Pupu Rangi Nature Sanctuary
  • Make a difference
  • Working in the sanctuary
  • Internships
  • Information for Volunteers and Interns
Volunteer in Native Forest

You are thinking of coming to New Zealand attracted by the amazing landscapes, never-ending beaches, blue skies, soaring mountains, and green forests. You like nature and seek respite from the crowded city. You sometimes wonder what simple life is like, living off-the-grid, maybe? You want to do something meaningful with your hands and see the result of your work.

You should come and join us!

The Pupu Rangi Nature Sanctuary welcomes you to this place of learning: about the forest and its creatures, about conservation, about what is important in life, and about yourself. You will be challenged on many fronts: living off-the-grid, working in a dense rainforest forest, questioning the need for many of the things that we take for granted. You will meet people from various countries and different backgrounds and together with them you will experience something that is rare these days: the expanse of an uncharted forest which you and your fellow volunteers will help preserve.

If you want to joint us, no prior experience is required, you just need the courage to face the rain, mud, wind, and the work outdoors. Make a reservation and we will welcome you to our world.


In our view, volunteering is a way of learning. We have done it too, and each time we've learned many of the skills that helped us at some point in our lives. It seems that volunteering - regardless of the type of activity - is a catalyst for learning more about ourselves and about the world that surrounds us.

While at the sanctuary you will have the opportunity to learn about different aspects of life (living in tune with nature, discovering what is really important to you, what other cultures value most), to get some practical skills (planning, setting priorities, using creativity to find solutions within the available means), to learn about New Zealand native species and the different ways to protect it, to understand what it takes to live in a sustainable way, and to explore the attractions in the surrounding region. Body and mind will both be exercised and enriched.

This program has three components: the conservation work that we do in the forest, the manual work that we do around the sanctuary, and the sightseeing that we do around the region.

The conservation tasks that we perform in our sanctuary and on the behalf of the Department of Conservation are performed at a professional level, and you will receive the training necessary to reach the required high standard. 

Throughout your stay you will learn and practice the basic navigational skills and tools required to operate in the dense rainforest. While working with us, you will realize the vast amount of work that happens behind the scenes to ensure that the New Zealand forest stays healthy. You will also learn the meaning of sustainability through observation and practice. The opportunities to learn are endless and we are keen to teach those that show interest.

Some of the tasks that you will complete are:

  • cutting and marking tracks
  • installing, refilling, and monitoring bait stations
  • installing and monitoring traps
  • kiwi, kokako, and rodent monitoring
  • seed collection
  • weed control and planting of native plants
  • data entry

The manual work part of the program refers mostly to the activities that we have to perform to maintain and enhance the living area. It is most likely that most of the tasks that you will have to perform will be new to you. We will train you and you will use your creativity and previous skills to find ways of completing the tasks.

Tasks include:

  • weeding and maintaining the herb garden
  • building maintenance tasks (i.e. painting walls, setting up walls)
  • landscaping
  • chopping wood
  • general help around the place

Previous volunteers helped us paint the accommodation buildings, start a herb garden, paved a patio area, built sheds, erected fences, and built an outdoor bath.

Every month, week, and day has its own target tasks to complete be it monitoring, track cutting, or some facility improvement. In general, we aim to find a balance between the conservation and maintenance tasks.

The third component of the program consists of the relaxation activities that are so important to recharge one's batteries. We believe that it is important for each volunteer to see the extent of their contribution in the wider context of the Kauri Coast region. We are also proud of the beauty of this land and it will be our pleasure to share it with you. 

At night we might go on a safari looking for wild kiwi, these three hour night walks are an amazing opportunity to hear the sounds of the forest and let the stars guide us. Sometimes we also go deep in our forest to visit the glowworms that live near one of the waterfalls. There is nothing as magic as sitting in the dark by the creek and watch the tiny blue lights of these amazing creatures. One day a week we head to the lakes for some swimming or SUP practice, or we head for a long beach walk (or mountain climb), or we visit the amazing two thousand year old Tane Mahuta - the oldest and biggest tree in New Zealand. 

Each working morning, depending on the weather, we clarify which tasks will be performed for the day. As a rule of thumb: if it is windy, we go in the forest (where there is protection and warmth), if it is calm, we stay in the living area. We always work in a group for safety and for the pleasure of each other's company.

A typical day's schedule looks similar to the one below:

8am - 9am breakfast
9am - 9:30am communal area clean-up
10am - 12pm morning working activity
12pm - 1pm lunch/picnic
1pm - 4pm afternoon working activity
4pm - 6pm leisure activities (free time)
6pm - 8pm dinner
8pm - 10pm leisure activities  (sunset watching, soccer, dusk bird chorus)

To ensure a pleasant experience and a close interaction, we host a maximum of eight participants at a time. Due to the introductory training required to work in the sanctuary the volunteers participate in a fixed length placement programs. This way everyone starts at the same time and goes at the same pace.

Basic accommodation (bunk beds in a small hut) and delicious food is provided to all of our volunteers. Ready to make a difference? See what some of the other participants have said about this program and make a reservation!

Volunteer in Native Forest

If you wish to incorporate your work at Pupu Rangi into your university curriculum or if you wish to expand your skills beyond the conservation work, you might be interested in applying for one of our internships.

We offer two types of internships:

Conservation Internship

This internship is suited to two types of participants:
  • students that need to complete a practical component as part of their studies
  • those interested in improving their leadership and planning skills
At the beginning of the internship, each intern will work with their mentor to complete a development plan outlining the skills that they would like to acquire or to improve on. Based on the development plan, a schedule will be agreed on and followed for the rest of the internship. Interns participate in the Volunteer program and in addition receive personalized training and mentoring according to their goals.

We specialize in the development of leadership and team building skills however, we have a rich experience in the area of personal development.

Hospitality Internship

This internship is suited to those that are interested in learning on how to manage an eco-hospitality operation. The Pupu Rangi tree tent experience is used a a working example and due to its simple and small-scale set-up, it takes a very short period of time for the interns to acquire the skills and confidence required to manage all daily operations such as:
  • welcoming guests and provide an introduction to the sanctuary
  • guiding guests on a tour of the sanctuary
  • preparing the tents before and after the guest's stay
In addition, interns will learn about the different options available for room management, reservations systems, and sustainability practices. Hospitality interns have the opportunity to participate in the Volunteer program, thus gaining exposure to all the conservation activities that we are involved in.

An internship position carries more responsibility, requires more commitment, demands much more effort than a volunteer position. However, you will learn more, you will develop extra skills, and you will gain a work experience comparable to that available in the "real world". Are you up for it? Contact us via the reservation page and request an interview.


Pupu Rangi can accommodate up to eight volunteers and interns at a time. Due to the remote location and the basic training required, the volunteer assignments have a minimum duration of two weeks and the internship program of ten weeks (starting on a Monday and ending on a Monday).

Minimum Age Requirement

Male participants must be 18 years old before the start of the program.

Female participants must be 18 years old before the start of the program.

Maximum Age Requirement

If you are in good physical shape, able to comfortably walk 10 kilometers every day, and you finish reading these pages wishing that you were here, you have not reached the maximum age requirement yet.

English Language Skills

You will need good English language skills to be able to participate in programs that last longer than one week. We don't expect you to be fully fluent, but you have to have enough knowledge to be able to understand the instructions that need to be followed and to be able to communicate clearly via radio with your colleagues, rangers, or with emergency services.

Please do not sign up for the program if you know that your level of English is low. We will not hesitate to take you out of the program if you are not able to communicate with the others.

If you are unsure of whether your English level is sufficient, we can have a quick Skype/WhatsApp call about the project and at the end of it, we would be able to confirm on whether or not you will be able to join us.

What should you expect

Expect your boundaries to be challenged on a daily basis: we live on a philosophy of "we can do with what we have" and that requires patience, adaptability and innovation. It will not be easy but you will learn a lot if you persevere.

Expect to learn a lot and to be ready to apply your learnings.

Expect to be involved; it is participants like you that make this project a reality. This is not a hotel where someone else cleans after us, at the end of the day there is no one but us to cook the food, wash our dishes, put back the tools we use, or make the place look clean and comfortable.

Expect to learn that while individual choices are acknowledged, the well being of the team is more important. When you are out there in the middle of the forest, it is going to be the whole team that has to deal with a problem and find a solution.

Expect to have the type of experiences that others only dream about. The more open to change, the more opportunities to see things in a different light: kiwi, kokako, snails, ferns, moss, impenetrable rainforest, giant trees, glow worms, waterfalls, there is a whole universe out there!

What we expect

Together with your team mates, we expect you to treat the sanctuary as your own home. Keep it clean, put everything that you use back, fix what needs to be fixed, and propose ways of improvement.

Together with your team mates, we expect you to behave with maturity and to participate to the well being of the team. Learn, care, and share your experiences with the others.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award, University practical work, and Research projects

Previous volunteers have used their time at Pupu Rangi to complete their Service section of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, to complete a work semester abroad, or write a thesis for their Bachelor Degree. Should you want to complete such work, please contact us with your requirements and we will ensure that you have our support to complete it.

Volunteer and Intern Fee

The time that our volunteers and interns donate is very important to the preservation of the forest and to the continuous improvement of the sanctuary. We are grateful for it and we try to reward that contribution with comfortable accommodation, delicious food, knowledge sharing, conservation training, and tourism activities.

Our sanctuary does not receive any government funding and it is funded solely by the participants' fees.

The reality is that our nature sanctuary is far away from "civilization" and anything that needs to be brought in or taken out, travels a minimum of 100km. To able to continue with our conservation efforts, we ask our volunteers and interns to pay a fee that covers the cost of food, fuel, and safety equipment for that person's stay. The fee is less than what an independent backpacker would spend while travelling cheaply in New Zealand for the same amount of time.

Our organization spends no money on administration costs and 100% of the proceeds go back into conservation, infrastructure improvement, or operating costs. We created an environment in which you receive training and learn valuable skills while contributing towards our common goal of protecting the forest and the birds. In addition, you will have experiences that many people visiting or living in New Zealand never get to have: accessing amazing forests closed to the public, seeing kiwi in the wild, working in a forest where the rare kokako lives, or bonding with the locals in an area off the beaten track.


Meals will be provided three times a day. After a long day in the forest, there is nothing better than a delicious meal savoured while watching the sunset. The menu includes stir-fry, homemade hummus and falafel, organic burgers, rösti, tika masala, dahl, couscous, chili con or sin carne, pancakes, and the occasional blackberry crumble.

If you do not know how to cook, you will learn, everyone contributes to the meal preparation and by the end of your stay you would be able to cook a delicious dinner for ten people.

We cater to most dietary requirements (vegetarian, gluten free) if we are told beforehand. For snaking outside of the scheduled meals, please bring your own snacks, special food,or drinks. We will not be able to keep them in the fridge, but we could store them in the pantry for you.

The cleaning of the kitchen, washing of the dishes, etc... is part of the daily tasks that each participant has to complete.


The Pupu Rangi Nature Sanctuary is an alcohol and drug free zone. You are not allowed to consume or bring alcohol or drugs into the sanctuary.


We cannot accommodate participants that smoke (e-cigarettes are ok) due the risk of fire to the forest.


Our facilities are basic but functional. One of the principles behind our sanctuary is to be as kind to the environment as possible. We are off-the-grid and we try to use as little resources as possible. The main facilities (kitchen, showers, dinning room) are housed in recycled shipping containers. We reuse as much second hand material or furniture as we can find. The accommodation is in a small cabin and consists of bunk beds. For a small additional fee, you may upgrade your accommodation to one of our fantastic tree tents.

Small items can be washed in the sinks and we do a load of washing once a week.

The cleaning of the facilities is part of the daily tasks that each participant has to complete.

Electricity and Water

Please note that we are off the grid and do not have electricity or running water. Hot showers are available every other day when we return from the forest.

We have a small solar panel that can be used for the charging of mobile phones on the sunny days.

Phone and Internet

Strong mobile phone signal on the Telecom, Vodafone, Skinny, and 2degrees networks is available in the common area for both Internet and voice. There is no phone signal in the forest. There is no free wifi at the sanctuary, you will have to buy your own mobile broadband plan (we recommend Skinny, good signal and cheaper plans).

Health and Safety

We often work in groups and we do not perform any dangerous activities. Each volunteer will receive training on how to use the compass/radio thus ensuring continuous contact and positioning. Staff will be trained in first aid and a first aid kit will be available.

The New Zealand forest is very safe and it has no animals and no reptiles that can harm you.

The closest medical clinic is in Dargaville, about 50 minutes and 50 km away. The closest hospital with an emergency room is in Whangarei, about 100 minutes and 100km away.


You need to have medical travel insurance to be able to work with us. An example of a company that offers affordable travel insurance can be found here.

What to Bring

The weather can be quite chilly and wet even in the middle of summer. Here is the minimum that you will need to bring with you:

  • wet weather gear (rain pants, rain jacket, solid hiking shoes and rubber boots)
  • warm clothes for the chilly nights
  • enough socks/underwear to last you through the whole stay
  • hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen
  • warm sleeping bag (not just a summer one!)

You might also consider bringing:

  • insect repelent for the occasional sandfly
  • swimming gear
  • some snacks or drinks (we stock a small selection of sweets and drinks for sale)

It would be best if you bring some used clothes as not to ruin your best outfit.

Transportation and pick-up

If you do not have your own wheels we will pick you up in the closest town (Dargaville) on Monday at 5:30pm. This time is chosen to coincide with the arrival of the public bus from Whangarei. To get to Whangarei, you can use either Intercity or nakedbus departing from Auckland early in the morning .

We will also drop you off in Dargaville on Monday morning at 7am to connect with the bus to Whangarei.

More detailed information about pick-up times, meals, clothing required will be provided after you make a reservation.