Food, Lodging and Travel
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 devices (laptop or phone). The internet is only available during some hours of the day (normally from 0700-0830, 1230-1400 and from 1700-1900). At the reserve we try to reduce plastic waste and encourage the use of biodegradable personal cleaning products with minimum packaging. You can bring them with you or buy them here in Ecuador. 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 prepared for volunteers (volunteers cook their own meals at weekends – ingredients are provided). Private rooms with en-suite bathrooms can be made available for couples/families if we are notified in advance.
The reserve 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.
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 your level at approx US$6 per hour. For those with an advanced Spanish level, the best way of improving your skills is to practice every day with the local staff.
Volunteers should be aged 18 years or more (if you are aged 16+ you can still join with a parental permission letter) 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 at 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!
Activities inside the reserve include:
- Walks 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
- Cotopaxi 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 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.