The Ultimate Galapagos Conservation ProjectBook Now
Overhead, a bizarre blue-footed, blue-beaked bird lets rip an almost smug sounding, drawn out croak. He´s answered from the distance, a high pitched screech issuing from an Albatross, perched like a king on a monolith volcanic protrusion that shadows the cacti below, shrouding it from the deep blue, dark blue, sun filled sky. From the lava lizards that scurry in the dust, to the swarms of miniature penguins on the cliff tops, the giant tortoises bathing in the sun, to the rich, dense forests of the lush green highlands, this could be nowhere but the Galapagos. On the Galapagos Conservation Project you will discover a place buzzing with energy, from the yellow sand shoreline, to the anthracite volcanic peaks; an archipelago starkly alien, yet teeming with life at every turn. A little world as its most celebrated visitor once remarked, within itself.
Galapagos Conservation Project Highlights Include
- Living and working in the stunning Galapagos Islands
- Working alongside Conservation Experts and learning more about the Galapagos Conservation Project.
- Exploring the islands and learning more about the eco system
Where the Wild Things Are: Conservation in the Galapagos
One thousand kilometres west of Ecuador, the Galapagos are a beating heart marooned in the Pacific. Famously packed with examples of unique and untouched life from the red-billed booby bird, to the world´s largest tortoise these islands are a haven for naturalists, historians and wildlife enthusiasts alike. Having never been attached to mainland, the rare glimpse of evolutionary development provided by the species that sprawl this archipelago, helped Charles Darwin construct his theory of natural selection; it is a fascinating, alien-like world to behold.
However, with increased tourism and globalisation, the carefully balanced ecosystems of the Galapagos have come under threat. It is estimated that approximately two invasive species are introduced to the islands every day, each with the potential to unbalance and damage the natural symbiosis that exists amongst the native species of the Galapagos.
As more and more invasive species are introduced, the need for effective conservation programmes is greater than ever, and while a lot of the attention has been focused on the islands´ animal life, there has been little effort to conserve the highland forest habitats and plant life in these areas.
As a volunteer with the Xtreme Gap foundation you will be placed on the front-line of forest conservation in the Galapagos, with a responsibilities ranging from reforestation to environmental education of the local populace. Our biological station has attracted researchers, natural history organisations and volunteers to the island of San Cristobal, one of the five inhabited Galapagos, and home to one of the rich highland forest habitats that has come under threat.
This program offers a broad and balanced introduction to the forestry conservation projects currently underway on the Galapagos, and will put volunteers right in the thick of it, with hands-on responsibilities, at a central location on San Cristobal. This is an opportunity to really get stuck into conservation efforts that will make a serious difference to the future of the native species that have made the Galapagos so famous. What´s more, with an all-encompassing volunteer itinerary, you will have every opportunity to engage with the local culture and people while, immersing yourself in the natural wonder and unique world of this fascinating Archipelago.
Start dates the first Tuesday of the month in Quito. You will have your briefing and then you need to fly to the Galapagos the next day. Please note accommodation is not covered in Quito.
Volunteer activities may vary from week to week, and we make every effort to ensure each participant experiences every part of the conservation project. Some of the typical activities include:
You will focus on aiding the continuation of native Galapagos plant species in the biological reserve. This means seed collection, nursery work, forestation line maintenance and seedling planting; like I said, it´s all very hands-on!
Helping construct and maintain the biological station to ensure it continues to function as a hub for scientific conservation. This could mean anything, from construction activities to ensuring the station has a clean water supply.
We are really passionate about spreading the word when it comes to conservation on the Galapagos, and this means education; for both, locals and volunteers. You may be asked to take classes to introduce the local people to environmental concepts, or to keep them abreast of our efforts. You could even be on a hike yourself, visiting one of San Cristobal´s many natural wonders to learn of its role in the island´s ecosystem.
Naturally, we grow our own organic produce in a sustainable way and you may be tasked with managing this.
We also have some ´mini projects´ that we encourage our volunteers to get involved in, these include fenology studies, petrel observation (nest finding, behaviour observation), germination projects and coffee production.
Please note this project is not involve much wildlife conservation, is more biodiversity and land-based conservation. You still have plenty of access to enjoy the wildlife in the Galapagos but it is not hands-on animal research.
On the Weekends
Most weekends (you may be needed some Saturday mornings) we leave our volunteers entirely free to explore and enjoy the island.
With such a rich array of wildlife strewn across this rugged and untouched landscape, we doubt you´ll ever be short of entertainment. You could seek out the red footed booby, the elusive Chatham mockingbird or take the 35 minute hike to chill with the Frigates on the cliff tops through the forest.
For surfers there´s a great swell at the nearby Playa Punta Carola, while the swimmers can hit Playa Mann or de Oro, for a more relaxing beach visit.
It doesn’t get more authentic than this! Rustic ´half-and-half´, bamboo cement houses, which can accommodate up to 45 people in a single room, make for a really immersive experience. Nestled in the thick forested highlands of San Christobal, you will be indelibly surrounded by nature and away from all the technological ties you´re used to.
When you arrive in Ecuador you´ll probably fly into Quito international, and can grab a taxi from there to town. We have an office there, where you can attend your introduction meeting (these take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) and get the low down on the project.
There are a few standard costs associated with arriving in the Galapagos, and we recommend setting aside $450 for flights and $110 for the Galapagos National Park fee. There is an airport at San Cristobal, but sometimes flights are diverted to Baltra, where you can transfer by boat to San Cristobal.
If you´re looking for a raw and hands-on experience that´s different from your typical gap year circuit, one that will drop you right on the forefront of conservation, right in the thick of the natural world, and in smack bang in the middle of a new and exciting culture, then this is the perfect opportunity for you; see you in Ecuador!
Trip Frequently Asked Questions
Citizens of the European Community, the United States, Switzerland, England, Canada, Australia, Japan and most other countries need a passport valid for at least 6 months after arrival for entering Ecuador. Please check with your embassy for latest information.
On your flight an international embarkation card is obtainable on which you indicate, besides personal data, that you are entering as a tourist for a maximum stay of three months. Herewith you apply for a stay permit of three months. Please keep the copy of your embarkation card, because you might need it for your departure.
Can you extend your stay to longer than three months?
You can extend this stay permit three times, each time for one month more; this can be done in Quito, Manta or Guayaquil. This means that you can stay in Ecuador for six months as a tourist. If you wish to stay longer it is necessary to contact the Ecuadorian embassy in your home country in advance (see useful links/addresses) in order to apply for a visa.
Ecuador doesn´t require any vaccinations, although we highly recommend updating your tetanus, polio and typhoid vaccinations as well as a hepatitis A vaccination. Yellow fever is recommended if you´d like to travel to the north-coast (Province of Esmeraldas) or several parts of the Orient.
Malaria medication is only necessary if you´d like to travel to the jungle in Ecuador or the north-coast (Province of Esmeraldas). We recommend taking a prophylaxis with you, for example Lariam, but you might buy those things in Ecuador much cheaper than in your home-country. Of course, as it is the case in any travelling outside of your own country, you should have good travel insurance and know how to use it, in case you should need it. Make sure your visit your GP well in advance of your trip for advice on vaccinations and medications.
Bars: beer costs between 1 US$ and 2, 50 $, cocktails between 2US$ and 3 US$.
- Pre departure information pack
- Research Materials
- Local Co-ordinators to supervise research tasks
- Warm welcome: Quito Briefing on Arrival
- Flights international and flights to the Galapagos
- Park Fees
- airport pickup in Galapagos
- Accommodation in Quito for the briefing