Top five gap year organisations


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The Independent Online

If our ultimate gap year listings guide is too much for you, we've picked out the cream of the crop to bring you five of the best gap year organisations out there, whether you're looking for some adventure, community volunteering opportunities, or the chance to kick back and relax.

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Best for your CV - Ripple Africa  

Range of destinations? You can only go to Malawi, but you can volunteer using your skills in education, healthcare or environment. They recruit trainee teachers, doctors, nurses and physiotherapists as well those interested in conservation.

Age restrictions: There are no age restrictions, but the average volunteer is between 23 and 35.

Are flight quotes available? They quote a flight as £800 with Kenya Airways.

Can you book the whole trip online? You can't book a placement online - you have to apply.

Are prices reasonable?  Prices are very reasonable. They estimate a 12-week trip costs £1,320 before you go (inc. flights) and £1,260 while you are there (incl. accommodation, food, visa...).

Is there enough information? The website provides information on Malawi, volunteering and the application process, as well as more detailed sections and videos on areas you can work in such as pre-school education.

Rating: 8/10 - Though this offers very little choice in terms of destination, you will actually be making a difference.

Best for animal conservation - i-to-i

Range of destinations: With 22 options to volunteer with animals in 12 countries, you can bathe lion cubs in South Africa, feed llamas in Peru or save sea turtles in Costa Rica.

Age restrictions: No age restrictions, there are even trips available for under 18s, as well as suggested experiences for the over 60s.

Are flight quotes available? Trips don't include flights.

Can you book the whole trip online? Unfortunately, you can book the trip online directly - you fill out your details online and then someone contacts you to fully book your place.

Are prices reasonable? Wildlife experiences aren't cheap, starting at £439 for the week, but they do promise to be once-in-a-lifetime.

Is there enough information? Website gives a detailed overview, itinerary, advice on what to do next as well as a guide to the country and customer reviews.

Rating: 7/10 - They also offer opportunities to teach English abroad.

Best for ski seasons - Nonstop Ski & Snowboard

Range of destinations? Offers ski and snowboard instructor courses in seven resorts in Canada, New Zealand and France.

Age restrictions: Technically, 18 is the minimum age requirement, but they have taken on 17-year-olds in the past. No upper age limit.

Are flight quotes available? You can book flights as optional extras.

Can you book the whole trip online? You can book online.

Are prices reasonable? It's quite expensive and costs around £7,000 for an 11-week course in Fernie but do include accommodation, tuition, food, social activities and examination fees.

Is there enough information? There is plenty of information available on the package, the resort and the qualification. Plus there's a handy instant messenger service where you can ask questions to staff online.

Rating: 7/10 - Not cheap but very reputable and the largest trainer in the business.

Best for both volunteering and adventure - Raleigh International

Raleigh International is a charity that works on sustainable projects with local communities to make a real difference.

Range of destinations? There is only a choice of four destinations (Borneo; Costa Rica and Nicaragua; India; and Tanzania) but they are varied and offer the chance to help on a community project and then undertake a challenge.

Age restrictions: If you are aged 17-24 you can apply for all the trips on offer, if you are over 25 you can apply to be a volunteer manager.

Are flight quotes available? Flights are not included in expeditions.

Can you book the whole trip online? You can't 'book' a trip, you have to apply online.

Are prices reasonable? Prices start at about £2,000 for a five-week trip  but bursaries are available and they encourage applicants to raise funds through charitable activities.

Is there enough information? There is extensive information provided on the environmental or community projects you can take part in and the adventures on offer, as well as guides to the countries and volunteers' stories.

Rating: 8/10 - Good for people who can't decide between volunteering and exploring.

Best all-round gap year company - G Adventures

Range of destinations: Offers trips to over 100 countries, as well as the Amazon, the Arctic and Antarctica.

Age restrictions: To travel independently, you must be at least 18 years of age but there are no upper age limits. They also offer family adventures, which are open to families with children aged between five and 17 years of age.

Are flight quotes available? You can't book flights, only tours.

Can you book the whole trip online? Yes, you can book online

Are prices reasonable? Prices are good value, they even have an 'Affordable Tours' section boasting deals like Costa Rica on a shoestring for eight days for £399 and budget Egypt for eight days for £349.

Is there enough information? The site breaks down each trip into overview, what's included, itinerary, advice before you go and even features an extensive FAQ page if you're still left with queries.

Rating: 9/10 - The website and search facility is really user-friendly, and we love the lists, which include the top 20 tours.