Lead-Adventures Ecuador & Galapagos Islands


LEAD Adventures has been around since 2004 and knows Ecuador intimately!

We are passionate about Ecuador, Galapagos & Peru. We are true in country specialists and believe most abroad agencies can not offer people an authentic experience of a place unless they really know it themselves. Most agencies abroad are part of big tourism corporations and have lost the unique personal touch our kinds of experiences require.

We do not want you to just visit a place, we want you to truly experience it!

So far we have given over 3300 people just like you an adventure in South America that they will never forget.


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No, I don't recommend this program

Personal experience in Machala

When I went (May - July '13) the job and environment had been very much misrepresented. This made for a lot of frustration and dissatisfaction. There were two main organisations (one in Quito & the other in Machala) who organised the volunteers. The poor communication between the two made it very difficult for the volunteers. However, they had made some improvements by the time I left and some of the volunteers had put a huge amount of effort into improving this.

Machala's population is about 200,000. There is little entertainment, unless you're into very noisy night clubs.
So be prepared to travel usually at least a few hours for entertainment and sight seeing on the weekends.

Females it is a very difficult culture. If you show an interest in the men and they like you, be prepared to be harassed by them. Local females take great pride in what they look like so be aware you will be constantly looked up and down. They don't say anything but it does get annoying.

We were strongly advised not to walk around Machala due to safety reasons, but many of us did without any issues. However, Puerto Bolivar (more like a suburb of Machala) is dangerous and it is very risky to walk around. So much so we had a driver pick us up from our homes and drop us at the school gate, even waiting outside the school gate was not acceptable.

The drivers were great but with only one and a group of volunteers punctuality is not possible even though they try really hard.

Actually punctuality is not a priority at all in this area so don't be surprised if you are kept waiting for very long periods of time for anything and everything. My advise, always have something to keep yourself entertained while you wait.

I was placed with a lovely family in a beautiful house in a safe neighbourhood but I was very lucky. Accommodation can be very hit and miss whether is it is in a hotel or home stay.

Teaching between 34 - 40 kids in a very noisy hot environment (there is no glass in the windows) with very limited resources is very challenging but can potentially be very rewarding.

The more Spanish you know the better, while you can get away with knowing little when teaching English. It makes everyday living so much easier and more interesting, especially if you are going out with your host family (they spend a lot of time socialising at family and friends places).

I definitely recommend visiting some of the attractions Ecuador has to offer instead of just doing the volunteer programme. I went to the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon (you need a bit of time to do these and money) and they were both awesome experiences definitely worth doing. Both are such diverse places, and doing them after the dreariness of Machala was even better.

While over all I didn't enjoy my experience in Machala but I don't regret going, I certainly learnt a lot about a country, culture and myself. I had different experiences on a daily basis, every thing from bad to awesome, confusing and funny. Definitely an adventure.

Response from Lead-Adventures Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

Our teaching volunteer program in the coast region sponsored by the local government started in 2013. The first year of operations for this program has been quite challenging since it requires the participation and coordination between the local government, families, and administrators in general.

We know and realize it is not a smooth running operation yet but the results are great and we see improvements in operations day by day.
We have hired more than 15 teachers last year, that helped us a lot by creating group support and improving the situation of this poor region in Ecuador. All of our teachers have been young volunteers that finally had a nice experiences knowing this country, our culture, traditions, traveling through the 4 regions in Ecuador in some cases.

Fortunately for the current year, we have booked more teachers and expect to have volunteers on a regular basis to continue the process already set by the last ones, helping the children and the education in this country.
We apologize for any unmet expectations about this program although the overall feedback has been positive and believe that being part of something that is in the process of being built is perhaps the most important experience any participant can get from this.

Many thanks

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Yes, I recommend this program

Emerging Program

A lot of changes occurred within this program before and during my time in Machala. The negative experiences I had with this program were mainly teething programs with changes to the program and the false expectations I had of the program communicated to me though Lead Adventures website (as a 3rd party representative since this program is designed by the El Oro government), my interview and orientation. This information has since been updated and amended .

Daily I was picked up from my house (we stayed with host families not in a hotel) by a driver from the port authority and driven to school. Usually drivers arrived on time but being South America it wasn't a surprise if they didn't. My school was an all boys school until 2010 and so I taught classes from first grade to seventh grade of up to 40, mostly boys. Scary at first but once I got used to their craziness and boisterousness and they got used to me it was difficult for me to leave. These kids have a lot of love to give. The drivers then picked us up from school and took us to the port authority for an always tasty and substantial lunch. Depending on our schedule (some worked mornings, others afternoons and others a mix) we had either the morning or afternoon free. I spent this time with the other volunteers or my gorgeous host family, studying Spanish, planning classes, helping my host sister with her English, chilling out in Machala or Jambeli (on my days off) or going to free aerobics at the stadium. Some of us also helped out at the Instituto de Idiomas for university students. We worked between 20 and 25 hours per week.

Other difficulties I had were communication with the volunteer coordinator in Machala who worked for the government and was extremely busy, we were at the bottom of his to do list. Another problem for me was the amount of male attention I got in the streets. But any female volunteering for an extended period of time in Latin America needs to toughen up and deal with this.

All in all, I think this program has great potential. There are more organised programs in Ecuador and nicer places to be based for extended periods of time. During my time in the program I improved my Spanish, made amazing friends, had the opportunity to travel on weekends and had an exceptionally rewarding experience teaching the children at my school. The benefits outweigh the negatives.

What would you improve about this program?
If I had to change one thing it would be that there was a volunteer coordinator in Machala/Puerto Bolivar who was readily available and could act as a mediator between volunteers, schools, the government, port authority, Lead Adventures and host families (not sure host families will continue based on the current advertisement on this homepage). I would recommend someone who spoke both Spanish and English, well organised and diplomatic.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteering in the Galapagos Islands was Great!

Lead Adventures was very patient and answered all my questions prior to my three week trip to the Galapagos Islands.

I spent three days in the highlands on
Santa Cruz and four days in the highlands on San Cristobal doing a variety of volunteer work. In Santa Cruz I shredded leaves for soil making, planted trees and plants, and applied preservative to sign stakes. In San Cristobal I mixed soils for planting mixtures, filled planting bags with soils, picked guava and passion fruit for eating, helped prepare food for meals in the kitchen and cleaned out some tortoise ponds at a nearby breeding center.

I also enjoyed the many activities that were scheduled for me. This included several snorkeling trips, visits to tortoise breeding centers, a 'long' walk to the second largest volcanic crater in the world, a visit to the 'Wall of Tears', and free days to schedule trips for yourself or to just enjoy some free time. I saw a wide variety of fish, rays, marine iguanas, tortoises, and birds, including frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, pelicans, flamingos, etc.

The mosquitoes at the project in the San Cristobal highlands where we slept under mosquito netting and wore mosquito netting hats, when needed, was one of the only negatives. All in all, it was well worth the trip.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Great way to see the Galapagos

The volunteer work (at the National Park greenhouses planting coffee) was not too demanding. It was nice to know that I was helping to contribute to the welfare of the local farmers. I really enjoyed my time on the Galapagos Islands. This is a great way to travel there because you are able to spend time with the people instead of a cruise where you only get to visit for one day, but a combination of both would be ideal as then you would get to see more islands. Everyone was so nice and friendly, the food was excellent. The islands are very safe, there was never any problem walking around by myself, even at night.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Excellent experience

Was stationed at the greenhouse in the highlands of Santa Cruz island. Volunteering in planting Galapagos coffee and lemon was inspiring. Labour intensive but good fun. Rewarding-feeling to be able to contribute to society in my own way.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Alex Moraitis

Alex Moraitis is from Australia, growing up in Perth and living the past few years in Darwin. Alex blends his working lifestyle by working as a Project Manager most of the time and as a SCUBA diving instructor when he hits the road and travels. Alex is a 40 year young male with a massive passion in the underwater world and mountain hiking, and he loves exploring different cultures and environments.

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Lead Adventures in Ecuador?

I have been wanting to go to the Galapagos Islands for some time, not just as a tourist, but as a volunteer helping to contribute to local community needs. I simply researched the organizations offering volunteer programs in the Galapagos, and Lead Adventures had a good balance between working and seeing the islands.

What advice do you have for future volunteers?

Go in with an open mind and willingness to contribute where you can. Also remember everything works different than at home so don’t expect things to be the same or easy; you will challenge yourself with your comfort zones.

What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?

We were on the Galapagos Islands, and I was able to stay longer on my own in order to continue exploring and interacting with the unique wildlife and local culture. This experience reminded me that these kinds of activities are what I want in my lifestyle.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Elizabeth Gallardo


Tell us a little about Lead Adventures.

Lead Adventures is a Ecuadorian volunteer company who worked in all four regions of the country. The company is focused in support local communities, environment, social and conservation centers, in Ecuador mainland and Galapagos Island.

How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?

I spent over two year working in the Galapagos Island and was lucky enough to see the most unique place on the planet and I realized that we all need to do our part to help maintain these islands. First, I looked for an organization such as Lead adventures that support protecting the environment and providing benefits to the local communities.

What makes Lead Adventures unique?

Our administrative costs are much lower than agencies based in Europe or the USA. This enables us to offer lower prices for our volunteer programs compared to other international volunteer agencies.

What does the future hold for Lead Adventures?

Try to keep creating and offering unique experience that combine traditional travel with volunteer touring . We believe is the ideal way to get to know and understand the country.