Volunteer in Galapagos Islands
Volunteers must be at least 18 years old at the start of their placement. Exceptions can be made for under-eighteens accompanied by a guardian. Knowledge of basic Spanish is also a pre-requisite, a more advanced knowledge is preferred for medical placements. Whatever your level of Spanish, we strongly recommend that you sign up for the very affordable Spanish courses offered by our partner in Ecuador.
Some experience in the field in which they are volunteering is also helpful, as is a responsible, enthusiastic, positive and compassionate attitude.
Start & Duration
The volunteer projects in Ecuador commence every Monday. Volunteers generally arrive over the weekend, however for some programs an earlier arrival might be recommended in order to complete the orientation and induction prior to traveling to the project site. Placements can be as short as just one week.
Food and Accommodation
Volunteers staying in Quito can choose to stay with a carefully vetted family, who have experience of hosting foreign volunteers. This is a fabulous opportunity to practise one’s Spanish and become deeply immersed in Ecuadorian culture. The volunteer project will be no further than a manageable bus ride away. In Quito only, it is possible for volunteers to live in a private apartment or hostel, although this will be self-catering. The accommodation details for projects elsewhere in Ecuador are described under their respective Project Descriptions.
Host families provide 2 or 3 meals per day. Volunteers with special dietary requirements and/or food allergies are asked to inform the organisation in advance to ensure their needs are met. With its reputation for superb exotic fruits, unsurpassed fish and seafood, and not least the numerous varieties of Andean potatoes, Ecuador offers the taste buds a veritable feast. Among the traditional dishes that volunteers might want to try whilst in Ecuador are: Seco de Pollo, Menestra and Ecuadorian Churrasco - a plate consisting of roast meat, a fried egg, chips and fried plantain - or even the great delicacy, guinea pig. For savoury main courses, the hot sauce aji is often used. Easily and very cheaply available from bakers’ shops are empanadas (warm pastry pockets containing meat or cheese), llapingachos (potato and cheese pancakes) and tempting sweet pastries.
A typical week
Weekdays: While the weekly program can vary considerably depending on the program and its location, a typical working week is likely to last from Monday to Friday. Volunteers rise at around 7.30 for breakfast, then start work at about 8.30, breaking for lunch at approximately 13.00, and finishing at 17.00 (interrupted as required by Spanish lessons, which are scheduled for the afternoon). Flexibility does exist and there is scope for volunteers to negotiate these hours with the organiser. In the evenings the Spanish school functions as a meeting place, and after 17.00 social activities often take place there.
Weekends: Volunteers are free to spend time in Quito, or explore Cuenca, the sub-tropical Baños, the world’s highest volcano, Cotopaxi or the Amazon rainforests. Information about weekend trips is posted at the Spanish school. These are competitively priced, and a great way for volunteers to enjoy weekend trips together.
Program fees are a necessary part of volunteering abroad. They help to cover costs associated with your stay, as well as supporting the local organization and projects. Below is an approximate cost breakdown to show you how your program fees are used when you choose to join a volunteer program in The Galapagos Islands.
NOTE: The above graph is intended to be used as a guide only. Actual cost allocations may vary slightly depending on the program selected and the length of stay.
About the Country
As the name Ecuador might suggest, the country is located on the equator, with its neighbouring countries being Columbia to the north and Peru on the south and east border. To the west of Ecuador is the Pacific Ocean. Ecuador can be divided into three types of terrain: the Sierra, which is the central highlands, the jungles of the Oriente and the coastal plains, which are known as the Costa. The coast and the lowlands feature a lot of jungle and enjoy a tropical climate, whereas the higher inland elevations have a cooler climate. The Andes Mountains, for instance, are decorated by white snow-caps - as are the number of volcanoes that are significant feature of the geography of Ecuador. The tropical Amazonian areas receive approximately 500cm of rainfall a year and this enables the forest vegetation to thrive and remain dense and green. Large cliffs and ridges are found closer to the border of Peru, while the volcanoes are scattered across the country. The coastal region of the Ecuadorian geography has extremely fertile plains, basins and breath-taking valleys. Coastal lowlands are relatively flat and run into the rain forests.
Ecuador’s two largest cities – Quito and Cuenca – are renowned for their beauty and have both achieved Unesco World Heritage status. Besides the presence of the awe-inspiring Amazon Basin and the mighty Andes, visitors can also see glaciated volcanoes. There are tropical forests high amid the clouds and beaches on the gentle Pacific Ocean. Recommended spots include Otavalo, an ancient trading post where traditional costume is daily attire for indigenous villagers and the signature hand-woven woollen items so typical of Ecuador are sold in the market. The eastern area known as El Oriente is home to Amazon jungles where you’ll find monkeys, outlandish-looking orchids and colourful birds. Surfing, trekking and horse riding are some of the activities available in Ecuador. Lastly, the Galapagos Islands which so inspired Charles Darwin belong to Ecuador. Sailing to these rather inhospitable-looking islands and viewing the mammoth colonies of penguins, turtles, sea lions and sharks is one of the most memorable experiences possible anywhere.
Volunteers will be met at the airport, and depending on the arrival time orientation may commence directly after arrival, at the Spanish school in the Mariscal area of Quito. A tour of the area lasting approximately two hours will be led by the volunteer coordinator who will also give safety tips and general advice. From there volunteers will be taken to their placement and introduced to their local hosts.
During orientation volunteers will have the opportunity to meet and exchange contact info, purchase sim or calling cards, as well as exchanging and withdrawing money.
Meet the Local Team
Jorge - Volunteer Coordinator, Ecuador & Galapagos Islands
Jorge has been handling the placements of Love Volunteers in The Galapagos Islands since the early days of LV in 2010. Together we have placed hundreds of volunteers in community-based projects throughout Ecuador and the Galapagos. From the Amazon Rainforest and the indigenous communities of the Andes, to the bustling metropolis that is Quito, Love Volunteers have made a real difference in this beautiful country, and Jorge has been there to support them the entire way.
“There are many reasons to choose The Galapagos Islands for your volunteering placement, but most of all because our people are very friendly and thankful when people from other countries come to help! Ecuador may only be small but we have everything you would expect from a country rich in history and bio-diversity. Amazing places to go during your free time, the Amazon, Andes, Pacific Coast and Galapagos Islands are all within reach, while having the chance to volunteer and experience an amazing culture and language. Your presence in our country as a Love Volunteer will bring happiness not only to yourself, but to the people and communities you will be working with on each project. In return you can expect to have fun, gain experience and make new friendships with the many fellow volunteers you will meet from other countries. Being a volunteer in Ecuador will allow you to not only be one more tourist, but to also feel the satisfaction of giving something more.” ~ Jorge