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 community projects. You can take part in: Cloud Forest Conservation & Sustainable Food Production and Building and we also offer a short-term Volunteer Experience Package for Families, and a Travelling, Volunteering, Learning (TVL) programme for large groups. Independent research projects are also available for students.
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.
This is a Summer programme which is ideal for groups of volunteers who do not have much time to travel (one or two weeks) but still want to do something worthwhile. This project is only available for group bookings (minimum 5 participants). It includes:
There is the option to include Spanish classes as well. The TVL programme is suitable for groups of students, friends, families etc. The TVL programme requires a group of at least 5 participants, and any dates would be fine, as we can create a specific programme for your group.
For any questions on the above, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
Volunteers are needed for periods from 1 week up to 3 months. Families can stay for 5 days and up. Staying longer than 3 months is also possible, but then you will need to get a tourist visa in advance.
Main Volunteer Programme and Family Volunteer Experience;
7th to 21st January 2019
21st January to 4th February 2019
4th to 18th February 2019
18th February to 4th March 2019
4th to 18th March 2019
18th to 1st April 2019
1st to 15th April 2019
15th to 29th April 2019
29th April to 13th May 2019
13th to 27th May 2019
27th May to 10th June 2019
10th to 24th June 2019
24th June to 8th July 2019
8th to 22nd July 2019
22nd July to 5th August 2019
5th to 19th August 2019
19th August to 2nd September 2019
2nd to 16th September 2019
16th to 30th September 2019
30th September to 14th October 2019
14th to 28th October 2019
28th October to 11th November 2019
11th to 25th November 2018
25th November to 9th December 2019
9th to 23rd December 2019
This programme is suitable for groups of 5 people or more, and we can create a programme specifically for your group so the dates are flexible. Durations from 1-2 weeks.
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 (although Monday start dates are recommended). The dates above are listed only as a guideline. Please email: email@example.com for more details or for dates other than 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.
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 (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 made available for couples/families if we are notified in advance.
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.
An Interactive map showing the location of the project:
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.
About 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 video featuring volunteers cooking and eating together in the volunteer’s kitchen, written and performed by Neil Buckland, whilst volunteering at the Reserve:
Jessica Bavington from the UK, joined as a volunteer for 2 weeks in December 2017:
I will always look back on my stay at the nature reserve with warmth, satisfaction and a smile on my face. It’s clear to me that the friendly, wonderful family (who own the reserve and live on site) are highly ecologically and socially minded, and have been entrepreneurial over many generations to nurture this very special place.
I was truly amazed to have accomplished so many things in such a short space of time! In only two weeks I felt I made a measurable difference: I planted 18 endangered trees, built a vegetable patch, made chocolate and coffee from the beans gathered at the ranch, fed and watered animals (goats, sheep, and a lovable lama), collected seeds from the cloud forest to assist the reforestation effort, made musical instruments from the forest, learnt how to use a machete to create paths and weed plantations, assisted in scientific data collection, and was welcomed warmly to participate in the family / staff Christmas party. I also took care of a tiny lamb who needed supplementary nurturing and feeding, which was a truly beautiful experience.
Alexandra was interested in what I wanted to gain from my stay, and provided regular engaging educational presentations to help us to appreciate and understand more about our placement and the importance of the local ecology.
Whilst speaking mostly Spanish, the staff were all warm and full of laughter, and made efforts to joke and communicate even though we may not share verbal language. Elsa and Monica provided a varied and delicious menu for us, and went out of their way to provide some special extras and comforts like a birthday cake and campfire chocolate breads that we cooked using bamboo sticks.
As a female traveling on my own, it is important to feel safe and I can reassure any women travellers that they can be confident travelling in Ecuador (with usual precautions), and especially at this project where there is much tranquility and volunteers are made to feel part of the extended family.
The working schedule worked really well for me, and provided just the right balance between work and leisure time, which also enabled me to see some of the terrific places nearby over the weekends. I found the place not only inspiring but can also see how for many the peace, being surrounded by such an abundance of biodiversity and gentle contribution would also be therapeutic and highly restful.
I cannot recommend the Cloud Forest project more highly to volunteers, individuals or groups of any age. I only wish I could stay longer, and whilst I got a lot from two weeks, I would personally recommend a month or more to get the best from the experience.
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."
Landon 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.
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!
Ian 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 visited 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.
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 beginning to affect that part of the world, and will I fear have as of yet have unseen and far-reaching 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 starship 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 sustainability 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!
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 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.