Volunteer in the Galapagos Islands!
Join other like-minded volunteers to volunteer in the Galapagos Islands. ConservationVIP’s volunteers work on important conservation projects including sea turtle research and habitat protection for the giant tortoise. Make a difference while “giving back” to this remarkable place!
Galapagos Volunteer Trip Details
Look through the tabs below or click on these links to learn more about the project, the itinerary, the price and safety or to read trip reviews and prior trip reports.
Our volunteers in the Galapagos Islands help to protect the wildlife that makes the Galapagos such a unique place, while at the same time providing rewarding and memorable experiences for the volunteers. Volunteers will work on important conservation projects including sea turtle research and habitat protection for the giant tortoise. We train you in all aspects of the work. As always, your education and safety are priorities.
Tasks vary, but you should have intermediate swimming skills, and be able to hike up to three miles a day on uneven trails, move soil or rock with a shovel, pull unwanted vegetation, and carry stones. You may:
- snorkel while photographing sea turtles
- assist in collecting and collating data about turtles
- help construct improvements in a tortoise sanctuary
The Galapagos Islands is a wonderful place to volunteer. Conservation Volunteers International Program is pleased to offer this exciting opportunity to protect an international treasure.
Your Galapagos Islands Volunteer Trip is focused on helping to protect the wildlife that makes the Galapagos such a unique place, while at the same time providing a rewarding and memorable experience. What follows is a general description of activities you can expect on the Galapagos Islands itinerary. Please note, however, that local conditions and the volunteer project needs continually evolve. Detailed plans are often finalized or revised after the group arrives and the trip leaders review the conditions at the site in light of the capabilities and special interests of the volunteers.
You should plan to arrive at the meeting point for the trip by the morning of day 1. This will likely require departing your hometown one or more days in advance and may require an overnight stay in Guayaquil or Quito, Ecuador.
Day 1: Our volunteer trip begins in the Galapagos Islands at 2:00 PM at our hotel on San Cristóbal Island.
We will have an orientation and briefing at the hotel beginning at 2:00 PM where you will meet the other volunteers, the Conservation Volunteers International Program trip leaders and our local guide. The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to explore the town of Baquerizo Moreno or enjoy the beach and boardwalk at Playa de Oro. Dinner and meals for the next four days will be provided by Hotel Casa Opuntia.
Day 2: Visit a water-filled crater in the highlands, a tortoise breeding facility, and get oriented at the Sea Turtle Research Facility.
Day two will begin with a morning tour of Laguna El Junco and the Galapaguera reserve. Laguna El Junco, the largest fresh water lake in the archipelago, is located in a crater in the highlands of San Cristóbal in the southern half of the island. The lake harbors a large population of birdlife and reaching the lake requires a short uphill walk. La Galapaguera is the nearby breeding station and sanctuary for giant tortoises.
In the afternoon we will meet with the researchers from the Galapagos Science Center, University of San Francisco de Quito, who will orient us to our first volunteer project. We will be participating in a survey and census of sea turtles as part of ongoing research on the impacts of increased boat traffic on sea turtles.
Days 3 – 4: Help researchers conduct a sea turtle census.
Our project for these 2 days consists of assisting researchers with a sea turtle census. You will have the opportunity to photograph turtles while snorkeling, to help identify the individuals by their unique markings, patterns and any injuries, and provide other on-shore assistance with the survey.
The sea turtle research project will involve taking a boat to the research site near Kicker Rock, and surface snorkeling in water that is too deep to touch or see the ocean bottom. Flotation devices will be provided and required.
Day 5: Air shuttle to Isla Isabela and visit a tortoise captive breeding center.
We will spend the morning shuttling from San Cristóbal to the largest island in the Galapagos, Isla Isabela, by small plane. We will spend our first two nights on Isabela at a hotel, in the village of Puerto Villamil. Those who arrive on an early shuttle will have time to explore the nearby coastline (look for marine iguanas!) while the others are transferring to Isabela.
In the afternoon we will visit nearby Centro de Crianza, the Tortoise Center of Isabela, and learn about the National Park’s captive breeding program. The Center houses several species of tortoise, and we will see both hatchlings and the older breeding animals.
Day 6: Hop a boat and look for marine wildlife, look for shorebirds along the historic Wall of Tears and enjoy free time to lounge on a beach or explore a boardwalk through mangrove lagoons.
In the morning we will take a boat to the islet of Tintoreras. Watch for sea lions, turtles, marine iguanas, rays and sharks in the crystal blue waters! In the afternoon we will return back to the shore and bicycle to the Wall of Tears. This wall, towering 65 feet in places, was constructed in the 1940’s by convicts when Isabela was a penal colony. Watch for a diversity of birdlife along the way! When we return to our hotel in Puerto Villamil in the late afternoon you are free to explore the adjacent National Park boardwalk through mangrove lagoons or relax on the beach.
Day 7: Travel to an eco-camp and get oriented about our Galapagos Tortoise Project.
After breakfast at hotel, we will transfer to Campo Duro Eco-Camp, in the foothills of the Sierra Negra Volcano, for our Galapagos tortoise project. Campo Duro is an enchanting location set in the cooler lush, tropical highlands. Accommodations include fully equipped sleeping tents with mattresses and bedding, outdoor private showers, bathrooms with flush toilets, and a thatched roof restaurant and bar. Most of the fruits and vegetables served are grown organically in the on-site gardens. Food is cooked in wood fired stone ovens.
Campo Duro works in concert with Galapagos National Park, providing a reserve to help raise tortoises from 3 to 8 years old. This afternoon we will be oriented to the projects at Campo Duro, which may include planting and weeding tortoise enclosures; building a pond for the tortoises; repairing and building enclosure fences; and working in the organic garden. Weather permitting, we will have a campfire and share stories, sing some songs, and learn more about the “Enchanted Islands” called The Galapagos. Lunch and Dinner provided.
Days 8 – 9: Galapagos Tortoise projects at Campo Duro. On Day 8 we stay over at Campo Duro. On Day 9 we return to the hotel in Puerto Villamil at the end of the day. All meals provided.
Day 10: Take a hike up Sierra Negra and return to Puerto Villamil.
After breakfast we will depart for Volcan Sierra Negra. We will drive through the highlands, where giant tortoises feed on the abundant vegetation, to the slopes of the volcano where our moderate hike begins. The hike through rugged terrain ends at the stunning caldera, the second largest intact crater in the world after the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. Enjoy a box lunch while taking in the amazing views around you.
After lunch we will return to our hotel in Puerto Villamil for one last evening in the Galapagos and a farewell dinner.
Day 11: Complete your trip to the Galapagos Islands
This morning we fly from Isla Isabela to Galapagos International Airport (GPS) on the Island of Baltra where you can catch a departure flight in the afternoon from Galapagos International Airport to Guayaquil and/or Quito.
Note: Although we do our very best to adhere to the schedule above, the itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control, including weather and terrain conditions. Project locations may vary with each volunteer expedition according to the needs of park rangers at the time the trip takes place.
IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING AIR TRAVEL: Before purchasing your airline tickets, please check with us to ensure the trip has the necessary minimum number of participants required to operate.
$4,995 for 11 days; single room supplement $950 (subject to availability).
(Note: Your trip expense may be tax-deductible. Please see our Frequently Asked Questions page and consult your tax adviser for details.)
- all meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on Day 11
- hotels in San Cristóbal and Puerto Villamil; rooms are double occupancy
- Eco-Camp on Isla Isabela
- all van and boat transportation noted
- inter-island airplane flights from San Cristóbal to Isla Isabela and from Isabela to Baltra
- gratuities for services provided to the group
- project leadership and support staff
- group tools
- orientation and training
Price does not include:
- airfare to/from the Galapagos Islands
- Galapagos National Park entrance fee ($100, subject to change) which is collected upon landing in the Galapagos
- INGALA transit card ($10, subject to change)
- cost of medical immunizations
- insurance (emergency medical and evacuation insurance is mandatory for this trip)
- excess baggage charges
- airport taxes
- alcoholic beverages or soft drinks
- personal items
Deposit and Cancellation
A deposit of $500 per person for a shared room ($600 for a single room) is required at the time of signup; final payment is due at 90 days prior to departure. The payment and refund policy can be found here.
Group Size: 8 – 12
Submit your review
This trip was fantastic. All the accommodations, food, and activities were fantastic. I felt it was an incredible value for providing a great vacation and experience.
I really enjoyed the experience of traveling to the Galapagos with the Conservation Volunteers International Program (Conservation VIP). We did several volunteer projects, the biggest of which was photographing sea turtles while snorkeling to provide data to scientists who are tracking them. Other projects included a beach cleanup afternoon and cutting vegetation at a giant tortoise sanctuary. The trip also included educational tours of tortoise breeding facilities as well as few hiking trips. Everywhere, we saw amazing amounts of wildlife close up. The trip leaders and local guides were all well qualified and did the utmost to make sure all of the participants had a safe, fun, and educational experience. The accommodation was comfortable and all of the food delicious. I only have one suggestion for improvement in future trips, and that would be to move the volcano hike to the morning instead of afternoon, so that there would be less chance of rain and so we wouldn't be time pressured for when the park closes at 6:00. Also, might want to make it earlier than the last day - my hiking boots got soaked and didn't have time to dry out before my flight back. But that was a minor inconvenience, and overall it was an absolutely fantastic trip.
I arrived in San Cristobal a day early to protect against potential travel delays. Honestly the “extra” day in which I was just a typical tourist left me thinking “I shouldn’t be here”. I thought to myself this place should be a preserve with very limited human interaction allowed. It doesn’t need humans consuming precious resources like fresh water or creating waste or other forms of pollution. Then the team arrived and we went to work which changed my perception because now I was an ecotourist. Suddenly we were working to protect the wildlife and wilderness as well as helping those who live on the Galápagos Islands. Now we were partners giving back instead of just taking in experiences and consuming scarce resources. Every single person and business we were associated with were passionate about working towards sustainability of the Galápagos even though everything and everyone seems under resourced.
To put things in perspective to me, I was astounded that there are only a little over 2,000 penguins in the Galápagos. The colony we saw at Isabela numbers a total of 9 penguins. That represents the definition of fragile to me. This ecosystem needs support and knowledge gained through technical research rather than being exploited or consumed. And I felt honored to help those that are committed to that goal everyday.
ConservationVIP, thank you for putting together a service program to support the wildlife, wilderness, and people that are the Galápagos Islands. CampDuro was my clear favorite experience, but everything from the leaders to the guides to the volunteers to the hotels to the food to the equipment was exceptional. This trip moved me deeply and left me in a state of deep reflection nearly every night. It was a surreal experience that leaves me with a grateful heart for the Galápagos, the experience of visiting, and the people I met along the way.
A great group of people both on the staff and in the group itself. Volunteer work tends to bring out a good type of person. Both the food and accommodation were great, honestly much fancier than I'm used to, even when sleeping in a tent! All our excursions were great and it was good to see and help out with conservation programs on the islands.
This was a well organized, very interesting and fulfilling trip. The accommodations and food were great and good value. The volunteer work was interesting and felt useful. The VIP staff was very friendly and organized. The Ecuadorians were welcoming and very gracious about sharing their time, culture and country. If you want to spend 10 nights and 11 days in the Galapagos having a great time, staying in nice hotels, eating delicious food and engaging in meaningful volunteer work, TAKE THIS TRIP! Giant tortoises, green sea turtles, sea lions, land and marine iguanas, pelicans, magnificent frigate birds, and so much more! And, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, walking on the beach, eating delicious food and time to relax, AND watch Ecuador play in the World Cup! This trip was well organized, engaging and the Conservation VIP staff was friendly, knowledgeable, committed and also keep all of the volunteers on track. The Ecuadorian guide, Andres, is a first class naturalist and a very professional guide. The Galapagos National Park Staff were committed to both humans and park inhabitant being able to interact in a safe, interesting way. The people that live in the Galapagos were very nice, helpful and proud to share their home. The only problem was that the trip was too short!
The Galapagos trip was an incredible experience! To be somewhere like this and feel that you've given something back was so worthwhile. Everything was very well-organized and we learned so much. The trip leaders and local guides were wonderful! We worked hard but played hard. Highly recommend this trip!
This is an incredible and life-changing experience. I enjoyed every moment of every day from start to finish. All leaders, guides, specialists and individuals involved with the program and with the daily tasks were amazing, knowledgeable, understanding, and went out of their way to make our experiences enjoyable.
Absolutely the most amazing trip! Yes, volunteer service, but when you are cutting shrubbery around a giant tortoise habitat with several turtles chomping the leaves as you throw them down, it doesn’t seem like work! Similarly, snorkeling to photograph the sea turtles is more fun than service. Great accommodations, fantastic food, and side educational trips to learn more about the islands just capped things off. Highly recommend!
The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. The gear list has been created to help you in choosing your equipment for the trip. View the Gear List PDF.
Please click to view Trip Report PDFs.
Also, visit the Impact Summary page and see the difference you make!
ConservationVIP has always focused on our volunteers’ safety. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened that focus. Traveling with COVID-19 safety concerns requires some extra planning and flexibility both for trip leaders and trip participants!
Because of continuing COVID concerns, we are restricting participation on this trip to people who have received their COVID-19 vaccinations. Participants will also have to comply with any restrictions imposed by Ecuador and your country of origin at the time of travel. While we expect that the restrictions will change between now and the time of travel, we cannot predict what those changes will be. Here is a link to the current COVID-19 information page on the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador website
While on the trip, participants will also have to follow procedures such as mask wearing and social distancing. More specific COVID related safety instructions will be provided to those registered for the trip.
About the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands attract visitors from around the world who want to see this unique and prolific ecosystem. Because of its importance, 97% of the land area is a protected National Park. Situated on the Equator under the tropical sun, yet bathed for much of the year by the cool waters of the Humboldt and Cromwell currents, the archipelago was formed by mid-ocean volcanic eruptions, and was never in contact with a continental land mass. The result is an intriguing mix of tropical and temperate environments with a unique plant and animal ecology. The lack of natural predators has left many of the inhabitants fearless, resulting in extraordinary opportunities to view the wildlife, including the giant tortoise, penguins, and marine iguanas. Charles Darwin’s study of the finches while on his visit to the islands played a pivotal role in his formation of the theory of evolution.