Tajmeet Arora - Conservation & Environment, Galapagos Island Conservation in Ecuador
In the summer of 2013, I successfully completed a two week Conservation placement in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador run by Projects Abroad. My first day in San Cristobal Island was certainly tiring after the longest possible journey from the United Kingdom, however the warm welcome I received instantly wiped away my tiredness.
My Host Family
My host family helped me all the way throughout my time in Ecuador. Even in between everyday work on the placement; when I would come home tired I would be greeted with an amazing warm dinner and a game of football with my 8-year-old host brother and pet dog Luna.
I think having a host family is what makes Projects Abroad unique and having a host family as part of the experience helps you live within a different culture and learn some of the local language – Spanish too!
My Conservation Placement
My first day officially started with a welcome brief by William, the project director, and finished with an exciting and welcoming night with the new friends I had made. The next morning was the start of the two week project and I was mega excited. I met the conservation project manager who clearly explained my roles and responsibilities over the next two weeks and how I could make sure I am fully involved with the project.
My first work included counting marine iguanas and sea lions for the record of the island. The task started at 8am and finished at 2pm. This mainly involved walking up and down rocks before arriving at the beach where the other members of the project and I got our clip boards pens and paper.
Before we knew it 3-4 hours had passed and we had successfully collected the data we needed - time goes fast when you have fun. Afterwards all the volunteers got involved in a beach clean-up, which just simply involved picking up and clearing rubbish left on the beach.
We also did many other activities including caring for the projects own nursery, which included using a machete to cut down weeds and trees in order to plant many different types of fruit. Another activity involved helping a local farm make compost. This was something I really found interesting to learn. We learnt how the type of leaves and fruits used actually makes a difference to how quickly it takes for the compost to be ready. My favourite activity was visiting Galapugera - a tortoise breeding centre. There we got to help weigh and measure the giant tortoises to record data for the centre.
The weekend also added to the whole achievement to conserve the environment, but with the addition of having immense fun at the same time. I visited Santa Cruz and Isabela during my stay, but I can say that San Cristobal was my favourite island as it felt more like home.
Activities that I did on the weekend included snorkelling, an 8 kilometre hike up one of the largest active volcanoes on the earth on the island of Isabela and seeing wonderful wildlife like flamingos and penguins. Also, since I study biology at A-level I loved seeing the Darwin centre in Santa Cruz and learning a bit more about evolution and the environment.
The whole Galapagos experience didn’t just start and finish at the project though. We were given plenty of free time so during one of the weeks I decided to visit the other islands with the new friends I had made on the project.
Never in my dreams had I thought about travelling half way across the world to do amazing things that will shape my entire life and make me the person I am today. From trying to communicate in another language to having fun on the beach, I have truly had the experience of a lifetime and one that I wish I could repeat again. I have made amazing new friends that I still stay in touch with.
The overall Galapagos experience was amazing and I am glad that I managed to push myself outside my comfort zone and do something extraordinary that I will remember for the rest of my life. I got to do so much more than I hoped and every single day on the island I will remember with fond thoughts.