Visit cloud forests, coastal mountains, mangroves and beaches. Help protect the Amazon rainforests with reforestation projects and interact with the local Indian communities. It is all about getting back to nature with important biological conservation projects. If you want the ultimate conservation project and want to spend your gap year giving plenty back to mother nature then this trip is for you!

 

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 Ecuador Conservation Experience

Don’t just travel give something back while you do it. You will be an Xtreme Hero!

Whether David Attenborough is your hero, you have an interest in conservation or you just love the idea of really getting involved in the places you visit and giving something back, then you´ll want to read on!

We have some brand new conservation opportunities in various locations around Ecuador that will give you the chance to get stuck in right at the heart of some of the most important environmental projects in the country ” this is a unique and rewarding experience which not only gives you a chance to learn new skills (great for that CV!) but also to make loads of new friends with like-minded people.

Two to twelve weeks in four different conservation areas

You can choose your duration, from two to twelve weeks, which can be spent in one or more of the following locations, doing the activities mentioned, and more! Every two weeks you can rotate your placement to head out to a different reserve.

Highlights include

  • Visiting cloud forests, coastal mountains, mangroves and beaches
  • Helping conserve the indigenous trees and plants of areas such as the Amazon basin
  • Interacting with the local communities   by demonstrating organic farming methods or making handicrafts
  • Watching the fascinating range of reptiles, birds and mammals in the nature reserves
  • Hike to Andean villages and take in the breathtaking scenery

Locations

J&S Biological Reserve and Station

  • North eastern Ecuador – Tropical wet forest location, 450m above sea level
  • Help preserve important plants in the botanical garden
  • Get your hands dirty at the organic farm
  • Teach English to school pupils

Bilsa Biological Station and Reserve

  • North western Ecuador ” Mountainous coastal forest, up to 800m above sea level
  • One of the last remaining cloud forests in the world
  • Study bird species and record sightings
  • Help out in the medicinal plant garden or banana plantation
  • Hike the trails and spot howler monkeys and armadillos

Guandera Biological Station and Reserve

  • Northern Ecuador – Mountain location in the Andes, up to 3,600m above sea level
  • Work amongst the surroundings of a lush cloud forest
  • Collect and record plants and herbs from the area

Congal Biomarine Station and Reserve

  • Western Ecuador ” Tropical wet forest, mangroves and beaches
  • Get involved in aquaculture
  • Patrol the beach to monitor turtles
  • Work with the local community in farming or harvesting

Ecuador conservation experience (1)

Photos

Itinerary & Location Overview

Volunteer_groupThe trip starts on the first Tuesday of the month. We advise you arrive one day early into Quito. You will need to cover the cost of the extra night on Monday, but we can help you arrange accommodation.

The itinerary is flexible in that it can range from two weeks to eight weeks, depending on how many of the locations you´d like to include in your trip.   There are descriptions of each place below, which gives you info on where they are and what you can get involved in, so whichever you like the sound of just get in touch and we´ll put your trip together.

You could even combine volunteering with one of our other Ecuador adventures so that you get that perfect balance of work and play.   Rest assured though, you´ll have plenty of spare time at the reserves to enjoy the surrounding areas and get to know your fellow travellers.

Please note if you’re looking for a wildlife conservation project, with lots of interaction with animals then this is not the trip to you. The main focus of this project is on land-based conservation. If you are looking for more animal orientated wildlife conservation projects, just drop us an e-mail as we have plenty of options for you.

Jatun Sacha Biological Station and Reserve

Where is it?

Located in the tropical wet forest of the Napor region, which connects the Andes Mountain Range and the Amazon River Basin, the Jatun Sacha Reserve has grown from just 200 hectares to over 2,200 of some of the most biologically diverse areas in the country.   The name means ´Big Forest´ in Quichua, the native language of the local communities and within this fascinating habitat there are over 250 different species of trees and 1500 species of plants, not to mention hundreds of species of amphibians, lizards and mammals, including large cats such as pumas and jaguars.

Climate-wise the area has approximately 200 days of rain per year and an average temperature of 25⁰C.   The driest months are November to January and the wettest are April to July and the activities you´ll be doing may depend on the season ” our travel experts can tell you more.

What is done there?

The reserve has a number of objectives that are focussed on day-to-day, as well as running a range of courses for national and international students.   The aims are broadly split into two areas. One is to conserve and protect the natural environment and undertake biological research, which involves maintaining collections of endangered and important plants and developing reforestation. The second aim is to improve the health and quality of living for the surrounding communities, which includes improving agricultural methods, researching alternative timber products for sources of income and improving the quality of life for the inhabitants of the surrounding areas.

Projects available and weekly schedules

There are different projects that you can get involved in and during a typical week you´ll have chance to spend time on each one, ensuring that you get to experience a combination of the nature and social aspect.

This is an amazing botanical garden that houses live collections of important plants, including those used for medicinal purposes.   You’ll get stuck right in with collecting seeds, preparing soil, learning about tree nursery maintenance and also maintaining and constructing new trails through the gardens.

You’ll be playing an important part in maintaining the unique plant life of the Amazon Basin, helping to keep endangered plant species alive and learning more than you ever could in a classroom!   On top of all that, you’ll be cultivating new friendships with like minded travellers and conservationists.

This project is more specifically for the benefit of the local communities and involves helping to develop an organic farm that provides an alternative source of food and protein as well as income.   You’ll be getting your hands dirty with soil preparation, compost maintenance (nose peg not included!) and veggie garden maintenance – they don’t actually come from Tesco you know.   You might also be involved in the maintenance or creation of pools for raising charapas (cute turtles) and caymans (the snappy amphibian, not the sleek Porsche).
Once a week you´ll have the chance to get involved in handicraft workshops with the Quichua community, where you might weave hats and baskets or make jewellery with seeds and tagua nuts.

Getting involved in reforestation projects, collecting data on precipitation and temperature or helping with the maintenance of the station and its facilities.   You may find yourself helping in the kitchen when there are groups visiting the reserve, which also gives you the chance to show off what you have learnt so far!

Guandera Biological Station

Where is it?

Located high in the Andes, at between 3,100 to 3,600 metres above sea level, Guandera Biological Station is in an area with the only remaining high altitude alpine forest ” picture the misty green canopy and huge twisted and gnarled trees.   It has a very unique eco-system due to the diversity of flora and fauna found at this altitude, including 250 species of plants, 60 species of trees, over 160 bird species and mammals including the Andean Spectacled Bear and pumas.

The climate tends to be cold and humid.   Night time temperatures can be as low as 4⁰C and during the day it can reach 22⁰C – even if the cooler temperatures don’t immediately appeal to you, remember that the climate contributes to making this amazing area what it is, so we reckon you learn to appreciate it when you see how amazing the landscape is!

What is done there?

The main objective of the reserve is the conservation of some of the last remaining Andean cloud forest.   The biological station has a greenhouse area and tree nursery, where the native species can be grown and botanical gardens contain some of the most important plants found in the forest.

There is also an agro-forestry program that promotes the growth of organic fruit and vegetables and a hands-on environmental education course, both of which involves collaboration with the local community.

Projects available and weekly schedules

There is a great range of activities for you to get involved in at Guandera, so you can be sure to experience an interesting combination of conservation and community based projects.

This includes seed and data collection, nursery maintenance and transplanting seedlings of Andean trees and also working in the orchid garden.   You’ll really feel like your contributing to the conservation of this beautiful area of cloud forest.

This project is all about testing and promoting organic farming techniques, so you could find yourself preparing soil, planting seeds, weeding and harvesting.   Once a week volunteers also visit local farms to help promote these methods, which can help the community to produce alternative food sources and incomes.

The station also has a number of guinea pigs, so if you prefer animals to plants you can look after these fluffy creatures and ensure their food crops are maintained ” perhaps not recommended for those of you who had a bad experience looking after the school pets!

There are a number of options in this area, including making biological inventories of the plant and birdlife during hikes through the reserve, collecting plants to go into the herbarium or participating as a research assistant in any specific projects that are being conducted at the time.   It’s even possible for you to undertake your own personal project, so if you are, or have been, a student in something biology or environment related then this could be an ideal opportunity to put your knowledge into practice.
Volunteers chip in and work together to ensure that all the facilities at the reserve are kept in good condition and improved on, which can include designing forest trails and making signs.   Once you have got to know the place well you may also have the chance to act as a guide for visitors to the reserve.
If you’re a people person or just love the idea of being involved with the local community then you’ll relish the opportunities available here.   Part of the programme involves collaborating with the people of Mariscal Sucre to talk to them about environmental topics and explain methods of organic and sustainable farming.   Another community programme involves visiting nursing homes where you can spend some time with older residents, who love having company.   Remember that body language accounts for a large part of communication so don´t worry if you don´t speak much of the language!
This is an integral part of your time at Guandera and takes place in the evenings around the warm and cosy chimney. It’s your chance to hear more about the history, culture and people of the area, not to mention share your own stories and get to know other volunteers.[

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This gives you a chance to explore some of the surrounding landscape with experienced guides, who will share with you a wealth of information on different subjects relating to biodiversity.   Depending on the weather you could gaze over dramatic snow-capped volcanoes and beautiful waterfalls as you take in the serene atmosphere and marvel at experiencing this place first hand.

Bilsa Biological Station

Where is it?

In a change from the other stations and reserves, Bilsa is located in the Mache Chindul Mountains in north western Ecuador, close to the coast, so it’s a different experience in terms of the climate, landscape and projects available.

The nature reserve covers around 3,600 hectares and accounts for the 1% of coastal wet forest that remains.   Thanks to the rugged landscape, rising between 300 to 800 metres in altitude, the varying moisture levels and high amount of rainfall, the area has a unique ecosystem that consists of thousands of different plant species, hundreds of bird species and many mammals and reptiles, including ant eaters and howler monkeys.

What is done there?

There are a number of objectives being fulfilled at Bilsa and include projects concentrating on reforestation and the study of wildlife.   More specifically, there are a number of bird and amphibian investigations being run to monitor numbers, identify species and collect data on the locations of the wildlife in the reserve.

Projects available and weekly schedules

A typical weekly schedule involves spending two days on reforestation and maintenance, two days of hiking along the reserve trails and one day participating in handicraft classes with a member of the local community.   This is the ideal location if you want a combination of active and observational tasks.

You’ll be getting your hands dirty with seed collection, planting, replanting trees and maintaining the paths and gardens around the cabins and main building.   You could also be involved in looking after the fruit trees, medicinal plants and banana plantation (the latter involves the use of a machete, so no messing around!).

There are many other tasks that you might get involved in, such as making booklets on plant collections, recording bird sightings, studying the seasons of specific fruit trees and even some carpentry – will you be confident enough to sit on a chair that you’ve made yourself?!

Congal Biomarine Station and Reserve

Where is it?

Situated in western Ecuador, in a region that is the world’s fourth priority biodiversity hotspot, Congal Reserve incorporates a diverse range of habitats, including beach, estuary, mangrove, wetlands and wet tropical forest.   It offers volunteers the chance to see and experience different types of ecosystems to those visited at the other reserves.

What is done there?

The primary aim of the station is to develop sustainable and environmentally friendly methods of aquaculture that not only helps to maintain a healthy coastline but also to teach local communities about these methods with a view to improving income and living standards.   In addition to aquaculture organic farming is also a big part of the projects, as is reforestation and general conservation.

Project available and weekly schedules

You’ll be getting your hands wet rather than muddy here, with tasks such as shrimp and fish harvesting, pond monitoring, organic fertilisation and oyster culture, all of which helps towards the aims of the centre.
You have the opportunity to work in a variety of habitats, from mangroves and tropical forests to beaches.   Your tasks are likely to include looking after planted trees, working in the nursery, producing inventories and maps of reforested areas and beach monitoring to observe turtles, collect oyster shells and drift wood.
If you fancy yourself as a tropical farmer then you’ll love this aspect of the volunteer work!   From harvesting fruits, such as tagua nuts and bamboo to planting and maintenance of organic cacao, you’ll have plenty to do.   Each week there is also a trip to Congal Island (by speedboat – the easy option, or in canoes – a bit more effort required, but great scenery on the way) where you can have a go at clam harvesting and pineapple growing.  
All volunteers pitch in and help with keeping the buildings, paths and gardens shipshape.   If you have any carpentry skills, that’s great, but if not don’t worry, you can learn how to thatch a roof, build stuff with bamboo and repair fences.   Your dad would be proud!
This is where you get a chance to really interact with the local community, either at Bunche Village or Muisne Town.   Whatever your interests, there are activities to suit you, from helping out in a health care centre to working with local farmers or women´s groups.   You don´t always feel the love when working with plants, so it´s nice have some human contact!

Accommodation

IMG_0489During your stay you will be housed at the different reserves in basic shared accommodation, don ´t expect 5 star luxury as could be staying in the Amazon or up in the cloud forests of the Andes, but the accommodations are comfortable and secure. Here is an out line of the facilities in the different centers

Bilsa

Bilsa is available for use by researchers, eco-tourists, leaders of education groups, university students, volunteers, interns, natural history visitors and tour groups. Mattresses, sheets, blankets, mosquito nets, and candles are provided. All meals are provided and guaranteed cooked under optimal conditions. There is also boiled water available for everyone´s consumption. The climate is warm and humid, but al night it often gets cool. In order to communicate with members of the community, it helps to speak basic conversational Spanish.
The cabins are surrounded by gardens, fruit trees and secondary forest. The gardens and fruit trees atract a great diversity of bird species, amongst which the Long Wattle Umbrella bird, various Toucans, Trogons and Tanagers.

Howler monkeys and Capuchin monkeys are frequently sighted close to the cabins, as are Agouties, Armadillos, Sloth and Kinkajous (nocturnal). The surroundings are also excellent for night hikes.

Guandera

The biological station can sleep up to 20 visitors in four dormitory-style rooms. The house features a full kitchen and indoor bathrooms with hot-water showers. Although the Station has electricity access, we recommend bringing a headlight to walk anywhere at night. Staff includes the reserve administrator, one park guard/guide, one cook/housekeepers and auxiliary personnel who work in the tree nursery, botanical gardens, community extension, and educational outreach. In addition, from two to eight volunteer interns are normally on site.
The climate at Guandera is relatively cold and humid. It often drops to 4C at night and raises to 22C during the day. The average temperature is 12C. The living situation is basic but comfortable.

Jatun Sasha

The forest reserve and facilities are available for use by scientists carrying out research projects in the rainforest, volunteers, by university and school groups conducting field courses, and by natural history tour groups.
The field station can accommodate groups of up to 50 visitors at a time. Sleeping facilities consist of bunk beds in wood cabins. Mosquito nets are also provided, although mosquitoes are generally not a problem at Jatun Sacha. There is also a dining/meeting hall, kitchen, office, storage room, showers and bathrooms. For visitors and researchers there is a laboratory, with a few equipment, microscopes, a computer, a video and nature films, available for the volunteers, diskettes and other material are not supplied.
The dining room can fee 50 visitors. There is boiled water in a tank and coffee available for everybody at all times. Although it’s open all day, it can be kept open after supper time upon request.
We have electric power 24 hours a day, but you should expect power failures. You can also have your clothes washed for a minimum price in the stations washing machine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Transportation expenses from Quito to each reserve are  not included, however transfers are not expensive with $100 easily covering the cost of 4 transfers to the different reserves. We do not include these because they are local payments to bus companies and the the company used differs when you want to head to each station.

You will be briefed on   how to get to each station at the initial orientation meeting, and our co-ordinators are on hand to assist you through out the programme.

All transfers go through Quito so you will want to spend a couple of extra nights in Quito when you transfer between reserves. This breaks up the journey and gets you back to civilisation everyonce in a while. Accommodation during thr Quito stop overs are not included, but hostels are inexpensive at about £10 per night.

Distances between reserves

  • Quito ” Jatun Sacha amazon around 200 km   (6 hours) Napo province
  • Quito ” Guandera around 220 km (6 :30 hours) Carchi province
  • Quito ” congal around 380 km (8 hours) Esmeraldas province
  • Quito ” Bilsa around 260 km ( 2 days travelling in, because you need to ride a mule) Esmeraldas province
The minimum time limit for volunteers /internships is 2 weeks at each reserve. That means if you opt for a 2 week trip you can stay in one reserve, 4 weeks 2 reserves, 6 weeks 3 reserves and 8 weeks you can experience all of the reserves. Volunteers will need a visa if staying in Ecuador more than 90 days.

You will need travel and health insurance and need to sign a waiver to release our partners from responsibility from any illness or injury incurred in Ecuador.

There exists a small risk of malaria at our biological stations located in the Esmeraldas provinces on the Ecuadorian coast (specifically at the following reserves: Bilsa, and Congal). Therefore volunteers must supply their own malaria prophylaxis while volunteering at any of these three sites.

Saving the rainforests is not an easy task, you will be expected to get your hands dirty and can be volunteering for up to 8 hours a day, with 2 days off a week.
While at the reserves, volunteers need approximately $20 USD per week for additional costs (beverages, community visits, postcards, etc). However, please take along small bills to the reserves ($5 USD denominations or less).

Duration Option Price  
2 (Week)GBP 499Book Now
3 (Week)GBP 699Book Now
4 (Week)GBP 899Book Now
6 (Week)GBP 1125Book Now

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Included

  • Orientation meeting in Quito
  • All accommodation
  • Food on the reserves (three meals a day)
  • Local guides and conservation leaders in each reserve
  • Full on daily activities and conservation tasks

Excluded

  • Airport Transfers
  • Transport between stations (you will be advised how to do this and this is done on local transport)
  • Flights
  • Accommodation when not at the reserves

Dates

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“I just finished my time and will leave Quito tonight back home. I want to say thank you for all your help, support, the good memories and moments in the stations- just had a very good time here in Equador. Many friendly and helpful people were working together to make a good time with and for the volunteers.”
Joanna Barton
“I’m back home now and I really enjoyed my time in Ecuador. I wish to come back one day to visit other parts of your so beautiful country !”
Nick Mason
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