A month volunteering in the Galapagos Islands
A month at the Galapagos Language Academy in Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands
The landscape from the moment you land into the Galapagos already tells what a great adventure comes ahead for you. The enchanting Galapagos is literally a magical land.
Visiting the islands by volunteering at the English School is a unique opportunity to immerse in the culture and to explore the island(s) in your free time.
I would like to share with you useful tips before reaching the Galapagos and my experience as an English teaching assistant.
A month volunteering in the Galapagos Islands – Things to know BEFORE coming
Galapagos and cheap don’t go in hand. You would have to plan. I had someone said that it is more expensive than England.
The first day I arrived, I really wanted some fruit, so I stepped into a small store and picked two pears, and an ice cream for $4. Open-jawed.
My advice, starve yourself, just kidding.
Not really, you just find a way to manage yourself in this environment. Since everything needs to be shipped from the mainland, prices are doubled and tripled priced than the mainland.
Whether you are staying for more than a week, I can recommend you visit the Saturday outdoor market. Find vegetables, fruits, spices, lacteous, and food stalls. For a relatively cheaper price than the retail market. But you have to bargain, alternative choose a stand and pick off what you need from that single stand.
Every day the ‘mercado municipal’ is on especially in the morning to get seasonal fruits, veggies and supplies to prepare your own meals. In the evening, find $1 morocco and empanadas, alitas asadas and more.
Also, ProInsular is the closest to your supermarket. Find pasta, oil, spices, snacks, bread and more.
P.D: I used a lot of shampoo as the water is not potable and spend most of my days at the beach. Sane advice for your scalp.
Visit Los Kioskos in Charles Binford. At night this street is packed with food stalls. People are very friendly and their most offered choice is their ‘platos a la carta’. You can also ask for the set menu, which consists of soup, rice meat and salad and juice. I would go to restaurant ‘TJ’, just next to la Trattoria de Pippo. They’ve got some ‘promociones’ and cocktails, wine, beer, coke. Find ice cream for $1 on Baltra Avenue. El Descanso del Guiaoffers good tasty food, you want to give it a go. Bolones, green plantain ball filled with cheese, pork or both are very popular and tasty.
Prices range from $4.50 to $30+ for food around town.
I trained at Mataxarno Fit Crossfit (they offer a plan B, which consists up to 12 visits a month for $35), located in front of Verde Azul hotel. Find ‘Bodywell’ gym, also there is Galapagos Sharkbox, also CrossFit.
Of course, free swimming, snorkeling at any of the beaches. La Estacion, Tortuga bay and La garrapatera (further away beach) are great places to relax and enjoy the view.
Get your snorkel ready. Either bring your own or rent it at one of the places. I got mine as courtesy from Galapagos Dreams during my stay.
Rent a bike and go around the city.
Taxis are white cars, they can take you from Puerto Ayora to Bellavista for $3. Bellavista is the highland part, where you can head to los Gemelos or Los Tuneles, which quite far from each other.
Taxis are also the small boats that take you from ‘el Malecon’ to Angermeyer point $1, to visit Playa de los Alemanes; also, these take you to the bigger fast boats for transferring between islands.
Fast boats take you between islands, you can get your ticket from the agency, or tour operator Cristine, just very close to proinsular market for $25. Or contact Tito Fish (route San Cristobal- Santa Cruz), for a similar rate, let him know Dayanna Mero as your referee.
Here everything moves. Small lizards, iguanas nesting, sea lions, pinzones, etc, etc. Animals can be like ‘I’m not caring about you, get out of my way’. So, you’ll have to be respectful of all the flora and fauna you encounter every meter. Do not touch the animals or you can go to jail. Please, do NOT use flash when taking pictures. You wouldn’t want someone to do this to you either. In general, just be respectful and try to not disturb this marvelous environment. Remember you are already having an impact by being there.
What you can see in Santa Cruz includes, baby sharks at night in ‘el malecon’ and at the beaches, land and marine iguanas, marine and land turtles, pinzones especially on all the way to El Garrapatero, lots of crabs, pelicans hanging out, couple of sea lions. Every island has its own enchant. Find lots of sea lions in San Cristobal. At Isabella, the biggest of the islands, there is a lot to see too. While my stay, volcano Sierra Negra was erupting. Who knows you’ll encounter some cool events going on.
For tours and other island activities, you can always ask the manager of the hostel for prices or get discounts from the Ecuador Eco Adventure company as well.
Experience as teaching assistant
I can describe this program as a self-discovery experience. Teaching English to kids it is not only an experience for professional development or the start of your career, but also a very fulfilling _feeling_ you obtain from repeating the same word to students over weeks.
‘As I finished a month volunteering at the English school, I leave with a smile on my face because is been a good month of discovery. I haven’t lived by myself for too long for work nor holidays, without knowing anyone, no friends, no family. The longest I’ve been solo it’s been 10 days. So, I learned a few things along this teaching journey:
1. As a teacher, you’ll have to come up with ideas that aren’t on the book to teach.
2. You start to understand the way students learn better.
3. You want to enjoy your time to the max while you’re there.
4. You’ll do things you thought you couldn’t do’.- Dayanna’s diaries
My piece of advice is to encourage students to talk. Talking is always one of the hardest parts of learning a new language. Young students will follow you as you do, you need to maintain the enthusiasm and engagement to ensure your class is successful.
Thanks to everyone who made part of this experience.