Some of the most fulfilling and enriching experiences that we can have in our lives are when we help others, the environment or species which share the earth with us. Here are three luxury holidays where you can make a difference and you can enjoy experiences that will touch your heart.
Stay in the classy 4 star CasaMagna, with its lovely meandering grounds, infinity ocean front pool, excellent 22,000 foot spa and help the baby sea turtles. The CasaMagna has four world class restaurants, including a good Japanese restaurant. As you’re in Mexico, you may want to sample some tequila and this resort is one of the few in the world which grows agave azul on its land to make its own brand of tequila.
As part of the family program, called “Secretos de la Familia” (Secrets of the Family), guests can take part in the Baby Sea Turtle Rescue Program. This program celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2012; it is carried out in accordance with procedures established by the Marine Biology Station of the University of Guadalajar and the National Institute of Fisheries.
Guests can learn more about this endangered species with a local biologist and take part in grooming the beach surface so that the Mother turtles will have a good surface on which to lay their eggs. The turtle season runs from June to December, and there is an incubation nursery at the resort. Turtle eggs are gathered by staff, to ensure their safety, and brought to the nursery, where they will hatch 45 days later. Every evening at the beach at 7.30 pm baby sea turtles are released. Traditionally each child that releases a baby turtle, names it and wishes it luck as it is set free.
The Baby Sea Turtle Rescue Program has had marvellous results since its inception, with a total of around 293,000 turtles being released into the sea, and in 2011 alone 47,385 turtles were released.
This is a two week luxury taste of volunteering, in Costa Rica, where the locals are considered to rate highest out of 143 countries on the “Happiness Index.” The main saying there, which is used under various circumstances, is Pura Vida (pure life).
The suggested itinerary starts off at a luxury boutique eco-accommodation. You’ll be staying on Francisco’s coffee plantation, which is situated on the hills outside San José. Francisco is super passionate about coffee and he will take you on a tour of his plantation, where you can learn some fascinating facts about coffee production.
The volunteering experiences on this holiday include helping to preserve the bio-diversity of the country’s wildlife and assisting with the preparation of seedlings for reforestation. As you prepare the seedlings you will be working alongside the happy locals, who are known as Ticos.
A vet and his son have set up a rescue centre for orphaned, injured or illegally traded animals and this is where you can be involved in helping them. You may find yourself taking part in the daily care of animals or helping with the maintenance of the facilities. You may be part of evaluating recent arrivals, introducing them to their new living habitat and you might be involved in the wonderful moment when they are ready to be liberated. All guests including children can get close to the animals. Species include owls, macaws, parrots, kinkajous, sloths, raccoons and different types of monkeys.
The trip is packed with highlights; on the second day you will stay at luxury accommodation in Torgtugero, where at night depending on the season (best is July to August) you will go on a walk to see the giant sea turtles and their babies. Other highlights include white water rafting at Pacuare, where you also enjoy massage and horse riding at the Pacuare Lodge and there is a leisure day at the hot springs at Arenal. The holiday has been blended to have a fine balance between volunteering, relaxing and wonderful experiences. It can also be tailored to suit your requirements.
In Rajasthan you can stay in a former palace in Deogarh and spend your days helping at a local primary school, where the students aged from 6 to 14 all come from families who are living below the poverty line.
After a day of volunteering you will be at the luxurious palace which is both beautiful and impressive, and has historic suites of over 330 years old. Grand and quirky at the same time, you can get lost in the maze of courtyards and corridors. What makes the Deogarh Mahal even more special is the fact that it is run by the current Maharadja (Indian Prince) who brings heaps of enthusiasm to his work. The result is that the staff are impeccable yet you have the feeling that you are at home. It has a special atmosphere.
The volunteering will include helping the teachers in various ways; teaching English, IT skills and lesson planning. What is wonderful about this project is that it is visionary for this part of the world. Regardless of their social background all children are treated equally and the predominant teaching method is learning through creative play, which is an excellent method. At the time of writing, the school only has a few books, 4 teachers, 1 computer and not enough chairs for the 160 students.
This volunteering has the potential to be extremely rewarding, however the school is basic and volunteers should feel comfortable to go with the flow of being creative and playful with the children. However watch out, as their enthusiasm and that of the staff can be contagious!
The creature comforts at the Deogarh Majal include a gym, jacuzzi, swimming pool and you can even catch the latest Bollywood release at the cinema. You will get three meals and drinking water each day. Local home-grown ingredients are used to create the Mewari dishes as much as possible. The volunteering holiday is for four weeks, and like the other volunteering experiences, it has the potential to touch your heart.
Jackie de Burca is Co-owner of Holiday Home Advice.