Colin is a volunteer who has worked at both the tortoise centre and during the final week of his trip he has volunteered to work with the Galapagos National Park maintenance team. During his free time on Isabela Colin has taken many trips across the island, exploring the land and wildlife whilst documenting his findings with photographs.
What Interested you in the Galapagos?
I met a friend on a previous trip in 2009 and he had just spent a year travelling the world - I asked him what his favourite location was and he said the Galapagos. From then on I had my heart set on coming here to explore for myself. One thing that really stood out from the conversation was that the animals have priority here which is true you need to accept that stepping aside for them is the norm.
How did you become involved with IOI?
I left on this trip unaware of where I was going and became sick of travelling the gringo trail - just enjoy plenty of nice beaches, and tourist sights. I thought about my next move and discovered the IOI - this is the perfect option. I looked at working for 4 weeks on Isabela with the IOI versus a 10 day cruise across all the islands, this is the chance to be here for longer whilst having the opportunity to give back. This was a great option as I got to step out and explore somewhere from a locals prospective. Working for the IOI I have had the opportunity to immerse myself in a culture and help do something good for the environment and also the local community.
How long have you been part of this program?
4 weeks out of 4
What are your goals? Why are you participating?
Working for the IOI I have had the opportunity to witness something greater than just a holiday. Hearing all the good things the IOI does for the community here gives me the motivation to add my small part to the work they do. Watching David Attenborough documentaries where he talks about how great the giant tortoise’ are and learning that man has devastated the population in the past and there is a chance to rectify the mistakes of the past, as there are now breeding centres which help to restore the population, has really affected me. Knowing the role I have taken in this long-term project fills me with pride knowing I have had the opportunity to give back to the community that have sacrificed a lot to protect their home and maintain the future success of the animals. It would be easy for them to farm the land and begin producing food for exports or by fishing but in return it might destroy the habitats for the animals.
How are you liking the experience? Would you recommend this to other travellers?
It is a great experience that I am sure I will be talking about for the rest of my life. It’s not your typical package holiday - it’s getting involved in a community with a culture, the opportunity to discover an area in depth. I’ve spent years wanting to come here and explore, it’s hard to get to Isabela but having found this opportunity which means I can give back and stay here for a month has been incredible.
For people coming after you is there any advice you’d tell them?
The island is more remote than you think - taking a weekend trip to the rest of the islands are difficult and costly but it can be done. Try and plan what you really want to do as once you get here, there are endless options, it would be a shame to leave and regret not getting of the island or doing a specific tour.
The one thing you wished you’d pack.
Foods from home - buying food here is expensive as everything is imported to the island.
In addition I would like to have brought some gifts for my host family from Canada. They are so kind and it would be a great to give them something they may not be able to get on the island. The options here are limited so it would mean more to give them something from my home as opposed to a gift bought on the island. Its worth making the space in your suitcase - they'll become your family and would appreciate getting something special.
One thing you regret bringing.
2 pairs of trousers - even when its cooler here its still very hot - a pair would be good but two is unnecessary.
Highlight of your trip?
Snorkelling on Pinzon Island - seeing sea lions, sharks and turtles swimming about is breathe taking. An iguana swimming and diving for food is so amazing and getting up close to the iguana as he held himself underwater to eat algae.
I love the independence of living with a host family combined with the feeling of being part of the community.