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Conservation & Environment in Ecuador in Projects Abroad

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Conservation, adventure & life long memories

I spent 6 weeks in San Cristobal volunteering in conservation. I was initially looking for a study abroad program but was uninterested in the classes that were offered. After some research I found this project. Initially I was worried that we would not truly be making a difference or working very hard. However, upon arrival I met the staff who were extremely dedicated and passionate about conservation and preserving the incredible biodiversity that exists in the Galápagos, I quickly realized this would not be the case.

We worked from 7AM to 12PM and 3PM to around 5PM Monday through Friday. On Fridays we had the afternoon off. On MWF we spent the morning in the Galapaguera which is the tortoise breeding center on the island. We would cut Otoy to feed the tortoises and spend several hours doing machete work to remove invasive species like blackberry and lanta. On Tuesdays we would go to the Otoy plantation to clear blackberry in the effort to later reforest with endemic species. We also spent a considerable about of time building a greenhouse which was difficult work but it was also very rewarding. In the afternoons we generally did less physically demanding tasks such as iguana monitoring, bird monitoring, and campaign. We also worked very closely with the National Park. I spent two weeks doing sea lion monitoring at 5:30AM every morning which was a spectacular experience. There is nothing like watching the sunrise on a beautiful beach full of sea lions in the Galápagos islands.

While not working I spent a lot of time with the other volunteers snorkeling or visiting the beaches near by. The animal life in the Galápagos is phenomenal! Every time I snorkeled I saw at least two sea turtles and while I was there I saw sharks, manta rays, dolphins, marine iguanas, sting rays, sea horses, sea lions, and of course a plethora of beautifully colored fish. The closest beach was only a 10-15 minute walk away. I also went island hopping with a great group of people. Traveling to Santa Cruz and Isabella is fairly inexpensive and I would advise everyone to experience the other islands while they are here. I also took a tour around San Cristobal which was fantastic.

Another aspect of the trip that I loved was meeting volunteers from all over the world. I did not think it was possible to get so close to people in just 6 weeks. I already have plans to meet with some of them in the near future. You will meet so many remarkable people in this program. We all went out almost every night and enjoyed learning about each others respective countries and cultures. I met volunteers ranging from 15 years old to 53 years old and we all got along wonderfully. There is a sense of community in this program that is extremely unique.

I cannot speak more highly of this program and I would do it again in a heartbeat. My only complaint is that I couldn't stay longer. Be prepared to work hard because you will be expected to. The work is rewarding and I loved every minute of it. Your Spanish will also improve greatly especially if you spend quality time with your host family. My host family was very kind and the food was amazing! I hope that you will consider the Galápagos for your next volunteer trip. I am so glad that I did!

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    8

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    5

  • Health and Safety

    8

  • Social Life

    10

Environmental Restoration/ Teaching English

I spent 6 weeks on the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador working on preserving and restoring its delicate ecosystem. That project lasted 4 weeks, and the last two weeks I spent helping teach English at a local high school.

The family I stayed with was completely wonderful. They provided three meals a day (always filling and delicious) and even had a housekeeper! I was given my own private room and bathroom that had a separate entrance from the house itself. While I did not get as close to my host family as other volunteers did, I always enjoyed talking to them and their large extended family. My house was in a fairly central location and I could easily walk anywhere in the city in no more than 20 minutes!

In regards to my volunteer experience, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. During the environmental portion, I was able to see and do things all over the island that tourists are unable to do. I fed tortoises over 100 years old, walked through and restored parts of the island that no tourist has been to before, etc. We ended each day by 1 o'clock, so I had the rest of the day to explore or just hang out on the beach with other volunteers!

The teaching experience was OK. It was very easy (but slightly boring). I helped grade homework and tests, as well as helped the teacher with punctuation and grammar rules.

The staff was extremely helpful in answering all questions I had and even helped me and my friends plan a weekend getaway to another island nearby.

I would definitely recommend the environment program to anyone interested!!

Overall Rating

1/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    1

  • Program Administration

    1

  • Living Situation

    3

  • Community Impact

    1

  • Health and Safety

    1

  • Social Life

    3

Waste of Money, Time, and Abilities

The Projects Abroad operation in the Galapagos was a waste of our money, time, and abilities. If you are a young college student with low expectations and looking for a reason to getaway from home, then this placement is perfect. If you truly care about adding value to the conservation or education programs in the Galapagos, then look elsewhere.

Our three weeks there consisted of very little value-add work; most of our time was spent standing around, doing busy work, or working only a fraction of what we were promised.

Some examples: pulling weeds ‘outside’ the greenhouse on a plot of land where they do not grow anything and where volunteers had uselessly weeded three weeks earlier. Another example: 15 volunteers on a tortoise weighing project that only needed 4-5 people; everyone else stood around for 5 days. Then, after we spent 3 weeks measuring 50 tortoises, the park ranger quietly told me that none of the measurements actually get permanently recorded. Another example: two volunteer teachers were signed-up for teaching English, but when they arrived to the Galapagos, schools were on Summer break. Another example: a volunteer English teacher was given a group of kids where the age range started at two years of age. Most students were too young to even say their name in Spanish, let alone English; so she spent her volunteer time as a babysitter. Another example: for a simple beach clean-up, they had us work on a clean beach versus a garbage laden beach just down the road. Despite everyones recommendations to maximise our efforts on another beach, our young 19 year old Projects Abroad manager decided to cut short the work day. We can go on and on with examples.

We have been in marketing and brand-building for 15 years, have multiple degrees, and in our opinion, for Projects Abroad to be marketing this program to prospective volunteers is a travesty. We spent a lot of money, and all we wanted to do was work hard and lend a hand in building a strong conservation project in one of the most ecological sensitive areas in the world. In return, we were under-utilised by Projects Abroad staff and chastised for wanting to do actual conservation and education work.

Look elsewhere. In our opinion, there are far better organisations that you can connect with and where you can add true value to this incredible part of our planet.

  • Projects Abroad responded to this review June 24, 2016 at 2:56 PM

    Dear Ron

    We're very sorry to hear that you did not enjoy your experience in the Galapagos, and that you feel you didn't make the kind of contribution you expected. We take this kind of feedback very seriously and we are always looking to improve our projects.

    As you know through our direct and detailed correspondence we’ve already had with you, we investigated the issues you mentioned and made changes in several areas where your expectations were not met. We even took the step of sending our Global Conservation Director to Ecuador to carry out the investigation when you first raised these concerns. You should also know that we have recently appointed a new manager to lead the Galapagos Conservation team.

    We continue to believe in the value of the work our volunteers do in the Galapagos, and each activity, as minor as it might seem at the time, works towards long-term goals. The Galapagos National Park struggles with limited resources, and our efforts there make a significant difference and help the local park authorities and staff, even if this might not always be visible during a short visit.

    Kind regards,

    Greg Thomson
    Operations Director
    Projects Abroad

Institution Affiliates:

The International Volunteer Programs Association