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Written by Alice McLeod on 29 / 03 / 2023

Gap Year Advice

Finding the world's rarest animals

Step into a world of wonder and conservation as we invite you to embark on a journey like no other – one that takes you into the heart of nature's most elusive and extraordinary creatures. Our meticulously crafted gap year programmes offer an opportunity to witness some of the world's rarest animals in their undisturbed natural habitats, fostering a connection that goes beyond sightseeing. These unique wildlife conservation projects not only promise unmatched experiences but also provide a chance to play an active role in the preservation of these invaluable species. Join us as we dive into a realm where adventure meets purpose, and where encountering the planet's rarest animals becomes a reality.

Black Rhino

What is it? The black rhino are considered critically endangered by the WWF, with a population of fewer than 7000. Rhinos are some of the oldest groups of mammals, and the black rhino are smaller than their white rhino counterparts, and have two horns. Sadly, these creatures are valuable targets for poachers, who hunt them for their horns, which are used in traditional medicines. Between 1960 and 1995 black rhino numbers dropped a staggering 98% at the hands of European hunters and settlers.

How and where can you spot one? Black rhino occur throughout southern and eastern Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.


What is it? Jaguars are the largest big cat species found in the Americas, and the third largest in the world. They're great swimmers and are mostly solitary, favouring tropical and subtropical forests, wetlands, and wooded regions. The biggest threats to jaguars habitat loss and poaching, with the population having decreased by 20-25% since the mid-1990s.

How and where can you spot one? Jaguars can be found from Mexico all the way through Central America and down to South America. If you join the Costa Rica Adventure programme then you might have the opportunity to volunteer at the Natuwa wildlife sanctuary, which houses, amongst many other species, jaguars.


What is it? This funny little animal often gets mistaken for a reptile, but they're actually scaly-skinned mammals. When pangolins are in danger they can roll into a ball exploding only their tough scales, protecting them from predators. Sadly the biggest threat to pangolins is humans, as pangolin meat is considered a delicacy, and its scales are used in traditional medicine, meaning their population is in decline and two pangolin species are listed as critically endangered.

How and where can you spot one? There are eight different pangolin species found in forests and grasslands over two continents - Asia and Africa. If you'd like to spot one on your gap year then you'll want to head to Vietnam, where the teams spend a week volunteering at Save Vietnam's Wildlife sanctuary, which is host to a huge number of rescued animals including pangolins.

Philippine Crocodile

What is it? The Philippine crocodile is a freshwater crocodile, which lives in lakes, ponds and marshes. Because many of these habitats have been converted into rice paddies, the number of Philippine crocodiles is rapidly dwindling and the animal has also suffered from hunting and destructive fishing methods, such as the use of dynamite.

How and where can you spot one? The Philippine crocodile is a relatively small species, which generally does not grow larger than 3 metres, with a relatively broad snout and heavy dorsal armour. It is endemic to the Philippine islands, meaning it can not be found anywhere else in the world.

Hawksbill Turtle

What is it? The Hawksbill turtle is one of the seven species of marine turtles and is found in nearshore tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, the Indian, and the Pacific Ocean. In the last 30 years, the worldwide populations of hawksbill turtles have reduced by at least 80% as a consequence of accidental capture in fishing gears, plastic pollution, nesting habitat degradation, coral reef damage and the illegal trade of hawksbill shells and products, leading them to be labeled as critically endangered.

How and where can you spot one? Keen to spot turtles? Our Costa Rica Plastic Oceans programme has a large focus on turtle conservation. From working in the hatcheries to cleaning up the plastic that gets washed up on the beach and poses a risk to these amazing animals, you'll be doing your bit to help conservation efforts. Turtle season is March - November, although turtles can be seen year-round.

The Andean Condor

What is it? The Andean Condor is the largest flying bird in the world by combined measurement of weight and wingspan, with a maximum wingspan of 10ft 10inches and weight of 15kg. Generally considered to be the largest bird of prey in the world, it is primarily a scavenger that feeds on carrion. The Andean Condor plays an important role in the folklore and mythology of the Andean regions, yet it remains vulnerable to habitat loss and secondary poisoning from lead in carcasses killed by humans.

How and where can you spot one? As the name suggests, and Andean Condor can be found in the Andes and Santa Marta Mountains. It is extremely rare in Colombia, but can be found in Peru so if you join our team programmes to either of these countries then keep your eyes peeled.

How to get involved with animal conservation on your gap year

If animals are something that interest you then check out our team programmes that focus on conservation. Not only will you have the chance to see these animals up close and personal, but you can have a hand in preserving these amazing animals for generations to come. Whether it's cleaning up beaches in Costa Rica or rebuilding coral reefs in Kenya, if wildlife is your bag then we can match you up with a programme that will tick off all you're looking to do on your gap year. Unsure where to start? Get in touch and speak to one of our friendly team.

Want to see these animals for yourself?

For the chance to see these animals yourself check out our team volunteer programmes, many of which have an element of wildlife conservation.

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