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Volunteer in Galapagos

Volunteer in Galapagos and discover this stunning remote archipelago from a completely different point of view...

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Volunteer work in Galapagos

Located in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands have taken on an almost mythological status due to their unique biodiversity and wildlife. The group of islands consists of 18 main islands and 3 smaller ones in total and is part of the Republic of Ecuador since 1832. Together the Galapagos Islands form the Galapagos Province of Ecuador, the Galapagos National Park, and the Galapagos Marine Reserve.

It is certainly one of the most beautiful places on earth to explore, and thus, of course, an amazing place to combine both volunteering and traveling. The islands are home to one of the most amazing ecosystems and as a volunteer, you will have the chance to experience a multitude of different animals such as giant tortoises, sea lions, penguins, different bird species and other wildlife.

If you want to experience this stunning and unique nature and at the same time do something for the greater good, you can choose from a variety of different projects to volunteer at, such as in the field of teaching, childcare assistance, wildlife conservation, or ecotourism.

Facts & Figures about the Galapagos Islands

Volcanic activity: The Galapagos Islands are a set of volcanic islands and, according to statistics there have been around 13 volcanic eruptions in the last 100 years. The last eruption took place at the Wolf volcano in 2005 but was not dangerous as the volcano is not located near a populated area.

Charles Darwin: Due to its location about 600 miles away from Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands were untouched for millions of years, until in the 1800’s humans started to explore the islands. The most famous early visitor on the Galapagos Island was Charles Darwin. In 1835, the natural scientist spent 19 days studying the flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands, which served as the inspiration for his theory of natural selection he then published in 1859.

National Park: Based on its scientific significance, 97% of the islands have been declared a national park and are protected and thus uninhabited by human beings. Also, the islands are home to approximately 500 native and endemic plant species and thus were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1978.

Swimming Lizards: It is better to know before you find out while swimming in the Pacific Ocean: Marine iguanas are the only lizards in the world who enjoy water that much that they learned how to swim. But no worries, when you accidentally meet one, they almost entirely eat seaweed and are rather shy creatures.

Galapagos Tortoise: The Galapagos tortoises are the largest living species of tortoise in the world. The can reach a weight up to 417 kilos and have an average lifespan of over a century. In the 16th century, a group of Spanish explorers discovered the islands and named the tortoises after the Spanish word galapago, which means tortoise.

Best Volunteer Projects on the Galapagos Islands

There are many different volunteering projects for you to work at on the Galapagos Islands close to Ecuador. As tourism has developed rapidly over the past decades and has become a major business on the islands, the topic of conservation work is of high significance. Furthermore, teaching and general social support are of great need as for example the English language becomes more important for the locals in order to work in the field of tourism.

To get a better overview of your volunteering options, please keep on reading as they will be introduced in the following. Here you will find an overview of the different volunteer projects that will surely help you to decide which project works best for you.

Teaching English on the Galapagos Islands

Due to the growing tourism on the Galapagos Islands, having English skills for the locals is of high importance. Even though Spanish is the official language spoken on the islands, they have become multilingual and locals need to adapt to these changes. In order to be prepared for a job in the tourism industry, volunteers are always needed to assist the local teachers to teach English to the communities. Most often, teachers speak little to no English and, thus, rely on the support of volunteers.

But not only will the teachers and the students benefit from your help, you will also develop your own teaching skills and improve your knowledge. During your time volunteering, your main work will be to assist the local teachers with their English classes, where the skills of the students can range from complete beginner to an intermediate level. In order for you to get an impression of your volunteer tasks, please take a look at the following list:

  • Assist the local teachers and help to plan the lessons
  • Support the teacher with language learning activities, games, songs, and projects
  • Contribute your own ideas and activities for the English classes

In order to become a volunteer in this field, it is important that you are able to communicate with your co-workers and students. Thus, an intermediate level of Spanish skills is preferable as it is the most spoken language on the islands. Of course, you should have a passion for education and teaching.

Childcare Assistance on the Galapagos Islands

Due to their jobs, parents in Ecuador most often do not have the time to take care of their children. Most of the time, they have to work long hours in order to provide for the basic needs of their families. Thus, daycare centers are of high importance to ensure a safe and child-oriented space, where the children find educational, nutritional, and psychological needs.

The children that you will work with are between 1 and 3 years old. In the center are between 40-70 children, an amount that requires many helping hands. That is why volunteers are crucial and more than welcome to join the team. As a volunteer in the field of childcare assistance, your main work will be the supervision of the children and the overall care. In order for you to get an idea of your tasks, take a look at the following list:

  • Assist co-workers with different activities
  • Educate the children, play games, and plan different activities
  • Help to feed the children
  • Clean the play area

If you enjoy working with children, this volunteering program is perfect for you. Not only will you contribute to a positive change in the children’s lives, but also grow on a personal level. In order to communicate with the children and your co-workers, Spanish skills on an intermediate level are important.

Conservation Work on the Galapagos Islands

Due to the rising tourism on the Islands, the role of conservation becomes more important as the changing conditions influence the local flora and fauna. Thus, locals and visitors need to be informed about the topic of ecotourism and the improvement of conservation efforts. Here, volunteers are more than welcome as help is always needed.

As a volunteer in the field of conservation work, you will work alongside local staff in the Galapagos National Park. Your tasks can include the following:

  • Work in a local park office
  • Visit park sites to conducts interviews and surveys with the visitors
  • Generate statistical data for sustainable conservation efforts

Another project in the field of conservation focuses more on close work with plants and animals. Here, your main tasks will include hands-on work with giant turtles, such as feeding and caring for those animals. Furthermore, educating tourists about the animals and their conservation will be one of your tasks.

If you are more interested in hands-on work, there is also the opportunity to become a volunteer in a project that develops methodological practices for natural system reconstruction. Here, reforestation work and the replacement of plants are of high importance. Furthermore, the work in communities plays an important role. Similar to other projects, volunteers will help to motivate and inform local community members about the conservation work.

To become a volunteer in ecotourism and conservation work, an intermediate or advanced level of Spanish is preferably in order to communicate with other workers, locals, and visitors. Also, you do not need to be a native speaker of English but should speak the language on an intermediate level. If you like to work independently as well as in a team and are not afraid of working outdoors, volunteering in such a program is perfect for you.

Marketing and IT on the Galapagos Islands

As you have just read, there is a great variety of different volunteer projects on the Galapagos Islands. But, the work that is done also needs to be made visible to the outside. Not only locals need to be informed about the work, but also international communities, collaborators and donors, and, of course, future volunteers. Thus, volunteers in the field of marketing and IT are highly needed in order to capture and spread the amazing work that is done on different platforms.

As a volunteer in this field, your main work will be the creation of photo and film material, as well as the production of texts that capture the work that is done. In order for you to get an overview of your tasks, please take a look at the following list:

  • Working across the organization to ensure that everything is captured and displayed
  • Collaborate with other team members of other departments to highlight their work and positive impacts
  • Development of environmental education material for the education of tourists, and the local population of the Galapagos Islands

There are some requirements in order to become a volunteer in this project. You do not need to be native in English, but should be able to speak it on an intermediate level to be able to communicate with your co-workers and others. In order for you to communicate with the locals, your Spanish knowledge should be basic. Furthermore, you need to have experiences with social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, an understanding of photoshop and web-design, and be a great verbal and written communicator.

Free-time activities on the Galapagos Islands

On the days you are not busy volunteering, you will have time to explore the amazing Pacific Island life. As volunteers will be mostly working from Monday to Friday, the weekends give you plenty of time to explore and experience the island you are staying at, and, of course, some of the others as well. At the moment, only four of the islands are inhabited by people and that are Isabela, Santa Cruz, Floreana, and San Cristobal, but of course, you have the opportunity to experience the other islands as well.

As the Galapagos Islands combine everything nature has to offer you have the choice between different activities. If you love water and diving, in particular, you cannot miss the experience of diving in the tropical water of the Pacific Ocean and experience the most spectacular underwater life, such as sea lions, colorful fish, sharks, swimming iguanas just to name a few.

Another great adventure is to hike to the top of the Sierra Negra, the second largest volcanic crater in the world located on the island Isabela. The hike takes as long as 6 hours but is totally worth it as you will see the most amazing nature and wildlife on your way up. Of course, you should spend some time at the endless and white beaches that you will probably share with some sea lions, pelicans, or iguanas. Also, make sure to visit the Red Sand Beaches at Rabida Island. Their red color results from the high content of iron in the volcanic material found on the island.

If you want to have a busier time, make sure to visit Santa Cruz, the second largest island. Take some time to explore the small city of Puerto Ayora, which is with about 12.000 inhabitants the biggest city of the Galapagos Islands. If you visit the city, take a walk to the small harbor, which is also a great place to surf at. Throughout Puerto Ayora, you will find different local restaurants, bars, and other shops that you can explore.

Good to know before you volunteer on the Galapagos Islands

When traveling abroad, there are always a few things you should inform yourself about beforehand and that you should keep in mind to make sure that you will have a pleasant stay. This is some useful information about the Galapagos Islands and some tips that might help you.

Best travel season

Located near the equator, the weather on the islands is stable throughout the year, so there is no good or bad time to travel there. There is no winter or summer season, but instead, two seasons that turn the islands either into a tropical and green land or into a barren tropical desert.

There is also rain on the Galapagos Islands, lasting from December to May. Whereas in other countries the rainy seasons are rather avoided by visitors, the season here turns the ocean into the perfect swimming pool with a temperature of about 26 degrees.

Safety & precautions

It is always advised to be cautious, no matter what destination you travel to. The Galapagos Islands are a very safe place and almost completely free from organized crime. However, it is of high importance for your safety to follow certain rules when walking around the Island you are staying at.

While exploring the Island, always make sure that you do not leave the marked trails and do not touch the wildlife. Also note that the risk of getting a sunburn is very high, even on cloudy or cooler days. For prevention, make sure to always wear sunscreen and a hat.

Culture and religion

Even though only four of the Galapagos Islands are populated by around 25.000 people, the islands are culturally diverse with different ethnics and traditions. It is one of only a few places without a native population and a mixed culture influenced by descendants from Ecuador, Spain and America. In general, the conventions are similar to those practiced in Ecuador and the people are warm, friendly and helpful.

Health advice

Going abroad always includes some issues and precautions that need to be taken into account. The risks to health whilst traveling will vary between individuals and many depend on your activities, length of stay and general health.

  • Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccinations before every trip. These vaccinations include MMR, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, chickenpox, polio, and your yearly flu shot. Moreover, the US-based health protection agency CDC recommends hepatitis A and typhoid vaccinations as you can get these diseases through contaminated food or water.
  • There are hospitals on the Galapagos Islands, but serious injury requires a return to Ecuador.

Who can volunteer on the Galapagos Islands

As you will have noticed by now, there are many different projects that expect different skills and abilities from their volunteers. While you can find out the specific requirements for each project on their program page, here are some general requirements that apply to most projects in Galapagos:

  • You need to be at least 18 years old for most of the volunteer projects. When in doubt, we advise you get in contact with the local project manager, as in some projects you can also volunteer when you're 16 years old. There’s no age limit upwards: just check the 50+ icon on the program pages.
  • You need to have basic English skills to join a volunteer project in Galapagos. Please note that some teaching projects might ask for more advanced skills though.
  • Depending on the project you're interested in, you might need to provide a criminal background check and a health declaration before volunteering.
  • You are more than welcome to bring your friends or family to work for the social project. Just contact the project manager and ask them for the available opportunities.

How can I volunteer on the Galapagos Islands

So you’re ready to volunteer on the Galapagos Islands but you’re not quite sure how to get started? Take a look at the following 3 steps that will prepare you for your Galapagos volunteer program abroad and an unforgettable adventure:

  • Check whether there’s a match between you and the project by looking at their requirements.
  • Take a look at the location of the project and decide whether it would be a location you are excited about.
  • Get in touch with the organization and see whether your expectations and your schedule match up.

Once this is sorted. Let’s take a look at the practical steps:

Insurance (Health & travel)

We recommend getting both health and travel insurance. In fact, this is even a requirement for most programs abroad. Get in touch with your program contact person to find out if an insurance plan is already in place for volunteers.

Visa, Passport and Entry Requirements

Once you know your destination, take the following 3 steps before setting off on your life changing adventure!

  • Look into the visa requirements for your nationality.
  • Make sure you have a valid passport considering the requirement of the host country.
  • Prepare the correct documents to fulfill the visa application.

When flying into Galapagos, you need to pay the Galapagos national park entry fee in cash on arrival. The Galapagos entry fee for foreigners is currently 100 USD per person (reduced to 50 USD for children under 12 years old). There are some special rates for nationals and foreigners from the Andean Community of Nations which you can check out here. This fee helps the local government to take care of the beautiful and natural setting.

That’s it! You’re ready to volunteer on the Galapagos Islands and to experience a unique culture and environment that can’ be compared to anything else!