Volunteer in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia with Environomica Onlus: we are an established international NGO that works to protect tropical forest ecosystems. Our volunteer abroad program counts with a range of initiatives connected with forest protection in the valley of the ancient Lost City archaeological park, including Tree Planting and Monitoring, experiencing cultural exchanges with local farmers and Indians, Learning Conservation Values, Renovation and Construction, and more.
The SFEC Project offers volunteers the opportunity to live and work on-site at a rainforest conservation base, while enjoying its unique ecosystem. We work with one main placement for this project and the travel time to the project base may take from 5 to 7 hours from central Santa Marta. The first hour is done by bus, following an hour by motorbike (driven by a local and specialized driver) and then trek on foot. Travel time varies depending on the road conditions and on the volunteers’ pace. The main tasks involved are reforestation with the Environomica team, monitoring and maintenance of tree seedlings, supporting conservation related lectures and actions with school kids, renovation and construction of project facilities. These tasks will vary based on the need at the time of the volunteer program. The local staff will appoint the volunteer with tasks and locations where the most need for help is, also taking current field conditions into consideration. It is important to note that volunteers do not choose their activities and location. We strongly recommend committing to this project for at least 2 weeks. Please note, the volunteer program includes the cost for supervision, materials, food, lodging, transportation and the logistics involved in this project.
Volunteer programs begin on every Tuesday. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for any duration from 1 week to 12 weeks. There are activities throughout the year, with a lot of work to be done.
Orientation is given by our local team at our offices in Santa Marta. Orientation begins on Monday and covers everything the volunteer needs to know for his/her volunteer program in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta – introduction to Colombia, Colombian customs, language details, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities in Santa Marta and its surroundings, activity introduction and placement. The orientation will also give the volunteer a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socializing. Upon arrival to Santa Marta volunteers will be hosted at Environomica’s facilities. Next day, they will be transported to their accommodation in the Sierra and they will complete orientation.
On your first day of volunteering, typically Tuesday, you will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with.
Volunteers will have a morning or afternoon shift which will last about 3 to 4
hours. A typical morning schedule would be as follows:
7.00 AM – Breakfast at base camp.
8.00 AM – Leave the base camp and trek to your placement, where you will
be given instructions and a plan for your work. Volunteer roles and hours are
dependent on the project needs and placement.
12.00 PM – Work at the placement usually ends. You will be escorted back to
1.00 PM – Lunch at base camp.
2.00 PM to 6.00 PM – Free time to explore base camp and its surroundings, or to help out the host family with their farm. We also host group activities such as workshops, language tandem and more.
7.00 PM – Dinner at base camp.
Volunteers are free to join our weekend group activities or choose to explore the region on their own. See the specific section below for more details on what to do on weekends.
Because the SFEC program takes place amid tropical rainforests, project volunteers will be based much further afield than Santa Marta’s surroundings.
Accommodation on the SFEC Project is located on-site at the conservation reserve where volunteers will be based. Living is rustic and communal, but comfortable. Volunteers are accommodated in a dormitory-style facility offering both hammocks and beds. There are no accommodation upgrades available. Volunteers stay on-site with a local family that runs the facility (note that the host family does not speak any English). The facility is equipped with gas stoves, showers (no hot water, and no need for it!) and toilets. Electricity is available from 8.00 to 10.00 PM. Please note, there is no wi-fi or mobile coverage at the facility. The nearest Wi-Fi hotspot is 3 hours walking distance from base camp. Our staff is equipped with radio devices satellite phone for any needs.
At the SFEC base camp, you will be provided with breakfast, lunch, and dinner given the limited availability of restaurants in the rural settings this project is based in. Meals are typically vegetarian, but meat is available upon request. Please be sure to let us know of any specific dietary requirements you have so we can make special arrangements for you.
“I was so impressed with my entire experience in the Sierra, and feel like I really had the opportunity to immerse myself in the local life and to help out in a small way. I am so grateful to the Environomica team for making my adventure possible and giving a very rewarding experience. I look forward to volunteering with Environomica in the very near future.” – Veronica (Reforestation Volunteer in Colombia – Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta)
• 24/7 in-country support
• Transportation from and to Santa Marta/Base camp
• Program orientation
• Volunteer placement
• Accommodation and meals
• Airport pick-up can be arranged
for an extra 10 USD fee
What extra costs will volunteers have?
• Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, souvenirs, in-country trips or weekend tours
• Lunches while in-country
• Transfer back to the airport at conclusion of the program
• Optional money spending – Volunteers in the Sierra generally find US$55 to be sufficient for weekly expenses
WEEKENDS AND TRAVELS
During the weekend, volunteers have spare time to relax or take the opportunity to explore other parts of the Sierra and the Caribbean coast. Long weekends can be taken to travel further afield to visit destinations such as the Lost City archaeological park. Visiting this archaeological site is one great way to spend the weekend since most of our basecamps are on its way. The famous Tayrona Natural Park with its breath taking beaches is also close by. Our local staff will provide volunteers with travel information and set them up with a local guide if needed. Please note, if you wish to visit the Lost City let us know as this tour needs to be scheduled in advance. The cost of tours and local guides are not included in our program fee and can be paid by the volunteer upon arrival in Santa Marta.
WEATHER AND CLIMATE
Colombia, unlike other equatorial countries, does not have an exclusively tropical climate; the influence of the Andes and the Humboldt Current causes great climatic diversity within the country. In the Sierra, there is usually a rainy season (September-January) and a dry season (February-August) and temperatures range from below 0° to over 30° Celsius within the 42 Km from the Caribbean coast to the snow peaks (5.775 m.a.s.l.). Much like other rainforests, the Sierra is so abundant with water that it makes its own micro-climate. On the project area, day temperatures typically range from 27° to 32° and night temperatures rarely fall below 18°: the perfect climate to live a memorable outdoor adventure in the jungle!
Volunteers need to be 18 years or older to participate, unless volunteering with a parent or guardian. All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to Environomica’s local team upon arrival to Santa Marta. Volunteers need to be physically fit to sign up for this program, since daily trekking in the jungle is involved.
Free Interactive Volunteer Training – All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on our volunteering program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer.
Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for our SFEC volunteering program; however on certain activities volunteer work will be restricted with limited language ability. Volunteers interested in taking Spanish lessons can arrange these directly with the local team once in Santa Marta.
Please note, because of the risks involved with the nature of the work as a volunteer and of our program placements, applicants will be adequately prepared to deal with dangers that may arise while volunteering with us. Volunteers will only act under the supervision of our local staff and be given adequate instructions for any tasks and assignments. All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check upon arrival. Environomica shall not be liable for any losses or damages that are not caused by our negligence or that were not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of our actions.