Volunteer in Ecuador and Support Ecological Restoration and Sustainability in the Tropical Cloud Forest

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Support cloud forest conservation as an environmental volunteer in Ecuador. The aim of this programme is to help to conserve a part of the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest by participating in tree planting, trail work, research activities, sustainable living and food production as well as some community projects.  You can take part in: Cloud Forest Conservation & Sustainable Food Production and Building and we also offer a short term Travelling, Volunteering, Learning (TVL) programme for groups.

You can join for 1 week up to 12 weeks. We have places all throughout the year available.

Individuals, groups, students doing research and families all welcome.

Cost includes shared lodging in cabins, 3 meals a day, training and supervision, project materials, backup and support; starts at £370.

Medicinal garden Outside volunteer house Dan and Adrian working in the tree nursery Blue Gray Tanager eating Monkeys Hummingbird Volunteers laying stones for a Life Cairn memorial for extinct species in Ecuador Iguana Cloudy sunrise in the reserve The community school Toucanet Planting in the organic garden

The Project

The tropical wild birds of EcuadorCloud Forest Conservation & Sustainable Food Production and Building

Conservation and Sustainability Volunteers can join this programme all year round from 1 week up to 3 months in duration. We also offer weekly lectures, bi-weekly hikes, the opportunity for cultural exchange with the Ecuadorian staff, and friendships with other volunteers from around the world. Typical volunteer activities include:
  • Planting 150 native trees per person within the group (groups of 4-8 usually)
  • Designing and opening a new trail in the reserve
  • Maintaining existing trails
  • Collecting data for the station's research projects
  • Maintaining and improving the medicinal garden
  • Working in the organic vegetable garden
  • Alternative animal production
  • Coffee, banana and citric production
  • Bio-food production
  • Eco-construction
  • Sustainable wood production, and
  • Medicinal garden work 

Butterfly in Ecuador2 week Travelling, Volunteering and Learning Programme (TVL)

This is a programme which is ideal for volunteers who do not have much time to travel (two weeks), but still want to do something worthwhile and for groups (minimum 5 participants). It includes:

  • reforestation, forest conservation and planting native and endangered species,
  • hiking in the cloud forest,
  • trip and overnight stay to a local indigenous community,
  • opportunity to learn about medicinal plants and meet shaman for healing (optional),
  • eco-construction workshops,
  • ecological research techniques,
  • sustainability - organic agriculture as well as bio food production, (ie cheese, yoghourt, pasta, coffee etc)
  • conservation lectures and practices,
  • camping and learning about survival techniques, shelter building, finding edible foods,
  • visiting local school and nursery.

There is the option to include Spanish classes as well. The TVL programme is suitable for individuals or groups of students, friends etc.  The TVL programme runs for 14 days in July each year - please enquire for specific dates. Or, if you can make up a group of at least 5 participants, then any date would be fine, we can create a programme for you.

For any questions on the above, please email: aaron@workingabroad.com

Planted gardens in Ecuador

Further Details on Conservation Volunteering in Ecuador

We recommend that volunteers work on a variety of the different activities offered in the programme, in order to have a better understanding of the “whole picture” at the reserve, however volunteers can focus their time on a particular selection of activities if they prefer, but it is necessary that you mention it in advance in your application or during your orientation.

Typical volunteer activities for the Cloud Forest Conservation & Sustainability Programme

  • Forestry Programme: Restoring Degraded Areas - The station is working to restore several areas through natural regeneration and by reforesting them with tree species important to the natural environment. Volunteers assist in collecting and planting seeds, maintaining the nursery, transplanting seedlings, tree care, opening reforestation lines and conducting forestry inventories of planted trees to evaluate their growth and survival.
  • BromeliadsSustainable Wood Production - Due to the worldwide demand for hardwood it is important to plant trees for sustainable use, instead of cutting old-growth trees that belong to the natural forests. Since the steep geography of the region does not permit intensive agriculture and cattle farming, the best economic alternative is wood production. In addition to trying to resolve poverty, forestry also contributes to the fight against global warming; an average of twenty tones of carbon dioxide is absorbed per year by one hectare of trees in growth. At the station we are planting several species of trees for sustainable use, including mahogany, cedar, colorado and tangaré among others. As we research the best methods for sustainable development, we will share our knowledge of agro-forestry with local communities to encourage and enable them to adopt a similar approach.
  • Ecuadorian wildlifeWildlife Programme - Birds inventory (volunteers with expertise in bird-watching). Volunteers are in charge to plant botanical species that will provide food for the wild animals. Also they will report any mammal sightings, for the Mammal sight-frequency research, and will monitor nests when found.
  • Research - Volunteers will collect and analyze data from the different research areas, such as hardwood trees’ phenology, germination success of important species etc. In addition, volunteers will collect basic weather information such as temperature and rainfall.
  • Organic Vegetable Garden - Preparing soil, planting seeds, weeding, harvesting and general maintenance.
  • Children learning about the environmentTrail Maintenance - Volunteers will maintain or create the trails of the reserve with a machete.
  • Medicinal Garden - Volunteers will maintain the medicinal garden area.
  • Organic Agriculture: - Maintenance of banana, coffee, sugar cane, citric fields (clearing with a machete, weeding, fertilizing, pruning, harvesting mature products).
  • Alternative Animal Production - At the reserve we have we have goats, sheep, chickens, one pig, one llama, horses and cows. Volunteers will participate in activities like: feeding these animals, planting the crops to feed them, maintenance of pastures, fencing, and milking.
  • Volunteers in EcuadorBio-food Production - Volunteers will participate in the process of preparation of home-made cheese, butter, yogurt, chocolate, coffee, pasta, bread, pizza, dry fruits and vinegar.
  • Eco-construction - Construction with COB, bamboo and wood depending on the time of the year. If at the time of your stay there is not a current construction project, if volunteers are interest the staff will conduct a COB workshop.
  • Alternative Energy - We will continue with the evaluation of possible energy projects, consulting experts and making agreements with relevant institutions.
  • New Ideas - Any volunteers with the relevant experience may contribute by helping to write grant proposals and other communications on behalf of the reserve.

Volunteers will rotate their work schedule doing the above tasks, working about 6 hours each day Monday to Thursday. Friday is either a group hike or a free day.

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Dates & Costs

Bird Volunteer in Ecuador

Volunteers are needed for periods from 1 week up to 3 months.  Beyond 3 months is also possible, but then you will need to get a tourist visa in advance.

Main Volunteer Programme:

22nd May to 19th June 2017
22nd May to 17th July 2017
19th June to 17th July 2017
19th June to 14th August 2017
17th July to 14th August 2017
17th July to 11th September 2017 
14th August to 11th September 2017
14th August to 9th October 2017
11th September to 9th October 2017
11th September to 6th November 2017
9th October to 6th November 2017
9th October to 4th December 2017
6th November to 4th December 2017

2-week TVL Programme:

10th to 23rd July 2017

Please note, we are flexible with dates and are able to welcome volunteers to start on any weekday throughout the year, and for any duration over 1 week (though Monday start dates are recommended). Please email: aaron@workingabroad.com for more details or for dates beyond the ones listed above. We can also accept families with children & large groups for this project, and you may be eligible for discounted rates, just get in touch if you are interested. To find out more about family volunteering click here.

Volunteers in EcuadorCosts:
The cost for 1 week is £370, 2 weeks is £445, 3 weeks is £530, 4 weeks is £630, 5 weeks is £710, 6 weeks is £800, 8 weeks is £950 and 12 weeks is £1280 (the TVL programme price is £735 for 2 weeks). This covers all programme costs, including all food (3 meals a day), lodging in cabins that are shared with other volunteers and researchers, project materials, all training and supervision by project manager, and WorkingAbroad Projects backup and placement support. 
Your airfare to Ecuador, travel/medical insurance and personal expenses are not included in this price. It is mandatory for you to take out travel and medical insurance for the duration of the project. Airport pick up and transfer to a hostel/central Quito, as well as travel from Quito to the Biological Reserve are not included in the above price, however, this can be arranged for you if you wish, or you can make the arrangements independently. Please contact us for more details on this.

Lodging, Requirements, Free Time

The volunteer lodge in EcuadorFacilities
Accommodation is in the Volunteer House, in shared rooms (2 - 5 volunteers per room). There is running water, electricity, showers, internet, public telephone (you can buy a phone card in town or in Quito) and excellent views of the forest. The internet is free (wifi) and volunteers need to bring their own device (computer or phone). The internet is only available during some hours of the day however (normally from 0700-0830, 1230-1400 and from 1700-1900). Bedding (pillow, sheets, and blankets) will be provided but a sleeping bag may be necessary if you are planning to travel to colder parts of the country or camping at the reserve. They offer a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals that includes traditional Ecuadorian food. Private rooms with en-suite bathrooms can be available for couples/families if we are notified in advance.

A view down into the tropical cloudforests of EcuadorLocation
La Hesperia is located in the Pichincha province, 90 kilometers from Quito (capital of Ecuador) and is located up the hill from the community of La Esperie. The community is on the Aloag-Santo Domingo road, eleven kilometers past the town of Tandapi (sometimes called Cornejo Astorga on maps).  We would advise that volunteers arrive in Quito on the Saturday or Sunday before the commencement of the project (which starts on the Monday), so that you can acclimatise in Quito and then travel to the nature reserve and start working on the Monday. 
Spanish classes
There is also an option to take basic and intermediate Spanish classes if you wish - though please note this is separate from the volunteer programme and would be at an additional cost. Classes are usually one hour a day for four days a week in the afternoons and they would start the second day after your arrival. If you would like to enrol please let your coordinator know once you have arrived at the project. Classes are conducted in small groups according to the level at US$6 per hour. For those with an advanced Spanish level the best way of improving your skills is to practice everyday with the local staff.
Tall, buttressing trees in the cloud forestRequirements
Volunteers should be aged 18 years or more and should be interested in nature conservation, botany, organic agriculture production, ecology, wildlife and outdoor life, and be adaptable and flexible.  It is not necessary to speak Spanish, but it would help if you are willing to learn, as you would benefit more from being able to communicate with local people. A reasonable level of fitness is also required, as volunteers will be doing work of physical nature. It is not necessary to have a University degree or relevant qualifications, but for those with previous experience or skills working in nature reserves, this would be an added benefit.
Two weeks before your arrival to the reserve, you will also have a Skype Meeting with the project coordinator that will cover your orientation and any questions you may have before you arrive.

It is worth noting that alongside the volunteer programme, as you will be living at the field station, you will be required to participate in the maintenance and development of the station's infrastructure - volunteers are not tourists and are expected to work full days as any other employee of the station.  Volunteers work 6 hours a day, Monday through Thursday. You do not work on Saturday and Sunday.  You may also be there at the same time as other volunteers (not part of your group) and interns doing research programmes.  Aside from work, there are also plenty of attractions and things to do in your free time!

Extra Activities
Activities inside the reserve include:
  • Tropical birds of EcuadorWalks through the cloud forest and along streams and waterfalls
  • Bird watching around the volunteer house or within the primary forest
  • Horseback riding *
  • Relaxing walks through the self-guided medicinal gardens
  • Night hikes to search for nocturnal animals
  • Camping *
* Volunteers will be charged extra for these activities
Attractions outside the reserve include:
  • rafting or kayaking on the Blanco and Baba rivers (starting from the station)
  • the indigenous Tsachila (Colorados) community of Chigüilpe
  • A mountain in Ecuador above the cloudforestsCotopaxi National Park and El Boliche Reserve
  • mountains and volcanos: Corazón, the Ilinizas, Pasochoa, Cayambe, Imbabura, Cotacachi, Pichinchia
  • the traditional market in Otavalo
  • La Mitad del Mundo, the equator line and museum
  • the Amazon region
  • the Galapagos Islands and and plenty more wonderful attractions throughout Ecuador
Weather, visas, medical information
In terms of weather, the temperature is the same year round - it ranges from 16° to 24° C (61° to 75° F). The year is divided into two seasons: rainy and dry. The rainy season runs from December to April. Though it does not rain all day, it is quite humid and rains at least once a day. The dry season runs from May until November. During the dry season, it rains infrequently, but it is still moderately humid. Throughout the entire year, the sun usually shines in the morning, and the clouds descend on the forest in the late afternoon.

With regards to visas, if you stay longer than three months, you would have to renew your tourist visa. However if you just come for 2 months, then only one tourist visa would suffice.

Medical information - La Hesperia is not a region which has tropical illnesses, but we recommend to take malaria pills if you plan to travel to the coast or to the Amazon. However, it is best to consult your own GP to find out about recommended vaccinations.

Interactive Map & Background

An Interactive map showing the location of the project:

About EcuadorA child with a potted plant
Ecuador is considered one of the seventeen megadiverse countries, with forty-six different types of ecosystems; the country is the most diverse in the world with respect to its surface area. Ecuador holds second place in the world for its diversity of orchids and amphibians. However, an average of 200.000 hectares of the Ecuadorian forest disappears every year. Our most important goal is to protect part of this amazing ecosystem and to fight against deforestation. However, this fight is not easy and they need as much help as possible, everybody should participate in conservation efforts, because conservation is a shared responsibility.

The Biological Reserve
The biological nature reserve is located in the western range of the Andes at an altitude of 1100 – 2040 meters above sea level. With an area of 814 hectares, it is located in the center of the Rio Toachi-Chiriboga IBA (Important Bird Area, declared by Bird Life International and Conservation International) and it is part of two important bioregions: The Tropical Andes and the Choco Darien – Western Ecuador, considered within the top five biodiversity hotspots on earth. The station works in natural conservation, combatting deforestation, protecting the existing forest, restoring degraded areas and searching for sustainable activities that enable them to support the reserve and to offer a better way of life for the local community as well as those who work and live at the reserve.Ecuador is the smallest country in the rugged Andean highlands of South America.  It has an array of vibrant indigenous cultures, well-preserved colonial architecture, amazing volcanic landscapes, dense rainforest and the fabulous Galapagos islands - all in a nation no bigger than the US state of Nevada.  With a population of about 13 million , Ecuador borders Peru and Colombia

Hollie Abbott, a previous volunteer at our Cloudforest conservation project in Ecuador has created this fantastic documentary about the project, take a look below.

"A short documentary about organic food production, conservation and sustainability in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest. Prize winning at Barnes Film Festival 2016 and nominated for London International Short Film Festival 2016."


A mini film showcasing the work of volunteers on the nature reserve:

Video featuring volunteers cooking and eating together in the volunteer’s kitchen, written and performed by Neil Buckland, whilst volunteering at the Reserve:

Volunteer Testimonials

Hollie Abbott, a previous volunteer at our Cloudforest conservation project in Ecuador has created this fantastic documentary about the project, take a look below.

"A short documentary about organic food production, conservation and sustainability in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest. Prize winning at Barnes Film Festival 2016 and nominated for London International Short Film Festival 2016."


View of the cloudforest in La Hesperia, EcuadorLandon Suggitt, from Canada volunteered on the project in 2013

When I first pictured cloud forest, I figured it might look like a forest with clouds, like in BC? The reserve you work and live at looks more like the picture on the right. The diversity of life in the hills at the equator is something you must experience to appreciate. The perfect weather was a nice bonus, and most days settle at a comfy, but not too hot temperature (in the low 20s Celsius). Also, expect daily storms during the rainy season, some very exciting! Ecuador is beautiful: in its landscapes, people and culture. The cities are worth seeing, but can very dangerous for tourists lacking the proper precautions. I was luckily never robbed, but it was common story among people I ran into. Protect your valuables! Also, use the recommended hostel while staying in Quito: very cool and safe. Still, being out in the country is much safer, and it's where you will spend most of your time.

From the city, La Hesperia is about a 3 hour bus ride across amazing Andean countryside, and a 1 hour hike up from the road. You're far from civilization, but the cell reception is still not too bad! The reserve is altogether a protected area, a (mostly) self-sustaining farm, a local school, and a great learning experience for aspiring international conservationists like you or I! The volunteer house was very comfortable and open, with views of pure nature that I still miss. After a hard working day and a cold refreshing shower, you will be overwhelmed by the sounds of the forest at night that leads to some intense and vivid dreaming.

The daytime work was varied and sometimes challenging. My tasks over the course of a month ranged from tree planting to trail maintenance and basic farm work including planting/harvesting crops (such as bananas, oranges, sugar cane, yucca, chocolate, coffee, etc.), weeding, and working with animals. Regardless of the job, a machete is the only tool you need! Also, at one point you have to take the daily milk down the mountain with the most stubborn donkey ever. There is electricity, but you hand wash your own clothes. Also, safe drinking water and meals are prepared by the staff (luxury!) Expect staples and fresh food that couldn't be any more local.

That's what volunteering and living is like, but of course there's plenty of time for fun and meeting people. The reserve itself is full of things to do including Spanish lessons, soccer games, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, and a communal chill area of the volunteer house with books, a guitar, games, etc. Still, weekends are better spent exploring more of the country. There's lots to see, and you can get recommendations from other volunteers and locals. Me and a buddy I met on our first day spent one weekend biking down volcanoes through Inca ruins and indigenous villages, one living it up in an awesome adventure/party town called Banos, one taking in the history of Quito, and I made an excursion to the Galapagos for my final leg. All were great experiences that I still tell stories about. Produced some breathtaking pictures too!

I couldn't recommend this volunteer experience more, even if Ecuador is not near the top of your list. It's simply a better way to travel while contributing a little back to this amazing country you're visiting. The work is satisfying and makes you feel like a part of the community rather than just a tourist. Plus, you can still have as much fun as you want. Meeting people comes naturally, and a trip like this is a great way to take a person out of their comfort zone in front of a screen or whatever, at least for enough time to appreciate what you have at home, and perhaps what's missing. You may not "discover yourself", but I can guarantee you will grow from it.

Critical Feedback:

The great thing about a travel opportunity like this is that even the hardships are part of the experience, and often the best stories later on. I can't say I would change any aspect really.

That said, I could have gotten a bit more out of it if I learned a bit more conversational Spanish prior to going. Also, the mosquitoes suck (literally, hah), especially during the rainy season. It's essential to have rubber boots, a bug net, bug spray and afterbite, but it won't be enough!

Conservation volunteers can research tropical birds of Ecuador's cloudforestsIan Crummack, aged 30, from the UK joined our Cloud Forest Conservation Programme in January

I went to the cloud forest conservation project through your company, and just let me say what an absolutely fantastic experience I had. The reserve was everything your website said it would be and maybe a little more, great people, great organisation in such a beautiful country. Thank you.

Another thank you because while I was on the reserve I had the chance to talk to other volunteers who were sent from various other agencies around the world, some of them, especially Anya from Scotland were very much 'ripped off ' there was me and Joe from Ontario CANADA who also used your services and got a fair deal. So thank you.

Ian also joined our Nevada Bird Habitat Project afterwards!

Jenny Oliver, Business Analyst from the UK visted La Hesperia from 23 August to 20 September

I am back at work now after my travels in South America and just wanted to say thank you for all your help in setting up my time at La Hesperia. It was fantastic.

Alexandra, her family, Walter, Soledad, Elsa, Marcelo, Patricio and everyone else at the reserve were lovely and incredibly hard working; it was a pleasure to meet and work with them.

I hope all goes well in the future with the project and the school and that the potential land reforms don’t cause any problems for their conservation efforts.

Jenny Kershaw, from the UK, spent 9 weeks at the Cloudforest Conservation Project

I am now back in England after going to Ecuador for 9 weeks and working at La Hesperia!

I just wanted to say thank you for all your help before I went. It was my first time away on my own, and out of Europe and you really helped me to sort lots of things out before i went away, and make me less nervous!!!
I had a really amazing time there, it is such a beautiful place!!!!
Thanks again for all your help, i will be sure to recommend Working Abroad to any of my friends who are thinking about travelling!!

Edit Kiss (Hungary) and Antoine Fouquet (France) participated in the Travelling, Volunteering and Learning 2 week programme in August:

We have come back last week from the TVL programme which was a great experience. Both of us liked it very much so thanks again for helping us with organising our participation. We will definitely recommend the programme to friends in the future. Also please keep us on your distribution list as we might want to do another volunteering program in the not so far future.

Robert Finlay, Film Producer and Director from the UK spent 5 weeks at the Cloudforest Conservation Programme in Ecuador, from October to November

I have arrived back safe and sound in the UK after my 9 week adventure. Australia was amazing and I have to say very tame in comparison to the wilds of south America. My time at La Hesperia was a joy. I learned more about myself than I would have ever thought possible in such a relitively short perid of time. I now sound like one of those testimonials, which before I thought could only have been inflated by their authors or conjured by the organisation. I now know that in fact niether were the case.

Alexandra is doing amazing things against the odds and she is an inspiration to me. I hope that you and Working Abroad can keep supporting her to your full, as I understand you already do (unlike certain other organisations), especially during this difficult economic period, which is only just begining to affect that part of the world, and will I fear have as of yet have unseen and fareaching effects there.

I think the biggest thing I have taken away with me is how difficult tackling social development, economic & environmental sustainability really is from a grass roots level. Even when the people involved are willing or even pioneering these changes. It has made me want to look into working towards things from a level back here at home that could influence things more widely.

I hope that this e-mail finds you well. I typed it on my computer which now feels like the star ship enterprise in comparison.

Thank you for guiding me to the reserve and all of your assistance along the way.

Natalie Aspinall, a Geographer from the UK spent 1 month from August to September at the Reserve doing conservation and sustainabillity work

I've recently returned from La Hesperia in Ecuador and I wanted to say thank you for providing me with the opportunity to go there. It was an experience I'll never forget, and it felt good to contribute something to their project. So, thank you!

How to Join

Construction volunteers in Ecuador

If you are interested in volunteering in Ecuador as a teaching volunteer, conservation volunteer, sustainability volunteer or to travel whilst volunteering, you will need to fill out the online application form (you can also print it out and send it to us by post) – to secure a placement on the project, please complete and submit the form including two references and your application payment of £180. If for some reason, your application is not accepted, we will reimburse this payment fully. However for those who are accepted, the full amount needs to be paid one month before departure. Once you have been accepted on the programme, you will receive a pre-departure package with all detailed information on your project, Ecuador, suggested items to bring etc.


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