Volunteering in The Galapagos at the Eco Lodge
Isla Isabela, Galápagos by Sonia Fullerton
It took the best part of the day to reach Isabela, but every minute was worth it. Stepping off the boat and walking through the tiny harbour, I had to dodge sea lions and iguanas happily dozing away along the path. Got a taxi (a Toyota pick-up truck the only type of car that exists on the island) for the 5 minutes it took to my host family house. My room was fairly basic but had everything I needed and the bed was really comfy. Walked the 2 mins to the beach after dinner and relaxed there enjoying the sound of the sea. Pretty soon a guide came to talk to me as he already knew I was the new Eco Lodge volunteer lesson: news travels fast here, and everyone will talk to you!
My weeks consisted of getting up at 6am (which is actually really easy as the sun is up, along with the rest of the town), a quick breakfast and getting the bus at 7am for 15 mins to the Eco Lodge, which is located halfway up the volcano. It is much more tropical there than in the town as it gets more rainfall, though that still only means some drizzle in the morning. On my first few days I spent the early mornings shadowing the main girl who worked there, and then getting to know the grounds. Pretty soon I was able to give tours to our visitors in Spanish or English which was a lot of fun. We had a lot of large tourist groups that would come to have lunch here so a lot of my responsibilities were to help bring out the food and get drinks from the bar, and often to just chat and act as a translator. It was a lot of fun getting to know people from all over the world and to give them a bit more of an insiders view on life in the Galápagos.
On the days when we were quieter I got to spend time with the giant tortoises; while I was there the owner wanted help cleaning a fungal infection off the tortoises shells so the head gardener and I spent a few days a week working on that most of the tortoises were patient, but not all! I could never get tired of working with them, their faces are really funny and they always keep an eye on you! Other things that needed doing were ripping out weeds that are harmful to the tortoises, and collecting fresh fruit for the kitchen to use in making the desserts and lemonade.
I would leave around 3pm to catch the bus back, although often a passing car would take me down. I would then get changed and head straight to the beach for sunbathing time the sun stops being as powerful by 5pm which is perfect as then you can head to the main beach bar for happy hour! Tourists and locals all hang out here so you cant help but make friends, and there are always people playing volleyball or chatting around the fire-pit at night. Friday nights can be quite full on and youll have to put your English inhibitions aside to learn to dance salsa and bachata like the locals!
You will also never go hungry while youre here rice is eaten for nearly every meal (including breakfast) which really fills you up. They have wood-oven roasted chicken at the Eco Lodge which is delicious, and in the town they eat quite a lot of fresh fish and lobster. Bananas/plantains, papayas, oranges and mangoes (in March) are all abundant and taste amazing.
There is lots to do in your free time; by far the best for me was snorkeling, either around the harbour area or on a fantastic boat trip to some underwater lava tunnels where I got to see sea turtles, sharks, various rays and penguins! You can also hire a bike to explore the surrounding lowlands and wetlands, or go all the way to the top of the volcano and see one of the largest craters in the world at 10km wide!
All in all I had an incredible time, and my best advice to anyone going there is to stay the full three months if you possibly can. After two weeks you settle into the relaxed, un-commercial way of life which makes leaving all the harder. I have never missed a place more than I do Isabela, and so wish I had used up the whole time allowed on the Galapagos permit. Dont make the same mistake!
If you would like to know more about volunteering at this Eco Lodge on Isabela island in The Galapagos, or at one of our other volunteer placements either on The Galapagos or on mainland Ecuador, then check out our website www.volunteervacations.co.uk, or drop us an email to:
or give us a ring for a chat on 01483 331551 or 07833 208 158 or 01483 203405. Volunteers need to speak Spanish and normally spend their first week at the Spanish School in Quito on the mainland before moving on to their volunteer placements.