Volunteer on a range of wildlife conservation and environmental projects on Isabela island, Galapagos. Join a dynamic team of volunteers and local staff while giving back to the community in the Galapagos islands.
You can volunteer in Galapagos for between 2 and 12 weeks, and we have places available throughout the year.
Individuals, groups and students are all welcome.
Cost for food, accommodation, equipment, programme materials and training, visas, & project related travel starts from £1195.
Volunteer on a range of wildlife conservation and environmental projects on Isabela island, Galapagos. Join a dynamic team of volunteers and local staff while giving back to the community in the Galapagos islands. This Galapagos volunteer programme forms part of a wider comprehensive approach to developmental aid in Galapagos. Volunteers in Galapagos can help to care for giant tortoises, become an ecotourism intern in the national park and get involved with turtle nest monitoring. During your free time you can snorkel with penguins and sea lions, and enjoy living in a town filled with friendly locals and active volcanoes. There is much to learn and discover as a volunteer in Galapagos, where volunteers can explore the natural scenery of the islands and get immersed in the local community, while gaining cross-cultural experiences and building valuable skills.
Galapagos Giant Tortoise Conservation Volunteer project
As a Galapagos Tortoise conservation volunteer, you will work with the Galapagos National Park as a member of the staff at the Tortoise Breeding Center. Volunteer tasks will include; Feeding and caring for the tortoises, as well as maintaining their enclosure, Assisting the zookeepers and Working directly with the public to educate tourists by informing them of the rules and regulations designed to keep the tortoises safe and the habitats intact.
Schedules are based on a 25 hr/week commitment, and can voluntarily be extended to a regular 40hr/work week. Typically Monday-Friday 7:30 AM-12: 30 PM. This may be subject to change depending on the tasks at hand.
• Basic to intermediate level of Spanish
• Aged 18+
• A passion for animal conservation
• An ability to openly communicate rules and regulations to tourists and follow instructions
• Ability to work independently as well as in a team
• Physical ability to work outdoors with potentially high allergen, sun and temperature exposure
• Minimum stay is 4 weeks
Galapagos Ecotourism Internship Project
As an ecotourism intern in the communications department at the Galapagos National Park you will gather information that will help the national park staff make important ecotourism decisions. This will include running satisfaction questionnaires at visitor sites, generating statistical data and creating databases based on the surveys you administer.
Schedules are based on a 25 hr/week commitment, and can voluntarily be extended to a regular 40hr/work week. Typically Monday-Friday 7:30AM-12: 30 PM. This may be subject to change depending on the tasks at hand.
Turtle Nest Monitoring Volunteer (available during nesting season only: December to May)
As a turtle nest monitoring volunteer, you will assist the Galapagos National Park staff by taking critically important nesting baseline data. This will include identifying species (hawksbill or green), determining nesting patterns and monitoring nest sizes.
Volunteer schedule is 4 hours/day: 6:00AM-8:00AM (first light) and 8:00PM-10:00PM (dark). Please note, this position can be combined with another of the positions listed above during the day at no extra cost.
4th June to 17th June 2018
18th June to 1st July 2018
2nd July to 15th July 2018
16th July to 29th July 2018
30th July to 12th August 2018
13th to 26th August 2018
27th August to 9th September 2018
10th to 23rd September 2018
24th September to 7th October 2018
8th to 21st October 2018
22nd October to 4th November 2018
5th to 18th November 2018
19th November to 2nd December 2018
3rd to 16th December 2018
17th to 30th December 2018
Please note that the dates above are just a guideline, you can join the project starting on any Monday throughout the year, as long as you are able to stay for at least 2 weeks (or 4 weeks for the tortoise conservation project), up to a maximum of 12 weeks.
We encourage all volunteers in Galapagos to stay as long as possible to maximise the benefit to both the local community and volunteers themselves. As such, we encourage longer commitments by discounting each additional week stayed. The minimum stay on the project is 2 weeks, the maximum stay is 12 weeks.
The volunteer schedules vary depending on the chosen project but generally are based on 20 hours per week, Monday to Friday, with afternoons off. All Galapagos volunteer project schedules may be subject to change depending on the tasks at hand.
The cost to join for a 2 week Galapagos volunteer project is £1195, 3 weeks is £1395, 4 weeks is £1595, and every extra week costs £200. The maximum duration you can stay at the project for is 12 weeks.
The above costs are for staying in the shared volunteer villa. If you would like to stay in a family homestay there is an extra charge of £60 per week.
Your project cost includes full room and board (3 meals a day) throughout your project, all permits, visas, local coordination and training at respective facilities, local project-related transport, full access to our facilities, National Park certificates, all backup and support from staff and WorkingAbroad Projects. What's not included are your personal expenses, travel insurance and your airfare to and from the Galapagos.
Accommodation is provided for all volunteers. Volunteers have the choice of either staying in our fully-equipped shared volunteer house, or with a carefully selected host family.
In our volunteer housing, breakfast is not included, but you have access to our fully equipped kitchen facilities to cover your needs. Lunch and dinner is provided at your choice of various restaurants in town.You simply sign for your meal and we’ll pick up the bill at the end of the month. All participants will have a private bedroom and private bathroom. Those living in the volunteer house can use one of the many laundry places in town. You will also have wifi access but please bear in mind speeds can be slow.
For our homestay accommodation, you will be placed with families who have experience with outside cultures and international living through cultural exchange with our students and volunteers. As well as providing extra income to the family for housing our volunteers, we train families to be ambassadors in the community in areas such as English, domestic well-being, and nutrition.
Living with a host family allows you to gain valuable Spanish language skills whilst truly immersing you in the culture. All host families are required to go through an extensive application process to help ensure the safety of our volunteers. Each volunteer is provided with a private bedroom and bathroom. Remember that your host family is not providing a hotel – living with them is an opportunity to become immersed in the culture and language of the region.
Volunteers eat breakfast and dinner with their host families, all of whom respect dietary restrictions. Breakfast is continental and will differ based on the individual and family. Breakfast could consist of eggs, bread, yogurt, granola, and traditional Ecuadorian foods. Please inform us if you have any food allergies or a special diet, and we will pick your host family accordingly. Lunch is provided for via a chartering system with various restaurants in town. Lunch is based on the special of the day at each restaurant and is usually a set menu, which consists of a drink, a soup, and a main dish. You will simply sign for your lunch, and we will pick up the tab at the end of your stay. Project staff are also available to call 24/7 to help you with any problems with your host family and to ensure your security and well-being.
You will need to arrange to fly into Baltra, Galapagos (airport code GPS). Most flights require an overnight stay in Guayaquil or Quito (on the Ecuador mainland). We recommend you fly into Guayaquil, where we can provide you with hotel recommendations for your stay. We will also provide you with detailed instructions on getting from Ecuador to the Galapagos and then to the project itself. Once you arrive at Baltra airport, all of your subsequent travel to the project office (and back) is covered in your project costs.
After you are confirmed as a volunteer on the project, we will assist you in acquiring the necessary Ecuador visas and Galapagos residency permits in order to participate, and your visa costs are included in your project fee. Ecuador allows citizens of most countries to enter up to 90 days as a tourist without a visa. Galapagos has separate immigration procedures. Therefore participants will need the Galapagos Transient Visa, which we will obtain for you. For this, you will need to send us your CV, a colour scan of your passport, and your round trip flight itinerary to process the visa.
The Galápagos Islands are one of the most renowned oceanic archipelagos in the world. Owing their origins to volcanic activity, the islands are located on the equator 600 miles off the coast in the Pacific Ocean and today are a province of Ecuador. Wildlife abounds above and below the sea surface here, and most of the plants, animals, and other forms of biodiversity are endemic, found nowhere else on the planet. In addition to this biodiversity, the islands host a human population of around 30,000 inhabitants. The archipelago consists of 13 main islands, 6 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. The islands themselves are the tips of giant, basaltic underwater volcanoes.
Isabela and the Galapagos Islands
Isabela Island is the largest body of land in the archipelago, housing 6 major volcanoes in addition to its human population and distinctive wildlife. Around each of the volcanoes roams an isolated giant tortoise subspecies, the reptile for which the islands are known worldwide. Running parallel to the town is a two mile stretch of sand-covered beach, complete with palm trees and marine iguanas found nowhere else in the world outside of the Galapagos. You will find the Tortoise Breeding Center a five minute walk from town, where you can see the giant tortoises themselves, at all stages of life (they start out quite small!). A few minutes down the road you’ll find a lagoon boasting flamingos and long legged stilts. Isabela island is home to nearly 3,000 residents, the majority of whom reside in the small port town of Puerto Villamil, on the southern coastline.
The project's wider mission
Our mission is to enhance conservation through education and social development on an intimate, ground level. The human factor is key to making any progress locally, and that’s where our project comes in. Here on Isabela, the local population approaches 3,000, and the need for conservation, education, and social development is increasing. It is our mission to work in the rural island of Isabela to generate educational, economic, and social benefits for the community of Puerto Villamil. The volunteer project itself is part of a larger, comprehensive approach to providing developmental aid in the Galapagos. Other programmes we run in the community include technical assistance and financial aid to local authorities and institutions, as well as our ‘familias embajadores del buen vivir’ (ambassadors of good living), where local families participate in classes and seminars related towards community needs.
Amy Sykes, from the UK, volunteered on the tortoise conservation project in July 2016:
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.
Volunteer Laura talks about her time teaching in Isabela:
I remember asking myself. Indeed, I had landed in an eden of wild and endemic species, varying landscapes from black lava fields and flamingo-lined ponds to ominously overgrown forests and endless coastlines. However, as much as my two years in the Galápagos Islands were characterized by unparalleled nature, the experience was boldly defined by the unique opportunity to teach and learn from the local villagers, los isabeleños.
From 2007-2009, I lived in Puerto Villamil, Isabela, where I taught at the Colegio Fray Agustín Azkúnaga, in collaboration with the non-profit Isabela Oceanographic Institute. With less than a year teaching experience, and a brand new teaching certificate, I entered the open-air classrooms of the high school with equal parts naïveté and enthusiasm. Over the course of the next two years, I came to know my students alongside their families, all part of an interconnected community on a small island in the Pacific. It is the mix of Latin American culture woven into interdependence and intimacy, set within a dramatically unique environment. For me, this was paradise.
English class began with group projects surveying and analyzing the level and type of English usage on the island. From here, students discussed advantages of learning English, including the potential for becoming a naturalist guide, a career that many aspired to attain. With this motivation, students researched, practiced and finally performed interpretive talks on animals and tourist destinations during field trips with a panel of invited guests. Other highlights included guest speaker question and answer sessions, student-written role-plays, interactive games, and even having students come voluntarily to my free evening English classes for adults.
However, class time wasn’t always easy, as any teacher can attest. As I learned more about my students’ backgrounds and histories, I understood the many challenges they had overcome, as well as the trials they were still battling: broken families, alcoholism, abandonment, abuse, and teenage pregnancies. Laying in a hammock with a pile of homework papers, my heart broke to read a 13-year-old girl’s wish to have her dad, who lived on the island, give her a hug or say happy birthday, just once. I soon realized my biggest hurdle wasn’t teaching grammar; my struggle came in helping my students recognize their self worth and potential. While I found small rewards in team building activities, self-reflection surveys, and letter writing, I also saw how home struggles correlate into disruptive or defiant behavior, or a simple lack of hope for future successes.
The excitement, stimulation, reward, and tribulations of the classroom were balanced out by the friendships I made within the community. Walking home from school, a family would invite me over to eat freshly prepared ceviche, from fish caught that morning. Surfer friends would daily whistle from outside the mission gates where I lived to call me out for an afternoon session. Doña Fanny would cheerfully call my name, “¡Laurita, tienes una carta!” from the seascape painted mural outside the post office. Everyone, from the 4-year-old daughter of the neighboring grocer, to toothless, smiling Don Plutarco, would greet me with kind words and big smiles. For Thanksgiving, the handful of other international friends gathered with locals to celebrate our U.S. traditions of sharing food together. Each day was truly a shining shell, resplendent in its beauty and simplicity.
Now, looking back, I am still ever grateful for the experience I had on Isabela. Four years later, I am still teaching, now with a master’s in Spanish and ESL (English as a Second Language), working with junior and high school age kids in Utah. Working in education on Isabela taught me that teaching is never easy, that victories can be subtle or hidden, and that all humans deserve support and self-love. I look forward to the day when I go back, when I swim with sea turtles, drink fresh agua de coco, and surf perfect waves. But mostly, I look forward to seeing the faces of my old friends, perhaps grown, perhaps changed, but always rooted in the magic and love that is Isabela.
Chris Brown, joined the project in winter 2014:
I was recently at the project for the past three months. We were involved in both academic coursework and civic engagement opportunities, which included volunteering at the Puerto Villamil Clinic, with the ABG department, the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center, and the Jacinto Gordillo Escuela.
I am happy to say from the moment we were picked up at the docks in Puerto Villamil, the project staff provided an outstanding support system. All our needs were met, including food, housing, and academic support. The orientation was insightful and addressed all the immediate concerns we had, which demonstrates how adequate the staff members have become in supporting volunteers that come to the island.
I would recommend the program to other volunteers. It can be a life changing experience not only because of the opportunities presented to volunteers in such a amazing place, but because the project has a fabulous support system that helps cater, guide, and address all the needs of their volunteers.
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.
If you are interested in joining this Galapagos volunteer project, 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 £195. If for some reason, your application is not accepted, we would reimburse this payment fully. However for those who are accepted, 25% of the balance amount needs to be paid within 7 days of being confirmed on the project, with the remainder (75%) to be paid 10 weeks before your arrival to the project. Once you have been accepted onto the programme you will receive a Volunteer Information Package with all the information on your project, amenities, travel & visa details, cultural info what you will need to bring and much more.