeks and £100 on trips of 4 weeks taken before 30th September 2014.
  •  Turtles: Save £50 on trips of 2 weeks and £100 on trips of 4 weeks between July 1 and December 15th 2014.

Quick decision departures available- last minute or forward planning options:

Immediate departures available…

Imminent departures available…

  • Volunteer at the wildlife sanctuary in Thailand for 2 weeks or more from July 27th onwards.
  • Diving in Thailand on our marine conservation project from July 21st onwards.
  • Volunteer with sharks in South Africa for at least 2 weeks from June 30th onwards.
  • Coach sports or teach kids in South Africa for 5 weeks starting on May 17th or for 5 weeks starting July 19th 2014.

Longer term projects:

  • Get paid work on an Outback farm in Australia for up to 12 months- availability from April 24th onwards.
  • Get paid work in the city of Sydney for up to 12 months- arrivals on the first Sunday of each month from April 24th onwards.
  • Volunteer in Tanzania, Nepal, Brazil and Chile with flexible dates all year round.

If you are interested in any of our projects and have a specific date in mind, do get in touch. Animal welfare placements run all year round and we have great availability at most times.

For more information give us a call on 0044 1892 770 771 or drop us an email on to organise your last minute gap year plans

last minute gap year, career break and holiday with a difference options

My experience volunteering in Brasov, Romania

Childcare volunteer in Romania

My experience volunteering in Brasov, Romania…

My experience in Brasov, Romania was short (3 weeks) but fulfilling – and I wished I could’ve stayed longer!

Though there was the language barrier between me and the children, this didn’t discourage either them or me to communicate and play together, and the fun we had wasn’t diminished – though it helped I knew a few words in Romanian!

At an all girls orphanage, which I volunteered alternate afternoons with another orphanage for a couple hours, the girls were enthusiastic to play with me and the other volunteer, and enthusiastic to learn English as well as to speak it.

The staff at that orphanage were very welcoming and appreciative – even though I was only there around 7 hours a week. The other orphanage I volunteered at, on alternating afternoons with the one mentioned, was a mixture of boys and girls and a mixture of particular needs – some physical and some mental. This was a great learning experience for me, as I had never worked with children with autism or with those particular needs before.

Though this proved challenging at times, it was ‘rewarded’ by the fun we had together and the friendships made. Each morning I volunteered at a children’s hospital for three hours, where I played with children from a variety of ages – 1 year olds to 15 year olds. And the member of staff I was working with there made me feel welcome and valued, though I was only there for three weeks, and even now I remember all the conversations we had (she knew English very well). There was one particular child I bonded with there, who was 1 years old and had lung problems, After I started playing and talking with her one on one; she seemed to laugh, talk and play more than she did when I first met her.

For more information on Romania, check out our Romania webpage or email Anne at


New Rep in Tanzania: Welcome back Mads, farewell Tracey!

Oyster support in Tanzania

Tracey and Mads in Tanzania

It is with mixed feelings that today we announce a change of staff and our new rep in Tanzania. Whilst we are sorry to see Tracey leave the role, we are delighted to be able to re-appoint Mads to the role she held for 11 years.

Tracey has done an excellent job as the Oyster representative in Tanzania since 2011 and has been in a unique position of being a Tanzania volunteer and then becoming the representative! Tracey works full-time for a safari company in Arusha and has a young son. She has always been a busy lady but now, with a promotion at work, she has decided the time is right to hand over the responsibility of being the Oyster rep.

Since Tracey took on the role, we have developed our offering in Tanzania quite significantly:

  • We’ve formalised our relationship with a District Hospital and offer medical placements
  • We now include a day trip to local waterfalls,
  • Include a SIM card
  • Include a mosquito net
  • and give all volunteers a weekly food allowance

Those of you who went to Tanzania with Oyster before 2011 will know our ‘new’ rep very well indeed. Madeline Oosterhuis (Mads) originally helped Roger set up our programmes in Tanzania back in 1999 and worked as our rep for 11 years. Originally from New Zealand, in 2011 Mads thought that she would be moving back home so handed the role over to Tracey. Very soon after she handed over the role, the plans to move back to New Zealand changed and Mads has remained in Arusha, secretly waiting to take on the role again.

Tanzania rep meets Oyster Director

Mads with Roger on a recent visit to our office

When the opportunity to become the Oyster rep came up, Mads jumped at it and is really looking forward to getting to know our next batch of volunteers this summer and rebuild the links she had with the projects. We are excited to develop our Tanzania programmes even further over the coming months and harness Mads’ enthusiasm for having volunteers in Arusha.

Mads lives on the outskirts of town, within easy reach of the projects, with her Dutch husband, Ekko, and their four children.

We are now taking applications for our January 2015 departure so book early to secure your place! We have volunteer in Tanzania as a teacher, sports coach, medical intern or childcare assistant.

Thanks for everything Tracey and welcome back Mads!

My childcare volunteering experience in Romania

My childcare volunteering experience in Romania

My childcare volunteering experience in Romania…

Brasov is a magnificent, colourful, and charming city. I felt at home as soon as I arrived in Bucharest.

Razvan was extremely welcoming and helpful with providing information on our daily routine and tips for traveling around Romania when we had free time on the weekends.

This trip made me realise that the time spent with the children in Brasov was merely just scraping the outer edges of childcare, and how important it is that their health and education is provided for them.

The one month that I spent in Brasov went by with a blink of an eye. I spent the mornings at the children’s hospital in Amalia’s play room and the afternoons at two different care homes. The children are gorgeous and have wonderful smiles, although there was a language barrier it was highly enjoyable to play and have fun with the children.

All I can say is “multumesc” and that I will definitely be going back to Brasov in the near future.

My childcare volunteering experience in Romania

For more information on Romania, check out our Romania webpage or email Anne at


Game Ranger 2015 Course Dates

Oyster is pleased to offer an 8 week game ranger course in South Africa, designed to give you theoretical and practical training to become a qualified field guide.

The course takes place on a large game reserve, home to Africa’s Big 5 as well as many other species. It introduces you to the life of a game ranger, the animals on the reserve and the background knowledge of wildlife that is key to gaining this recognised qualification.

Departure dates for 2014 and 2015 include:

  • 9th June 2014
  • 11th August 2014
  • 13th October 2014
  • 30th March 2015
  • 8th June 2015
  • 10th August 2015
  • 12th October 2015

The first few weeks of the course focus on the general aspects of working in a game reserve. You will team up with other volunteers to gain exposure to the wildlife and get the chance to learn and understand the basics of life on a reserve. This includes:

  • lion tracking and monitoring
  • removal of alien vegetation in and around the reserve
  • planting of natural species
  • helping out with the predator breeding programme
  • wilderness trail walks and patrols
  • fence patrol
  • game counts
  • game captures
  • game drives
  • elephant sanctuary participation

After this participation, you will also receive regular lectures and training in preparation for the examination at the end of the 8 week course. These subjects include:

  • elephant sanctuary participation
  • geology
  • astronomy
  • weather and climate
  • basic ecology
  • taxonomy (wildlife idenitification)

Game Ranger 2015 Course Dates


You can find out more information by visiting our Game Ranger webpage or by contacting Anne on or on +44 (0) 1892 770 771


Two new cubs arrive at big 5 sanctuary

The big 5 project in South Africa is delighted to welcome two new orphaned lion cubs to the rehabilitation family.

Under unfortunate circumstances these cubs were not receiving the appropriate care by their mother due to complications at birth. The difficult decision was made to remove the cubs temporally to provide them with the proper care they need to survive. Once the cubs are of the right age and health they will then be reunited with their mum!

The big 5 project has been running successfully for several years including the rehabilitation of animals, which have once again been able to roam free in their natural environment. This is due to the specialised team who have a great deal of experience in this area.

Our volunteers have seen first hand the valuable work the big 5 staff do. The volunteers even assist the talented staff in lion tracking, monitoring, care, interaction and general animal management.

Amy Youngman, 2 weeks January 2014

 “This was everything I wanted and even more. I was so surprised how close we got to the animals and how much we could get involved with everything. Everyone was so lovely. For me it was a life changing experience which really opened my eyes to animal conservation and the damage humans cause to the enviroment, and also how other people live. Getting so close to wild animals and watching them in the natural habbitat was something I always wanted to do so it has been a dream come true and even better than I ever thought. I would like to thank everyone at Oyster and the reserve for the best 2 weeks of my life!”

Two new cubs arrive at big 5 sanctuary

For more information on our big 5 project visit our webpage or contact Anne on +44 (0) 1892 771975 or by email:


Monkey Planet

I am a huge fan of nature and wildlife documentaries so when I saw the BBC trailers for ‘Monkey Planet‘ I was giddy with excitement. I find monkeys fascinating and enjoy finding out more information that can help me to understand them more.

Monkey Planet


The first episode ‘Meet the Family’ showed the great range of primates and how they have adapted to environments across the planet. I was amazed by how many primates are out there (which I had no idea about!) but also that sloths and lemurs are considered primates themselves!

The second episode ‘Family Matters’ was brilliant! Again, the documentary showed a range of primates and how they operate and communicate in a different ways, but they do so as a family. The episode highlighted that the key to their survival in the wild is the close-knit relationships.

The primates that particularly stood out to me were the vervet monkeys in South Africa. This is for several reasons the main one being Oyster has a project in South Africa which works with the vervet monkeys but also how clever they are as a family.

During the episode Dr George McGavin (presenter of the series) plays vervet monkey audio ‘callings’ off his phone which reveled amazing results! It turns out the vervet monkeys have a refined alarm system to warn others of predators. He showed a few examples which were extraordinary, he played the alarm for snakes and in an instant the monkeys all stood up and looked towards the ground, he then played an alarm for bird predators where they all jumped for the trees and placed themselves deep within branches to protect them from birds which could swoop in from different directions.

He went on to explain this alarm system only works through trust between the monkeys and learning from each other. This starts from birth. Like humans, primates are one of the only other animals to care for their babies for a long period of time. The babies initially need close interaction this is where they learn and understand the trust element. As they get older they become more curious and this is where the learning element comes into play. They observe their fellow families behavior, and begin to leave their mothers side were they play and interact.

Monkey PlanetAfter watching this I realised more so than ever before how valuable Oyster’s South Africa monkey project is. The centre cares for orphaned vervet monkeys and the volunteers act as a surrgant parent where they bottle feed them as they snuggle up in their arms just like they would with their natural mother. The volunteers also spend time with the older monkeys encouraging them to play and interact with each other, just like they would in the wild. Once a family unit is established the human interaction is gradually decreased and thus begins the rehabilitation process to get them back out into the wild, where they will hopefully go on to live a happy and normal life as seen on the documentary.

The third and final episode ‘Master Minds’ showed Dr George McGavin exploring the incredible minds of primates and highlighting just how intelligent they all are. This included the way the use tools for example the long tail Macaque will use human hair as floss to clean their teeth, apes using sticks to retrieve honey from trees and others using rocks to crack open nuts and shellfish for food.

However, Dr George McGavin argues that primate intelligence goes beyond working out how to use tools and that it actually emotion that really separates primate intelligence from other animals. The episode displayed rhesus macaques climbing a very tall building and jumping into a water trough to play, show-off and for the mere adrenalin rush. The episode also showed apes showing sympathy/empathy for one another if hurt and monkeys also lying / tricking each other in order to gain an advantage during feeding time.

The third episode also showed Orangutans and revealed that Orangutans will stay with their mothers for up to 10 years! During this time they will learn skills to survive including how to climb, what they can eat and how they can eat. But Dr George McGavin pointed out the sad truth that due to hunters and cutting down forests many Orangutans are being killed, including mothers who need to pass on their crucial knowledge to their young. But thanks to rehabilitation projects (like our own Orangutan project in Borneo) humans are helping to save this fascinating species from the brink of extinction.

If you would like to see the episodes you can watch them on iPlayer now.

Monkey Planet













To find out more about our monkey rehabilitation project in South Africa visit our webpage and check out our monkey blog for reviews and updates. If you have any questions you can contact Anne the destination manager on +44 (0) 1892 771975 or by email:


Coach sports in South Africa and witness kids excel

Coach sports in South Africa and witness kids excell

Each year Oyster sends groups of volunteers to South Africa to bring sports to the children of Port Elizabeth’s townships. The majority of these schools do not have the facilities nor the resources for teaching physical education, and as such our international volunteers are able to help with development in these areas.

On an annual basis about 20,000 school children are reached in the sports coaching and teaching programmes.  Our volunteers work hard not only to coach sports to them, but also to help them develop the skills of team work, motivation and confidence.

Each year we see several of these children really excelling in the sports that they do. Annual funding allows for about 100 of these children to earn a scholarship at a secondary school in the area, something which is usually far beyond the budget of most township families.

In addition to this opportunity, a food outreach programme is run so that each of the children on this programme can receive at least one meal a day so that they are fit and healthy to participate in the extra demands of formal education and sports practice. Oyster have been delighted to sponsor many of these children on this food programme.

We were delighted to hear back from one of the kids who achieved a scholarship at a local secondary school for her outstanding efforts and achievements in netball.

Lindiwe grew up in a township on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth where she was brought up by her older sister. Due to her determination and motivation, Lindiwe was awarded a scholarship for high school in 2011. This was a huge jump up for her from her very modest primary school in the township. Whilst the first term at the school proved to be very difficult due to the huge difference in education and competition, her dedication soon shone through.  Her results started to improve as she began spending extra time on her homework, attended extra classes and spent her weekends dedicated to reading. She is now a member of the debate team and also represents the school using her netball talent.

She has worked hard and now has the ambition is to become a Lawyer and has even applied to four of the top Universities in South Africa. She will be the first in her family and even the first within our groups to reach this goal.

We wish her the best of luck for the future and would like to thank all our volunteers for their support and contribution to the children’s self-esteem and talents.

Coach sports in South Africa and witness kids excell

To find out more visit our South Africa sports programme webpage or you can contact Anne the destination manager on +44 (0) 1892 771975 or by email:


A day in MAX4 – ski lessons for adults, where less is definitely more!

Julie has recently returned from Whistler with high recommendations for Whistler Blackcomb’s Max4 Lessons for adults. If you like the idea of doing a ski season but have no previous experience or maybe your planning to visit a friend or family member who is doing a ski season and your worried you will not keep up,  read on…


My experience as a childcare volunteer in Romania

My experience as childcare volunteer in Romania

My experience as a childcare volunteer in Romania

This year I travelled to Romania to engage in volunteer work with children, having no idea what to expect…

I spent the majority of my month abroad volunteering at a small Family home in the city of Gimbav, the centre specialising in children with criminal backgrounds, behavioural issues, and much more – often coming from gypsy families, meaning they are extremely uneducated and in some cases, even emotionally and physically neglected.

I found that while the other volunteers and I were there, the children were ecstatic to have us come and hang out with them. They were content to have us just sit and do bubble writing with them all day if we could have, and the only thing hard to handle about the work was spreading your attention out evenly, as all the children wanted to talk to you all the time.

Leaving the Family home was probably the most challenging experience of my volunteer journey.

I would highly recommend volunteering in Romania with the children, it’s a worthwhile cause that not only benefits the kids, but the volunteers as well.

My experience as a childcare volunteer in Romania

For more information on Romania, check out our Romania webpage or email Anne at


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