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Conservation Project in the Galapagos

On San Cristobal that is the oldest Island in the Galapagos also lays the capitol of the province, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and here lives the second largest population of the Islands with about 6,000 inhabitants.

Tourism here is not as big as in Santa Cruz but it has been growing steadily the last couple of years and they now have some cruises departing from here as well as some day trips and activities that they offer to tourists.

THE PROJECT

This project takes place in the high part of San Cristobal in a small land of 7 hectares. The main part is the conservation and Eco-tourism where the goal is to have a 100% endemic environment both to conserve this unique nature but also to give visitors a chance to see and learn about the many plants that exist here. This is easier said than done in an environment with aggressive introduced plants like elephant grass and black berry where especially the last one is easily spread by bird’s and this demands constant work to not take over the land and kill the native species.

The area where the project takes place is constantly being cleaned, and a strong work of reforestation is done to try to recuperate the spot back to its natural status. The reforestation is done with endemic species

In the project we get visitors that come either just for the day or they also come to  have the chance to camp for a couple of days with everything like tents and food prepared and in this way the project also has a chance to get some income to keep moving on.

Another part of this project is agriculture and it also takes place in the high part where we work side by side with several families to produce enough food for the families and the left production is sold in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

In agriculture what is produced is different fruit and vegetables like banana, plantain carrots, avocado, sugar cane, mandarins, oranges, corn etc.

Other part of the project is to keep clean the paths that lead to view points or places    for tourism. Sometimes the paths are so covered with vegetation that it is hard to find the way, the lack of maintenance is a real problem. Many of these paths are part of the Galapagos National Park or they can even be private properties where we have paths to develop tourism so some families can benefit of visitor in their properties.

It might sound that the project is for benefiting people living in the high part but if we want to do a real conservation we need to get people (locals) involved in this conservation and try to benefit from it in the best way.

If we try an aggressive or massive agriculture it would produce severe damage to the ecosystem or even a massive cattle production would damage it.

When possible and if times permits volunteer might help out at the tree nursery belonging to the National Park as the only worker here has to take care of 10.000 to 14.000 plants and at the same time he is responsible for the reforestation of 20 hectares on the Island. This is also where the project gets the plants that they use for reforestation.

WHY DO THEY NEED HELP?

As the project is run without any financial help from the National Park or the government they need help from volunteers as they can’t afford to hire more than a very few local people to help them when needed and there is a lot of introduced plants that needs to be cleaned off the land. Volunteers are also needed to help them with English as they don’t have any database of information about plants and animals that they can use to build signs in the future and also they might have good ideas how to keep developing their infrastructure as well as their Eco-tourism part of the project.

VOLUNTEERS’ ROLE

Volunteers will work together with the rest of the people in this project with everything that needs to be done. The cleaning of introduced plants is for example an ongoing job that is very important to avoid plants like black berry and elephant grass to take over the land totally. The people in the project try to rotate work between the different locations so that they at least get some variety during the work week. This means that they might for example clean introduced plants for two days, then do reforestation for  one day and round up the week with one day working the land at the agriculture and one day cleaning paths down towards the coast. Even though it is mostly physical work they have in this way a chance to get some variety in the project to avoid doing the same thing day after day or getting bored.

Other things that volunteers might help with during their time here if it is needed might be to visit the National Park tree nursery to pick up plants for the reforestation project and while there they might also help with plants and seeds here for the day and if there are a couple of volunteers they might even help the National Park with some reforestation or to collect seeds and/or plants for the tree nursery.

Volunteers might also help with the infrastructure in the project. This can be anything from clearing paths to repairing and/or maintain the house, toilet or the small tree nursery they have in the high part.

Tasks that volunteers might do:

  • Clean introduced plants like Blackberries or Elephant grass.
  • Reforestation with plants from Galapagos like the Scalecia tree.
  • Help improving the small tree nursery that they have at the project.
  • Clean and maintain different paths to different locations for visitors.
  • Help out at the fruit farm in the high part.
  • Some volunteers even help some days in the local school.
  • Go to the National Park tree nursery to pick up plants and help transport them to the project.
  • Help preparing for visitors that once in a while camp at the project
  • Start making a data base of the plants in the area and their importance.

REQUIREMENTS

Application with clear passport scan.

Letter of intentions and resume/CV.

Willingness to live in a different and simple way.

Interest to work with nature and people.

Possibility to work physically.

RECOMMENDED

Intermediate Spanish.

2 weeks minimum.

WORKING HOURS

From about 07:00 to 13:00, Monday to Friday. Sometimes volunteers works a Saturday and/or Sunday to have free time another day of the week depending on if they for example find a good day tour they want to take part of.

WHAT TO BRING

Working shoes or rubber boots and gloves.

Working clothing’s that might get stained or broken while working.

Water bottle to refill.

Sunscreen and sun cap.

Camera and laptop if they want to help with the information database.

HOME STAY

Volunteers will live in a volunteer house 10 minutes away from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno by taxi. Here they will have a shared room, a shared bathroom and 3 meals per day but sometimes they might have lunch where they work for the day due to distance to go back to the house.

Depending on where they work for the day they might have anything from 25 minutes by horse to 45 minutes walking one way.

For Internet, phone cabins and stores they need to get down to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

The showers have slightly warm water as they are electrically heated and this mainly helps just to not have really cold water.

TO GET THERE

Volunteers have to arrive to Ecuador for at least the first day when we have the orientation. If they want Spanish classes they will of course stay for a while before heading to the location of their work or we can arrange Spanish classes in Santa Cruz.

When it’s time to leave Quito they will take a cab for about $4 to the airport. Here they will pay the $10 for the immigration card at the airport before doing the check in and then the flight takes them through Guayaquil for an about 3 hour long trip.

On arrival to the airport outside Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island they have to pay the entrance of $100 and once on the outside the family will meet up to take them home.

Calculate about $5 for a taxi to the volunteer lodge in the high part one way.

To get to work every day they either walk or take horses/mules.

PLACEMENT FOR

Anybody that loves nature and animals can take part of the project. Please note that there is a surcharge on top of our regular fees for living in the Galapagos since everything is more expensive on these islands.

THINK ABOUT

We would say that an experienced traveler that doesn’t mind only having locals and Spanish around her/him would be best. It can be lonely without other volunteers and they are a bit outside the town so no connection to the world where they live and work.

We would also suggest someone that can come with ideas and work without someone telling them every little thing they need to do.

Any ages is welcome but remember that work is mostly physical and sometimes the sun can be strong and together with rain it can be very hot and humid during the day depending on the season.