Galápagos Volunteer Trip

Photograph sea turtles while snorkeling and improving giant tortoise habitat - see and help protect Galapagos!

Volunteer in the Galápagos Islands!

The Galápagos Islands are a rare and distinctive collection of volcanic islands located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. The combination of hot equatorial sun and cool ocean waters has nurtured rich marine and terrestrial environments. The islands are known for the unique variety of animals which inspired Darwin and continue to fascinate visitors today.

Be inspired by Darwin and the giant tortoises for which the islands were named. Join other like-minded travelers to travel slowly and closely observe in the Galápagos Islands as you care for it. Travelers on ConservationVIP’s Galápagos trip volunteer 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!


Galápagos Volunteer Trip Details

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project activities | itinerary | price | trip reviews | prior trip reports | safety

Our volunteers in the Galápagos Islands help to protect the wildlife that makes the Galápagos 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 Galápagos Islands is a wonderful place to volunteer. Conservation Volunteers International Program is pleased to offer this exciting opportunity to protect an international treasure.

Your Galápagos Islands Volunteer Trip is focused on helping to protect the wildlife that makes the Galápagos such a unique place, while at the same time providing a rewarding and memorable experience.

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 Galápagos 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 trip leaders from Conservation Volunteers International Program and our local guide. Then we will hike to the Interpretive Center at Darwin Bay for an introduction to the history of the Galápagos and the flora and fauna of the island, followed by our first group dinner. Lodging will be at Hotel Casa Opuntia, where the group will stay for 4 nights. (Dinner and lodging included.)

Day 2: Visit a giant tortoise breeding center, then photograph sea turtles.

In the morning, we visit the Centro de Crianza de Tortugas, which is part of the Galápagos National Park’s semi-natural breeding program for giant tortoises, to begin familiarization with giant tortoises. In the afternoon, the group will have its first of several experiences snorkeling while photographing sea turtles, to provide data to the sea turtle research project conducted by the University of San Francisco de Quito. (All meals and lodging included.)

Days 3 – 4: Continue support for the sea turtle research.

We will meet with the researchers from the Galápagos Science Center, University of San Francisco de Quito, who will explain the purpose and importance of our sea turtle 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. On this trip you will have several opportunities to photograph turtles while snorkeling at different sites, to help identify the individuals by their unique markings, patterns and any injuries, and provide other onshore assistance with the survey.

Most snorkeling sites are close to shore, although one of the sea turtle research projects will involve taking a boat to the research site near Kicker Rock with surface snorkeling in water that is too deep to touch or see the ocean bottom. Flotation devices will be provided and are required. (All meals and lodging included.)

Day 5: Air shuttle to Isla Isabela, visit the giant tortoise breeding center on Isla Isabela, bike to the Wall of Tears.

We will spend the morning shuttling from San Cristóbal to the largest island in the Galápagos, Isla Isabela, by small plane.

We will check into our hotel in the village of Puerto Villamil where we will spend our first two nights on Isla Isabela. 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. Before dinner we will mountain bike to the Wall of Tears. Watch for a diversity of birdlife along the way! The wall, towering 65 feet in places, was constructed in the 1940’s by convicts when Isabela was a penal colony. We will have dinner after we return to our hotel in Puerto Villamil. (All meals and lodging included.)

Day 6: Boat to Tintoreras for sea turtle survey, then move to an eco-camp for our Galápagos giant tortoise project.

In the morning we will hop a boat to the islet of Tintoreras, where we conduct our final sea turtle census. Watch for sea lions, turtles, marine iguanas, rays and sharks in the crystal blue waters!

After we return to shore, we transfer to Campo Duro Eco-Camp, in the foothills of the Sierra Negra Volcano, for our Galápagos giant tortoise project. Campo Duro works in concert with Galápagos National Park, providing a reserve to help raise giant tortoises from 3 to 8 years old. In the afternoon we will be oriented to the projects at Campo Duro and work on projects 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.

Campo Duro is set in the cooler lush, tropical highlands. We will spend the night at Campo Duro. Amenities include fully equipped sleeping tents with mattresses and bedding, outdoor private cold-water showers, bathrooms with flush toilets, and an open-air 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. (All meals and lodging included.)

Day 7: Continue work with Galápagos giant tortoises and visit Sierra Negra volcano.

In the morning we will continue working on projects to support the Galápagos tortoise projects at Campo Duro.

After lunch we will drive through the highlands, where giant tortoises feed on the abundant vegetation, to the slopes of the Volcan Sierra Negra. Our moderate 9 mile hike takes us through rugged terrain which ends at the stunning caldera, the second largest intact crater in the world after the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. We will return to the hotel in Puerto Villamil at the end of the day. (All meals and lodging included.)

Days 8: Sea Turtle Research at the Tunnels

After breakfast we will be transported by boat to Los Tuneles snorkeling area, known for its rich population of sea life, where we will have our final opportunity to snorkel and photograph sea turtles. The offshore tunnels created by lava flows provide a different perspective on the lava formations from what the group has previously seen. Then we will return to our hotel in Puerto Villamil for one last evening in the Galápagos and a farewell dinner. (All meals and lodging included.)

Day 9: Fly to Baltra where the Galápagos Volunteer Trip ends

After breakfast we fly from Isla Isabela to Galápagos International Airport (GPS) on the Island of Baltra where you can catch a departure flight in the afternoon from Galápagos International Airport to Guayaquil and/or Quito. (Breakfast included)

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 details may vary with each volunteer travel experience according to the local needs at the time the trip takes place. Details 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.

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.

$4,695 for 9 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.)

Price includes:

  • all meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on Day 9
  • hotels rooms in San Cristóbal and Puerto Villamil.
  • 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

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Average rating:  
 45 reviews
 by Bob L
Galapagos January 2023

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.

 by Jonathan L
Galapagos Jan 2023

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.

 by Norman H.
Giving instead of Just Taking

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.

 by Brianne W
Galapagos November 2022

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.

 by Susan W
Galapagos November 2022

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!

 by Clair P
Wonderful experience!

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!

 by Bear W.
Galapagos May 2022

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.

 by Pam P.
Galapagos May 2022

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!

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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 check with your doctor to see if any immunizations are recommended for you.

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!

While on the trip, participants may have to follow procedures such as mask-wearing and social distancing as instructed by the trip leader. More specific safety instructions will be provided to those registered for the trip.

Participants will also have to comply with any restrictions imposed by Ecuador and your country of origin at the time of travel. While we know that restrictions can 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









About the Galápagos Islands

The Galápagos 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.

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