Skye McCulla - Care & Conservation in Ecuador
Having never traveled abroad alone before, I was pretty nervous about flying halfway across the world on my first trip to the Galapagos Islands. But, as it turned out, I had absolutely nothing to worry about. Every step of the way I knew there was always someone I could call from Projects Abroad - all the way from Ireland to the San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos.
After traveling for over 24-hours, I was super keen to see what new experiences awaited me on the islands. I was excited as the plane landed in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Being able to see the turquoise-blue waters and the vegetation was just like what you would see in the travel magazines - pure paradise! It only got better from there on.
After stepping off the plane, we were met by a lovely Projects Abroad staff member called Jenny, who took us into town to meet our host families. To anyone who isn’t sure about staying with a host family, I can honestly say you have nothing to worry about. The three other volunteers and I stayed with a family who were some of the loveliest people I have ever met. They were so warm and welcoming and the food….unbelievable!.
That afternoon we were met by Jonathan, another Projects Abroad staff member. He took our group to the main street called el Marcon which is down by the sea, showing us around town and giving us a chance to get some lunch. Jonathan made me feel so welcome; he was great at getting all the volunteers comfortable and talking so that by the end of lunch, all eight people in our group felt like we had known each other for ages.
My Care Placement
During my first week, I did my Care Project. This involved taking children aged five years old, out on day trips to the island’s Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre. We took the kids around the center, looking out for tortoises and playing games with them. All of the children and most of the teachers only spoke Spanish, which was a brilliant way to improve my language skills, but I would definitely recommend at least a basic understanding of Spanish for other volunteers before you go to Ecuador. It will make your life so much easier and you get to enjoy your experience that much more. We also helped out in the classrooms in one of the local schools, coloring and painting with the kids. There was never a shortage of big friendly smiles from the kids.
In the afternoons we worked on rebuilding a school playground. We underestimated just how much work needed to be done, but it all got sorted when the island digger came to the rescue and helped us out. I really felt a sense of accomplishment when the work was all finished. Seeing kids play and laugh in this new area we had created for them is a memory I will never forget.
My Conservation Placement
My second week in the Galapagos was focused on Conservation which I loved! Whether it was marine iguana monitoring, or hiking into the highland forests in search of the Petrel nests, every moment was an amazing experience. It was worthwhile knowing that the work I was doing had a real-time effect on the lives of the endemic species of the Galapagos. We even got to use a machete to cut down invasive plant species in different areas of the island which was cool; it was hard work, but quite satisfying. One of my favorite activities was working with the sea lions and baby tortoises which was a truly unique experience.
Traveling around Ecuador
On our weekend, Projects Abroad organized for us to take a trip to Santa Cruz, a different island in the Galapagos. Ramiro (another employee from Projects Abroad who makes the best guacamole ever!) took us to all the best hidden spots. We even got to see the endemic tortoises on the island and he showed us all the ways they differed from San Cristobal’s endemic species. He was extremely knowledgeable and could answer any questions we asked him. Our days on Santa Cruz were unforgettable and it was a little sad to leave on the Sunday before starting our second week of the Conservation project.
On our last night, everyone went to the island’s biggest tree for a big BBQ and to say goodbye. William Puga, the man who made the whole experience possible, said a few words, thanking us for everything we did while in the Galapagos as it made a difference in the local community as well as for the endemic species.
I can honestly say that I have never had such an amazing time anywhere else on the planet! I only wish I had signed-up to stay for longer than my two weeks on the Galapagos. I will never forget the friends I made or the amazing experiences I had. The whole trip will stay with me forever.
To anybody unsure whether or not they should do this trip, I say stop what you’re doing right this second and just book it! You will not regret it.