Volunteer Galapagos

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The natural beauty and biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands is one of a kind. After having served as an inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, this volcanic paradise was designated by UNESCO to be a site of Natural Heritage of Humanity. Since then, the Islands have become a living laboratory of exotic endangered species that do not exist anywhere else in the world. As a result, the conservation of this fragile ecosystem is currently one of our main priorities. However, the growing tourism industry has facilitated the arrival of invasive species to the Islands, putting native species at risk. The tourism industry has not only complicated local conservation efforts, but it has also caused indirect damages to local communities. Many rural parts of the Galapagos are often excluded from the economic and social benefits that result from the growth of the tourism industry, preventing these populations from reaching a higher quality of life. Now you have the opportunity to volunteer in this amazing islands, working with children and giving your support in our conservation projects, while you enjoy the charm of the Galapagos Islands.

Overview

Introduction

The principal aim of the Galapagos conservation project is to devise environmentally friendly initiatives and activities that encourage collaboration between volunteers and local people and persuade islanders to adopt environmentally sustainable practices. The Galapagos conservation work runs on an organic farm whose purpose is to systematically produce eco-friendly organic foods based on the norms of quality and sustainability. These organic foods will substitute the produce that is imported weekly from mainland Ecuador, which brings with it insects and illnesses from the mainland. These locally grown organic foods can sustain the local population. In particular, this project seeks to create a sustainable future for visitors and islanders alike. Be an integral part of this process!

Highlights

Volunteers can enjoy the amazing view from the farm, which offers beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. During clear nights, volunteers can enjoy stargazing from the farm, which serves as a natural observatory. Volunteers can also see the unique animal and plant species on different parts of the Galapagos Islands and experience one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.

Quick Facts

Nearest Health CenterHealth center in El Progreso, 15 minutes away. Hospital and health clinics are 30 minutes away in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

Quick Facts

Nearest Health CenterHealth center in El Progreso, 15 minutes away. Hospital and health clinics are 30 minutes away in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

Location San Cristobal Island, Galapagos Islands
Distance from Quito About 3 hours by plane
Meals Included Breakfast, lunch, dinner included Monday-Friday
Housing Volunteer house, shared rooms with other volunteers
Do I need to speak Spanish? Intermediate Spanish recommended
Age Limit At least 18 years of age, no maximum age limit.
Free-Time Activities Hiking, waterfalls, horseback riding. In the town, access to internet, stores, and travel agencies, where you can organize tours of the different islands, SCUBA diving.
Volunteer Responsibilities • Plant, fertilize, and weed farm’s garden and orchard • Building/renovation of the volunteer house, project site, or other parts of the farm • Build an enclosed areas for farm animals • Reforestation of trees endemic to the Islands • Remove invasive and non-native plant species • Remove plants dangerous to animals and insects
Project Advantages Great for cultural and Spanish immersion, learn about the biodiversity and exotic species of the Galapagos Islands. Perfect for experience in conservation, agriculture, agro-ecology, organic farming, environmental science, and biology.

Background

Description

The Galapagos conservation project began as a response to the urgent need for local organically-grown food products on the Galapagos. Since labor in this area is scarce and expensive, dedicated and eager volunteers are essential to work with the farm to improve and maintain the quality of the soil for future generations. The main belief at the Organic Farm is that an eco-friendly agriculture can go far beyond simply growing organic crops. The farm strives to incorporate new ideas, new techniques, and new products that nature itself provides to encourage equilibrium between science and nature.

The Galapagos conservation project aims to facilitate the efficient use of available resources for the development of sustainable production and agriculture and ranching. This project’s main focus is to maintain a sustainable balance between agricultural production and nature, integrating our activities with the Island’s unique and valuable environment. This project aims to demonstrate that people cannot only live in close contact with a relatively untouched environment and in harmony with it, but they can also live for the mutual benefit of nature and its inhabitants.

Why the Project Needs Volunteers

Volunteers are essential to the success of this project. There is little to no government support for small, local initiatives such as this Organic Farm, and the Coordinator cannot complete the farm’s objectives without the physical and financial support of volunteers. The farm encourages everyone to offer support and make the difference by contributing to the changes taking place at the farm. Ecuador Volunteer invites volunteers to come, work, explore, and create new projects according to their own interests and specialties.

Activities

Daily activities vary depending on the current activities and needs of the project coordinators, but general activities in which the volunteers will participate include:
• Plant cacao trees (generally in the mornings)
• Building/renovation of the volunteer house, project site, or other parts of the farm (generally in the afternoons)
• Build an enclosed area for poultry, gather the chickens, and place them in this area
• Plant trees, prune fruit trees, put fertilizer around plants
• Reforestation of trees endemic to the Islands
• Remove invasive and non-native plant species, which affect insects like the monarch butterfly
• Remove poisonous plants that endanger animal and insect species (but do not affect humans)
• Other tasks that adjust to the needs and interests of the volunteers

Life in Project

Accommodations

Volunteers will stay with a local Ecuadorian family who lives on Santa Cruz Island. The family provides volunteers with a welcoming home that holds up to 8 volunteers in shared bedrooms. The house is located about 5 to 10 minutes by foot from the schools, so volunteers should not have any problem getting to their project site. By living with other volunteers and with a host family, volunteers have the advantage of sharing their ideas and observations with peers going through the same experiences, while simultaneously experiencing traditional Ecuadorian food and customs through the host family. The accommodations provide all of the basic services, including telephone in case of emergency, electricity, internet, and clean water. Not all rooms have hot water, but the climate on the Islands is hot and humid.

Meals

The host family provides volunteers with two full meals per day (breakfast and lunch) and a small snack around 7:00 pm for dinner. On Sundays, the family does not eat lunch, but rather has breakfast at about 10:00 am and dinner in the evening. This is typical of Ecuadorian families. However, if the volunteer would like extra food in the evenings or on Sundays, it will be up to him/her to buy and prepare it.

Schedule

We recommend a commitment of at least 1 week, although volunteers are welcome to stay as long as they can. Volunteers will work about 20 hours per week. Working hours are generally 07:00 am – 14:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Free Time Activities

The area where the volunteers will stay is only 10 minutes by foot from Puerto Ayora, a very dynamic area of the island. In Puerto Ayora, volunteers have access to Internet, travel agencies and tour operators, mail, hospital, banks, and restaurants, among other amenities. Volunteers can also choose from a variety of tourist activities on Santa Cruz Island, or they can take a trip to visit the other islands. The Project Coordinator can help volunteers get the best prices for recreational and tourist activities so that they can have the opportunity to visit other islands and take part in other activities. Popular activities around the Islands include mountain biking, horseback riding, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, surfing, fishing, visiting the Galapagos National Park and Charles Darwin Center, and touring the bay and islands.

Location

Local Area

The project in Galapagos conservation work takes place on the Santa Cruz Island of the world-famous Galapagos Islands. Santa Cruz Island is located in the central part of the archipelago, and it is the second largest island in size but the largest in population. Santa Cruz Island is a very dynamic and lively area with some of the most important tour operators and tourist services of the Galapagos Islands, offering volunteers access to some of the most important sites of the Galapagos Islands.

Regional Facts

The Galapagos Islands served British naturalist Charles Darwin as the living laboratory for the formation of his theory of the evolution in the 1830s. Located nearly 1000 km. from the Ecuadorian mainland, the archipelago of volcanic islands is home to numerous endemic plant and animal species. Currently, about 25,000 people inhabit the Galapagos Islands, but thousands more flock to the Islands each year as tourists.

The growth and effects of the tourism industry have been devastating to the local plant and animal species. Small rodents and seeds have entered the Islands, hitching rides on unsuspecting ships and tourists. Plants such as raspberry bushes have taken over large parts of the Islands, killing endemic plants in its path. As a result, the removal of invasive plant and animal species is essential to the survival of native species, many of which exist in no other part of the world. If these species continue to be killed off by invasive species, they will soon become extinct. To encourage sustainability on the Islands, the Ecuadorian government has capped the number tourists allowed to visit the Islands and the Galapagos National Park has strict regulations for local residents and land owners to encourage environmental awareness, conservation, and sustainability in all parts of the Islands

Requirements

Skills

Volunteers should also be open and flexible to get the most out of their “roughing it” experience. They do not need to have experience; they only need to have time, creativity and a desire to work with communities and with nature. Volunteers should be willing to work in environmental projects.

Age

Because volunteers will be doing a lot of physically straining work, volunteers must be at least 18 years of age, with certain exceptions for families or high school groups. There is no maximum age limit, but again, keep in mind that the tasks can be physically strenuous.

Language

An intermediate level of Spanish is required to be able to make a significant contribution to the project.

Vaccinations

Hepatitis A & B, tetanus, typhoid, diphtheria, and rabies (optional).

Insurance

Travel insurance is required of ALL volunteers and must cover: 1) transportation in case of emergency, and 2) repatriation in case of death.

Travel Information

Airport

Airport: National and international volunteers who want to participate in our projects should fly into the city of Quito to the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (airport code UIO). Once you arrive in Quito, please reserve 2 business days in Quito before heading to your project site for orientation and to finalize paperwork. For volunteers under 18 years of age, it is important that they have the necessary consent forms signed by their parents/guardians that authorizes the minor to fly internationally without their parents.

By Land

National or international volunteers should arrive in Quito and plan to spend 2 business days in the city before beginning their volunteer program. If you are traveling to Quito by bus from the south, you should arrive at the Bus Terminal “Quitumbe,” located in the south of the city. If you are arriving from the north, you should get off at the Bus Terminal “La Ofelia,” in the north of the city.

Arrival Information

Ecuador Volunteer will meet volunteers at the airport or at the bus terminals in Quito to transfer them to their accommodations. In addition, Ecuador Volunteer will organize all logistical aspects of the volunteer’s arrival, including housing in selected host families, in our Volunteer Apartment, or in hotels or hostels. On the first business day after arriving in Quito, volunteers will arrive at Ecuador Volunteer’s office to receive an orientation workshop focused on security, travel information, and culture shock.

Visa

This information applies exclusively to international volunteers. Normally, volunteers with passports from most parts of North America, Europe, and Asia can stay in Ecuador for up to 90 days without needing a visa (tell the immigration desk that your purpose in Ecuador is “tourism”). If volunteers wish to stay in Ecuador for a period of 90 to 180 days, the volunteers should apply for a tourist visa for up to 6 months in the nearest Ecuadorian Consulate before arriving in Ecuador (again, your purpose is “tourism”). For volunteers who want to stay for more than 180 days, Ecuador Volunteer can advise you on how to apply for a volunteer visa. If you are not sure about the visa requirements for your country, please contact the nearest Ecuadorian Embassy or Consulate.

Safety

Insurance

Travel insurance is required of ALL volunteers for the entirety of their stay and must cover: 1) transportation in case of emergency, and 2) repatriation in case of death. No exceptions will be made, and volunteers must leave their insurance information with Ecuador Volunteer in case of an emergency.

Health Center

Ecuador’s large cities have hospitals and clinics equipped with the latest in medical technologies, while smaller and medium-sized cities have hospitals and clinics equipped to handle basic medical emergencies. Smaller towns often have local clinics to handle basic healthcare, but volunteers will have to travel to the nearest city if there is a major health problem. Ecuador Volunteer has an Emergency Response Plan in place to handle medical emergencies. It is important that volunteers disclose all relevant health conditions so that project coordinators are prepared for any sudden health problems.

Vaccinations

Highly recommended for all volunteers: Hepatitis A & B, tetanus, typhoid, diphtheria. For projects located in the Amazon Rainforest region, we also recommend the Yellow Fever Vaccination and malaria pills. For projects that involve work with animals, the volunteer may want to receive a rabies vaccination as well.

Language Training

Optional Language Courses

Ecuador Volunteer offers language programs to improve a volunteer’s Spanish speaking abilities and/or to learn Ecuador’s largest indigenous language, Quichua. These language programs are intensive and one-to-one, allowing volunteers to learn quickly and efficiently. Volunteers also have the opportunity to take a TESOL course to learn how to teach English as a second language, which may also help volunteers who are planning to teach English as a part of their volunteer program. Ecuador Volunteer works alongside the Equinox Language Academy, which specializes in professional, intensive one-to-one and small group courses, guaranteeing the efficiency of each and every one of its language programs.
The intensive Spanish and Quichua language classes include 4 hours of intensive studies for 5 days (Monday through Friday) and cost $140 USD per week (5 days, 20 hours total). The class schedule is flexible, allowing students the ability to begin classes when they want.
Volunteers interested in the TESOL program should sign up before the dates specified on the Equinox website. Each program includes one month of intensive classes. If a volunteer is interested in the TESOL program, please contact us.

What’s Included

Included

• Airport pick-up service from the airport to accommodations in Quito (one way).
• In-country informational workshop to highlight aspects of the project(s).
• In-country workshop upon arrival on safety and security tips and information, and a cultural introduction to Ecuador to help volunteers with the effects of culture shock.
• 24 / 7 contact in case of emergencies, health problems, or similar problems.
• Monitoring and regular check-ins during the volunteer program.
• Training Workshop and Orientation (mandatory for all volunteers).
• International phone call in our office in Quito to contact family.
• International phone calls and Internet service in our office in Quito in case of emergency.
• Local phone calls to landline numbers from our office in Quito.
• Pre-arrival information about activities around the country for the volunteer during his/her free time.
• Certificate of Participation when the volunteer has completed his/her volunteer program (upon request).
• Accommodation and food that is included in the program costs, 1-3 meals per day from Monday to Friday (depending on project and accommodation).

Not Included

• International Airline tickets or fees related passport, taxes or tips.
• Airline tickets from Quito – Baltra – Quito.
• Galapagos National Park entrance fee ($100)
• INGALA Airport tax ($10)
• Taxi/bus from Farm to City or Airport
• Visa costs and expenses related to the necessary paper work.
• Travel and health insurance (a travel insurance that includes repatriation in case of emergency or death is required of ALL volunteers).
• Costs associated with vaccinations and personal medications.
• Meals or food out of the program (depending on project and accommodation).
• Land transportation within the country (in Quito, from Quito to project site, etc).
• Expenses related with cultural and/or tourist activities during free time.
• Airport drop-off service to go back to home country.
• Personal expenses / Items for personal use (such as laundry service, medicine, daily internet use, or phone calls).

How to Apply:

Follow the Four Cs.

1. Confirm your interest in a project(s).

2. Choose your participation dates.

3. Check you meet the project requirements.

4. Complete the Registration Form.

After you Apply:

After You Apply:

1. Once accepted, pay your minimum deposit ($250) to officially reserve your spot.

2. Book your flight to Quito.

3. Turn in a digital copy of your passport, flight itinerary, and travel insurance.

4. If necessary, get the necessary paperwork or visa to travel to Ecuador.

5. If possible, pay your program costs before arrival.

6. Read the pre-arrival information sent by EVF to prepare for your trip.

7. Get excited for the experience of a lifetime!

Cost and dates:

Costs & Dates

Program Fee

1 week: 245 USD
2 weeks: 490 USD
4 weeks: 980 USD
6 weeks: 1470 USD
8 weeks: 1960 USD
10 weeks: 2450 USD
12 weeks: 2940 USD

Additional week after 12 weeks: 245 USD

Note: In addition to the program fee, there is a 50 USD application fee due upon your being accepted into a project and a 200 USD contribution fee to support our SCHOLARSHIP FUND.

  • Your Application fee permits us to cover training, advertising, program promotion, and office expenses. Your contribution fee permits us to cover our philanthropic causes.
  • Our Dates & Cost calculator includes application fee, bank transfer cost and Paypal fee. For this reason the final cost is different.
  • The flight to the Galapagos Islands and taxes is not included in the cost of the program.

Select your Date

You can start your program in the following dates:

Months Start Days
February 2014 2nd o 16th
March 2014 2nd o 16th
April 2014 6th o 20th
May 2014 4th o 18th
June 2014 1st o 15th
July 2014 6th o 20th
August 2014 3rd o 24
September 2014 7th o 21st
October 2014 5th o 19th
November 2014 2nd o 16th
December 2014 7th o 21st

Project FAQs

1. Will there be other volunteers there when I go?

As in all of our projects, Ecuador Volunteer cannot guarantee there will be other volunteers at the Galapagos conservation project during your same volunteer dates. You can check around 4 weeks before to see if anyone else has signed up, but keep in mind people do sign up at the last minute some of the time. Do not let this be the deciding factor; remember you will be with a family with a lot of activities to keep you busy.

2. Can I take time from the project to travel?

All of our projects are flexible and understanding of your interest in traveling and seeing different parts of Ecuador. If you would like to take a few extra days for a long weekend once a month, just let the family know and there should not be any problem. Please keep in mind that your primary concern should be your volunteer project, so do not take a long weekend every week.

3. Will I be bored at the project?

Although you will be staying away from the city and may not be able to go out as much as you want, there are always ways to keep yourself busy on the farm. Do your best to reach out to and interact with the Coordinator. It is also a good idea to bring some books, a deck of cards, games, or other things with you for down time in the evenings.

4. How much does it cost to visit to the Galapagos Islands?

It is important to be aware that the Galapagos Islands are relatively very expensive to visit. The flight from Quito to either of the airports on the Islands is usually $350 to $550 for foreigners, depending on the season. In addition, foreigners must pay a $10 INGALA tax at the airport in Quito, in addition to $100 to the Galapagos National Park upon arrival on the Islands. There are no ATMs in the Galapagos airports, so be sure to bring this amount in cash. In addition, life on the Galapagos is fairly expensive. Since the Islands generally import most of its food from the Ecuadorian mainland, most food is twice as expensive as on the mainland. Hostels generally cost at least $25 per night (rather than $10 in most places on the mainland) and tourist activities usually cost between $30 and $400 (for multiple day tour of the Islands).

5. Is there clean drinking water at the project?

The host families and project coordinator at the project know how important it is that volunteers have clean drinking water, so they will not offer you tap or unboiled water to drink. In most cases, the family or coordinator has purified water on hand for you to drink. If this is not the case, they will be sure to boil all water well before serving it to you. If you prefer, you can also buy large bottles of water in the town on weekends to have purified drinking water on hand.

General FAQs

1. What is the principle function of the Ecuador Volunteer Foundation?

The Ecuador Volunteer Foundation is a non-profit organization whose principle function is to select and train volunteers and create a bridge between them and local community projects throughout Ecuador.

2. Is the Ecuador Volunteer Foundation authorized to operate?

The Ecuador Volunteer Foundation has been legally authorized in Ecuador, as recognized by Ministerial Resolution Nº 0350 and is one of the few volunteer organizations in Ecuador  authorized by the government to select national and international volunteers.

3. How long should I be in Quito before I begin volunteer work?

Volunteers should be in Quito for about two or three days before beginning any work. This allows enough time for the volunteer to obtain all necessary information about their project, important guidelines about safety and travel, and useful advice about the culture, and challenges of the project to prepare him or her for culture shock. If the volunteer needs to buy any personal items, sort out any paperwork, or take care of any last minute arrangements, this would be the ideal time.

4. When should I travel?

The majority of the projects are available year-round, but it is still very important to plan your trip at least one month in advance. Most volunteers travel in the late spring and early  to mid-summer (April to July), but be aware these are also the most expensive times travel.

5. Why do I have to pay to volunteer?

As a non-profit and non-government entity in Ecuador, the Ecuador Volunteer Foundation does not receive financial support from any public or private organization. The Ecuadorian government offers little to no grants for non-governmental organizations, so Ecuador Volunteer relies on volunteer contributions in the form of Registration and Support fees to allow the organization to carry out the functions and services provided to volunteers.

Furthermore, the daily project costs are essential for projects to be able to host volunteers. Nearly all our projects take place in communities with limited economic resources, so in most cases supporting a volunteer for free is not possible and would only cause more strain for the communities we support.

6. Where do my volunteer funds go?

Funds paid by the volunteers principally serve as a cover for administrative costs for the foundation, volunteer transportation from the airport to their accommodations in Quito, informational material, and website promotion to make our foundation as accessible as possible for future volunteers. The daily project costs go directly to the project coordinators and/or host families to allow them to buy food for volunteers and project materials to be able to complete the necessary activities.

7. Why are the project costs so low?

Our main focus is to improve the quality of life for the communities we support through intercultural exchange and sustainable development. We coordinate our efforts in order to allow volunteers to work towards those goals through daily interaction and exchanging ideas and knowledge. We do not want communities to rely on the financial support of volunteers, but rather the cultural and interpersonal support they bring. This is how we distinguish ourselves from other organizations– by looking into all alternatives in order to find the best possible way to allow volunteers to live comfortably in Ecuador, while always being mindful of volunteer’s selflessness.

8. How and when can I pay my program fees to Ecuador Volunteer?

At the moment, you can pay via bank transfer, Western Union, or check (only in the US). We ask you to complete your payment in full before your arrival in Ecuador.

9. What is Ecuador Volunteer’s refund policy?

Ecuador Volunteer operates on a strict no-refund policy, with certain exceptions made in cases of emergency. It is important that volunteers make concrete plans before committing, otherwise they should be prepared to lose the unused funds. If a volunteer is not sure about their exact travel or volunteer dates, they should commit to a minimum number of weeks or months, then pay the remaining balance if they decide to volunteer longer.