South Africa is the most popular destination for volunteering backpackers, according to recent research by i-to-i Volunteering.
The volunteer organisation discovered that cute baby lion cubs really do hold big sway with backpackers - the most popular of i-to-i's programmes in 2011 was a Lion conservation project in Johannesburg. Daily duties on the trip include feeding, research, enclosure maintenance, and assisting the vets - as well as plenty of free time to explore the surrounding areas.
The popularity of the placements in South Africa in general may be due to the diverse nature of the country, the availability of a wide range of projects and the country's status as a comparatively safe destination. There are also more flights to South Africa than in previous years - making it a much more available destination.
The runner up in the survey was Kenya, where i-to-i run regular community programmes. Mombasa is Kenya's second largest city and is home to more than 30,000 street children and many more youngsters who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS - the projects there focus on looking after the children, which involves playing games, teaching English and basic life skills. Volunteers who take up the demanding challenge of the project are also able to enjoy some of the worlds best beaches on their days off.
Meanwhile, sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica placed third. Kenya has always been a popular gap-year destination, but this is the first time Costa Rica featured on the volunteer company's list. The sea-turtle programme involves cleaning beaches in preparation for the nesting season and taking part in regular beach patrols.
i-to-i Volunteering specialises in shorter term volunteering from one week upwards. 'Live with lion cubs in South Africa' costs around £1,399 for two weeks.
Follow us @MaptheGap