Claire Butcher - Galapagos Island Conservation in Ecuador
My heart was set on the project the moment I saw the title of Conservation in the Galapagos Islands. These islands are known for their biodiversity and, having just studied them at college, I knew this would be an adventure I’d never forget - I was certainly right.
Arriving in Ecuador
Flying into San Cristobal airport I could see through the ocean through the window where there were thousands of sea lions and other sea life; it was beautiful. Once I landed, Daniela from Projects Abroad, picked me up from the airport and took me to my host family’s house where we were introduced and had lunch.
Later in the day, Jonathon, the Conservation Manager, picked me up from the house to show me around the town; where the head office and other landmarks were. You can’t help but notice the sea lions, they’re everywhere; on the beach, pavement and even the benches! The way of life is completely different to the one back at home and I could not help but feel relaxed.
Jonathon introduced me to William, the Ecuador Director, who made me feel completely comfortable and at home straight away, letting me know that if I had any queries or problems, his door was always open. After this I went back to the house to meet the other volunteers and students with whom I would be living.
My Host Family
Although I didn’t speak any Spanish when I arrived and my host family spoke little English, I knew straight away that I would have a wonderful time with them. They were so friendly and always had a smile on their faces, asking if there was anything that they could do to help me, such as ordering taxis.
The other people staying at their home knew Spanish well and therefore I was able to communicate well with the family. What I loved about staying at their house was that people kept coming in and out for an evening meal or just to say ‘hola’. Their grandchildren often popped round and we would play many games - it was such a lovely family environment.
The Conservation Project
The volunteering project was varied; one day we would be cutting down invasive blackberry bushes with machetes and the next we would be camping on Puerto Chino to go bird watching early in the morning.
Jonathon, the Conservation Manager, was very passionate about the Galapagos and was more than happy to share his knowledge with us, whether that be about the best places to go surfing or the native plant species. Another great thing about Jonathon was that he was very flexible with the work. If there was somewhere you wanted to work or something you want to do, he would do his very best to make sure that it happened. The usual working day was 8am-12pm with some days lasting all day. The afternoons were usually free to spend with fellow volunteers and to go exploring the island.
With most of the afternoons being free to spend with friends we spent a lot of time at the local cafe or visiting the local sites including the local beaches, the interpretation centre and Charles Darwin’s first landing point on the Galapagos Islands in the Beagle.
Because I only had two short weeks in the Galapagos, I spent my first weekend island hoping with some other volunteers, leaving Friday afternoon and coming back Monday afternoon. We first got the boat to Santa Cruz which has the highest population of all the islands. Here we visited the shops and the tortoise breeding centre. We spent the Friday night there and then on Saturday afternoon we got another boat to Isla Isabella, which is personally my favourite island.
We went snorkelling in the sea where we swam with Galapagos turtles and sharks (don’t worry – they are more scared of you). On the Monday afternoon, we got a plane back to San Cristobal which was an experience in itself; only seating eight people in total.
William and his team were a great help with planning our trip! They booked all our boat trips, flights and hotel for us, getting great prices for us. My favourite moment of the weekend trip was snorkelling in the volcanic rocks in Isabella because it was so beautiful and I have never felt so peaceful – I definitely recommend going.
I will finish my story by providing a few tips which will help you if you decide to volunteer in the Galapagos:
- Take small change with you! Many places will not accept $20 bills if you are trying to pay for a $2 water because they don’t have the change. So take plenty of $1 and $5 bills with you.
- Learn some basic Spanish before you go and then you can build it up once you are there
- Make the most of your experience!
- Go! The Galapagos Islands are beautiful and so unique – you will have the time of your life!