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Galapagos Island Conservation in Ecuador by Bianca Russo

A sea lion on the beach during sunset

Visiting the enchanted Galapagos in the Pacific Ocean has always been my hidden dream. How the evolution theory developed after Darwin’s observations and research on the extraordinary creatures - giant tortoises, marine iguanas, finches – in such a hostile but unique natural environment, has always deeply fascinated me.

Therefore, after finding such an interesting and actively engaging project with Project Abroad, I had no doubt that it was what I needed to do. I’ve always been profoundly interested in conservation and environmental values, and will soon be studying towards a master of science in environmental politics. This project carried out in San Cristobàl appeared to me as the perfect combination of theoretical environmental learning and physical conservation work.

Arriving in San Cristobàl

Conservation volunteer snorkelling during her free time

Traveling to San Cristobàl was an adventure in itself. Even though I was lucky enough to be traveling with another volunteer, who would be living with the same host family as me, I almost managed to miss my flight connection in Guayaquil due to a silly hunger emergency. Those are still pretty distressing memories. On the other hand, the memory of the arrival at our host family house is still profoundly emotional. The colorful walls, the smell of homemade passion fruit juice, as well as the happy smiles on their faces and their welcoming hugs will always have a special place in my heart. Within minutes, we were all sitting around the dining table enjoying some traditional Ecuadorian patacón con queso, and enthusiastically sharing our life stories and adventures.

That afternoon, the staff showed us the main places in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The local market, the grocery store, the laundry outlets, the best restaurants and the best beaches were all pointed out to us. We walked along the Malecón - the central, beachfront avenue - which allows you to walk among the sea lions lying on the beach or playing animatedly in the ocean. We also saw giant red crabs lying on volcanic black rocks and pelicans flying and diving to catch their pray. I was immediately overwhelmed by the natural and stunning beauty of this island and its inhabitants.

My Conservation project

Volunteers swimming on an island in Ecuador

After the tour, the Projects Abroad staff gave us a detailed and extensive training session regarding all the conservation projects we would be involved in. They explained all the activities and pointed out the relevance of these projects in protecting and monitoring the unique species of the Galápagos. It is inspiring to know that Projects Abroad is making a real and concrete difference in such an extraordinary ecosystem, as well as how they are helping the development of the community as a whole on the island.

The first project we were involved in, and my favourite one, was feeding and taking care of the tortoises at the Galapaguera, the giant tortoise breeding centre on the island. Feeding, cleaning and walking with these giants were unbelievable experiences. In particular, the project focused on locating the nests and eggs, cleaning ponds and controlling the juvenile population through surveys. The next two and a half weeks were as exciting as the first few days.

I got to work with great people from all over the world on various projects, from monitoring the iguana marina populations, cleaning the shoreline and helping to diminish the rat attacks in the nests of petrel birds. Moreover, we were involved in the construction of the new and innovative conservation centre. The centre is crucial in terms of environmental education in the local community as well as that of the students and volunteers on the island.

Free time

In between the different projects we had the chance to snorkel around in incredible spots such as La Loberia, La Tijereta and Puerto Chino. We also got to travel to and visit the other close islands such as Isabela and Santa Cruz on the weekend. It was here that we got to experience the different fauna, flora and climate. I took advantage of every possible free moment and was able to swim with sharks, surf with sea lions, snorkel with sea turtles and hike the Sierra Negra which is the second largest volcano in the whole world. During my three weeks in Ecuador, I was lucky enough to have the sweetest host family. They treated me as part of their inner circle from the moment we met which helped me adapt, learn the language and discover the secrets of their incredible culture.

I would really like to express my thanks to the entire Project Abroad team who helped me throughout my journey and the great people I met in San Cristobàl, whose hospitality, efficiency and cordiality made this a life-changing experience which I will strongly recommend to anyone and everyone.

Bianca Russo

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