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Galapagos Turtle Center - Conservation Volunteer

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    8

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    7

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    8

Tortoise Center Amazing Community and Island Volunteer experience

I can't even begin to describe the amazingness of this island Isabela in the Galapagos and my experience with IOI. The first thing that comes to mind when I look back on my time there is not only the constant surrounding natural beauty of the island, but also the beautiful people who helped to make the experience possible and fun. I loved how accepting and community oriented the people of Galapagos and IOI are! They welcome you in, help you learn Spanish, learn the town layout, learn about the best spots to see, show you how to travel around the islands, invite you to new experiences with the locals, and feed you new foods that became a staple in my every day life now and forever. The lifestyle on the Galapagos is enough to pull you back again, I know it did for me as I left the first time and couldn't help but return the following weeks! My family was so accepting and helpful; the living situation is definitely comfortable enough and it's nice to feel lazy and get breakfast, lunch and dinner every day made for you. Plus I thought it was usually delicious!

The activities on the island keep you moving, out and about, in the sunshine, and connected to the people and wildlife most importantly :)

The wildlife is indescribable! How close they come to you and how much you see there it's just like no other place you've ever been before. They're so calm and the community is very respectful to the wildlife in every way. If you love animals this is the number one place for you to go!

Working in the tortoise center on top of that is like the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae. It was so nice to be outside in the corrals feeding the tortoises and cleaning them up. I was lucky enough to work with another local for the first two weeks, who taught me a lot of Spanish while feeding tortoises.

I had a very nice host family brother who showed me all the snorkeling and surfing areas in the island and took me to get food at local restaurants on the island. This is definitely the way to become friends with the community easier.. through having a host family.

The IOI facilities are very nice, I was surprised. They have one of the more structured and modern buildings on Isabela Island. I often spent time sitting in hammocks on the patio there and using wifi to connect my laptop for Skype, movies, or whatever. But there's much more to do there than sit in front of a laptop. They also have a grand open space in the back with plenty of social room and room for activities like dance, classes, yoga, hanging out, etc.

The most common things to do on the island would be exploring nature, snorkeling, sitting on the beautiful beaches for sunset, surfing, swimming in the warm water :), being with family, going to soccer games, eating along the strip of restaurants, and dancing at night with locals!

Days are joyful, work is rewarding, food is good, and the people are friendly, warm, and lively.
IOI is extremely helpful every step of the way, well organized, on top of everything and furthermore will help you with any problem you come to them with. Like wanting to come back! haha
I clearly had a great experience there and can't wait to go back and try volunteering with other programs as well as teach English some day!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • The Adventure

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Galapagos Giant Tortoises (Chelonoidis nigra) - April 6, 2014

Galapagos Giant Tortoises (Chelonoidis nigra) are an endemic species unique to the Galapagos Islands. It has long been the symbol of Galapagos tourism and more recently conservation efforts. Once abundant throughout the archipelago, these gigantic terrestrial reptiles were decimated by sailors and whalers for their meat during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Today, these animals face new challenges such as loss of habitat due to human activities and rampant invasive species which easily destroy tortoise nests or directly predate on the young. Centro de Crianza de las Tortugas Gigantes (Giant Tortoises Breeding Center) in Puerto Villamil, Isabela was established by the Galapagos National Park to breed, raise, and repatriate these charismatic animals to help restore their population size in the wild. Meanwhile, the National Park hopes that interaction with tourists would be a great way to promote conservation.
Over 10 weeks of the Spring 2014 UGalapagos semester, I was very fortunate to volunteer at Centro de Crianza as my community service project. Every Wednesday and every other Friday, my partner Kevin Kahover and I fed about 200 adult and sub-juvenile tortoises with a type of juicy plant called otoy (Xanthosoma sagnittifolium). The adults were fed with 25kg of otoy, and the sub-juveniles were given 15kg each time. On Thursdays we cleaned up their waste and fallen poison apples in the pens. Quite often, early morning visitors would be very curious about our job, and Kevin and I would always be willing to answer their questions on what we were doing, why these tortoises needed to be protected, and how Foundación IOI coordinated various community outreach programs to benefit Isabela. The work is highly physically demanding, and on hot, sunny days, sweat would easily soak our shirts within ten minutes. However, I loved the work not only in that it was such an enjoyment watching these giants chewing large chunks of otoy up close and personal (we did not have to stay 2 meters away from these tortoises and sometimes they would approach and surround me if they saw me carrying a bundle of otoy), but also I felt I was accepted as a member of the Isabela community instead of a temporarily visiting tourist. What we did, even little, did help Centro de Crianza operate.