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Share the privilege and passion in the Galapagos Islands !

In the Galapagos Islands, you join other like-minded volunteers to 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 Dates

Nov 30 – Dec 10, 2020
Jan 24 – Feb 3, 2021
May 23 – June 2, 2021
Nov 28 – Dec 8, 2021
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or call 1-800-622-2236

Galapagos Volunteer Trip – Details

The 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 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.

Group Size: 8 – 12

Scroll through the tabs on the left for details about the itinerary, price and gear list and to read reviews and prior trip reports

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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE
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.

$4,880 for 2020, $4,935 for 2021; 11 days

(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 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

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.

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ConservationVIP
Average rating:  
 37 reviews
by Sansolo on ConservationVIP
Making the Unknown, Personal

This is the trip for you if you've dreamed of traveling to the Galapagos, but hesitated because of your concerns about over-tourism and impacting the the fragile ecosystem. This is a trip where you can give something back, be educated, be active and be a tourist in service of the ecosystem. It's a win-win all the way around! Bouquets to REI for their total support of private non-profit Conservation Volunteers International.

Why did you choose this trip?
I wanted an active, "off the beaten path" trip to the Galapagos. I didn't realize until I read more that the service element was so important to me. It was actually this piece that sets the REI trip above others and committed my interest.

What would your advice be to potential travelers?
Read the REI and Conservation Volunteer reports of the trip. They are thorough and will give you an accurate picture of the activities. If you are an average, regular exerciser, you'll have no problem, regardless of age. The accommodations were better than expected--3/3+ small hotels on the waterfront. Yes, you can fall asleep to barking sea lions and their babies. I loved that this trip is land-based (as opposed to a cruise). Waking around the towns and eating at local restaurants, is a positive for the trip. The best, was one evening we had dinner in the home of a local chef--unbelievable ceviche! I think Campo Duro has upgraded since some of the reviews a few years ago. Firstly, the property is beautiful and no one reported leaking tents. (It did drizzle one night) The tents have 4-5 inch mattresses with fresh sheets, pillow and blanket. It's still camping, but not like backpacking, and not quite glamping. There are flush toilets, 2 indoor and 2 outdoor showers, and a large palapa structure with tables and a bar, for meals. Campo Duro was a central part of the service work. Moving the fence was a hard, dirty, sweaty job, but "Oh, so satisfying!" Never thought I could bond with a land tortuga.

What was the highlight of your trip?
There was no "one" highlight--being there is the highlight. I guess I would say the itinerary that enabled a comprehensive view/experience of "all that is Galapagos" is the highlight. The Conservation Volunteer leaders, and especially the local guides made the unknown, personal. I had many memorable moments in 11 days.

About Me
Casual Adventurer
✔ Yes,

by DeniseA on ConservationVIP
A Multi Sport Adventure with my Totem

I am 73 years old and am very fit. I thrived on the physical challenges of this trip. Whether it was jumping off the boat in deep water, snorkeling, and then climbing up the ladder, mountain biking on Isabela, or hiking 9.5 miles (round trip) to Sierra Negra, I was happy. And I was really happy tearing down and rebuilding a fence at the tortoise sanctuary at Campo Duro. It was back breaking work and it was hot and humid. However, the satisfaction that I felt when looking at the new fence we built was beyond description. And then watching the tortoises explore their expanded habitat was a perfect ending.

Why did you choose this trip?
I chose this trip because I wanted to experience the Galapagos Islands in a way that I could be helpful and leave a little of me behind. I did not want to be a total tourist.

What would your advice be to potential travelers?
My advice to you is to pack as lightly as you can. I washed my clothes in my bathroom sinks without problem. The list of what to bring is spot on so you can trust it. I spent 3 days in Quito after the Galapagos and I highly recommend you do so. I hired a Quito guide named Gabriela at Tours By Locals and it was the best thing I ever did.

What was the highlight of your trip?
The turtle is my totem. In 1999, I got a tattoo of a turtle just below my left collar bone. So for me to swim with the sea turtles and walk among the tortoises was a powerful experience and the highlight of my trip. Did you know that tortoises love to eat the petals of the hibiscus flower? Well, I didn't either until January of 2020!!!

About Me
Avid Adventurer
✔ Yes,
I recommend this trip.

by Boodog @02/03/2019 on ConservationVIP
Only in Galapagos!

It goes without saying that you will see things here that you will not see anywhere else. The creatures here are amazing and beautiful and unforgettable. You will do everything tourists do and so much more. It is a working vacation, so be prepared for manual labor. The payoff is worth it. I am in love with Blue-footed Boobies... 🙂

Why did you choose this trip?
I have always wanted to go to Galapagos, but I know that tourism is having a negative impact on the islands and I just didn't want to be that guy, but hey, I still want to see the Blue-footed Booby...! So this was an excellent way to see the islands and not leave a negative impact and in fact provide a positive one. Win-win.

What would your advice be to potential travelers?
Be prepared for an active itinerary. Sunscreen and bug spray are a must.

What was the highlight of your trip?
Too numerous to mention - a stingray swimming right underneath me, marine iguanas mating, feeding baby giant tortoises, a Galapagos sea lion swimming around me, and of course, blue-footed boobies... 🙂

About Me
Casual Adventurer
✔ Yes,
I recommend this trip.

by earnd193 on ConservationVIP
Outstanding Trip

Outstanding trip. Do it. Our leaders, Mark and Susan were everything you would want in a leader, our guide Andres was efficient and outstanding. Meals were well planned, well organized. The whole trip flowed like clockwork.

What would your advice be to potential travelers?
Arrive in shape. Lots of hiking, several snorkeling days, one day of biking. If a 10 Mile / 5 Hour hike scares you, train up so that you can enjoy it.

Pay for good gear, it's worth it. Pack lightly. Don't take cotton. Including what we wore in transit, we did 3 pair of lightweight convertible pants, 3 long sleeve shirts, 2 short sleeve, 1 rash guard, 4 socks (merino wool), and 4 underwear and it served us very well. We wore goretex shoes (Salamon xa pro 3d gtx) 100% of the time, though others had lighter wear for when activities allowed. We didn't mind the shoes. Paired with good socks (Merino Wool, Smartwool) they will never smell. Small bottle of detergent and you can wash in the shower every few evenings and have clean dry clothes the next morning (again, assuming you have quick dry materials, no cotton).

For water we did 100oz camelbaks which we loved. The camelbak also gave us enough room to always carry sunscreen, bug spray, rain jacket, and a couple snacks. We did not have water bottles, though some did. It was nice having free hands.

We used Kokua Sun Screen which was awesome. Reef safe, no burns. Good zinc, rubs in well.

Hat and handkerchief provided. That's probably the only piece of gear I can think of that would have been nice to have, a hat with ear/neck cover. But sunscreen did fine, so no worries.

Cell service? Yes, staying in touch with family/business can be important for some, so providing our experience. We used Google Fi and had great service the first 4 nights (San Cristobal), good service the 4 nights in Isabella, and touch-and-go service the 2 nights at Campo Duro. Our cell service was so good, never used Hotel Wifi. Consider a shared folder with family/friends back home (Google Photos - Album makes it very easy) so you don't have to send photos.

Travel? We flew into Quito and crashed at the Wyndham by the airport the night before our flight to Galapagos which was insanely convenient. Club access wasn't much more a night in our case, so it was worth it to have heavy appetizers dinner and free drinks the night before, and full breakfast the next morning without having to worry about anything or finding food. Hotel staff was great.
Galapagos Hotels provided were great. Good clean rooms, on the ocean, superb staff, filtered water.

Go click Book Now and have fun.

About Me
Casual Adventurer
✔ Yes,
I recommend this trip.

by Lindy2019 on ConservationVIP
Amazing Experience

Galapagos has been a bucket-list adventure and this journey through REI exceeded all expectations.

Why did you choose this trip?
Opportunity to contribute by doing work while having a unique experience.

About Me
Avid Adventurer
✔ Yes,
I recommend this trip.

by BT from OC on ConservationVIP
Fantastic trip

The guides were great, both the trip guides and the local guides. The trip was fun and interesting. A good mix of sightseeing and activities, with conservation work mixed in. This trip gives you a great perspective of the Galapagos . The group of people on the trip were also great to hangout with and work with. You will not regret taking this vacation.

Why did you choose this trip?
Never been to South America or Galapagos. Interesting wildlife

What would your advice be to potential travelers?
Relax and enjoy the trip.

What was the highlight of your trip?
Snorkeling with sea turtles, Sea Lions and marine iguanas. Helping out with the care of the giant tortoises.

About Me
Casual Adventurer
✔ Yes,
I recommend this trip.

by Magnum PI on ConservationVIP
Exceeded our expectations!

When I first learned about this trip I knew that it was the one trip I had to make. The opportunity to do some conservation work in the delicate environs of the Galapgos Islands while seeing them for the first time sounded so inviting. I immediately tried to round up a group of 12 friends so we could make it as a group trip, to make memories for a lifetime. Unfortunately, the thought of camping for a few days was not on everyone's wish list. Fortunately, there were many like-minded individuals and couples who felt like I did and our new "friends" made this trip so worthwhile. We met our guides and fellow volunteers shortly after our arrival in the islands, and quickly got to know a little bit about each other. As the days passed, we bonded as a team and worked together to accomplish our assignments and objectives with lots of smiles and laughter.

I especially enjoyed the snorkeling and photographing marine animals in the wild, and learning incredible facts about the history and ecology of the islands from our Ecuadorian guides, including some guides who were born and raised in the islands. We learned about the many issues that the islands and its inhabitants faced and we did our best to think about everything we consumed or used while on the trip. Our work project on a Giant Tortoise habitat was hard, but it was made enjoyable by the team and our guides. I especially enjoyed being getting so up close and personal with our Tortoises. I hope they remember us! Several days of short hikes and an afternoon on mountain bikes made this trip even better. We were taken to decent restaurants for lunch and dinner, and we ever were invited to a host family's home for a special dinner that rivaled many of the restaurants that we visited. Every aspect of the trip was well thought out and planned, and there was always some free time to do some individual walks and exploration through the towns where we stayed. I would not hesitate to make another Conservation VIP trip in the near future. I felt welcomed, safe and appreciated, and I made new friends as well. I could not have asked for a better experience.

Why did you choose this trip?
The opportunity to be of service while traveling to a sensitive environment.

What would your advice be to potential travelers?
Take plenty of sunscreen, bug spray and pack light!

What was the highlight of your trip?
The snorkel trip in Puerto Villamil and the visit to the Tortoise breeding centers.

About Me
Avid Adventurer
✔ Yes,
I recommend this trip.

by Susan R on ConservationVIP
I fell in love with the tortoises!

I heard details of this trip from fellow travelers on my Machu Pichu volunteer trip last June. I knew it was one that I would love. I was surprised by how much personality the land turtles had and that I could so easily fall in love with their gentle nature. Mark and Barbara were excellent volunteer leaders with their many years of experience but their dedication and commitment to ConservationVIP was awe inspiring. They made everything fun and made us feel so appreciated and special for what seemed like a small work contribution (in comparison to theirs).

Why did you choose this trip?
For me, volunteer travel is the most rewarding and fun way to travel. I will probably go through the whole list of trips over the next couple of years. And I hope that they will add more opportunities to serve in other parts of the world.

What would your advice be to potential travelers?
Don’t be nervous about any aspect of the trip. Relax, have fun and trust the volunteer leaders. They have years of experience with volunteer trips and all aspects of the journey. They are very caring individuals who are always making sure you are comfortable with the work assignments, fun activities, meals, accommodations, etc. They should be paid for all of their hard work.

What was the highlight of your trip?
As always, meeting new people : the Ecuadorian people, knowledgeable guides, trip leaders and fellow travelers. Working with the tortoises at Campo Duro.

About Me
Casual Adventurer
✔ Yes,
I recommend this trip.

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About the Galapagos Islands

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.

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