Why not help conserve the natural beauty of Ecuador?
With our project set within the rainforests of the Amazon, you'll be living and working in the most back-to-basics settings! In your spare time you can also enjoy all the other pleasures of jungle life like white-water rafting, hiking and kayaking.
Fancy learning some Spanish to give you a good start in country? Why not add on one week of Spanish language lessons before you start your volunteering. Call us now to find out more.
- Playing your part in the preservation of the Amazon rainforest!
- Experiencing real jungle life
- Exploring in your spare time - rafting, hiking and kayaking are all possible
What's not included
Day 1 (Monday): Arrival into Quito (Airport Code UIO)
Welcome to Ecuador! You will be collected from the airport by our i-to-i team who will be waiting in the arrivals hall for you; you’ll know who they are as they’ll be carrying our logo and they’ll be ready to give you a warm welcome!
You’ll be transferred to your home stay accommodation for tonight. Our home stay families are fantastic and so welcoming; it’s also your first opportunity to test out your Spanish skills!
You’ll stay with your home stay family for the next two nights so feel free to unpack, get stuck in with family life and enjoy the lovely home cooked local food!
Day 2 (Tuesday): Orientation time!
Today you’ll have an early start, tuck into a hearty wholesome breakfast then head off to your orientation, which will be held at one of the home stay accommodations.
This will give you a good insight into Ecuador - the culture, things to do and see, what to do in case of an emergency and much more! It can also be a good way to meet other i-to-i travellers and ask any questions you may have. You’ll then be given some lunch and will have the afternoon free to explore or relax.
Day 3 (Wednesday): Transfer to Tena
Today is the day you’ve been waiting for! You'll be transferred to the Amazon by bus which takes about 6 hours; sit back as Ecuador whizzes past your window! Upon arrival in Tena, you will need to take another bus to get to the project (40 minutes bus ride).
When you get to the project, you’ll have a chance to explore the area, you’ll be introduced to everyone and, depending on what time you arrive, you may be able to get stuck in to some activities this afternoon!
Days 4 – 5 (Thursday – Friday): Amazing Amazon
We hope your muscles are ready for today! By the end of today you’ll have discovered muscles that you haven’t used in years! You’ll be living and working on the same site, so you’ll be living and breathing the project for however long you are here for.
Take time to learn the aims and plans of the project, you’ll enjoy it so much more when you learn what you’re a part of, and the staff there are always willing to tell you stories about the project over the years!
Days 6 and 7 (Saturday to Sunday): Free time
It’s the weekend! Hooray! You’ve earned yourselves a nice little break from work so kick back and relax! You might like to take some of our suggestions or just head off on your own adventures…
If we were you, we’d head to the amazing caves of Kichwa and the Jumand caves! There are pools and waterslides to enjoy as well as the exciting caves – just watch out for the vampire bats as you enter!
Tena is the capital of the Napo Province, 1 hour from the station. It has an attractive plaza overlooking the meeting point of the Tena and Pano Rivers. Here you can go to the Amazonian Park, on an island, with a small zoo, observation tower and botanical garden and cross by the wooden footbridge in to the park beyond.
Settle down in to the local pace and way of life as you spend your days planting, digging, learning, hacking and making! You’ll be learning more Spanish as each day passes and learn to live as a local.
However many weeks you have booked for, you’ll be making a difference every day in your project as you see your work take shape before you and see tangible results from what you are doing!
Your last day at the project (Sunday)
Well, what can we say? We hope you’ve had an amazing time and we’ll miss you! It's now time to head back to Quito for an overnight stay in a hostel which will be arranged and covered by our in country team.
Your last day - Monday
Today will be the day that you head off to the airport for your flight home or onwards for further travel. You may have decided that as Ecuador is such a diverse country that you will just have to stay longer! If you’re heading back to the airport, the transfer is not included but our team will be on hand to make sure you know where you are going. The cost of the transfer is around US$20 so please budget for this.
If you are heading onwards around Ecuador or exploring more of Latin America, don’t forget to ask our in country team for advice or help if you need it!
What does the project do?
Working with one of the two largest NGOs in Ecuador. Its first station now protects about 2,000 hectares (4,940 acres) of tropical wet forest, of which 70% is primary forest and the remainder is secondary growth. Field research has demonstrated that the forest is also among the most biologically diverse areas on the planet. In 1993, the International Children’s Rainforest Network declared this forest the 2nd Children’s Rainforest of the World. There are 18 staff, who are all very welcoming and keen to help volunteers whenever possible.
What’s the project like?
The Station is located on the southern bank of the Upper Napo River, at an altitude of 450 meters above sea level, in the Province of Napo. The average yearly temperature is 25 degrees C, it rains close to 5,000 mm per year on an average of 200 rainy days. The lowest Rainfall is during the months between November to January and the highest occurs between April to July. June is normally the wettest month of the year.
There are approximately 250 different species of trees in one hectare, and close to 1,500 species of plants in the same area. 17 new species were found within the reserve. There are 112 species of reptiles and amphibians, 222 species of orchids, and 51 species of mammals (among them pumas and jaguars), so far.
Why does the project need volunteers?
With deforestation being Ecuador's largest environmental problem, a huge effort is now being made by both national and private reserves across the country to preserve what remains. Much of the work at these reserves is dependent on having the necessary labour. That is not to say that it would not get completed without i-to-i volunteers, but it would certainly take much much longer!
Activities and schedule
There are a few different areas that you can expect to get involved in during your time with us. In the Amazon Plants Conservation Center there is a botanical garden here, which is a live collection of useful plants of the Amazon Basin, including medicinal plants. The nursery is located in the center for reforestation and propagation goals, especially endangered species. The activities in the Center include trail maintenance, Botanical Gardens maintenance, new trails construction in the Botanical Gardens, seeds collection, soil preparation and tree nursery maintenance.
The Organic Farm is a demonstrative organic farm for the benefit of the local communities. The goal is to provide alternative food and protein sources as well as income. The activities include vegetable garden maintenance, soil preparation, compost maintenance, ponding for raising charapas and caymans, and the constructions of areas for raising capybaras, guantas, and guatusas.
On Sundays you can participate in workshops of handicrafts with the Kichwa community. The crafts are hats or baskets made with natural fibers, necklaces with seeds and carving Tagua nuts.
Example of activities you can get involved with;
- Compost maintenance
- Botanical Gardens maintenance
- Seeds collection
- Soil preparation
- Tree nursery maintenance
- Vegetable garden maintenance
- Trails maintenance and new trails construction
- Seedlings and seeds collect for the nursery or the farm
- Workshops of handicrafts elaboration with the Quichua community
- Reforestation Projects either at the station, in communities or independent farms
- Precipitation and temperature data collection
- Several agroforestry experiment data collection and maintenance
- Maintenance and improvement of the station and its facilities
- Help in the kitchen, especially when there are groups visiting the station
- English teaching in the mornings at nearby schools
- Cacao harvesting, drying and chocolate processing
Project resources and advice
The biological field station can accommodate up to 18 volunteers at a time. It is sufficiently well resourced and set up, although conditions are quite basic in the camp. There is a lecture hall/laboratory and a small library with books and videos.
Good items to take along are raingear, rubber boots, biodegradable soap and detergent.
We recommend that you wear casual clothes for this project, this is a very hands-on project which will involve getting messy so you should be prepared to get your clothes dirty and take clothes you don’t expect to take home. You should take sensible footwear and a high factor sun-cream as you will be outside for a large part of the day.
Your accommodation in the Amazon is based within jungle cabins!
There are two groups of cabins, Fauna and Flora. Fauna can accommodate up to 24 visitors at a time, in 4 cabins, 3 bunk beds in each. In this section there is a laboratory, with basic equipment, microscopes, a computer, a video and nature films, available for volunteers. Flora, where volunteers are lodged has space for 15 volunteers, in 3 cabins of two rooms each.
Both sections have their own set of toilets and showers in separate buildings. Close by, in case of a shortage of water, since the rain is still the source of water, there are two outhouses (latrines), and the river is still close enough for a bath – talk about getting back to basics!
We’ll supply you with a mosquito net (we do suggest you take one with you just in case), two sheets and a blanket to make your stay even more comfortable!
The dining room can seat up to 50 visitors. There is bottled water in a tank and coffee available for everybody at all times. Although it is open all day, it can be kept open after suppertime upon request. There is electric power 24 hours a day, but frequent power failures should be expected.
All projects are within the station premises. The nearest major town is Tena, which is located 1 hour from the station. Tena is a city with access to supermarkets, a post office, internet café, restaurants, travel agencies, and banks.
There is an onsite observation tower (33m) and also a canopy bridge as well as a Garden consisting of 2.000 hectares of forest. There is a public telephone 1 hour away by bus.
There is internet access in the station and guests are able to use this service at an additional cost. Laundry can be done at the station (at an additional cost) or alternatively, you can do laundry in Tena.
Things to bring from home
- In addition to the recommended items we would also suggest Well fitting rubber boots (knee high) are indispensable. They can be bought in Ecuador at USD$5 to USD$7, but can only be found in size up to 44! These can also be borrowed at the station
- Shoes to walk and play sports in
- Sandals / flip flops
- Fast drying, comfortable clothing. Any old shirts and trouser are good to work in
- At least 2 pairs of trousers to work in and 1 pair for the evenings
- A few t-shirts (short and long sleeved) and many pairs of socks (short and long)
- A fleece or anything warm for the evenings
- Poncho or rain jacket
- Biodegradable soap and shampoo, tooth brush, tooth paste, etc.
- First aid kit: Band-Aids, gauzes, bandages, iodine, antiseptic cream, ibuprofen or paracetamol, antibiotic cream, antihistamine tablets
- Feminine hygiene products if needed
- Soap for washing clothes
- Torch / flashlight with enough spare batteries
- Small backpack for hikes and work
- A bottle for water
- Mosquito net
- Zip lock bag to protect items from moisture
Where is the accommodation?
The biological reserve is located near Tena, in eastern Ecuador. Tena is 30km from the biological station. It is a city with access to a post office, internet café, restaurants, travel agencies and banks. It takes 2 bus journeys which total around 6 hours to get to Tena and a further hour to get to the station but the journey is worth it when you reach your destination.
How far is it from my project?
It’s onsite. So you’ll wake up every morning to the sounds of the jungle around you! Birds squawking and singing, rain falling (not all the time!), insects chirruping and other jungle related noises you might expect.
What you get
What exactly do i to i Volunteering provide?
It may seem like a strange concept to pay for your volunteer experience. You'd be right if you think you shouldn't and the truth is you actually don't! Your placement is free; it's the benefits around it that you pay for. It's important to note that i to i Volunteering is a travel company and not a charity. We provide a professional travel service. We are responsible for finding and assessing worthwhile projects across the world, preparing you for the volunteering experience and supporting you whilst you're there.
Project sourcing and assessment
We work with hundreds of locally run partner projects around the world and are constantly sourcing new opportunities. We visit all projects to check that they are worthwhile and legitimate and we also conduct a thorough safety assessment before we'll send volunteers there.
Almost everyone who works for i to i Volunteering has traveled extensively or worked overseas. This means we're a goldmine of information; we're always available to offer support and guidance before, during and after your trip.
Thorough project briefing materials
Once you book on to a project you'll receive an online account that contains loads of general information about volunteering, about your chosen country and how to have fun and stay safe. We'll also give you advice on visas and inoculations.
It can be pretty daunting arriving in a different country for the first time - especially after a long flight! If you arrive on your project start date, there'll be a welcoming face at the airport to pick you up and take you to your accommodation.
Soon after you arrive you will attend a thorough orientation with our in-country team. This is to cover important safety and security information. You'll also get some tips about sight-seeing options for your time off and maybe even learn some of the local lingo!
Accommodation and meals
Accommodation is included with all projects and meals are even included with some. We only use locally-owned and operated accommodation so that part of your placement fee is filtering back into the local economy. Most projects offer homestay, guesthouse or shared volunteer houses as standard accommodation, but some offer the chance to upgrade to a more comfortable living standard.
Local in-country coordinators
Your in-country team will arrange a pick-up for you at the airport and will conduct your orientation upon arrival. All coordination teams are English speaking and are locals of your destination country. They won't be at your project every day, but will be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you need them.
24/7 emergency support
Aside from the local support from your in-country team you'll be given access to a 24/7 emergency phone line manned by our response team in case any problem should arise while you're overseas. We also hire crisis management professionals to be on hand in case of a situation that requires additional expert support.
The safety and security of our volunteers is paramount. For this reason we provide ongoing crisis management and emergency response training to our local teams around the world. We also fly in our in-country coordinators to the UK regularly for thorough training to help them offer the best safety to the thousands of volunteers they support each year.
Supporting our projects
We don't fund our projects directly from the project fee that you pay us. Instead we choose to support a number of projects through our Helping Hands Foundation to provide resources to those projects that really need it.
Recruiting people like you
We make no secrets of the fact that part of your placement fee is reinvested in to recruiting volunteers just like you! The volunteers recruited in one week will typically deliver over 2000 man-days of service. The difference this makes to projects overseas is immeasurable. Many of our overseas projects rely on assistance from international volunteers, so it's necessary for us to put together brochures and websites to find the people who can support them. This recruitment process is vital to ensure programs have a constant stream of reliable volunteers.
Please note: You may be the only volunteer at your chosen project at any one time. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact us.
What we will do after you've booked:
- Once booked on you will instantly receive a welcome email confirming your booking with access to your online account
- Community Development and Teaching customers will be requested to complete a police check (where relevant)
- We will contact you if we require anything else e.g. CV/resume for some projects, doctors note for medical conditions etc.
- We will prepare for your trip and you will receive all information required to prepare yourself in your online account
- We will ask you to complete personal information and pay your final balance if they are still due when required
- We are available for any questions you may have on firstname.lastname@example.org
What you need to do after booking your place with us:
- Book your flights
- Arrange suitable travel insurance
- Fill out your personal details through your online account
- Complete your police check if requested
- Make final payment at least 90 days before you go
- Make sure you have a visa for your trip if it's needed
- Visit a nurse or travel clinic for advice on inoculations and malaria prevention
- Read all details and prepare as much as you can for your trip
- Take contact details of the in country team and where you're going in your hand luggage - just in case!
- Get on the plane!
Flights & insurance
It's important that you get adequate travel insurance for your i to i Volunteering experience and as many of you will be working this often means standard policies won’t work. The good news is that no matter where you're coming from we have already found a policy to suit you.
The best time to get your insurance is when you book your project as this means you can get a fully tailored policy exclusive to i to i Volunteering, just ask your consultant for further details at the time of booking.
For prices, policies and key facts click here
As with insurance we advise you get these booked as early as possible to avoid high prices and to make sure you arrive on the right day. The i to i Volunteering team is right up to date with the best deals no matter where you’re flying from; their insider knowledge could save you some time and money.