- Andes, Rainforest, Galapagos, Expedition
- Live with indigenous tribes
- Learn Spanish
This amazing and varied placement takes in three different environments, traditional communities and the chance to add three amazing weeks of volunteering in the Galapagos allowing you to see everything this sensational country has to offer.
Travel from the Andes right down into the heart of the Rainforest and onto the Pacific Coast for the ultimate South American experience.
The team adventure will begin in the Andes, brushing up your Spanish skills with the help of our expert teachers and getting plenty of practice whilst volunteering in a local village. Experience living in Otovalo, a famous indigeous market town surrounded by volcanoes and beautiful scenery 3 hours drive from the capital Quito.
For the next 2 weeks your mornings will be spent in nearby Chilcabamba, a wonderful community of traditional Kayambi people where volunteer projects include development of the community school, expansion of an artisan market built by previous Leap groups, creation of a playground, and assisting families with their livestock. In afternoons it's back to Otovalo for your language tuition.
Experience true high-altitude living at nearly 14,000 feet, surrounded by spectacular rolling hills and snow capped volcanoes, such as Cayambe, which you will have the chance to climb at the weekends. The area is well known for its traditional crafts and markets and locals famous for their colourful ponchos and distinctive panama hats adorned with peacock feathers.
Next we’ll take you to the Rainforest to spend approximately 2 weeks living amongst one of the last indigenous Tsachila communities in the country, in a fascinating and stunning environment with ancient trees and meandering rivers. Live among an indigenous shaman community learning about their traditions and customs and helping the local community improve their standard of living. You'll work on various construction projects in the community buildings and local school, assisting chocolate farmers and living like a true local!
This is followed by a week of adventure and expedition, taking the famous “Ruta de los Volcanes” (Volcanic Route). You will travel from Quito to the Quilotoa crater lake to soak up spectacular scenery and explore the waters by kayak. From here it’s off to Baños, where you’ll bike to waterfalls and white-water raft some of Ecuador’s best rapids. Next it’s off to the mighty Chimborazo volcano to see equatorial life above the snowline (how many people can say they’ve done that?!) and mountain bike back down the volcano. The final week finishes in the town of Riobamba where you can relax, shop and enjoy the sights and sounds of a traditional mountain town.
In week 7 you’ll choose between two different options - either volunteering in the Galapagos, or the remote Andean community of Chilcapamba.
Those choosing this option will spend 3 weeks at the Hacienda Tranquila on San Cristobal, the easternmost island in the famous archipelago. An island characterised by it’s charming local culture, beautiful white sandy bays and turquoise seas (not to mention the obligatory curious sea lions, marine iguanas, pelicans and crabs!). This is a fantastic base to experience the unique environment of the Galapagos. Help us to restore the land back to it's natural state so that the endangered Galapagos tortoises can be reintroduced. You will also work with local children and disabled adults leading hikes, horseback rides and playing games whilst teaching about environmental issues.
or Pacific Coast
Volunteers that choose this option will spend 2 weeks living outside of Bahía de Caráquez, near Bellavista Community, in Cerro Seco Biological Reserve. Cerro Seco is a dry forest biological reserve in the Manabí district of Ecuador offering activities such as bird-watching, trails though the dry tropical forest, paradisiacal beaches and amazing landscapes. It boasts more than 100 different species of bird, 23 types of mammal and numerous reptile and amphibious species!
The reserve contains one of the best examples of rare tropical dry forest on the coast of Ecuador (only 2% of Ecuador original dry forest remains intact). Volunteers will get a chance to help maintain the beautiful reserve, rooting out invasive species and keeping the path clear for Cerro Seco´s many visitors. Other activities might include building and painting trail markers, working in the organic garden, teaching English in the nearby School or helping teach environmental lessons to the children at the “EcoCLub”.
Weekends activities: volunteers can enjoy the relaxing beaches with warm ocean currents, surfing, fishing with local fishers, kayaking and a lot more!
After this you’ll get to enjoy a few days R&R on the beaches of the Pacific Coast surfing paradise - Montanita. Learn to surf Ecuador’s best breaks, experience a legendary full moon party and soak up the famously laid back ‘hammock-culture’ of the beach.
Projects are sustainable giving long-term benefits to both the community and environment. All development initiatives are chosen and led by local people ensuring that The Leap’s projects are well managed needed by the community.
Enjoy these extra benefits only available if you stay 10 weeks (Jan, Apr, Sept)
We appreciate that many choose the six week option for financial or other reasons but would highly encourage leapers, if they can, to stay for the full ten weeks – most do.
We are also very flexible and allow people the choice to extend from six weeks to ten weeks either pre departure, when you know how your fundraising is going or once overseas. The flights booked through STA travel are deliberately flexible to allow you to change your plans.
- visit the world famous Galapagos archipelago, and help to restore dying habitats for the last remaining giant tortoises.
- experience the thrill of loosing a staring contest with an animal, snorkeling with an amazing array of fearless marine-life (including marine iguanas) and meeting the friendliest sea-lions on earth!
- experience the beauty of the pacific coast and the laid back charm of the Afro-Ecuadorian communities that live there.
- longer time to experience the culture and have fun overseas.
- maximise the value of the international flight, especially if you tag on some independent travel to nearby countries.
Those choosing a 6 week placement will fly out with those who have chosen the 10 week option. You will all be met at Quito airport and taken to the Yanapuma Spanish School. You will be escorted to each location and inductions will be held at each.
6 week programme: approximately 2 weeks in the Andes, 2 in the Rainforest and 1 week 'ruta de los volcanes'.
10 week programme: the above plus 3 weeks in the Galapagos OR Pacific Coast, then 1 week of R&R on the 'ruta del sol'.
Weekends free to travel
Once on the placement it will not be possible to switch from the 10 to the 6 week option, however it would be possible to extend from 6 to 10 weeks on receipt of the extra payment. If in the unlikely event anyone does voluntarily leave early the Booking Conditions apply.
Your weekends are free to travel but please bring spending money for your free time and for any activities or excursions you choose to do.
- Donation to the project communities – currently £80 for 6 weeks and £120 for ten weeks - per volunteer
- Selection and briefing on all aspects of the scheme.
- 24-hour emergency back-up, management and support by UK team and in-country Placement Manager and English speaking guide, with reliable communications and infrastructure.
- Safety and induction course on arrival.
- Airport pick up and transfer to and from the placements.
- Food and Accommodation throughout
- Return flights and visas to the Galapagos included
International flights, airport taxes (approx. $40, payable on departure), travel insurance, Ecuador visas (not required for 90 days), medical expenses (reclaimable through travel insurance), soft drinks/beer etc. Volunteers will be responsible for any independent/weekend travel expenses e.g. food and accommodation whilst away from the placement location and any excursions not listed above. We are happy to arrange flights through STA Travel who are well known for offering good value. Volunteers by their own food provided during the Galapagos and Montanita phase, budget about $10 per day.
How you help
The villagers of Chilcapamba, Bua, the inhabitants and environment of San Cristobal Island and Bahía de Caráquez.
_Helping How? _
- Taking part in cultural exchange and learning Tsachila tribal traditions, helping them to assure a future for their indigenous practices.
- Helping the women of Chilcapamba develop their new artisan market and bring more tourists to the area.
- Community Projects
- Help with everyday chores- cooking, building, fishing and making traditional jewellery
- Build new facilities for the community
- Helping the local cocoa co-op in Búa to increase their cocao production by helping them create natural slow-forming terraces on the farms
- Help to bring clean water to the community.
- Interact with special needs children referred to Hacienda Tranquila by the loacl social services, organising games and environmental education.
- Help with horse riding and outward bound activities with children and disabled people as a form of therapy.
- Developments to the school building, artisan market, and playground
- Play with the children at the local kindergarten - e.g. art, sports, games, teaching English etc.
- Developments to the information centre and volunteer cabins. Assisting with the school curriculum.
- Conservation Projects
- Preserve traditional building methods by helping local people to collect and use sustainable materials from the jungle rather than concrete and corrugated iron sheeting
- Develop a system for dealing with litter
- Help to plant and harvest staple food crops to be consumed locally
N.B. The ethos of our work in Ecuador is that projects are run cooperatively, all development initiatives are chosen and led by local people ensuring that The Leap’s projects are well managed and needed by the community. Projects are sustainable, giving long-term benefits to both the community and environment.
You will stay in Quito for at few days at the start and over weekends whilst switching between phases. The whole team will be accommodated in a fun, clean and comfortable hostel in the city centre close to local amenities such as internet, laundry services, bars and restaurants. The hostel has shared bedrooms, hot water, showers, loos and a lock-up where you can leave your belongings. Breakfast is provided and food is supplied for you to cook other meals yourself.
Galapagos: The volunteer house at the Hacienda Tranquila provides a simple yet comfortable accommodation. The house has a large kitchen, and a bathroom with hot water. Volunteers are divided two to each bedroom and you will be responsible for cooking your own food, although this is provided by The Leap.
The Galapagos islands have a unique climate regulated by the ocean currents. There are two main seasons. January through to June is generally considered to be the warmest and wettest period whereas June to December is dryer, slightly cooler with more cloud cover. The local people call this season the Garua (misty season) as fog often hangs on the higher elevations. Although the sea is cooler during the Garua, it is the best time to snorkel and observe sealife due to the extensive plankton blooms.
Cool in the mornings, warm during the day and cold at night. Rains from time to time especially in the rainy season between January and April, normally a couple of hours in the afternoon. Driest time is October to December.
Hot and humid; expect rain and thunderstorms in the rainy season, normally a couple of hours in the afternoon.
You will only be able to communicate in English to the team leader – the local communities only speak Spanish! It is, therefore, helpful (but not essential!) to speak some basic Spanish. You will be given Spanish classes for the first 2 weeks on arrival. Additional lessons will be given if desired.
Exploring cloud forests, trekking, climbing Cotopaxi volcano, kayaking, tubing and swimming in the Napo river, white-water rafting, canyoning, caving, or jungle tours, snorkelling, surfing, horseback or hiking and camping trips.
Explore the Galapagos Islands and Pacific Coastline.
Donation To The Community
Included in the cost of the scheme is a donation set at the level indicated above. The donation is sent directly to the communities by Yanapuma and the chief of the community decides what it is to be spent on. It helps, alongside other funding, to pay for the materials they need to continue project work. This will be done in a transparent way ensuring you leave a lasting legacy. Given the average monthly wage is approximately £100 per month the donations do actually go far and in the past Leapers have paid for second hand computers, first aid supplies, children’s clothing, developing health care etc.
Please note that as we are paying the project host in US Dollars to cover all in-country costs, and the cost of the placement is set so far ahead, if there is a big change in the exchange rate or fuel icrease then we reserve the right to increase the cost of the scheme, as per our Booking Conditions, but will absorb any minor fluctuations, and will give plenty of warning if we have to raise prices slightly.
In the communities you'll live in a volunteer house built in the traditional style, made from cane with a thatched roof. Beds are provided and in all locations there is electricity, running water and plumbed toilets.
Three meals per day and clean drinking water are provided and vegetarians can be catered for. The cuisine generally consists of rice, beans, pasta and potatoes with a some meat and fish, fresh fruit and vegetables.
It was very comforting to know that the they care about how things were going and would do everything in their power to help if ever there was a problem.
We felt and you proved that our son was in safe hands.
Just a quick note to say that we have Louisa back in one wonderful piece! She thoroughly enjoyed herself in Ecuador - both in Otovalo and the Galapagos and had a great fun in all areas. She has come back with some brilliant stories of spiders, biting sea lions, stormy sea crossings and organised germans in the kitchen! I'm sure she will reap the benefits of this trip for years to come. Thank you so much for helping her to arrange this fantastic holiday. I am so jealous! I've forwarded your details to a friend of ours that might go on a gap year after his A Levels next year.