Care & Conservation for groups in Ecuador

  • Who?Groups of at least 5
  • When?Projects have flexible dates and run all year round
  • Where?San Cristobal Island

A volunteer plays games with the local children
A volunteer plays games with the local children

This group volunteering project is perfect for those who want to work in a beautiful tropical country but possibly can’t decide between two projects. By combining both a Care project with a Conservation project, groups volunteering in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador will get the unique opportunity to experience both the rich culture of the islands and the stunning biodiversity made famous by Charles Darwin. The time that your group spends here will be split evenly amongst the two projects to ensure an equal balance.

Group Volunteer Care Work in the Galapagos Islands

Projects Abroad volunteers work with kindergartens in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on the island of San Cristobal on the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands receive many tourists interested in the amazing wildlife, but the local children are often given less attention.

It is vital that the local residents and future generation get the quality of education they need to secure the jobs in the lucrative tourism industry. The kindergartens and day care centres that Projects Abroad works with provide the necessary foundation for the future generations.

In whichever volunteer care project your group finds yourselves, you need to be ready for a challenge. Many of the children may have had difficult lives and will have a variety of needs. Children with special needs, such as autism and Down syndrome, who are enrolled in mainstream schools, need one on one attention and support in order to get the education they need. Volunteers with experience can work with these children in order to help improve their quality of life and increase their opportunities in the future.

There are many young, single, teenage mothers on San Cristobal Island and the children in the kindergartens often come from homes where there is little structure and discipline. Our Care volunteers play a vital role when it comes to helping create awareness, improving the level of English and providing the children with individual support. We encourage volunteers to try new activities and expand the range of games and ideas the children will encounter in order to promote and enhance their individual growth and development. Working closely with individual children and identifying their areas of strength is a very important part of your placement.

You can read more detailed information about the aims of the project in our Ecuador Care Management Plan.

The care work is often quite varied; it may involve practical care activities like helping the children get ready for the day, or playing games, sports and helping older children with their homework. Projects Abroad will support you in any way that we can.

This placement is fully researched, safety audited and risk assessed in accordance with the British Standard BS8848 for the Adventure Travel Sector.

Group Volunteer Conservation Work in the Galapagos Islands

Ecuador has been named by ecologists as one of the world’s ‘megadiversity hotspots’ and is one of the most species-rich countries on earth. The Galapagos Islands are 1000km off Ecuador’s Pacific coast. Due to their isolation, the islands are home to many unique species of flora and fauna and are famous for their uniquely evolved wildlife which helped Darwin formulate his theory of species evolution.

Projects Abroad volunteers work in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on the island of San Cristobal in the Galapagos archipelago, and conservation volunteers work closely with the Galapagos National Park.

One of the greatest threats to the Galapagos Islands is the alien species of plants and animals brought in on boats and planes by humans. These alien species out-compete indigenous species for resources and this often results in the decline of indigenous species, some of which are endemic to the Galapagos. Unless action is taken to reverse this trend, we could lose these wonderful species forever.

Conserving and Protecting the Native species on the Galapagos Islands

A group of Projects Abroad conservation volunteers take part in an ocean clean up in Galapagos, Ecuador
A group of Projects Abroad conservation volunteers take part in an ocean clean up in Galapagos, Ecuador

Our overall aim is to contribute to the conservation and preservation of these unique and abundant marine and terrestrial ecosystems through much needed research and practical hands-on work.

Daily activities are spread out amongst the numerous conservation centres and endangered wild species that we are trying to protect, including:

Helping at the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre

The Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre is essential to the island as it is the only protected haven for this endemic species to be kept safe and breed. Groups working here will get involved with feeding the animals, cleaning their pools, removing invasive plant species and collecting biometric data during population surveys, as well as cultivating and maintaining a plot of land used to produce the “Otoi” plant which makes up the Tortoise’s staple diet.

Protecting the endangered Galapagos Petrel Sea Bird

The Galapagos Petrel is an endangered Sea Bird that is endemic to the Galapagos and is on the UICN Red List. This bird is unique and builds its nest in specific habitats dominated by the native Miconia plants. However, the arrival of man has led to the introduction of invasive species such as the blackberry and guava tree. These are out-competing the Miconia plants and a second intruder, the black rat, is destroying nests and feeding on eggs and chicks. Groups will help to eradicate these species and by monitoring the nests assess the success of our work and the behaviour within the bird colonies.

Sea Lion Monitoring

Photo of a sea lion in the conservation project in Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Photo of a sea lion in the conservation project in Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Sea lion monitoring is split into two parallel studies. The first involves monitoring and studying the long term dynamics of the resident populations around Puerto Baquerizo by collecting data on population numbers, sex ratios and breeding data from several different beaches. The second project is done with the daily supervision of the staff from the park. It involves collecting similar data to our own project but in more remote areas of the island and may include a rescue programme to save the animals from getting stuck in the fishing nets.

Removal of Invasive Plant Species

Volunteers will be working on the elimination and control of introduced plants, such as Blackberry, Guava and Supirrosa, in the protected areas located on the upper part of the island. These areas such as Laguna del Junco, Cerro San Joaquin, La Comuna, the Tortoise Breeding centre and Cerro Colorado are in need of our help as these plants are altering the ecosystems of the Galapagos and displacing species of endemic plants like the Miconia, which are competing for food, light, nutrients and geographical space.

Helping at the Plant Nursery

Removal of invasive plants is essential work but we must also help in the reforestation of endemic species. The activities include collecting soil to mix with compost, collecting seeds and small plants to bring to the nursery and cultivating the saplings for future planting. We are working with many endemic species but are concentrating on mangrove trees which are essential to the coastal regions of the island.

Participating in Beach Clean-ups

Volunteers will be involved in coastal cleaning along the main beaches where people frequent. The goals are to keep these areas free of garbage and ensure that the resident species are less likely to die because of contact with dangerous rubbish.

Conducting Marine Iguana Surveys

As with the sea lions it is important to monitor and study the populations of the unique marine iguana on the islands. Transects will be walked and data collected on population numbers, sex ratios and population dynamics. Over time we will be able to assess the health of the marine iguana populations and evaluate their reproductive success.

Conducting Bird Surveys

Currently we operate two independent studies; One at Cerro Colorado and the other of marine species. Cerro Colorado is an area where we have been working since 2013 to remove invasive species and reforest endemic ones. By studying the bird populations we can evaluate if the change in flora is encouraging the return of endemic bird species. The sea bird census is designed to study population numbers, nesting sites and migratory visitors.

Getting involved with the Environmental Education Programme

Volunteers will be involved in preparing and presenting workshops about conservation awareness in the local schools and community centres around the town of San Cristobal. It is really important that they help as an inspiration for the people of the island to learn about conservation and the importance of preserving their unique home.

As a group you will be working alongside the National Park authorities and our Conservation Coordinator. They will be guiding all of you and training you in specific work and techniques used on the project. Groups usually work from Monday to Friday and occasionally on a Saturday morning too.

You can read more detailed information about the aims of the project in our Ecuador Conservation Management Plan.

Living on the Galapagos Islands

A beautiful shot of the Ecuadorian rainforest
A beautiful shot of the Ecuadorian rainforest

Groups will stay in shared volunteer housing or a hotel during the project. Small groups can stay with host families upon request.

In your free time at the weekends and evenings there are numerous beautiful beaches where you can swim, surf, snorkel or relax with a book. There are also wonderful opportunities to visit the other islands or take part in deep sea diving and snorkelling where it is possible to see sharks and sea turtles.

This placement is fully researched, safety audited and risk assessed in accordance with the British Standard BS8848 for the Adventure Travel Sector.

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1 Free place with each nine students

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