Volunteer Review: Aisha S., Galapagos Island Conservation in Ecuador
When I initially planned my trip I was super excited as an Earth Science major to see where Charles Darwin proposed a theory about evolution because of the diverse variety of life there. That feeling got cut short a month before the trip as I lost someone very close to me. Less than 24-hours before my flight I decided to take the trip as I worked so hard to save up for the project.
Arriving in San Cristobal
I was already fascinated by what I could see from my window on the plane, the landscape of the volcanic island was breathless. I was welcomed by a staff member who took me to the office to meet with the Director, William Puga for a welcome chat and briefing about the island and the project.
Afterwards, I was taken on a tour to familiarize myself with the essential places (pharmacy, hospital, post office, launderette, police office etc). The island is easily accessible on foot to most places and being terrible with directions getting around is pretty straightforward (almost literally).
My host family
Before meeting my host family I thought it would be difficult for me to adjust because of the language barrier as all I could say was hola (hello). I got to the house and “Mama Bachita” my host mother ran out to give me the biggest hug ever like she hadn’t seen me in years, which made me feel so welcomed and comfortable.
I met my host family and they were so nice and absolutely lovely that it broke all barriers you put up when meeting people for the 1st time. I had my own en-suite room that was cleaned with fresh towels; it felt luxurious living with them and enjoying Mama Bachita's delicious Ecuadorian food.
My previous thought on language barrier was quickly washed away as they encouraged me to speak and learn Spanish by using body language and hand movements when conversing to make it easier for me to pick up.
With sentences difficult to construct Mama Bachita always had a laptop connected to the internet on the Google translate page. Mama Bachita, Narumi and Freddy (my host mom, sister and father) took turns spending individual one-on-one time with me taking me out to get a better feel of the island and to do recreational activities which I thought was amazing because we got to connect and bond on a deeper level and understand each other better. It felt like I was living with my long lost family.
The project I got involved in was Conservation. Work revealed more of the island to me as most infrastructure and homes where close to shore, but the project required us going deeper in to the island where I got see the rain forest, worked with the famous giant tortoises and my favorite the tiny new borns where we got to feed them.
I got to work and eat on farms, go volcano hiking where we had to put rat poison close to birds nest, bird watching, basically variable once in a lifetime activities and while being taught about the preventive and precautionary measures of conserving and protecting the environment. It was educationally exciting making it easy for me to wake up the next morning because the projects carried out was fulfilling, entertaining and therapeutic work was in an untouched ecosystem.
Living in San Cristobal
Living in London I’m using to walking for hours without seeing happy, friendly faces or conversing with strangers. The Galapagos Island is completely different, it was like a huge extended family living together, everyone was friendly, happy and excited to get to talk, chat, help and teach basic Spanish to non-speakers.
In two weeks I met a lot of local friends whom I got to hang out with and learnt more about their culture and expanded my Spanish vocabulary. Delicacies like lobster on the island are very affordable (i.e. cheap) and sweet juicy fresh fruits there were at my disposal. The beaches there are not ordinary. They are dominated by sea lions that made trips to the beach fun as they entertained people by playing or fighting with each other and running around. The sea lions are harmless and coexisting harmoniously with humans.
Being a dancer and a lover of the nightlife, I experimented the clubs that played amazing dancing music and most of the locals were good dancers and willing to teach me some salsa and bachata on the dance floor.
All in all I had an amazing trip (the best) and I went all by myself. In spite of all the issues I was dealing with the beauty, kindness and the love the island offers is so therapeutic, mind healing and stress free that it makes you forget. Well at least it did for me. My only regret is not staying longer and I hope one day to go back for a longer time.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.