Galapagos Volunteer Trip
Volunteers work on important conservation projects including sea turtle research and habitat protection for the giant tortoise. Come and SHARE THE PRIVILEGE AND PASSION with other like-minded volunteers. Make a difference while “giving back” to this remarkable place!
Click on the expandable links below for details.
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.
Group Size: 8 - 12
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.
- 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
- 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
Galapagos Volunteer Dates
March 12 – 22, 2017 (Trip Full)
November 12 – 22, 2017 (Trip Full)
or call 1-800-622-2236
Galapagos Trip Reviews
Visit our partner REI Adventures to read more.
Expand the Trip Reports link below to see the difference past volunteers to the Galapagos made!
The Galapagos Islands attract visitors from around the world who want to see this unique and prolific ecosystem. 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.