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.