Is Biosphere Expeditions the most decorated volunteer organisation on the planet?

We reckon this must be so. Just look at the list of awards & accolades below!

Let us know if you know of another volunteer non-profit with that many awards.



Biosphere Expeditions has won the following awards (our definition of “award” is a process that requires an entry via an application form and where a winner is chosen on a competitive basis by a judging panel).


World Travel and Tourism Council

World Travel and Tourism Council Tourism For Tomorrow Awards: Finalist in the “Environment” category (international award scheme)  


First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards

First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards: Winner of the “Best Volunteering Organisation” award (international award scheme based in the UK)  


Skål International Sustainable Tourism Awards

Skål International Sustainable Tourism Awards: Winner of the category “Countryside and wildlife” (international award scheme)


  UIAA Mountain Protection Award

UIAA Mountain Protection Award: Winner of the category “Best Initiative” (international award scheme)  

Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards

Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards: Highly commended in the categories “Best for Protection of Endangered Species” and “Best Volunteering Organisation” (international award scheme based in the UK)  



EcoTrophea: Finalist in the category “environmental protection and social responsibility in tourism” (international award scheme based in Germany)  


Reef Check

Reef Check Awards: Our executive director is made a “Hero of the Reef” for services to coral reef conservation worldwide (international award scheme based in the USA)  



Best Volunteering Holidays Award: Award by (international award scheme based in the USA)  



Future 50 Award: Our Executive Director, Dr. Matthias Hammer, is named in the Future 50 class of “ones to watch” (UK award scheme based in Norfolk)  



Best Practice and Environmental Excellence Award: From Greenstop.Net, who assess eco-friendly practices and responsible tourism (international award scheme based in the UK)  


SealSkinz Extreme Award

SealSkinz X-treme Award: Winner (UK award scheme)  



Website Award from the publishers of the Encyclopedia Britannica  



Biosphere Expeditions has also won the following accolades (our definition of “accolade” is a listing, usually through an editorial process, which does not require an application).


National Geographic

National Geographic “100 places that will change your life” accolade for Costa Rica expedition; National Geographic Adventurer “Best New Trip” accolade for Slovakia expedition.


BBC Wildlife

“Top Wildlife Conservation Holiday” for Sumatra expedition; “Top Ten Conservation Holiday” for Altai expedition.


Conde Nast Gold List

Our Tien Shan expedition is honoured on Condé Nast Traveller’s “Gold List” of “the world’s most extraordinary travel experiences”


Condé Nast

Our Armenia expedition is honoured on Condé Nast Traveller’s list of “Ten of the world’s most admirable voluntourism trips that will actually make a difference”


Travel + Leisure

“Best Adventure Outfitter” and “Best Save-the-Earth Trip” listings


Wall Street Journal

“Best Volunteer Travel” for Namibia expedition



“Unforgettable Travel Adventure (Unvergessliches Reiseabenteuer)” for taster days and Honduras expedition

“Top Responsible Holiday” for Amazonia expedition


Travel with a mate

“Best Volunteer Dive Organisation” (international online magazine)



Biosphere Expeditions makes it on “The Go List” for “novel vacations”; “Trip of the Year” for Maldives expedition


Endless Vacation

“Best Trip that Offers a Way Back” for Malaysia expedition



“Great Humanitarian Travel Option” for Amazonia expedition



“Top 25 Wildlife Conservation Blogs” for our blog


Get Lost!

“30 Great Escapes / Best Adventure Trips on the Planet” for Slovakia expedition; “Top Trips: Great small group adventure across the globe” for Arabia expedition.


The Independent

“Best Holiday for Green-Minded Travellers” for experience days; “Top Ten Outdoor Pursuits” for Altai & Azores expeditions; “Best Desert Adventure Holiday” for Arabia expedition; “Best Activity and Adventure Break” for Musandam expedition; “Best Volunteer Career Break” for Brazil expedition; “Best for the Wild at Heart” for Slovakia expedition.

“Life-changing volunteering trip” for Tien Shan expedition


The Guardian

“Ten Best Wildlife Volunteering Holidays” for Oman expedition; “Ten Best Wildlife Holidays in Europe” for Azores expedition.



“Most satisfying trip of the year” for Altai expedition



“Top Holiday For Nature” listing in the category “Where can I do something for nature during my holidays?” (Wo kann man im Urlaub etwas für die Natur tun?)



“The 50 greatest wildlife holidays on Earth” for South Africa expedition; “Twenty of the world’s greatest adventures” for Brazil expedition; “50 amazing wildlife adventures” for Musandam expedition; “Top 10 rare wildlife encounters” for Azores expedition


Business Insider

“Best Volunteer Vacation” for Namibia expedition


World Travel Guide

“Ethical experience” for Sumatra expedition, “10 of the best conservation holidays” for Slovakia and Malaysia expeditions


de Volkskrant

“Top Ten Ethical Operators” listing for Biosphere Expeditions


The National

 “World’s most interesting (and conservation-focused) wildlife trips” listing for Arabia expedition



“Top Rated Noprofit” listing for Biosphere Expeditions by


Status update January 2021 – Our expeditions strategy for 2021

There is now light at the end of the pandemic tunnel with vaccines being rolled out across the (mainly industrialised) world. However, restrictions are likely to be with us well into 2021 and beyond, and travel will only be possible gradually. This is mainly because vaccine rollout across industrialised countries will take over a year – and much longer in the developing world, for example an estimated two to three years in Africa. This means that we now expect it will still take some significant time until expeditions are up and running again, let alone back to something approaching normal. In fact, we do not expect operations to approach anything near normal until well into 2022, perhaps even later.

With all this in mind our strategy is now to take things (and expeditions) as they come and assess the feasibility of each expedition six to eight weeks before it is due to start. This, by the way, also meshes with scientific data on when it is best to purchase flights (70 days before departure). Anything else, we believe, would be unrealistic and unprofessional at this point. If this assessment changes, we will of course let you know. For the moment, however, it’s obvious that we are all in this same unpredictable boat together, albeit hopefully sailing into a brighter future and calmer waters.

Our next scheduled expedition is to the Azores, starting on 21 March. Our current strategy means that we will assess the feasibility of this expedition towards the end of January and let everyone know, including signed up expeditioners of course, whether it will run or be deferred.

On a side note, we of course realise that forward planning is very difficult at the moment. This is why we are handling signups and deferment very flexibly so that nobody misses or loses out. What this means in practice is described in detail here.

Finally, and if you can, please help us get through this very challenging time of make or break, boom or bust, live or die, by contributing to our survival appeal.

The next expedition, maybe, will be to the Azores.

Status update December 2020 – First we helped our local conservation partners. Now it’s time to think about our own survival.

After the coronavirus appeal to support our local partners, please also now consider the Biosphere Expeditions survival appeal to help us make it through the crisis too

Our coronavirus appeal from 1 April to 1 December 2020 was all about getting our local conservation partners through this crisis. This appeal raised close to €50,000 and enabled community expeditions and projects in 2020.

Although there is now light at the end of the pandemic tunnel with several vaccines about to be rolled out, restrictions are likely to be with us well into 2021 and beyond, mainly because vaccine rollout across the world is going to take well over a year, perhaps even two or three.

This means that on top of the near total loss of income in 2020, it will still take some significant time until expeditions are up and running again, let alone back to something approaching normal. In fact, we do not expect operations to approach anything near normal until well into 2022, perhaps even later.

All this means that after the coronavirus appeal for our local conservation partners, it is now time to think about Biosphere Expeditions’ survival in these very testing times. So please help us survive the crisis, whilst also avoiding redundancies, by giving to our survival appeal. All donations, large or small, are very welcome and highly appreciated.

There is light appearing over the horizon, but for Biosphere Expeditions it is still far away

Community expeditions update December 2020

The coronavirus crisis affects us all. All citizen science for 2020 had to be deferred from March onwards and only two out of a dozen expeditions had a citizen science element to them. Therefore, our partners were and are hard hit by lack of funding and citizen scientist helpers. Yet we were determined that conservation efforts continued despite, and even because of, the very difficult circumstances. This is why we ran a coronavirus appeal from 1 April to 1 December 2020 – to help get our local conservation partners through this crisis. The appeal raised close to €50,000 from 162 donors.

Here is a summary of what the funding has achieved so far:

In the Azores (whales & dolphins) our scientist Lisa Steiner was able to be out on and off the water from April to the end of the season in November. She has a written a detailed blog of what she saw and the data she could collect through the support of the coronavirus appeal.

“The funding from Biosphere Expeditions allowed me to get to sea and document that, for a second year in a row, the number of baleen whales passing by in the spring was lower than it had previously been. I only documented a few blue whales, one humpback and one fin whale, during April/May. There were also fewer Risso’s dolphins, one of the resident species. Sei whales, however, were regularly present throughout July, August, September and even into October. 2020 was a very good year for sperm whales. I was able to document several of the ‘regular’ groups of sperm whales and take over 100 different sperm whale ID photos. I also logged the resident bottlenose dolphins several times – in September with a couple of new calves – as well as false killer whales. Finally there were lots of spotted, common and striped dolphin, sometimes displaying incredible aerial activity. It’s all in the blog. My sincerest thanks to Biosphere Expeditions and those who supported their coronavirus appeal!”
Lisa Steiner
Expedition scientist, Azores

Lisa Steiner


In Germany (wolf), a small community expedition took place in July and there is also a blog. The community expedition walked about 250 km, covering 15 cells of the pan-European 10 x 10 km grid and collecting 163 wolf signs. From this they were able to glean evidence of seven wolves, amongst them one known breeding female. Three individuals were new to science, which is exciting.

“Thank you so much to Biosphere Expeditions, its coronavirus appeal and all donors towards our community expedition in Germany. Without the funding provided by the appeal, and in the absence of a citizen science expedition in the summer of 2020, there would have been no data collection and we would have had a big gap in our knowledge about wolves in our study area. Instead we were able to get out into the field, producing some exciting results. Thank you for making this possible despite the challenging circumstances.”
Peter Schütte
Expedition scientist, Germany

Scientist Peter Schütte (left) with a Germany community expeditioner


In the Tien Shan (snow leopard), our community camera trapping team have done very well to capture more snow leopard photos and to run a community expedition in September, collecting valuable data in the absence of our annual citizen science expedition. This meant we could produce a combined 2019/2020 research report showing snow leopard presence and making conservation recommendations.

“On behalf of Ilbirs Foundation and myself, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Biosphere Expeditions for providing financial support for wildlife monitoring and environmental protection in collaboration with local communities, despite the fact that the pandemic is growing worldwide and the world is facing a very difficult situation. I express my solidarity with the fact that Biosphere Expeditions is continuing its work this way, providing opportunities to all worldwide conservationists in protecting wildlife around the globe.”
Askat Dabyrovich
Ilbirs Foundation, Kyrgyzstan

The Tien Shan community expedition team (with Askat Dabyrovich on the left)


In Costa Rica (sea turtles), the project continued with just the local leaders, one research assistant and the biologist. The nesting season finished in October and the research station is closed until next year, when our partners are hoping to reopen it again in time for next season, pandemic permitting. The green turtle season in 2020 was slow (just 34 nests), for reasons that are not known, but not because of the pandemic. Because of this, the success rate of saving nests from poachers was almost 100%! For leatherbacks, there were 150 nests with hatchling numbers similar to previous seasons. There were also five hawksbill nests. The eventual poaching rate was around 40-50%, depending on the month. The percentage of nests saved at the end of the season and across three species was 59%. The poaching rate was of course higher than in years with citizen science support and therefore the percentage of nests saved was lower. But is still very good, given the very difficult circumstances.

In another positive development, a reusable hatchery was constructed for the first time in 2020. Hatcheries are built each season to translocate and protect nests to ensure maximum hatchling survival. We now have reusable fence and other structures that should last many years and make for a much better hatchery.

The 2020 hatchery with its reusable fence and other structures


In Thailand (elephant), our partners are working hard, and are succeeding, to get their local study herd of elephants through the crisis, plus those animals that are returning to the forest with their mahouts because they cannot make a living during lockdown. There are now 50+ elephants around the mountain villages or deep in the forest with their mahouts and food is running low, but fundraising has helped to buy extra fodder to sustain the animals through the crisis.

“Your tireless efforts for fundraising have helped us to continue to provide for our elephants. Our community has also assisted us to care for the many elephants that have had to return to our area for the crisis period. Every donation has contributed to this and has ensured our survival over these difficult times. Thank you to everyone who has contributed.”
Kerri McCrea
Expedition scientist, Thailand

Elephants in Thailand


In the Maldives (coral reefs), our local partner has instigated a new coral reef conservation project using coral nurseries to grow baby corals.

Coral nursery table


In Kenya (African biodiversity), we empowered local communities through technology with great success during the last international expedition that ran just before the pandemic hit and have published the report of this already. “Enonkishu is thriving as far as the wildlife goes. There were eleven lions, four wild dogs, and Kisaru, the cheetah, just on one walk last Sunday. It looks like Kisaru is pregnant again and sticking around to have her cubs in Enonkishu for a second year in a row,  which will be fantastic”, says conservancy manager Rebekah Karimi.

Kisaru cubs (c) C Flechtner


In Armenia (leopard, bear, wolf), the community expedition was planned for November, but had to be cancelled when the war in Nagorno-Karabagh, which is too close for comfort to our study site, broke out. With winter approaching, plans have been postponed to 2021.

Autumn in the Armenia study site

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