Olivia Cahill - Galapagos Island Conservation in Ecuador
Landing in the Galapagos Islands
I was so excited to arrive and be in such an amazing place. I’d always wanted to go as I have a massive interest in the natural ecosystems of the islands (I am a bit of a geek really!). When I first arrived, I walked through the tiny airport of San Cristobal and was met by two friendly Projects Abroad staff members who were amazing throughout my whole two-month stay. They were so helpful and always willing to answer any questions I had. I arrived on the same day as another volunteer which was lovely as before arriving I was worried there wasn’t going to be any other volunteers. I can honestly say I met people during my project that I will call friends for life. I know that sounds cheesy but it’s true.
I was dropped off at the conservation centre where I met with another volunteer who was in her last week. She had loads of advice for me so that was really useful. After settling into my new home, meeting my host family and being told more about the project, I was taken for a walk around the town to see what was in the area. I remember the sun shining and meeting other volunteers along the way. It made me feel welcome and I was excited for what the next few weeks had in store.
I arrived at the conservation centre which was really nice. I shared a room with different people while I was there since I stayed quite a while. One thing I learned was to not kill the spiders as they eat the other bugs! My host mother was great and very welcoming. She doesn’t speak much English so I had a chance to use the Spanish I learned in high school. Mine is still not great but we would laugh together and I used a lot of sign language to get by.
My Conservation Project
I did many activities during my eight weeks and I can honestly say I loved them all. You have to be prepared for hard work but it is conservation work after all. Three times a week I would go with the other volunteers to the tortoise sanctuary which was my favourite activity. The animals are so special and you won’t see them anywhere else. While we were there we would clean the ponds and feed the tortoises - we would chop down Otoy leaves which is what they like to eat. You will find tourists like to visit the sanctuary, and I used to love chatting with them. They were usually very interested in why we were there. The animals on the island are so mesmerising. We would monitor sea lions, birds and iguanas most days. Another activity I really enjoyed was petrel monitoring because you had to climb and search for nests to find the birds around the forest.
Free time in Ecuador
I met some amazing people and there was a big group of us from different projects. I really looked forward to meeting up with them every evening. Before we all went back home for dinner, we would meet up at a local bar and we would chat about our day and occasionally we would meet up for a night out. Most days I also went to the bakery because the cakes were so cheap and delicious. I would often go to salsa classes with my host mum as well. I’m still really bad at the dancing but it was loads of fun. If we didn’t have anything planned, the Projects Abroad staff would arrange karaoke nights, dance nights, and sports nights which were fun too.
Most weekends we would go to the beach. Most beaches are a little walk from town and some you can make a day trip out of it. On my first weekend, I went with a group of girls on a tour around the islands. We swam and snorkelled all day. I saw sharks, an eagle ray, and my first sea turtle. I went back for a second trip because I loved it so much! Over one long weekend, I travelled to the other islands, Isabela and Santa Cruz, We went up a volcano and did more snorkelling on Isabela and went through some lava tunnels and saw some more tortoises on Santa Cruz.
I loved my time so much in the Galapagos and I met some amazing people from all over the world that I miss so much. My advice would be to make the most of your time there and go exploring as often as possible. You’ll love it. Also, don’t forget a raincoat as it rains a lot!