Volunteer Work, Animal Welfare, Nature Protection
Quingue, Galera San Francisco Peninsula, Esmeraldas
year round on any day
This volunteer program focuses on sea turtle and rainforest conservation as well as community projects in the area. The mission is to build a sustainable future through environmental protection and education, as an alternative to living in harmony with our earth. Local staff have many years of experience in tropical forest and/or marine conservation. The project location is the diverse and highly sensitive ecosystem of the unique Galera San Francisco Peninsula, in the province of Esmeraldas on the north coast of Ecuador, part of the Chocó Darién-Magdalena hotspot. This is an absolute oasis of local flora and fauna. Here you can find the last remnants of Ecuador's coastal rainforest. Habitats include mangroves, estuaries, rocky reefs, coral areas, as well as tropical rainforests and dry forests with high levels of biodiversity.
However, these ecosystems are threatened by overfishing, shrimp farming, habitat destruction, deforestation, pollution and uncontrolled development. The local population relies heavily on natural resources for their livelihood. Fishing, agriculture and forestry are the main sources of income. The area's exports include timber, cocoa, shrimp, etc.
Through environmental education in local schools and communities, the project raises awareness of the importance of respecting our planet and protecting forests and beaches. In recent years, the volunteer project has successfully promoted initiatives such as regenerative agriculture, sea turtle protection and rescue, bioconstruction, ancestral knowledge restoration, ecotourism and handicrafts.
Volunteers who work on this project in Ecuador have the unique opportunity to get involved in a variety of tasks. The project pursues a comprehensive concept in three different areas:
1. Marine Conservation
2. Environmental Education
3. Regenerative Agriculture
In the area of marine conservation, the focus is clearly on the sea turtles that come to nest on the beaches in the province of Esmeraldas. This area was declared Ecuador's first continental marine protected area back in 2008. Scientific research has shown that the immense biodiversity of this region is comparable to that of the Galapagos Islands.
In environmental education, the top priority is to educate future generations about the urgency of conservation. Children and adults are trained in environmental protection through workshops and activities with a practical connection to nature. This enriches their education and improves their life chances.
Another main concern of the project is the preservation of the last pieces of tropical rainforest on the coast of Ecuador. This area has fascinating flora and fauna, but the rainforest is rapidly being destroyed to make way for livestock and agriculture. To counteract this phenomenon, the volunteer project promotes regenerative agriculture and permaculture in local communities in the region.
Volunteers can gain extensive knowledge of sea turtle conservation. They will help collect relevant information about nesting sea turtles, obtain audiovisual materials, identify and measure the size of sea turtle tracks and, last but not least, protect the nest. Sea turtle nests are georeferenced to record location. The species and laying date must be recorded to calculate the expected hatching date. If the nest is in an obviously bad location where the young have no chance of survival, the nest must be moved to the safe breeding station.
Peak sea turtle season begins in June and lasts until December, while the first baby turtles begin to hatch in late August. Monitoring beaches for nesting sea turtles is truly exciting and a unique experience.
Volunteers also help with checking existing nests, as the nests need to be monitored until the babies are born. When the sand in the middle part of the nest begins to sink, the young hatch up and can come out at any time. This requires great attention to ensure the hatchlings reach the sea safely. Once they hatch, it is necessary to record the total number of newborn turtles. This moment is very special, but also requires coordination to collect and record important data (number of hatchlings, photos and videos, following baby turtles to the water with a snorkel to continue recording underwater).
Plastic bags and ghost nets pose a major threat to sea turtles. They can ingest marine debris as food or become entangled in ghost nets and then suffocate. It is very important that nesting beaches are as clean as possible to mitigate the impact on sea turtles (and all other marine species). Volunteers help collect plastic and other trash and manage recycling.
Main activities in marine conservation and sea turtle protection:
- Removing plastic waste
- Monitoring beaches to spot tracks of adult turtles
- Identifying the exact nest location
- Protecting the nest with natural materials, e.g. woods & stones
- Follow-up monitoring until the hatchlings reach the sea
When working in rainforest conservation, volunteers will primarily support wildlife monitoring using camera traps and help regenerate damaged ecosystems. A large part of the field work will take place in agroforestry areas or in the surrounding forests (last remnants of this ecosystem in northwestern Ecuador). The restoration of biodiversity and the regeneration of old forests through reforestation are the primary goals. Many plant-related activities are carried out, such as working in the nursery, producing seedlings for the rehabilitation of degraded areas, tropical gardening (cocoa and tropical fruits), etc. Volunteers can learn a lot about the correct techniques for soil regeneration, as this aspect is crucial of avoiding the use of toxic chemicals in production. Educational workshops for young and old are offered in the communities to increase environmental awareness. Volunteers also help with this important task.
Volunteers spend a large portion of their time doing field work. But any biological work also requires data entry and data analysis. In addition, volunteers are asked to help with cleaning work or preparing for field work. Volunteers' help is also expected to keep the rooms of the volunteer house and the research station clean and tidy.
This eco-volunteer program in Ecuador has some highlights in store for you. As a volunteer in this multi-faceted project, you will help record the wildlife population found in the surrounding forests and agroforestry areas using camera traps, observation (binoculars), jungle hikes, night monitoring, etc. You will learn a lot about the wildlife species of the Ecuadorian Chocó area in their natural habitats. This includes the sea turtles that nest on the beaches of the marine reserve, as well as hundreds of species of tropical birds, amphibians and mammals!
Note: The tasks may vary. They depend on factors such as number of volunteers, season, current needs of the project, as well as self-motivation. Not every volunteer may be fully involved in all these tasks.
The project's facilities include two different research stations near the ocean and the tropical rainforest. The project can accommodate up to 20 volunteers and scientists. One station is located at Galerita Beach, an important sea turtle nesting site. It is surrounded by protected rainforest. Only authorized persons have access to this area. It is a very quiet place, an ideal nesting place for sea turtles. The volunteer house and the project manager's house are located at this station. The volunteer house is simply but comfortably built from wood and bamboo and offers a great view to the forest. It is only a few minutes’ walk to the beautiful beach. The house has running water, electricity and internet connection. The kitchen, dining room and chill-out area with hammocks and chairs are in a separate house.
We would like to point out that the station also runs a small rescue center for street dogs. So, there are always some dogs jumping around the houses.
The second research station is about 12 km south. It is a bamboo/wooden structure with beautiful views of the forest and the Pacific Ocean. It is located in the middle of an agroforestry area where many fruits are grown that attract exotic birds (toucans, hummingbirds and hundreds of tropical bird species). A fantastic place for bird watching! The station has a dormitory, a fully equipped kitchen, a dining room and a chill-out area with hammocks for relaxation. The house has running water, electricity and internet.
The eco-volunteer project includes three healthy meals per day. Most of the ingredients come from local organic farms, as well as sustainable fish, chicken and eggs. Vegetarian and vegan options are available.
Note: In Latin America, especially in remote areas where many of our volunteer projects take place, the cellular or internet connection is not always reliable and fast.
This unique volunteer project focused on sea turtle and rainforest conservation is located in Esmeraldas Province on Ecuador's northern Pacific coast. The province is known for its exotic flora and fauna, a humid climate and beautiful white sandy beaches. The beaches of Esmeraldas offer excellent surfing conditions almost all year round, for beginners and advanced surfers. There are surf shops in almost every small fishing village.
The project is beautifully situated between long sandy beaches and the lush vegetation of the rainforest. In their free time, volunteers can visit places of interest in the area. Below we list just some of the activities that can be done nearby. One of our volunteers' favorite places is undoubtedly the stunning beaches in the marine reserve. Here you will find beautiful places for swimming, sunbathing and even surfing.
Between July and October, with a bit of luck, you can even see humpback whales playing and jumping in the sea. Volunteers can visit local communities in nearby fishing villages, chat with locals and learn about local culture. A trip on a fishing boat or dugout canoe is also a wonderful way to learn more about local traditions and life.
But it's not just the beach that invites you to spend your free time. The jungle also offers attractions. A hike through the forest is a unique experience. One can spot a wide variety of wildlife, take a dip in the river, visit waterfalls, or climb breathtaking viewpoints on the hills and cliffs.
Spanish at communication level. For optimal preparation for your volunteer work on the organic farm in Ecuador, we advise you to take a Spanish course before the program starts. This gives you the opportunity to slowly get used to the language, culture and mentality.
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 work with Sea Turtles & Rainforest Conservation in Ecuador includes:
- Shared room in the volunteer house
- Breakfast, lunch, dinner
- Professional English-speaking advice
- Translation of your application documents
- Volunteer Work Placement in Ecuador
- English-speaking in-country support
- Handbook Ecuador
- Intercultural guideline
- 24/7 emergency number
- Information regarding suitable travel insurance
- Certificate of participation
Application fee: US$ 150
Program fee: US$ 650 (minimum stay 2 weeks)
Each additional week: US$ 165
Additionally, you can book:
Our tips (experience more + see more = save $$)
Is it difficult for you to decide between the many great projects? You want to see and experience as much as possible during your stay in Latin America? Then build your own itinerary - experience more & see more! Our program combination makes it possible!
All our stay abroad programs can be combined with each other: So, you can combine different volunteer projects in the same country or in different countries, or you mix Working Holiday with volunteer work or Farm Stay with Working Holiday ...and so on …
Your creativity knows no limits. The longer your stay abroad in Latin America, the greater the discount you get from South America Inside. Below you can see how much you can save:
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.