Volunteer at a Biological Research Station in Galapagos Islands
Volunteer at a Biological Research Station in Galapagos Islands
Many would say that a visit to the country of Ecuador is not complete without a trip to the Galapagos Islands. But we say that your trip to the Galapagos is incomplete without giving something back to this fragile island ecosystem.
With this program, you will be receiving an in-depth look at the islands, something that tourists aren’t able to do on a regular vacation. This project is perfect for students or those who are interested in learning more about ecology. However, you don’t have to have previous experience in order to participate. Each volunteer project is carefully explained and catered to all skill levels.
Our partner on San Cristobal Island was one of the first local initiatives to develop long-term programs for the eradication of invasive species and the promotion of sustainable agriculture. Because of their history on the islands, they have extensive knowledge about the ecosystem and are able to provide knowledge-hungry volunteers with huge amounts of information.
However, don’t worry- you’ll still have time to do plenty of other activities because the volunteers have weekends free to explore. Lead Adventures is happy to help volunteers arrange activities on the islands so that everyone gets to have the fullest Galapagos Experience Program possible. You can still enjoy tourism activities such as snorkeling and trekking. But all the while, you’ll do so knowing that you’re more than just a tourist-you left a positive impact on the Galapagos Islands!
Description of the Project:
The Ecuadorean foundation which manages the San Cristobal Biological Station on the Galapagos Islands has worked in reforestation, the restoration of native ecosystems and sustainable agroforestry activities for over 18 years throughout Ecuador. Its work on San Cristobal continues is an important extension of the efforts that it has successfully carried out on the mainland.
The reserve maintains a biological corridor going running from 150 m.a.s.l. to 550 m.a.s.l., from the border of the dry forest, through transitional, Scalesia, and humid “brown” zones up to the area of Miconia forest. The Biological Station is a privately-owned reserve and is open to researchers, student groups, and volunteers.
The station manages a nursery of native tree species which are planted after the elimination of the invasive Himalayan blackberry Rubus niveus, and other invasive species. The work doesn’t stop with the planting of the trees, however, since the blackberry is an aggressive competitor and will come back to overgrow and kill the planted the trees without regular cutting back every three months.
Most of the trees planted will need twenty to twenty-five years of growth before they can outcompete the blackberry and survive on their own. Once they do though, the shade they provide will diminish the growth rate of the blackberry so much that it will then actually become possible to eliminate the blackberry completely.
The station has been fortunate enough to have benefited from the continued commitment of many volunteers throughout the past twelve years and so are halfway through this process in some places. But it’s also obvious that their need for volunteers will continue for at least ten years more, and every volunteer is critically important.
Your contribution is critically important. In addition, the foundation works collaboratively with local landowners to develop clean agricultural alternatives for the production of vegetables and fruits to sell to local universities, restaurants, and hotels.
HOUSING, Rules & Other Suggestions
The station is composed of two cabins that are made of different materials (native bamboo and cement). Each cabin contains 11 rooms each and a comfortable rest area where volunteers can read and relax during their free time. The kitchen and dining areas are separate from the cabins.
Accommodations are basic and rustic, consisting of bunkbeds in shared rooms. In total, the biological station can hold up to 45 people. Drinking alcoholic beverages and taking drugs is strictly prohibited on station grounds.
We strongly suggest using long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and insect repellent because of the biting blackfly. This is another invasive specie that is present on the island in substantial numbers. Some volunteers are concerned by the somewhat large huntsman spiders that can be found on the cabin walls, but these are completely harmless and even help control the invasive cockroaches. Fire ants may also be present in some of the shrubby vegetation, but it is easy avoid them if you pay attention.
Researchers can obtain needed permits with assistance from the foundation. The reserve has recently obtained electricity, but there is no Internet or telephone access. (Although most volunteers travel down to the port on weekends where Internet access is available.)
However, the electricity is only present inside the buildings themselves. We recommend that volunteers bring flashlights or headlamps so that they can see when walking from building to building at night. The buildings are very close together and the trails to each one is well preserved and easy to see.
Despite the overall rustic condition, volunteers still have access to regular toilets in showers (although there is no hot water). Each stall is made up of wooden doors and the showers are lined with tiles. Volunteers should make sure to bring shower shoes.
There is also a waterfall at the site where volunteers often swim in during their free time. It is only a short walk away from the rooms and volunteers can use the provided rubber boots to walk there. Volunteers eat all together, but each person is required to help cook for different meals. Afterwards, each person washes his/her own dish.
The reserve also has two dogs, a cat, chickens, and horses. These pets eat their meals outside of the kitchen.
Join us for the Experience of a Lifetime!
The station has a substantial informal book exchange in various languages for a relaxing afternoon read in a hammock on the porch, or if you're feeling more energetic you can take a walk down to the waterfall for a bracing swim in the small below. The staff, volunteers, and visitors sometimes gather round a bonfire at night to play music, sing, or otherwise celebrate life.
San Cristobal island itself has numerous attractions, including wonderful beaches with sea-lions, great snorkeling, a volcanic crater lake and a tortoise reproduction center. Trips to these destination are easily arranged at an additional cost.
After the Friday hike it is the volunteer’s decision to stay in port for the weekend or stay at the reserve. Your room and food will be available if you care to stay at the station. Majority of the volunteers will spend the weekend in port. If you choose to stay in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno taxis will be arranged to bring you to and from the highland station. This taxi trip is $20 and will evenly divided between passengers.
Hostels in port usually cost $20 per night. There are more expensive hotels available if anyone is interested. The hostels are quite comfortable and most include hot showers.
There is the opportunity to bring laundry down to port as well. It averages out to about $1 per kilo. The laundry services in town are very friendly and quite quick with their work.There is also availability to hand wash your clothes at the station.
There are restaurants and bars available to visit as well. There are expensive restaurants or you can find a typical Ecuadorian meal for $2.50-$3.50.
The island has 3 or 4 beaches that are frequented by various volunteers. Here you can see sea lions, sea turtles, and iguanas quite often. Snorkel gear is available for rent in town as well. Many volunteers take the option to go on tours within their stay on San Cristobal. There are different options for tours throughout the Galapagos that depart from San Cristobal. 1-4 day tours are the average trips taken. If you choose to go on a tour we ask that you give the reserve staff previous indication of your plans. We need to know when you leave and when you return so we can prepare meals and rooms accordingly. If you are staying at the station for only a short time we recommend staying with us for the duration of your stay.
|Placement Duration||Program Fee in USD|
|1 Week||$400 USD|
|2 Weeks||$630 USD|
|3 Weeks||$860 USD|
|4 Weeks||$1.075 USD|
|5 Weeks||$1.275 USD|
|6 Weeks||$1.475 USD|
|7 Weeks||$1.695 USD|
|8 Weeks||$1.890 USD|
|10 Weeks||$2.280 USD|
|16 Weeks||$3.445 USD|
|24 Weeks||$4.980 USD|
* We charge a non refundable $150 USD application fee in order to reserve your spot on the program.
Contact us and one of our travel experts will help you with a full budget description for your Travel Experience
We also offer Spanish Lessons in Quito from $275 USD for 20 lessons per week.
What is included and what is not?
What is Included:
- Scientific Orientation at the project.
- Accommodation in the volunteer house in the project
- All three meals included in the project
- 24-hour emergency contact number and support.
We can provide you (on low cost):
- An airport pickup and drop off upon arrival and departure $25 each
- Accomodation in Quito on arrival,
- One night accommodation in a hostel in Quito on arrival from Galapagos $20 usd/per night.
- Discounted Travel Insurance
Extra expenses that we don't include:
- International flights.
- Quito-Galapagos Roundtrip Airfare.
- Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee ($110 USD ).
- Ingala Card: 20 USD.
- Taxi back from the Conservation Station to The Town In Cristobal: 20 -30 USD or $5USD shared with other volunteers
- Approximate coordinates: -0.925672, -89.497259, 220 masl
- Weather: Misty, drizzly and somewhat cool during the dry season from June to December, warm and often sunny from January to May.
- Food: Healthy and relatively substantial meals are provide three times per day (Breakfast are not included on Friday, Saturday or Sunday). Vegetarian fare is available upon request.
- Suggested packing list: Sleeping bag, Mosquito netting, Flashlight, Sunblock, Insect Repellent, Bathing suit, work gloves, and sufficient changes of long-sleeved clothing for your time at the reserve.
Lisa Teo (25)
The volunteering at foundation reserve is the most memorable as we get to contribute back to the Galapagos National Park as well as making new friends and understanding the objectives/ problems of conserving the Islands. You will need too have an open mind to try new activities such as planting, counting slugs for research program etc and be flexible about schedule at times. Simply unforgettable. I had the best time doing new things while making new friends.
Andrew Dainty (32)
Santa Cruz volunteering, a very good placement great food, great people. Great experience. I will remember this experience for the rest of my life.
Jacquie Grocott (56)
Have thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip. Thank you so much for organising it so well. Every plan went well with being met and bookings and everything.
Alison Chopping (18)
I have thoroughly enjoyed my second visit to Galapagos. Thank you for the smoothness of the overall organization. I would be happy to recommend Lead Adventures to my friends at home
Amira Abdus-Salaam (48)
From the moment we landed in Quito the adventure began. The people there were wonderful, the hotel we stayed in was amazing and I enjoyed the weather. After spending sometime in Quito, we headed to Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, then Isabella which happened to be my favourite island. I really enjoyed helping out in the different conservation projects on the islands and seeing how the climate, animals and the vegetation changed from Island to Island. I met some amazing people during my time there and wish I could do it all over again. Every second moment spent there was one to remember. I am really glad I was able to be apart of this adventure and wish more people would follow in our footsteps.
Triona Browne (23)
In the Galapagos program I was involved with, there was a very clear schedule of activities that was followed. This made the program run very smoothly. In the office, the staff was very helpful and had excellent English. They helped me to change some of my itinerary and accommodations rather easily.
John Wealthall (34)
All in all, it was a great experience. I saw so much wildlife and met some very interesting people as well as getting a full understanding of Ecuador and the Galapagos. Thank you very much for the great time.
Cathy Klinesteker (18)
I chose LEAD Adventures because it had a base in Ecuador and I wanted to give back to the local economy. I really liked the idea of seeing the Galapagos through two lenses: as a volunteer and as a tourist.
Moira Wood (26)
The Staff at LEAD Adventures was always welcoming and ready to help me in anyway necessary. They were very understanding about storing luggage and changing rooms if we needed it. We were ready to work very hard for our program, but once we arrived we were happy to find out that there was free time off too to explore the surroundings.
Catherine Oliver (19)
The hostels provided in the program were good clean accommodations. They were very comfortable and enjoyable. The staff at LEAD was always available to listen, very helpful and friendly. Perhaps a small guide booklet with suggested tourist sites for visitors in Quito could be available at the hostel to explore the city. Many, many thanks.
Rachel Shingaki-Wells (35)
I would recommend this to friends, I had a great time and was comfortable. Many thanks to lead staff for being very flexible in my travel arrangements. Isabella was great, Volcan Chico was very fun, las tintoreras tour was excellent.
Yvonne Gregory (34)
Enjoyed the whole Ecuador and Galapagos Experience. Tours in Galapagos excellent. While in Quito, Lead-Adventures staff very helpful in all inquiries, and a lovely host family. Very good i-to-i Spanish lessons.