All through this year, Vile Parle resident Natasha Zarine will save up for a return airfare to Ecuador. When she lands there in early 2013, a local non-government organisation (NGO) that works for tribals will take care of her accommodation and food. In exchange, the 24-year-old law student will teach English to tribal children.
“Living in a tribal village is the best way to experience the Amazon forest,” said Zarine, who first explored the idea of volunteering during a vacation to the Andaman Islands last year where she worked with an environmental organisation. “That trip compelled me to enroll for a course in law to pursue legal issues related to the environment,” she said.
Though the concept of working on charitable causes on vacations — better known as voluntourism — is widely popular in foreign countries, a few but growing number of travellers from Mumbai are opting for it.
Last April, Bandra resident Anusha Babbar, 31, took a break from her family business, and headed to an organic farm in Puduchery. There, she worked as a farm worker, made pots and learned how to make a vegetable garden at the Auroville botanical garden. Her subsequent vacation was at the Madras Crocodile Bank that works towards the conservation of reptiles.
“There are two such places in Kerala and Karnataka on my list for the future vacations,” she said.
The growing interest has made tourism boards include voluntourism in Indian brochures. Last month, the South African tourism board began a campaign to promote the concept in India. “Voluntourism is an amazing way of getting people to know the roots of a country,” said Hanneli Slabber, country head, South African Tourism-India.
The board is offering an array of tours wherein travellers can contribute to penguin conservation, work with HIV infected children or help impoverished farmers grow food.