The ultimate team Ecuadorian experience where you will travel and contribute to conservation and development projects in the Andes, Jungle, Galapagos and Amazon.
The ultimate South American Experience
Prepare for the ultimate South American experience, as
we take you on an epic adventure through the Andes, down into the jungle, and
on to the Galapagos and Amazon Rainforest. This team program will steer you
off the regular backpacker trail and into traditional indigenous communities,
where you’ll live and work alongside some of the world’s most remote cultures and
You will get stuck into a mix of conservation and community development projects in each location, working side by side the indigenous communities who are determined to preserve their traditional lifestyles. Projects will include teaching English, farm work, building refurbishment, craft development.
This program is the ultimate in cultural exchange and to make the experience more in depth we have included Spanish lessons to help you communicate with the communities.
Typically this programs is for 10 or 6 weeks long, taking in some or all of the sights and experiences you'll find described below with plenty of downtime for you to explore.
Northern Andes: Weeks 1 - 3
The adventure starts in the Andes, the towering backbone of South America. After a couple of days in Quito, Ecuador’s historic capital city, you’ll hit the road for your first volunteering project. Leaving the sprawling city behind, you’ll step into a fairy-tale land with condors swooping down over the villages, gurgling brooks, and lush fields nestled between snow-capped volcanoes. Your destination is Agato, a rural Andean community, 30 minutes from Otavalo, an indigenous market town famous for traditional crafts.
The Andes is a playground for the adventurous, providing opportunities to trek to spectacular waterfalls and crater lakes. For the less active, browsing Otavalo’s artisan market is a relaxing and equally enjoyable alternative, as is condor-spotting.
In the mornings you will be involved with the projects and then in your afternoons you’ll spend 2 hours with a professional language tutor learning Spanish. These classes, which are held in groups of 3-5 students, are essential, as the communities here speak little or no English.
The people of Agato need your help to improve the village infrastructure, which includes the construction of the cultural centre, painting the kindergarten, and repairing roads.
Teaching English at the Agato’s day care facility.
Helping harvest and prepare the crops.
Clearing debris and getting life back to normal, at times when heavy rain floods the roads and causes poorly-constructed homes to collapse.
Jungle: Weeks 4 - 5
Next it’s time to begin your jungle adventure, as you travel west of the mountains to the equatorial tropics, home to the country’s last remaining indigenous Tsachila tribe. Once prolific in this region, the number of Tsachila communities has now dwindled to just seven remote settlements, all of which are at risk of losing their traditional culture, due to the expanding influence of the mestizo culture. This is a unique opportunity for you to experience living among Shaman healers, who still practice ancient rituals.
In your free time, you’ll have the chance to challenge the school kids to soccer matches, go trekking through the jungle, or head into the local town, Santo Domingo. From here, you can catch buses to the coast to enjoy a dazzling sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
Assisting members of the community with everyday chores, from cooking, to fishing, to making traditional jewelry.
Participating in reforestation and creating an ‘edible forest’ by planting trees that later will grow different fruits and vegetables, in order to help the Tsachila diversify their diet in a sustainable way.
Helping to develop and cultivate the Tsachila’s Botanical Gardens.
Helping to plant and manage the Tsachila’s cacao plantation, improving productivity and revenue.
Galapagos: Weeks 6-8
If you’re an animal lover, the Galapagos will not disappoint. The archipelago’s remote location, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, means that the islands’ flora and fauna have been almost entirely isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years, many without natural predators. This means the Galapagos is not only a fascinating study in evolution, but is THE place to experience one-of-a-kind wildlife encounters.
We will fly you into San Cristobal, the Galapagos’ easternmost island, to live and work at a conservation project called Hacienda Tranquila. At this fantastic site, you’ll be helping reverse the effects of environmental damage caused by human settlers over the years, restoring the land to its natural state, and creating an indigenous forest home for giant tortoises and organic gardens for the community.
Maintaining irrigation systems that bring clean, drinkable water from San Cristobal’s natural sources for domestic and agricultural use.
Assisting on the children’s bi-weekly visits to the Hacienda, leading horse-riding sessions and helping with the upkeep of the stables, as well as delivering educational classes to children.
With your help, Hacienda Tranquila aims to develop eco-friendly, high yielding farming methods for the farmers in the area. They also wish to discourage the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers, which have had a detrimental effect on the ecosystem.
In the year 2020, the conservationists at Hacienda Tranquila plan to bring the giant tortoise to San Cristobal to live in the indigenous forest, which involves a huge amount of heavy-duty work in order to prepare the ground. Until recently, this land was farmed and is now choked by fast-spreading invasive plants, which need to be removed and replaced with indigenous plant species and trees for the tortoise to eat.
Adventure Expedition: Week 9
Time for an expedition along the famous Ruta de los Volcanes (Volcanic Route). You’ll travel from Quito to Quilotoa, kicking off the week at the Quilotoa Crater Lake, where you can stroll around the enormous lagoon nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano, before hitting the waters in a kayak.
The following day, it’s off to the steaming thermal baths in beautiful Baños, where you’ll be able to see the Tungurahua volcano and try your hand at white-water rafting.
The week finishes in Riobamba, a town whose cobbled streets and ancient buildings are steeped in history. From here, you’ll hike to the snowline of the mighty Chimborazo Volcano located in a Ecological Reservation, which stands at 16.601 ft., before mountain biking back down. Be sure to pack a woolly poncho for this one, as it gets chilly at the top.
Amazon Rainforest: Week 10
Finally, you’ll get the chance to visit the mighty Amazon Rainforest, one of the most spectacular places on Earth. Here, the Gaia Amazon Center will provide a program of activities for you to learn about the Amazon and its cultures.
We have no doubt that this will be a great finale to your time in Ecuador, as it’ll give you the chance to kick back and relax, as well as enjoy the Amazon experience. Activities here include a canoe river tour, hiking in the primary rainforest, fishing, and a trip to the butterfly farm.
This depends on where you are on the program but expect to work for about 6-8 hours a day, Monday - Friday, working along side local communities. The weekends are free for you to explore and our project leaders will help you arrange weekend excursions.
The weekends are free for you to Explore. The following are some of the favourite activities previous volunteer teams have explored.
TeleferiQo (Quito): The TeleferiQo is a cable car that flies you up Rucu Pichincha to an observation point overlooking Quito.
Lago Cuicocha (Otavalo): This brilliantly blue lake nestled in the crater of an ancient volcanic crater has to be one of Ecuador’s most beautiful sights. Don your hiking boots and walk the eight miles around the edge of the lake, or opt for a more leisurely boat tour around Cuicocha’s cone-shaped lava islands.
Thermal springs (Baños): The perfect remedy for aching muscles is a dip in the natural thermal waters of Baños, which are heated by the active Volcano Tungurahua.
Mountain biking (Baños): Hire a mountain bike to take you through the winding hills and waterfalls between Baños and Puyo.
Cotopaxi volcano (Southern Highline): Ecuador's best known mountain and world’s highest active volcano (nearly 5900m above sea level) is truly a sight for sore eyes. You can take a gentle stroll along national park trails or challenge yourself to a climb.
Galapagos boat tours: These are simply un-missable for anyone visiting the Galapagos. Jump aboard one of the speedboat ferries that run between San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabella and explore the museums, galleries and stunning beaches on the other islands.
Snorkelling (Galapagos): On the Galapagos you MUST have a go at snorkelling. A snip of the cost and hassle of scuba diving, snorkelling offers a unique perspective into one of the most awe-inspiring underwater environments in the world.
All volunteers will be picked up from the airport and taken to the hostel in Quito.
Quito: You’ll be staying at Hostal La Guayunga right in the heart of Quito's historic centre, a UNESCO world heritage site. The accommodation has computers, internet access, shared bedrooms and bathrooms with hot water.
Jungle: This project phase offers the most basic living conditions: volunteer cabins built by the Tsachila communities, with the help of past Leapers. Located just around the corner from the community’s cultural centre, these cabins have been constructed in the traditional style and feature 4-12 beds with sheets, blankets and mosquito nets. There are three ecological toilets on site and a hosepipe for showering, but most volunteers choose to wash in the river with biodegradable products. The nearest internet cafes are located in a nearby town about 30 minutes away from the community.
Andes: You’ll live with host families who are part of The Pakarinka Cultural Center which is composed of 7 families. The Head honcho is Rumiñahui, his wife, three children and the elder grandmother will make you feel right at home. The accommodation will be in their traditional houses with bathrooms and bedrooms, which are fully equipped with warm blankets and electricity.
Galapagos: Hacienda Tranquila has simple, purpose-built accommodation for volunteers close to the farming community of La Soledad. You’ll be sharing bedrooms with two to five volunteers per bedroom and beds come fully prepared with sheets. The house has a kitchen with two stove tops and large refrigerators, a common area and bathrooms with hot water 24/7. There’s even an outdoor pizza oven, and a weekly ‘pizza day’. There’s a cleaning rota and everyone is expected to muck in with household duties.
Ruta de Volcanes: The adventure phase is essentially a road trip, along which you’ll stay in various hostels selected by the project hosts. The accommodation will likely be a combination of large and small dorm rooms, depending on the size of the group.
Amazon: You’ll be sleeping in shared dorms (between five and six people) with ensuite bathrooms, bed linen, towels and blankets.
3 meals a day are provided apart from on the Galapagos where you have to budget and cook your own food.