Intercultural Outreach Initiative (IOI)

Program Reviews

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Allie
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

3 Weeks On Isabela

I had an absolute blast volunteering for 3 weeks at the Tortoise Breeding Center on Isabela! I spent the mornings at the center doing a variety of tasks such as feeding the tortoises, maintaining their enclosures, landscape work on the grounds and even painting informational signs. Since I had free time every afternoon and on weekends, there was more than enough time to partake in the popular tours based on the island as well as enjoying Puerto Villamil town itself. I would recommend staying with a host family as they will help you really get to experience the island and they are all amazing people. I enjoyed my time volunteering so much that I extended my stay a week (thanks to the quick help of the lovely IOI team) -- if you are wondering how long you should stay, go for as long as you possibly can, you won't regret it!

Pros
  • Spending an elongated amount of time on a beautiful island! Great flora, fauna and people :)
  • Being able to directly give to the community and island itself through volunteering
  • Many land based tours leave from Isabela that can be done during your free time
Cons
  • Beware of the wasps on the island, I got stung one time and those suckers hurt!
  • The Ferry ride to the island can be very bumpy (especially in winter). Bring Dramamine
  • Food is simple and delicious, but can get repetitive (meat, rice & small side salad)
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Epke
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Galapagos

I loved everything! The experience was so amazing from the start and I would absolutely recommend to anyone considering. The staff were really helpful in getting me there and helping to get me settled, and were very accessible the whole time I was there. The food was incredible and a great way to experience local Ecuadorian cuisine. (Definitely try an empanada!) The town and the people are so awesome, the beach is amazing, and the adventures are endless. I wish I could've stayed longer! Bring bug spray!

Pros
  • Amazing city
  • Walkable community
  • Lots of friends around
Cons
  • The BUGS
  • Not great hot water
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Shaun
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Sustainable Agriculture Programme - Los Najaranos

The work was tough but the experience was fantastic. If you want to get to know as much as possible about organic coffee growing, Walter will spent time with you and tell you everything he knows. It's essential to speak some Spanish to make the most of this opportunity. You will get involved in lots of manual labour but if you are outgoing and inquisitive, you'll really enjoy this experience. I'd certainly say that you need to like dogs as there are three rather exuberant ones which can be a little daunting at first. It really was an insight into how tough it is to be an organic coffee farmer and what life is like on the farm. I loved every minute of it!

Pros
  • A great chance to learn about sustainable agriculture
  • If you're committed, you can improve your Spanish a great deal
  • If you're a fitness fanatic, you'll definitely get your work out on this project!
Cons
  • If you can't speak Spanish you might feel isolated and bewildered.
  • The days are long and you are committing more of your time than on other projects.
  • You've got to be happy about getting dirty, rolling your sleeves up and getting on with the job.
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Sebastian
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Great time with Turtle nest monitoring / Eco Tourism

I spent one week in the Turtle Nest Monitoring team and one week in the Ecotourisn Team. For me it was a perfect mix of both activities. I felt very welcomed from the first second on, I was blessed with a wonderful caring family and I don’t want to miss this great time on Isabela Island. You can feel and see that IOI really cares about nature and the community, to be a part of this was a great experience. The mix of working, spending the time with your family, have time to explore nature by yourself or with other volunteers was so much fun and overwhelming. I hope I can stay in contact with many of them. Even if I immediately learned that my Spanish was very rusted, I am more than happy I have chosen to stay with a local family - people and so caring, openminded, friendly and thankful! There are so many things you can do - from snorkeling to biking, diving, hiking…. You will love this beautiful landscape.

What was your funniest moment?
The first moment I met my family and learned that they don’t speak one single word in English. I asked myself why I am doing this, but we laughed so much and really had a great time, you will learn so much things - one of it is that you can communicate even with no great Spanish skills, it will work!
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Jeff
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

2 Weeks in The Galapagos

I spent two weeks with IOI in The Galapagos on Isabela Island. I would do it again and I wish I would have stayed longer!

Positives:
*Pre-departure Communication
*On-site Volunteer Coordinators
*Responsiveness
*Accommodations
*Food
*Free time

Learning:
*Learning was lacking and I wasn't sure exactly what and how I was contributing for the Sea Turtle Nesting program. There was not a great deal of time explaining Who, Where, What, When and Why. It would have been nice to have met the person who was in charge of the Sea Turtle Program and what their objective was (other than the obvious of saving sea turtles).
The Galapagos Program was a little more informative as we were interacting with the Parque Nacional employees who were knowledgeable.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Climbing down the sketchy rope ladder into the Trillizos cave and breaking the wooden wrung freaked me out. I climbed back up to the top and was happy I survived LOL.
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Vicki
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible Experience

I spent 3 weeks on the Tortoise Breeding Centre programme ran by IOI a few weeks ago. The experience was amazing. It was so much fun working with the Giant Tortoises everyday, you really got to know some of them and learn their characters. The working day was 8am - 12 which meant we had the entire afternoon to snorkel, relax on the beach, surf or just stroll around. I have to mention the accomodation is beautiful too :)
All in all I would throughly recommend this programme. I booked through Working Aborad and they were also amazing. I will definitely be back.

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Cael
4/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Beautiful Cocodrilo

My wife and I stayed in Cocodrilo with Nene for two weeks in March 2020. The program was well run and Nene was a great host. The chef, Marie, was a fantastic cook/personality. We felt very welcome throughout our stay and ate very well! Mornings were spent helping Nene perform various conservation activities - lots of snorkelling. Most beaches were accessed by bicycle so we ended up pretty fit by the end of the program. We also spent a few days collecting seeds in the forrest and planted them on the beach. Afternoons we spent relaxing and interacting with the local community. It was amazing to spend time living as a local and helping the community where we could.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would have practiced my Spanish more! We learnt Spanish for 6 months before going to Cuba. While we could understand all of the basics we would have liked to understand more to get the most out of this trip.
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Cara
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Once-in-a-lifetime Experience

Once-in-a-lifetime experience working at the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre on Isabela Island. IOI put us under the care of the Galapagos National Park, and we worked for 6 weeks at the centre. It was a far cry from our usual jobs in the city, and felt a little bit like being a zoo keeper; feeding the tortoises, clearing the enclosures, cleaning the ponds, supporting park staff with daily tasks and more.

What a privilege to contribute to the conservation of these endangered species - every day we felt like our work was valuable, and I loved sharing my newly-acquired tortoise knowledge with visitors to the park.

We were close to nature the whole time, seeing flamingos, marine iguanas and mangroves on our walk to and from work, then working every morning next to the giant tortoises. In the afternoons we were free to enjoy Isabela island, from hiking the volcano to surfing the beaches and snorkelling offshore. Highly recommended.

What would you improve about this program?
An improvement for IOI could be more education for the volunteers (currently any education you acquire about the Galapagos wildlife is self-led), a little more on-the-ground organisation, especially when you first arrive.
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Jackson
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Turtle Walk Program Review

Not really sure the impact my 3 weeks in the turtle walk program made and feel like I could have stayed in the Galapagos for less money, but without hesitation I give this program a 10/10 and highly recommend to anyone wanting to be more than just a tourist. Walking a beautiful beach every morning / afternoon with purpose is a wonderful feeling. With IOI you are instantly plugged into a local and volunteer community and can see first hand the value of all the different programs, which are efforts I gladly support. I deeply miss the splendor of this island and applaud the efforts of IOI!

What would you improve about this program?
Some additional pre-program reading material with a more in depth description of the nature and value of the work would have been useful.
Having some bicycles for the volunteers would have been a nice touch as well.
Read my full story
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Terry
4/5
Yes, I recommend this program

A fun and unique experience

Going to Cocodrilo was a once in a lifetime adventure! We had a fun and relaxing time while doing projects that were helpful to the people and the environment. Nene worked hard to make us feel at home, and to explain everything about the habitat and the village. He is very knowledgeable and took time to be sure our questions were answered. We learned a lot about the culture and history of the area, and the snorkeling was terrific. We were glad we brought full wetsuits, as the water temperature in Feb. is chilly. We also brought plenty of very strong mosquito repellent, which is essential. I'm very glad we were able to meet the wonderful people in the program, and have this experience!

What would you improve about this program?
I think having mosquito nets in the room for sleeping would be helpful. We would have brought work gloves if we had known.
Bring your own wine or rum if desired, as well as snacks, cookies, tabasco sauce. Also need more vegetarian options.