Hacienda Tranquila’s mission is to improve the both the environmental and social situations of the Galapagos. Our volunteers translate this mission into action.
How Do Our Volunteers Make The Island A Better Place?
- Reforestation – The Galapagos are under siege from invasive species. Invasives overrun small farms destroying livelihoods, and they choke out the endemic forests which Galapagos tortoises, mockingbirds, and finches depend on for survival. Our volunteers spend much of their time removing invasives and planting and nurturing native and endemic species in their place.
By 2020, we aim to have rehabilitated all of the Hacienda’s 50 hectares, which will cover three endemic ecosystems – the transitional zone (between the arid lowlands and the upper moist zones), the miconia zone, and the escalesia zone. Once all the land is restored, Galapagos tortoises will be reintroduced.
Furthermore, our volunteers help local farmers clear invasive plants from their farms. All the Hacienda asks in exchange is the farmers’ promise that they will care for a portion of their land where the volunteers will plant native and endemic vegetation.
- Community Work – Every week, children from INFA (the local equivalent to family services) come to the Hacienda to hike, horseback ride or play games with the volunteers. At the same time these kids are enjoying the outdoors, they are being instilled with environmental education. This should hopefully manifest in more sustainable habits, livelihoods, and ways of thinking as the kids mature.
Local disabled people come to the Hacienda to receive free therapy using horseback riding (hippo-therapy). We are the only ones certified in hippo-therapy on the Galapagos.
One day of labor each week is dedicated to the ongoing replacement of the 8 km water pipe that provides water to the community.
- Self and Community-Sustainability – The volunteers maintain their own organic garden, milk their own cows, and grow, dry and roast their own coffee. They produce more than they consume, so they donate the remainder to INFA (an organization for vulnerable children).
A Typical Day in the Life of a Volunteer
7:30 am Wake up and head to the kitchen to prepare a delicious local organic breakfast. Enjoy milk that you have personally milked by hand and pasteurized, and add it to the coffee you helped grow, dry, roast, and grind.
8:30 am It is time to get to work and start making a difference! If it’s a Friday, you will lead kids from INFA (the local equivalent of family services) through games, hikes, and/or horseback rides. If today is Tuesday, you will help in the ongoing replacement of the 8 km pipe that provides water to the community. If it is one of the few lucky days a month that the Hacienda provides hippo-therapy, you will assist the disabled through a mental and physical therapy program involving horses. However, today is none of those days.
Today, you head off with machete in hand to battle invasive species and plant and nurture endemic ones. Depending on the distance, you either walk or ride horses out to the day’s work location.
All morning, you chop down invasive guayaba trees with your machete, clear mora bushes and dig up other invasives. The work is hard but rewarding. As the days pass, you feel your body getting stronger and the work easier.
The good company of the other volunteers and staff makes time fly. Up to 12 volunteers live and work at the Hacienda at a time. By nature, virtually every volunteer that comes to the Hacienda is fun, caring, and fascinating to get to know. In your group, nearly everyone hails from a different country, and all have unique backgrounds, life-experiences, and perspectives.
12:00 pm Before you know it, it’s time to head back to the house to prepare lunch. Everyone is filthy but no one cares. During the rare moments in which you are not laughing with the rest of the crew, you savor your hard-earned food that tastes so good after a morning’s worth of honest work. After lunch, you lie down in a hammock with a good book and then close your eyes for a little siesta.
2:30 pm In the afternoon get back to work. You plant native and endemic plants in the place of the invasive you cleared that morning. You, along with future volunteers, will help to nurture these plants until they become old enough to flourish on their own. In a few years, all the hard work will result in a forest of natives and endemics. Galapagos tortoises will be reintroduced and the land handed over to the National Park. Mockingbird and finch populations should rebound and spread the seeds of the native and endemic plants, hopefully reclaiming the island from invasive.
4:45 pm You take a quick shower, change, and grab your swimsuit and a few dollars for a well-deserved night on the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. You take a seat in the bed of pickup truck turned taxi with a few of the other volunteers. You laugh with them and sing along to the music playing inside the car as the wind blows in your hair and you take in the breathtaking views down from the highlands to the ocean.
5:30 pm After a quick dip in the ocean, you take a stroll down the town’s boardwalk. As you walk along, you see sea lions sprawled out on the public benches, pelicans, frigate birds, and blue-footed boobies diving for fish, and lava lizards scampering away from your falling feet. Huge bright red Sally Lightfooted Crabs litter the rocks, and if you’re lucky, a marine iguana or two will amble by.
You practice your Spanish with a few of the locals you have befriended, before meeting the other volunteers for dinner in a local restaurant.
7:00 pm Dinner is delicious and only costs $3.00 for 3 courses and fresh squeezed juice. After the meal, some of the volunteers are going to a local bar, and others are just going to get some ice cream before heading back to the Hacienda and calling it a night.
9:00-10:30 pm You decide to go with the latter group. After a bit of light reading, you think about how in 4 years, that piece of land that was overrun by invasives this morning will look the way it did 5,000 years ago. You fall asleep easily knowing that today you helped to make one of the most awesome places on earth even better.
Volunteering is an excellent opportunity to visit San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos Archipelago in a sustainable and beneficial way. Click here to apply.