Linda Bene, from Hungary, volunteered for 4 weeks:
I had the most amazing time on Galapagos Islands. I went for a month volunteering in the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre. I have to say, that from the beginning to the end the information, directions and the program from yourselves and the project was great. Everyone was very helpful, extremely friendly and a joy to work with.
The volunteering was on Isabela, but given free time on the weekends, I managed to discover another 5 islands (so altogether 6). I took thousands of photos and go-pro videos. I learnt so much about the islands, nature, animals. This is truly an experience everyone should have once in their life. You are so close with the animals in their natural inhabitants. I was swimming with sharks, turtles, seahorses, sea lions, penguins. I took the most amazing nature and animal pictures. The work in the breeding centre was very educational. Feeding these giants were the best part of my job. Thank you for this great experience.
Amy Sykes, from the UK, volunteered on the tortoise conservation project for 4 weeks
I had an amazing time in the Galapagos, thank you! The project was great. Although it was mainly cleaning and feeding the tortoises, it was really good to see them up close and play a part in the conservation of the species. I loved each day as it was a good balance between working in the morning and then having free time in the afternoon to relax or see other parts of the island. The people were great as well and I felt that I could go and see them if I had any issues at all. I wish I had stayed there for longer!
Sandrine Brunet from Switzerland describes her time volunteering on the Galapagos tortoise conservation project
It seems that dreams are there to be made. My dream was to go to the Galapagos Islands to work with giant tortoises and discover this unique and wonderful place. So I gave the means to realize my dream and left for the adventure.
During one month, I had the opportunity to feed the tortoises at the breeding center, to see the birth of baby tortoises and even to measure them. Despite the prejudices about the slow speed of the turtles, taking care of giant tortoises is not that easy but always brings great moments and memories. Moreover the way to take to go to work is already an amazing experience as I met everyday about 15 flamingos, many marine iguanas and other lizards or birds on my 30 minutes walk.
I really enjoyed my free afternoons to visit the islands, to go on excursions around the island and to simply relax on the beach. This a very good rhythm that allowed me to discover a new culture and a new place while gaining professional experience in a wonderful environment.
The staff was great, always ready to help me. Living in a host family was a very nice experience as well to learn more about their culture and improve my Spanish skills. Working with giant tortoises is definitely a once in a lifetime experience!
Reforestation volunteer Alex talks about working alongside high school students to clean up a garden
The task assigned to the volunteers today consisted of removing foreign plants and various vegetation that has outcompeted endemic plants in the garden. In addition, various lava rocks and boulders were temporarily removed from the garden for later use.
The entire garden project consists of removing the shrubbery and rocks from the garden, leveling out the garden area, bringing in fresh soil, and planting nineteen to twenty-five different endemic species. The endemic species include papaya and sweet limes. The two large resident coconut trees will remain in the garden (It should be noted that coconut trees are not native to Isabela and were introduced to Puerto Villamil to provide a more “tropical island” experience for tourists).
Invasive species have continued to be a main topic of concern for the Galapagos National Park. Targeted invasive species that the Galapagos National Park has attempted to control include blackberry, higuerilla, guava, and cabuya. These invasive species are highly destructive to the island’s endemic species. Invasive species and endemic species constantly compete for light, water, and nutrition.
In addition to the National Park’s efforts to cut back and burn down invasive species, a growing number of local gardens have also been a big component in saving endemic species. Furthermore, endemic plants, including button mangrove, black mangrove, manzanillo, sesuvium, and white mangrove, are being used in a Reforestation Project on Isabela. The Isabela Reforestation Project has been utilizing a nursery located in the highlands to distribute various endemic species to community gardens and mined areas undergoing reforestation
Katherine Masih, from the USA describes her time on the project
I have spent two periods of time on Isabela. The first time, I was a study abroad student, and I was volunteering at the local hospital. That was a three-month experience. I also returned this past August for three weeks. In addition to volunteering at the hospital, I worked on two public health projects. One was on women’s health and hygiene and the other was assessing possible mercury poisoning due to environmental factors and lifestyle choices.
As far as accommodations and cultural issues, the staff were extremely helpful. Three positives were the ability to be hands-on, the convenience of being in a small town, and the friendliness of the people. A negative is the restrictions due to the presence of the national park. Overall however, I have such a positive impression of Isabela, and plan to return yet again in June for an extended period of time to visit my host family and work on another public health project.
The standard of housing varies based on which host family you stay with. However, all accommodations have “hot” water, your own bedroom and bathroom, and two meals a day provided at home and an additional one at a local restaurant. I think this program offers a great opportunity to study and live in the Galapagos Islands, and for that reason I would recommend it to other volunteers.