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Galapagos Tortoise Breeding Center
Volunteer in Ecuador Volunteer in Ecuador

Galapagos Tortoise Breeding Center

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    8

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    7

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day 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

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Biodiversity Protection - Conservation volunteer

Walking into the dog shelter, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It looked like just a house. Once I stepped in for our orientation, I realized that the house was actually where the vets office is eventually going to be and there were eight cages. At the present time they were empty. On our first official day of community service at the dog shelter, I was feeling very excited. There were a couple of dogs at the shelter. One being a very energetic, medium size, brown and black dog. Over the next several weeks, a couple of dogs came and went, but the brown and black dog remained. We found out that her owners didn’t want her back and that she was going to be put up for adoption. Although, when I first met this dog she was insane and all over the place, I got to know her and most of the time when I get her by my side she remained calm and she could even sit. Hopefully someone will adopt her soon.
A significant change occurred at the dog shelter after the elections of the major of the island ended. Before the elections happened, the shelter was not fully staffed and did not have anyone that helped us with the dogs. For some reason, after the election, these people came back to work. We noticed that there was a steady increase in the number of dogs in the shelter because more time was spent catching the dogs. In addition, on some days we had people to help us clean the cages, which was a great help when there were at least eight dogs in the shelter. The highest number of dogs at one time was ten and that was quite difficult because there were more mouths to feed and more cages to clean. I quite enjoyed having more dogs in the shelter because it gave us more to do and the dogs were always so happy when we came and played with them for a while. One of the reasons why I really don’t want to leave Isabela is because of the work we are doing at the dog shelter. I am quite sad to leave crazy dog without her being adopted, but I look forward to hearing about when she does get adopted.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Itinerary

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Satisfaction

    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.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Dog Shelter Blog - Jason Mostowy

During my time on Isla Isabela, I volunteered at a dog shelter run by the ABG, the Agencia de Regulación y Control de la Bioseguridad para Galápagos. I was inspired to volunteer at this place in particular mostly because of the dichotomy in the treatment of dogs on the islands. Within the first two weeks of my semester on the island, I saw many dogs that were well cared for by loving owners and yet also saw two dogs poisoned with no repercussions. I decided that my volunteer time would best be spent trying to help some of these dogs. My time at this shelter taught me that working with shelter dogs is equal parts heartbreak and satisfaction. It also showed me the determination of a community trying to balance their own needs with the welfare of animals.
Since I knew that the dogs that were being captured for the shelter were wandering animals, I knew ahead of time that some of them might be in bad shape. Still, it was both frustrating and depressing to receive a dog who is sweet and friendly yet still shows signs of neglect. One dog in particular stuck out to me, a little tan puppy. When the dog first arrived in the shelter, he had a hank of yellow and red yarn tied around his neck, so he clearly belonged to someone. However, his ribs were clearly visible through his fur, and his stomach was so distended and swollen that he couldn’t really walk. Another dog essentially lives in the dog shelter now, because her owners no longer want her. Cases like this weren’t uncommon, but for every dog that showed up to the shelter malnourished and tick-ridden, two or three showed up that were clean, fed and clearly well loved. Seeing dogs like that was always reassuring, because it showed me that most people on the island do care for their dogs.
While I expected that some of the dogs we would be receiving in the shelter would not have been well taken care of, I never expected how much good we could do for those dogs even in the short time that they were in our care. Take the puppy I talked about above, for example. When we first got him at the shelter, all we could do was spray him for ticks, give him some medicine for worms and try to feed him. He was so weak that I honestly thought he wouldn’t live more than a few days. However, after only two days of consistent food and medication it was like we had a whole new dog. The swelling in his stomach went down and his skin was free of parasites. Now, he bounds around after the other dogs when we let him out to play, and he devours every bite of food we put in front of him. The dog shelter isn’t just a holding pen for strays, it can really do good for the dogs that need help.
The dog shelter on Isla Isabela is so new that it still has many things to improve on. Finding food for the dogs is sometimes difficult, and veterinary care is essentially nonexistent. But ABG and the people who run the shelter are determined to turn it into a beneficial part of the community.