Having interviewed many of the current and past volunteers about there work on the island and why they choose to volunteer on Isabela rather than just travel to the island’s or the Galapagos as a whole it became apparent there was a trend. Many of the volunteers decided to work here because it gave them the opportunity to experience the island’s community and cultural side more deeply and by living here for a month or so they have been able to become part of island life. Whether this was living with a host family or in the volunteer house they all found that they became part of the island, quickly recognising many faces, being greeted everywhere they went or even going to community events which otherwise may not have happened. For example, last weekend was Carnival - a cultural celebration on the beach, all the volunteers and students met up on the sandy streets to enjoy the festivities throwing paint and water balloons this was a weekend to enjoy and witness first hand a local tradition.
Having spent a month on Isabela I am beginning to get an increasingly cultivated global perspective. By seeing the world through another culture totally different from the life I live in England, I have been discovering different views and values which are important to the local community. By travelling abroad alone or in a small group you grow as an individual, being put in a different situation you can be forced out of your comfort zone, which I personally think is a good thing whether that’s simply being in a new country or not speaking much Spanish it varies for everyone but life is exciting and the challenge is amazing. As a result, volunteers have left the island feeling prepared for whatever the next challenge may be but taking away a lifetime of memories from their experience with the IOI. Whilst you may arrive on Isabela solo it is not long before you have an island family who you spend everyday with - speaking with one of our volunteers she said that one of the highlights of her trip was meeting like minded individuals from across the globe.
The perks of volunteering on the island rather than being just a tourist are huge, for one you can stay here for a lot longer and enjoy the island for the same cost as if you were on a 2-week cruise around all the islands. The experience of living on Isabela gives you the chance to explore, volunteer and spend time discovering every area of this beautiful island. Due to the national park regulations you need to be a volunteer with the tortoise center to be allowed in the corrals to carry out the day-to-day tasks everyone else must keep their 2-meter distance and stay behind the wall - this means that by volunteering with IOI the only international company on the island - you will have a unique once in a life time experience.
In addition, by living on the island its a great opportunity to develop your Spanish - the immersion you will experience by living in a location is far greater than if you are just visiting. Although many of the locals can speak some English and you have other volunteers who speak English it is the perfect opportunity to expand your language skills - whether it is simply going to the bakery to buy bread or ordering your lunch, slowly your vocabulary will begin to develop. Now that I have started to learn some Spanish the fluency of my speech is getting better quicker as I am able to speak with more and more people. The locals want you to speak Spanish and will encourage you to try and they will then help you to practice and this in turns help to build your confidence.
Volunteering with the IOI is an experience like no other - the chance to be fully immersed in island life offers incredible the opportunities to do anything from bicycling around the national park or snorkeling at the local lagoon in your afternoon’s help adds so much to your trip. Whilst working for the IOI you will get to experience so many amazing opportunities. In addition, helping to establish an ecologically sustainable and stable social economy for the community on Isabela it is truly rewarding. Personally I am so happy to have chosen to volunteer on Isabela and help contribute to the long term success of the Galapagos rather than to just witness the islands from a boat or for a few days.