Volunteer Work, Nature Protection
Nanegal, Pichincha Province
Flexible start and end dates, year round
This volunteer work project takes place at a conservation and eco-tourism lodge in the mountainous cloud forests of the Choco-Andean region of north western Ecuador. This area is a global “hotspot” in terms of biodiversity, with over 1,500 species of tropical plants, including orchids, bromeliads, and other epiphytes. Over 390 species of birds, and a variety of other exotic animals, including the endangered Andean spectacled bear, make up the unique wildlife native to this area.
The lodge was first formed as an agricultural cooperative over 35 years ago with the primary objective of providing lands for local peasant families who otherwise had no means of growing crops or raising cattle.
Over the years, it became increasingly obvious that the remote mountains of the cloud forests were ill suited for agriculture, and more valuable if left intact. The lodge is now entirely dedicated to the conservation and sustainable management of these natural resources. Eco-tourism has been developed as a means of providing a sustainable income to locals, who, in return, fund the protection of the forest.
This volunteer work program plays an essential role in enabling the development of this eco-tourism operation and other conservation and local community projects. The inhabitants are eager to welcome visitors from other parts of the world to share not only the beauty of their cloud forest and its diverse wildlife, but also their friendship, lively folk music, enthusiasm for nature, and joyful outlook on life.
Volunteers work alongside members of the local community, which allows plenty of opportunities to make new friends, get in touch with the Ecuadorian culture, and improve their Spanish while learning about the region’s cloud forest and helping to conserve it.
This volunteer project in Ecuador has been welcoming volunteers, both groups and individuals, since 2000. The program continues to play a crucial role in enabling the development of sustainable ecotourism operation and of the ongoing conservation and community outreach projects.
Eco-tourism provides a sustainable income for the community, which makes this project crucial for the protection and conservation of the Cloud Forest Lodge. The hard work, support, and enthusiasm of many volunteers have helped to reinforce the value of the cloud forest reserve and the importance of its continued preservation. One of the strengths of this volunteer work program is that volunteers work alongside members of the local community and gain a true insight into the daily life of the locals. Work done, people are always ready for a game of soccer, and you can spend your free time hiking, bird watching, swimming, visiting waterfalls, and enjoying the fiestas in the nearby villages.
Eco-tourism is very labor-intensive work, demanding additional help from volunteers. Sometimes, it is possible for volunteers to focus on a specific project; however, volunteers are asked to carry out a variety of tasks and should be willing to lend a hand where necessary.
Volunteer tasks may include:
- Maintaining trails: several trails require constant maintenance to avoid erosion and to keep them easily accessible for visitors.
- Maintaining the lodge and the guest cabins: general maintenance, cleaning the cabins and, helping in the kitchen.
- Working in agroforestry projects: coffee and sugar cane plantations, including making panela (sugar) the traditional way.
- General Maintenance: other tasks related to construction and maintenance of the lodge, as there is always something to repair or replace.
Typically, you will work from Monday to Friday for 5-8 hours, beginning at 8:00 am, after breakfast (subject to changes). Please understand that working hours may differ according to workload, weather conditions, and unexpected situations. As a volunteer, you get the chance to work in different areas and gain a wide range of experience. A couple of year ago, the eco-lodge in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest has built a laboratory up in the hills. Scientists come to work here on special investigation projects related to local wildlife. When scientists are there, volunteers are also encouraged to help with the research projects or conducting their own research, if possible. Animals that have been investigated recently are the Andean spectacled bear and different species of unique birds.
Note: The tasks may vary. They depend on factors such as number of volunteers, weather, season, current needs of the project, as well as self-motivation. Not every volunteer may be fully involved in all these tasks.
Depending on which project you will be actively participating in, you will either stay in the eco-tourism lodge up in the mountains, or in the volunteer house down in the valley. The lodge is in the heart of the cloud forest and sits at a height of 6,200 feet, offering an incredible panoramic view of the surrounding cloud forest. The volunteer house is also set in a beautiful setting further down from the lodge.
Each option includes full board, access to hot showers, and bed linens. The rooms in the lodge are very comfortable and cozy. If you are working up in the lodge, you will usually stay there from Monday to Friday and spend the weekends in the volunteer house down in the valley in Nanegal. The lodge is a 40-minute truck ride from the volunteer house and then a 90-minute hike. It is also possible to walk the full distance, but it would take several hours. The rooms come in different sizes and will be shared by two, four, or eight people.
Please note that some of the dorms might be mixed gender. Three meals per day are provided, and vegetarians or those with other special dietary requirements will be respected on prior notification. Solar panels provide a limited supply of electricity at the lodge, but the volunteer house down in the valley has 24/7 electricity. You will spend the weekends relaxing, swimming, playing sports, hiking, watching birds, or participating in activities of the local community.
Nanegal is located in the province of Pichincha in the middle of the beautiful cloud forest about 2 hours northwest of the capital Quito. It can be easily reached by public bus and the scenic ride takes you through the amazing cloud forest with countless waterfalls and beautiful wildlife. Nanegal has about 4,500 inhabitants, a church, two public schools, and a day care center.
The cloud forest enchants its visitors with evergreen luscious nature, a rich biodiversity, waterfalls as from the picture book and an exotic animal world. In Nanegal there is a subtropical climate with an average annual temperature of 15 - 20 °C and regular rainfall.
The area is well known for raw sugar and chocolate production, and visitors can help make both and learn how to make sugar and chocolates manually.
The province of Pichincha is home to many of Ecuador's major tourist attractions, be it the famous markets of Otavalo, a visit to the equatorial line in La Mitad del Mundo, climbing or just visiting snow-capped volcanoes like the Cotopaxi or breath-taking crater lakes like the Quilotoa.
In our Wildlife & Nature projects, our volunteers get along well with English language skills.
For optimal program preparation and cultural integration in the destination country, we recommend participating in a Spanish course in Ecuador (optional).
Pre-departure and in-country support
Before arrival, our experienced team will be at your disposal to assist you throughout the booking process and travel planning. With the booking confirmation you will receive our 24-hour emergency number, so that you can reach us 24/7 in case of emergency.
In addition to the assistance given by our office staff you will be supported by the on-site volunteer coordinator.
Costs & Services
Our volunteer project in Conservation and Eco-tourism in the cloud forest includes:
- Shared room in Volunteer House
- Full board
- Professional English-speaking advice
- Translation of your application document
- Volunteer Work Placement in Ecuador
- English-speaking in-country support
- On-site introduction
- Country handbook Ecuador
- 24/7 emergency number
- Information about suitable travel insurance
- Certificate of participation
Application fee: US$ 120
Program fee: US$ 520 (minimum stay 2 weeks)
Extra week: US$ 170
Additionally, you can book:
Our tips (experience more + see more = save $$)
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Note: Language courses are excluded from this promotion. These discounts can not be combined with other promotions.
If you need assistance in putting together your personal experience abroad, then please contact us. Our experienced staff will help you to set up your tailor-made stay abroad.