Diary of a Cultural Volunteerist

There is a new trend growing in the realm of cultural tourism. This trend is the movement cultural travel into cultural volunteerism. What exactly is cultural volunteerism? It can be volunteering within a variety of different spectrums. If your interest is agriculture, then it might be assisting in developing water systems. If you passion is science, then it might be going half way around the world to the Dubai Desert to assist in the Conservation Reserve.  Volunteering draws you intimately into a cultural context of people, place, language, topagraphy and other cultural ingredients.  This is a unique way for the cultural traveler to venture out into the world.Nick Leech gives a great testimony of what it is like to travel as a voluntourist:

I begin to wonder about my own operational limits, but there is simply too much else to see and learn for anybody in the car to dwell on the incident. I have joined a group of six international “voluntourists”, each of whom has paid £980 (Dh5,650) for the privilege, on the first UAE project organised by Biosphere Expeditions, a UK-based not-for-profit company that organises international conservation holidays. They provide cash-rich, time-poor “voluntourists” with the opportunity to “give something back” by contributing their cash, time, and labour toward serious scientific research in the field. My group has come to the DDCR to help observe three of Arabia’s most endangered desert species: Gordon’s wildcat, the Arabian oryx, and Macqueen’s Bustard.

The Dubai Conservation Reserve has a beautiful web site with lots of information about the Reserve.  Volunteering in the desert comes with all kinds of terrain, flora and fauna. A more descriptive explanation of the experience in the desert  can be found here.

This environment volunteer project will take you to the iconic sandy desert landscape of the Arabian Peninsula. Working alongside scientists from the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, you will be part of a small international team, monitoring Arabian oryx, Gordon’s wildcat and other desert species. From a comfortable oasis field camp you will venture out in the expedition Land Rovers and on foot to study oryx behaviour and social structures, camera- and live-trap Gordon’s wildcat and monitor Macqueen’s bustard by radio and GPS telemetry. All this because the three main study species are on the IUCN Red list and the expedition’s work will help to ensure the survival of the species in the wild.

This is cultural travel with a purpose. Seeing the desert species of the Arabian desert might just be a once in a lifetime event for the cultural traveler. Dubai is a rich and wonderful culture that is nestled right in the middle of the desert. Whether you interests are in the realm of science, nature, culture, or art, Dubai has it all. Read everything here.


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