Volunteer in Ecuador

Work as a marine conservation volunteer in Ecuador, home to the islands that inspired Charles Darwin!

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A marine iguana sunbathes on the Galapagos coast.   Photo credit: Frank Wasserfuehrer, Shutterstock

About Ecuador

Ecuador is a country in north-western South America which is bordered by Colombia to the north and Peru to the east and south.  Its coastline also faces the Pacific and the Galápagos Islands which lie about 1,000km west of the mainland.  Quito is the country’s capital, while Guayaquil is the largest city.  Spanish is the nation’s official language.

Highlights

  • Experience the magic of the mystical Galapagos Islands!
  • Travel to the stunning Amazon Rainforest!
  • Take a stroll through Quito’s old town.

Climate and Geography

Ecuador has a mixed climate which is mainly determined by altitude.  The coast and lowlands of the Amazonian jungles generally experience a tropical type climate, whereas it tends to be cooler inland and at higher elevations.  The top of Mount Chimborazo (6,267m), Ecuador’s highest mountain, is considered to be the most distant point on the Earth’s surface from its center, due to the fact that the planet bulges at the equator and is not a perfect sphere.  Ecuador is also frequently affected by natural disasters, including earthquakes, landslides, volcanism, floods and periodic droughts.

Ecuador’s mainland can be divided into three main types of terrain: the Sierra or Central Highlands, the jungles of El Oriente and the coastal plains known as La Costa.  The Highlands contain most of the country’s volcanoes and snow-capped peaks, while the jungles of El Oriente consist of the huge Amazon national parks and indigenous zones where many native peoples continue to live traditionally.  The La Costa region includes the country’s most productive and fertile lands.

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Map of South America depicting Ecuador.   Image credit: ekler, Shutterstock

Culture and Religion

The vast majority of Ecuador’s population (92%) are of mestizo ancestry, a mixture of Spanish and Amerindian, and it is these influences that provide the backbone of the country’s culture today.  Indeed, the colourful indigenous art of the Tigua people remains popular – they are world-renowned for their traditional paintings on sheepskin canvases.  However, Ecuador’s difficult terrain has also led to the development of traditions varying between each of its regions, the diversity of which sometime results in strong rivalry.

Wildlife and Environment

Ecuador has four unique regions: the Amazon Rainforest, the Andes highlands, the Coast and the Galapagos Archipelago.  Indeed, in a study by Conservation International, Ecuador ranked among seventeen Mega Diverse countries, exhibiting one of the greatest biodiversities in the world!

The coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean also support a remarkable variety of marine species, including a wide range of megfauna such as sea turtles, whales and dolphins, sharks and rays.  The Ecuadorian government is now striving to establish a national network of marine protected areas (MPAs), recognising the importance of Ecuadorean waters for both marine biodiversity and coastal communities.

 

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A Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus.     Photo credit: Steve Montgomery, Flickr

Click here to see how you can work as a marine conservation volunteer in Ecuador!