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Giant Tortoise Conservation Volunteering in the Galapagos Islands

Giant Tortoise Conservation Volunteering in the Galapagos Islands

Want to volunteer with giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands? International Volunteer HQ’s Giant Tortoise Conservation project is a unique opportunity to volunteer with the largest living species of tortoise, which is sadly endangered. You’ll get to learn more about these spectacular creatures, while helping care for them at a breeding center that aims to protect and preserve giant tortoise populations in the Galapagos. You’ll also help raise awareness of environmental issues and conservation activities by interacting with visitors, local guides, and park rangers.

Highlights:
  • Programs start every Monday
  • Affordable fees from CA$2018 for 2 weeks
  • Includes accommodation, orientation and 24/7 support
  • Help conserve the critically endangered Galapagos Giant Tortoise

  • Discover nature and wildlife that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth

  • Stay in a local homestay or volunteer house in Puerto Villamil

Key information

Protect giant tortoise populations
Based on Isabela Island
Homestay or volunteer house accommodation
Volunteers aged 18+
Fully hosted experience from CA$2018 for 2 weeks
Durations from 2 - 12 weeks
Witness unparalleled wildlife
4 - 6 hours volunteering a day

This program is ideal for:

Volunteers who want to learn more about the Galapagos Giant Tortoise through conservation activities and educating visitors. Being able to speak Spanish at a conversational level is useful for this project.
Who is this program suited to?

What to expect and how you'll make an impact

The Galapagos Giant Tortoise is the largest living species of tortoise and is an endangered species. As a volunteer on this project you will be supporting the staff and park rangers of the Galapagos National Park in the management, coordination, and maintenance of the Galapagos Giant Tortoise Breeding Center.

This project is well suited to those who want to learn more about these amazing animals and help in the efforts of preserving their numbers. As part of the center’s staff team, volunteer’s responsibilities will include feeding and caring for the giant tortoises, as well as maintaining and conditioning the center and the facilities that the tortoises inhabit. In addition to tasks directly related to giant tortoises, volunteers will support the rest of the staff in other tasks that are considered priority in the center.

An important part of the volunteer work will be the interaction and coordination of visitors to the center, to ensure that the tortoises remain safe, as well as education and awareness about the work at and objectives of the center, the Galapagos National Park and the environmental problems and conservation facing this tortoise species.

Your specific tasks will depend on the time of the year you volunteer as well as the needs of the project. This project has a minimum duration requirement of 2 weeks.

Volunteer work duties may vary but generally include:

  • Care and feeding of the giant tortoises of the Breeding Center
  • Support in cleaning the center
  • Education and interaction with tourists / students
  • Practice of conversational English with the guides of the reserve

Please note, a high level of physical fitness is strongly encouraged for this project. Along with the placement work being physically demanding, volunteers also walk 1 hour to and from placement each day.

Additionally, it’s important to note that the breeding center staff do not speak English. A conversational level of Spanish is encouraged to make your experience easier, though this is not a mandatory requirement to join this project.

One final point to note is that this placement is located outdoors. There are sometimes wasps in the vicinity of the breeding center and the tortoise enclosures, and while it’s not common for volunteers to get stung, we recommend you be mindful of this if you have a strong allergy to wasp stings.

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #15: Life on Land

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #15: Life on Land

Human activity has altered almost 75% of the earth’s surface and around 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Nature is critical to our survival. We must promote kindness to animals and use regenerative techniques to combat deforestation, conserve biodiversity and protect wildlife.

Why do Giant Tortoise Conservation volunteering in the Galapagos Islands with IVHQ?

As a Tortoise Conservation volunteer in Galapagos, you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:

  • Helping protect the endangered Galapagos Giant Tortoise
  • Educating visitors on the environmental problems facing this species
  • Practicing your Spanish and communication skills
  • Gaining wildlife conservation experience
  • Immersing yourself fully in the local culture
  • Discovering the natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands

Volunteer requirements

Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate on this project independently. If you are under the age of 18 IVHQ offers alternative volunteer projects in Galapagos as well as other opportunities for teens. Visit our High School Volunteer Abroad page to learn more.

All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a recent criminal background check to IVHQ.

Are you eligible to volunteer?

Submit a free application so we can confirm your eligibility and check availability for your preferred dates.

Apply For Free

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What recent volunteers said about their IVHQ experience

JS
Jay Studer
01 Feb 2024

I absolutely love wildlife and believe in the conservation of nature. I believe mankind has played a big part in its destruction and decline of wildlife species and should do everything possible to help stop this. The Giant Tortoise Conservation project has made a huge difference and I am thankful for my experience.

...
SP
Shirley Phippen
30 Jan 2024

I loved that the team set up a WhatsApp group for volunteers right before we arrived to receive information and connect with each other. It was clear that they all cared and tried to support us in every way they could. The meals were good and I loved having the opportunity to eat lunch in the different restaurants each day - that was brilliant!

...
MC
Maria José Cañón
11 Jan 2024

I felt so supported by IVHQ and the information they provided. It was a unique experience in a unique country. I really liked learning about a new culture, helping animals and meeting new people. It was very nice to be in a place so different from my daily life and without a doubt it is an experience that must be lived.

...
AV
Anne-Laure Vattier
28 Nov 2023

I really enjoyed my experience with IVHQ. Everything was well explained and I felt really accompanied all the time 😊. My trip was incredible. The work, the places, the people, everything was fantastic. Each morning I had a wonderful homemade breakfast with my host family (each day a different one). And for lunch I had just to select one of the different restaurants in town. That was incredible. And my dinner with the host family was perfect each day.

I was also able to improve my English and my Spanish language along the way. I feel proud of myself, I hope to have given people the best of myself and to have been helpful for them. They have definitively offered me a different point of view about life and I hope to be able to keep in mind this way to think going back home.

...
LM
Laura McAllan
26 Sep 2023

I have always wanted to go to the Galápagos Islands and it probably would have taken me even longer without the IVHQ program. They handle all the logistics and the volunteer can focus on the fun parts of travel. I had a great two weeks at the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center on Isabela Island and learned a lot about the animals there and challenges faced by the Galapagos National Park as a whole. The local team and IVHQ ensured we are supported on the ground.

...

To read all reviews, visit our reviews page.

Academic course credit through International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ.

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!

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Volunteer Abroad in the Galapagos Islands with IVHQ

Location

The IVHQ Galapagos volunteer program is based in Puerto Villamil, a small port village located on the southeastern edge of Isabela Island in the Galapagos Islands. ​This is where orientation and general administration is carried out by our local team. Volunteer placements are located within walking distance around Puerto Villamil with the exception of the Sustainable Agriculture project, which is a 30 minute bus ride outside the village to the highlands.

Arrival and orientation

The Galapagos volunteer program begins every Monday and you need to arrive on Isabela Island on your Monday chosen start date.

After you have registered for the program, please book your travel into Seymour Galapagos Ecological Airport (GPS) on Baltra Island. From here you can either catch a ferry boat to Isabela Island (this ferry trip is included in your program fee) or take an island hopper plane from Baltra Island to Isabela Island with EMETEBE airlines (this flight is not included in your program fee).

Most volunteers arrive in mainland Ecuador on Sunday and spend this night in either Quito or Guayaquil. On Monday they then travel from mainland to Baltra Island, and then onward to Isabela Island. When you arrive on Isabela Island you will need to walk a few minutes up from the pier to the ABG (Biosecurity Agency) office where you will be met by a member of the local team who will transfer you to your accommodation (also included in your program fee) and then have a small town tour. Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and begins from your Monday arrival through the morning of your last Sunday.

On Tuesday, orientation is hosted by our local team in Galapagos and runs for half a day, after which you will be taken to your placement. Orientation covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Galapagos – Introduction to Galapagos, Galapagos Customs, Rules and Expectations, Safety, Travel Opportunities in Galapagos, 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 socializing.

Volunteer schedule example

Weekdays

​A volunteer day is subject to change depending on your specific placement and the current needs of your project. ​A typical daily schedule​ might be as follows:

7:00 AM Breakfast at the volunteer accommodation and walk to project (except for Sustainable Agriculture volunteers).
8:00 AM Volunteers join local placement staff and begin work on your project.
12:00 PM Finish up at the placement and head home to clean up and relax.
1:00 PM Lunch at one of the participating restaurants in town.
2.00 PM Volunteers have the afternoon free to explore the island, do some local snorkeling or take a surf lesson. Alternatively, if previously discussed with local placement staff, return to the placement to volunteer an afternoon shift.
7:30 - 9:00 PM Dinner with your homestay family or at one of the restaurants in town. After dinner you will have the remainder of the evening free to relax and use as you wish.

Weekends

During the weekends, volunteers have spare time and usually just relax or take the opportunity to​ ​explore other parts of Isabela Island and other Galapagos islands such as the nearby Santa Cruz.

There is a dive site with great diving from Isabela, hike active Volcano Sierra Negra, snorkel site Tuneles and see the lava tunnels, visit islet Tintoreras, snorkel local dive spot Concha de Perla with turtles, seals, rays, etc., kayak the bay, rent a bike and visit the ‘Wall of Tears’ along the stunning coastal route passing lagoons, mangroves, and giant tortoises in the wild.

Accommodation and WiFi

Volunteers are accommodated in a homestay with a local family, which is an incredible and unique cultural immersion experience. Volunteers can expect to share a twin room with one other volunteer or have their own private room if there is capacity; each bedroom has its own bathroom.

Isabela Island is very remote and it is important that volunteers are aware that internet reception is very spotty. There is WiFi in the office and in a few restaurants/cafes in town. Visitors cannot purchase a SIM card in Galapagos, only residents. Volunteers can purchase a SIM card on the mainland before traveling to the island, or use an international phone plan that covers them abroad. The Internet is too poor to expect to watch Netflix or have video calls while on the island.

Meals

Volunteers are provided with three meals per day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Breakfast and dinner are provided at the homestay and volunteers can expect fresh fruit, fried eggs, bread and cooked green plantains. Lunch is provided at local associated restaurants and volunteers will have a variety of menu items to choose from. Lunch and dinner meals will include protein (meat, fish), rice and some veggies (varied depending on the season) and meals often start with a soup and include a natural drink.

There is filtered water available in the local teams office and in homestays, and volunteers are requested to bring a reusable water bottle with them.

If you have any special dietary requirements, please let us know so we can make arrangements for you. However, we need to stress the point that you should not expect to eat as you normally do at home. We will do our best to see that you are well taken care of, but as a volunteer, there is a need to be flexible.

If you have any special dietary requirements, please make a note on your application so arrangements can be made. However, it is important that volunteers should not expect to eat as they normally do at home.

Pricing

  • USD
Duration
Program Fee
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
  • USD
2 weeks CA$2020 Equivalent to CA$144/day
3 weeks CA$2760 Equivalent to CA$131/day
4 weeks CA$3500 Equivalent to CA$125/day
5 weeks CA$4240 Equivalent to CA$121/day
6 weeks CA$4979 Equivalent to CA$119/day
8 weeks CA$6459 Equivalent to CA$115/day
10 weeks CA$7939 Equivalent to CA$113/day
12 weeks CA$9419 Equivalent to CA$112/day
  • Accommodation
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • In-country program orientation
  • Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
  • Personalized preparation tools, guides and check lists
  • Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
  • Certificate of International Volunteer Service

Learn more about what's included in your IVHQ Registration Fee and Program Fee.

  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately CA$467) 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 CAD.
  • A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • Additional things to budget for include: water taxis, bus from airport to ferry (US$5) flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, spending money, public transportation and return to the airport when your program finishes.
  • Program Fees for the Galapagos Islands program are non-refundable once inside 30 days of the program start date. Any changes or cancellations within 30 days of the program start date are subject to a US$500 late change/cancellation fee.

Check what's required to visit the Galapagos Islands

Safety and support with IVHQ

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.
Learn more about IVHQ's safety

Essential country information

Capital Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal
Population 2,500 on Isabela Island and 33,042 across the Galapagos Islands
Languages Spanish
Currency US Dollar (USD)
Time zone UTC-06:00

Weather and climate: Galapagos can be divided into three Climatic regions. The Pannonian Plains in the north have a continental climate of cold winters and hot summers, the mountainous Dinara Region in Central Galapagos has an alpine climate and the Adriatic coast, where our volunteer program is based, enjoys a Mediterranean climate of cool, rainy winters and hot, dry summers.

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How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
Meet your personal volunteer travel expert
Pay the Registration Fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
Get ready to volunteer abroad, we’ll support you every step of the way!