Volunteer Work, Aminal Welfare, Nature Protection
Puerto Lopez, Pacific Coast, Manabi Province
Year round with flexible start and end dates
At this volunteer project in Ecuador, volunteers are committed to the conservation of Ecuador's marine biodiversity.
This volunteer project is located on the Pacific Coast of Ecuador, close to the Machalilla National Park. It is run by a non-profit organization that has been legally incorporated with the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador back in December of 2004. The organization was created in light of the urgent need to obtain information in order to conserve Ecuador's fragile ecosystems and marine resources.
Since its beginnings, the project has conducted important investigations regarding sea turtles, sea birds, corals, sharks, and other salt-water fish.
As a volunteer for this project, you will not only be a part of an amazing adventure, but you will also gain valuable experience learning about the biodiversity of Ecuador’s coast. In addition, for sure you will share unforgettable moments with the project's staff, other volunteers, and locals. You might create long-lasting friendships and will directly contribute to the conservation of Ecuador's unique marine biodiversity.
Volunteers can participate in this initiative throughout the year and can be integrated into different projects at any time. The volunteer project is divided into three different areas:
- Sea turtle project
- Fishery project (sharks)
- Environmental education project
Sea turtle project:
Until very recently, it was believed that Hawksbill turtles, which are critically endangered, only nested at the coasts of Central America. However, in 2008, it was found that this species of sea turtle also nests at some of Ecuador’s beaches. Since then, the project, with the aid of volunteers, has been conducting research to learn more about these enigmatic creatures and their distribution in Ecuador.
This volunteer project also carries out research and protection work with Green Sea Turtles and Olive Ridleys, and also has a sea turtle egg hatchery program, which is the only one of its kind in Ecuador. The Sea Turtle Project requires the project's staff and volunteers to travel periodically to a nearby island, where the hatchery is located, and remain there for around eight days at a time. The sea turtle season is from November to April, approximately.
As a volunteer, you may help out with the following activities:
- Diurnal and nocturnal beach patrols
- Measurement and tagging of sea turtles
- Egg counting and nest tagging
- Egg transfers to the hatchery site (if required)
- Installation of transmitters on turtle shells
- Telemetry activities onboard a boat
- Capture and recapture of turtles in the sea
- Beach cleaning
Fishery project (sharks):
Unfortunately, many sharks are victims of fishing nets. Every day, the fishermen bring sharks to the coast with their haul. This volunteer project monitors the number, type, size, age, and gender of the sharks.
Environmental Education Project:
In order to effectively carry out a conservation project, it is necessary to work with the local community and communicate the results of scientific research. The project staff have therefore developed an Environmental Education Program. The main objective of this project is to educate the people of Puerto Lopez and its surrounding areas about conservation projects and the importance of respecting the environment. Volunteers are a fundamental part of the Environmental Education Project. It is through the help of volunteers that an Eco-Club was created in Puerto Lopez, which has facilitated various activities, such as beach cleaning, construction of small gardens, and excursions. Still, there is much more that needs to be done, and the ideas and suggestions from our volunteers are always welcome. Volunteers often contribute ideas for possible communication campaigns or help execute current campaigns.
As a volunteer you may help out with the following activities:
- Beach and marine floor cleaning in Puerto Lopez and its surrounding areas. For this, you will have to use snorkeling equipment.
- Planning activities for the Eco-Club
- Planning environmental education activities for schools in Puerto Lopez
When all the daily chores are done (approximately 6 hours per day), volunteers can use their free time as they wish. In Puerto Lopez and its surroundings areas, there are several tourist attractions that can be visited. Most importantly, you have wonderful beaches around you!
Depending on the workload, volunteers may be required to work on Saturdays and Sundays. This happens especially during turtle nesting season (November to April) when there are many tasks that need to be fulfilled.
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.
During this volunteer program in Ecuador, you will be accommodated in the volunteer house in Puerto Lopez. The volunteer house is quite simple and is furnished with bunk beds. It can host up to 12 volunteers who share a room with a maximum of four people. Depending on the number of volunteers present at a time, you may be required to share your room with volunteers of the opposite sex. Also, please note that you will have to share the bathrooms. Volunteers must contribute to the maintenance and cleaning of the volunteer house and respect the rules of living together, as well as be respectful to volunteers from other countries or cultures.
The volunteer house is located two blocks away from Puerto Lopez's coastline. It has electric power, cold water (warm water not available), flushing toilets, a kitchen with a refrigerator, a grill for BBQ, hammocks, and Wi-Fi Internet. The house does not have washing machines, but there is a spot to hand wash your clothing. You will find laundry service and Internet Cafes in Puerto Lopez.
For the research activities on the island that require volunteers to stay a couple of days per month (see task description), a guesthouse from the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador is used for lodging. The services available in this house are basic. For example, drinking water is brought in from the mainland and there is limited electric power. Therefore, it is not possible to take a shower every day while on the island. This means there will be days with little comfort, basic meals, and hard work.
Meals or food are not included when lodging in the volunteer houses. Nevertheless, the volunteers can make use of all the kitchen equipment that is available in the houses.
Some days, usually during sea turtle nesting season (November to April), you might sleep in a tent in order to be closer to the turtles on evening shifts
Puerto Lopez has about 17,000 inhabitants. The next big city is Manta, about two hours north, to Guayaquil it's about three and a half hours to the southeast. Most people in Puerto Lopez are small-scale fishermen, which means that they use fishing techniques that have a relatively small impact in comparison with industrial fishing equipment. Puerto Lopez is also a tourist destination that attracts national and international tourists. In late August, the whale season starts and then many tourists come to Puerto Lopez to observe these amazing creatures in their natural environment.
The area around Puerto Lopez is characterized by beautiful national parks and nature reserves. There are also some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. In addition, the trendy town of Montañita, which is considered the surfing paradise of Ecuador, is not far away. Backpackers and surfers from all over the world visit Montañita all year round, so the city also has a busy nightlife! One of our Spanish schools is located in Montañita.
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 in Ecuador.
Costs & Services
Our volunteer project in Marine Conservation in Ecuador includes:
- Shared room in Volunteer House
- Advice from our experienced staff
- On-going support via WhatsApp, phone or mail
- Elaboration of your application profile in Spanish
- Your placement in the volunteer project
- Pre-departure information
- Packing list
- Country handbook
- Intercultural guide
- Orientation upon arrival
- On-site volunteer coordinator
- 24/7 emergency number
- Advice on travel insurance
- Certificate of participation
Application fee: US$ 150
Program fee: US$ 910 (minimum stay 4 weeks)
Extra week: US$ 165
Additionally, you can book:
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