Animal Care Volunteer Project in Ecuador - Santa Elena
Interested in being an Animal Care volunteer in Ecuador - Santa Elena? International Volunteer HQ’s Animal Care project places volunteers in a treatment centre that looks after wildlife and marine animals that are sick, injured or have been abandoned. The refuge takes care of marine animals like fish, penguins and turtles, as well as crocodiles, pelicans and other birds. Volunteers will gain valuable experience in veterinary care while helping the animals with treatment, recovery and rehabilitation.
- Programs start every Monday
- Affordable fees from AU$716 for 1 week
- Includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
Get hands-on experience while helping treat ill and injured animals
Discover Ecuador’s incredible natural environment
Stay with other volunteers in a town with a fascinating ancient history
This program is ideal for:
What to expect and how you'll make an impact
When animals get sick, injured or abandoned, there often is nowhere for them to go. In Santa Elena, a local treatment centre in a small aquarium has been set up to receive marine life and animals that need help.
As an Animal Care volunteer, you’ll work closely with a local veterinarian, assisting with treatment and other tasks that serve to help neglected animals.
Volunteer work with animals on this project is likely to involve:
- Assisting with small surgeries
- Giving vaccines
- General medical treatment and attention
- General duties around the centre
As the clinic operates with limited resources, it would be ideal to bring your own gear, including gloves, stethoscope and other relevant equipment.
Why do Animal Care volunteering in Santa Elena with IVHQ?
When you volunteer with animals in Santa Elena you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:
- Helping animals in need get appropriate care
- Getting hands-on animal care experience
- Practicing your Spanish
- Developing your communication skills
- Immersing yourself fully in the Ecuadorian culture
- Exploring the natural beauty of Santa Elena
- To join the Animal Care project in Santa Elena, you need to be a qualified animal scientist or veterinarian, or a student in your last year of study in a relevant field. Ideally you’ll be able to bring your own gear, including gloves, stethoscope and other relevant equipment.
- Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate in this program. If you are under the age of 18, IVHQ offers alternative volunteer opportunities for teens. Visit our High School Volunteer Abroad page to learn more.
- All volunteers are required to speak fluent English, have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ before departure.
Ecuador photo gallery
Academic course credit
Gain course credit from your college or university and meet your academic requirements when completing a volunteer abroad program with International Volunteer HQ!Learn about course credit
The Ecuadorian coastal city of Santa Elena and surrounding areas are home to a wide range of IVHQ projects. On the Pacific coast, Santa Elena is in close proximity to some of Ecuador’s best beaches and archeological history. There is a great need for volunteers to assist with the development of this city and its communities, especially as tourism to the area grows.
Arrival and orientation
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive into José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE) in Guayaquil.
You should arrive on the Sunday prior to your program start date and the airport pick-up is included in your Program Fee. When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a driver from the local team and taken to the volunteer accommodation in Santa Elena, which can take up to 2 hours.
We recommend that volunteers under the age of 18 travel internationally with a notarized letter from their parents to support their documentation.
Orientation is hosted by our local team at their volunteer offices in Santa Elena. Orientation covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program - an introduction to Ecuador, Ecuadorian customs, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities in Ecuador and an introduction to your project and placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socialising.
Volunteer schedule example
Please note that volunteering on the Ecuador program is held Tuesday through Friday (expect to participate for full days, unless you’re also taking Spanish language lessons, in which case you will volunteer for half days). Therefore the weekends on the program are Saturday through Monday.
A typical day might look like this:
|7:30 AM||Breakfast at the volunteer house or homestay.|
|8:00 AM||Volunteers leave home and travel to their placements. Work and hours are dependent on the project and placement that each volunteer is working at. There is a break for lunch and volunteers are responsible for the purchase of this meal.|
|2:00 - 5:00 PM||Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to travel back to their accommodation, prepare for the next day, or do some shopping and sightseeing. If volunteers are taking Spanish language lessons, these will usually take place in the afternoons and last between 2 and 3 hours.|
|7:30 PM||Dinner at the volunteer house or homestay.|
Accommodation and WiFi
While in Santa Elena, you’ll stay in a volunteer house with other IVHQ participants. Bedrooms have single beds or bunk beds, in rooms shared with up to 5 other volunteers of the same gender. Living is comfortable and the volunteer house has electricity, running water and western bathrooms.
There is WiFi available but it can be very slow, and a great patio area with hammocks for volunteers to relax after volunteering is onsite.
WiFi is also available in the cafe across the road from the volunteer accommodation, or you can purchase a local SIM card with data for an unlocked phone when you arrive in Ecuador.
Volunteers are provided with breakfast and dinner every day on the Ecuador - Santa Elena program. Please note, portion sizes in Ecuador are traditionally smaller than what most western countries offer.
Breakfast is usually tea or coffee, milk, oatmeal, local breads, butter, jam and fruit.
Dinners will be a mixture of traditional Ecuadorian meals and western meals. These often include meat or vegetarian stews, rice or pasta, vegetables in the form of salads or hot or cold stews. Carbohydrates, such as potatoes, bananas, plantains, bread and rice are common ingredients for Ecuadorian dishes.
Lunches can be purchased locally for approximately AU$4 - AU$8.
We encourage you to try and embrace this way of living, but you are welcome to purchase additional snacks for personal consumption outside of what our program meals offer.
Please note that it is not possible for the local team to cater to dietary requirements on the Ecuador - Santa Elena program. IVHQ offers plenty of destinations which can cater to dietary requirements (e.g. vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, etc.) so please get in touch if this presents an issue for you.
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
|1 week||AU$716 Equivalent to AU$102/day|
|2 weeks||AU$932 Equivalent to AU$67/day|
|3 weeks||AU$1207 Equivalent to AU$57/day|
|4 weeks||AU$1432 Equivalent to AU$51/day|
|5 weeks||AU$1706 Equivalent to AU$49/day|
|6 weeks||AU$1931 Equivalent to AU$46/day|
|8 weeks||AU$2364 Equivalent to AU$42/day|
|10 weeks||AU$2914 Equivalent to AU$42/day|
|12 weeks||AU$3280 Equivalent to AU$39/day|
- Breakfast and dinner
- 24/7 in-country support
- In-country program orientation
- Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
- Airport pick-up
- Personalised preparation tools, guides and check lists
- Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
- Discounts on language lessons
- Discounts on travel and tour add-ons
- Certificate of International Volunteer Service
- All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately AU$547) in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services. IVHQ fees are priced in USD but you may elect to pay in AUD.
- A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
- Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, lunches, public transportation to and from your placement each day and return to the airport when your program finishes.
- Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Santa Elena generally find US$50 - US$100 per week to be sufficient for expenses, such as lunches, Spanish language lessons, and local tours and activities. Please note that if you wish to make any payment to the local team whilst on the program, this will need to be done via cash or bank transfer.
Salsa Dance Classes:
Learn the art of salsa dancing under the guidance of a professional choreographer alongside your fellow volunteers!
This activity costs US$26 (approximately AU$43) per person and the dance class will take 1 hour to complete. Please note, transportation is not included in this activity, but our local team will be happy to help you make these arrangements in Santa Elena.
Learn how to surf like the pros with a surf lesson from a qualified surf instructor on the beaches of Santa Elena. Swells from both the south and north provide optimal conditions year round for surfers of all ages and levels, so grab your fellow volunteers and hang ten, dude!
This activity costs US$55 (approximately AU$91) per person and includes your surfboard and qualified surf instructor with more than 10 years experience. The surf lesson will take 1.5 hours to complete. Please note, transportation is not included in this activity, but our local team will be happy to help you make these arrangements in Santa Elena.
Please contact us or your IVHQ Program Manager to sign up or to get more information about any of these activities.
Affordable Spanish Language Lessons
Spanish language lessons are available for all volunteers regardless of their ability. IVHQ strongly recommends these for all volunteers unless they are fluent in Spanish. Volunteers with a basic level of Spanish should strongly consider these lessons to allow them to work and communicate more effectively during their program. These language lessons are offered as Add-ons, available to add to your itinerary via your MyIVHQ profile once you’ve registered for your program. The language lessons are tailored to each volunteer’s current level of Spanish and must be paid for in Ecuador to our local staff. The cost is very affordable and offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers.
- 12 hours/6 days = AU$248 (or 3 days intensive)
- 20 hours/10 days = AU$381 (or 5 days intensive)
- 30 hours/15 days = AU$547 (or 8 days intensive)
- 40 hours/10 days intensive = AU$714
- 60 hours/15 days intensive = AU$1030
- 80 hours/20 days intensive = AU$1347
Check what's required to visit Ecuador
Safety and support
IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.
- All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
- All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
- All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
- All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Essential country information
|Currency||US Dollar (USD)|
Weather and climate: The climate of Ecuador has a number of microclimates that separate into four distinct zones. La Costa (Costal Lowlands) is tropical, La Sierra (Andean Mountains) is temperate; and El Oriente (Amazon Region) shares the jungle climate of the upper Amazon rain forest.