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Israel - Desert Wildlife Program

Join this unique wildlife conservation program in the spectacular desert landscape of the Arava, and help to re-populate the nature reserve with the region's native species!



Fast Facts

Location of ProjectArava Desert, 50km north of Eilat, Israel
Project LengthMin 2 weeks - Max 8 weeks
Arrival AirportTel Aviv, Ben Gurion
Volunteer WorkFeeding animals and cleaning habitats, maintenance, observations and data collection
Number of ParticipantsUp to 8 international volunteers
Age18 - 45
Age Exceptions This project will consider applications from volunteers over the age of 45 with medical clearance

What's Included

AccommodationShared apartment on the reserve
FoodBasic groceries are provided
SupportLocal in-country team and 24hr emergency support
Transportation Public bus from Jerusalem to Reserve (one way)
Orientation GoEco volunteer and travel orientation in Jerusalem
Pre-Departure Kit Full project details will be sent following registration
Health Insurance Comprehensive health insurance for volunteering in Israel

What's Not Included

Flights, airport transfer to Jerusalem (budget around $20), return public transportation from project (budget around $20), personal expenses.


The Negev is a desert region that covers the southern half of Israel. The least populated area in Israel, it is home to a wide variety of people such as the nomadic desert people known as the Bedouin as well as unique Israeli wildlife. The wildlife reserve is located in the dramatically scenic Arava Valley, which is part of the Negev. 


About the Project

As part of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (NPA), the wildlife reserve’s mission is to protect endangered desert animal populations, preserve the native wildlife, and educate the public about the desert and its inhabitants.  This unique area encompasses a variety of arid terrains, including acacia groves, salt-flats, and sand. The reserve features a three-acre penned-in area for herbivores to roam in conditions similar to the wild. In addition, visitors can make their way to the Predators Center, with an impressive array of reptiles, small desert animals, and large predators, and the Desert Night Life Exhibition Hall to observe nocturnal animals during their active hours.


Orientation in Jerusalem

Your volunteer adventure will start off with a GoEco orientation at a fantastic hostel in the center of Jerusalem. The orientation is a great way to meet fellow volunteers and travelers from around the world and includes the following:

  • Volunteer preparation and travel directions to the program
  • Expert advice for traveling in Israel during and after your volunteer placement
  • Walking tour of Jerusalem, including the Old City and the famous Machane Yehuda market
  • Discount card to experience Jerusalem's vibrant nightlife
  • 1 night dorm accommodation and breakfast (private rooms available for extra price)

The GoEco orientation will begin at 10:30 AM on arrival day. The next morning, you will travel to your volunteer project with public transportation. Full travel details to Jerusalem and the project will be provided upon registration.


Volunteer Work and Contribution

During the project, you will become an integral part of the staff at the wildlife reserve. Your duties may include the following:

  • Preparing food and feeding animals
  • Cleaning and maintaining reserve facilities
  • Accompanying & assisting park rangers
  • Constructing enrichment facilities

A typical day: Your volunteer day will start around 7am as you prepare food for the animals and ensure that each is fed appropriately. Afterwards, you will work on a special project which could range from a game drive through the park to maintenance on an enclosure. Your work day will finish around 2pm at which point you will be taken back to the volunteer house for some rest and relaxation.Fridays and Saturdays are free days.


Living Arrangements

Accommodations: you will stay in a basic house on the reserve grounds in shared, single sex rooms with 2 bunk-beds and a big closet. There is a shared bathroom with a hot water boiler and both the bedrooms and living room are equipped with air-conditioning. The house has a fridge and fully functioning kitchen plus a TV, computer and WiFi for your use.  There is also filtered water at the house and a washing machine. 

Food:  You will have the chance to go grocery shopping with the rangers once a week and cook for yourself in the kitchen of the volunteer house. The amount of food provided is, for many volunteers, sufficient; however, it does not include sweets. You may purchase these goods with your own funds, or go out to eat at local restaurants. There is also a kiosk to buy snacks on the reserve. If you expect to eat out frequently or purchase supplemental goods, we recomment to budget around $80 per week.

Internet: WiFi is available at the volunteer house.

Laundry: A washing machine is available at the volunteer house.

Important note: the reserve and accommodations are located a 45 minute walk from the nearest bus stop. Occasionally, rangers and park employees can give you a lift to the bus stop but you should not expect this on a regular basis.  The reserve is quite isolated so you will be spending a lot of your free time with the rangers and other volunteers.  However, there is an opportunity for you to go with the staff to Eilat every Sunday where you can shop tax-free and buy your groceries. 


Travel Highlights

The international beach resort of Eilat is only 50 kilometers away (price to / from Eilat by bus is about $5), if volunteers want to enjoy some snorkeling, go to an internet cafe, or enjoy the vibrant night life.  For those that want to see the rest of the country, it is easy to use public transportation and explore Tel Aviv or the north of Israel and no trip would be complete without a mud bath and float in the Dead Sea. 


Minimum Requirements

  • Min age 18 - Max age 50
  • Volunteers 40+ must provide medical clearance
  • High level of independence
  • Basic English
  • Good physical fitness
  • Motivation to work with animals
  • Able to handle extreme heat from June - September

Here's an excerpt of Annika's experience:


"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."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!

Here's an excerpt of Naomi's experience:


"The reserve is a safari where ostriches, oryxes, Addaxes and donkeys live and a place which looks like a zoo, where animals are in cages (raptures, vultures, owls, porcupines, lizards, turtles, snakes, foxes, fennecs, jackals, hyenas, wolves, parakeets, caracals, leopards, sand cats, wild cats, sand rats….).The volunteers’ apartment is next to the safari (we can see the ostriches everyday), but we have to cross the safari to go to the place where we work (about 10 min by car)."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!

Here's an excerpt of Kayla's experience:


"The program was such a learning experience. Each day was different with different tasks to complete. The rangers were very patient and taught how to do each task well that was given. They made sure that I was comfortable with what I was doing and if not then they made it an option to do something different. Practically the only thing that was the same was feeding the animals each morning and cleaning enclosures of either the desert night life or the predators. After that was completed, each person would start on other tasks that were given to them."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!

Here's an excerpt of Cynthia's experience:


"It was amazing to watch the animals' individual habits and how they expressed themselves. Each had their own personality. A lot of time was spent fixing enclosures and fixtures for the animals but it was rewarding to see them move from smaller enclosures to larger fixtures with more space and room for them to live and thrive that is more similar to the wild. Almost every night a ranger would come ask us if we wanted to join for the night feeding. It was so great to feed the animals at night.."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!


Here's an excerpt of Andrea's experience:


"We got to set a falcon free, watch amazing felines devour calve legs, run around with a playful fox and have deep and fun conversations with the rangers. It was one of the best experiences I've ever had and would recommend volunteering in Israel with wildlife to anyone who doesn't mind getting dirty and is up for hard work."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!

Here's an excerpt of Deborah's experience:


"The team at the Desert Wildlife program is fantastic. The banter was brilliant and I felt very at ease with all of them straight away. I loved the fact that each member of staff injected their own love and passion for their work and that rubbed off onto the volunteers as well. Every day was a day of learning something new whether it was about an individual animal’s diet or how a specific species would live free in the wild."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!


Here's an excerpt of Felix's experience:

  "I always wanted to visit Israel, it is such a beautiful country, it’s multicultural, multi-faith, and the amazing people there really attract me. Israel as a desert country contains an extreme diverse flora and fauna; this is due to its geographical location. Israel is situated between the Arabian Peninsula and Africa, therefore Asian and African species have mixed together and evolved into many endemic species that are only found in Israel. !"

Read the rest of his story on the GoEco blog!


Here's an excerpt of Henrik's experience:

  "Every volunteer could contribute to the Long Term Wildlife Program as much as they wanted to. I worked hard, becoming a part of the daily work. The tasks were various and ranged from looking after the animals to general maintenance. I was glad to do the given jobs and happy that the staff often let me find my own way to do it, but were always at hand to help when questions came up."

Read the rest of his story on the GoEco blog!


Here's an excerpt of Yan's experience:

  "Who hasn’t wanted to take some time off from life’s routine and escape to a new and different place, free of stress and filled with new experiences; to find a break from the monotony of everyday life. It is tragic that so often in our lives we are not aware of the wonder all around us and that we don’t always need to travel across continents to experience satisfaction and happiness..."

Read the rest of his story on the GoEco blog!

Check out our Volunteer Blog at blog.goeco.org to read experiences written by GoEco volunteers from all over the world!


"I had the most amazing time on this placement. I could never have asked for friendlier more easy going people to work with, and they made me feel welcome from the moment that I started there. Staying on the nature reserve was beautiful and waking up every morning to the most beautiful views never got boring and I was so envious of the people who live there.
Working with animals that I have only ever seen on telly was fascinating. I will take so much from this experience, I took part in a range of different activities from cleaning and feeding the animals to more hands on activities such as washing Birds of prey (that had ben injured) then getting them rehabilitated to the wild. I also improved and helped design some enclosures. This experience was all I could have asked for. "

-Philipa, UK, 2011

"Working next to the animals every day... seeing that each one of them had an individual personality was breathtaking. The leopards were fierce, sleek and playful, the wolves invincible and totally dependent on each other all at once, and the tortoises - they will never finish last in my mind."

-Lena, Australia, 2010

"I chose the wildlife preserve project because it was something different. I have been to Israel many times before and the last thing I wanted was a beech holiday, I wanted to experience the real and unique part of Israel. The project was indeed an incredible and unique experience. The people at the preserve made me and my fellow volunteers feel so welcomed. They treated us as one of their own (colleagues) and that was very important to me. Because I study architecture, they had me designing and building the new cat sanctuaries which was a great honor and experience for me. I felt that the work I was doing was actually contributing to the preserve. I really did have an amazing 3 weeks, so much so that I stayed on for an extra few days before my flight home. If I have the opportunity I would love to go back to Yotvata".

-Jodie, USA, 2009

"Being in this terrific place in the desert, far away from the city, doing physical work together with other people, sharing experiences, doing things I have never done before in my life, the smiling and open faces of the staff of the reserve- they were always open for our questions, gave us many opportunities to get to know new things, explained how they live in the desert and about the animals etc. - they were great personalities and always ready to show us what they do and participate in it!. And my favorite activity was cutting the meat! It was also nice to help in the kitchen preparing food for animals and the other volunteers, cleaning cages and feeding, seeing the open area, cleaning the places in and around hai bar- this was very nice! It was also great that we could enter the other sites in Israel of the Natural Reserves (En Gedi, Coral Reef etc.) for free- this made us really feel a part of the whole and we were proud to be volunteers!"

-Agnieszka, Poland, 2009


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