Live in Ecuador's Los Cedros cloud forest and help protect one of the most biodiverse places on earth

Short term volunteer role
Minimum commitment of two weeks

Los Cedros Biological Reserve consists of 17,000 acres of premontane wet tropical forest and cloud forest. Of this, 2,650 acres is formerly colonized land, while the remainder is primary forest. The reserve is a southern buffer zone for the 450,000 acre Cotocachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, and both are part of the Choco Phytogeographical Zone. The Choco region is one of the most biologically diverse and endemic habitats on Earth.

Due to the severe threats to this area, Jose DeCoux, a North American who was living on land purchased for conservation since the 1980’s, teamed up with Centro de Investigacion de los Bosques Tropicales (CIBT) to buy up further land and legalize the reserve. Along with simply protecting the forest from further deforestation, the purpose of Los Cedros is to protect the four major watersheds within the reserve. This objective is ongoing and requires hard work and dedication from a team of many enthusiasts.

Spider monkeys, capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, hummingbirds, toucan barbetts, macaws, umbrella birds, mot-mots, quetzals, Andean cock-of-the-rocks, kinkajous, spectacled bears, deer, jaguar, puma, pepsis wasps, 100s (1000s?) of species of butterfly and moth, rhino beetles, tarantulas, lizards, amphibians, snakes of every colour, dipertocarp, epiphytes, glorious fungi, trees, trees, trees . . . any effort to list even the highlights of the biotic diversity falls short. One of the best parts of nature viewing here is how often you’ll see things that nobody told you about anyway, possibly because nobody has seen them before.

Los Cedros Biological Reserve is a non-profit organisation that depends on the hard work and contributions of volunteers for its continued survival. Volunteers muck-in where they are needed and typical day-to-day tasks can include

  • trail maintenance and development
  • checking the integrity of the reserve’s borders
  • assisting with research project work, when active
  • development of new projects (for the self-motivated!)
  • maintenance of the facilities
  • feeding the chickens, cultivating the vegetable patches, picking oranges and cutting down bananas
  • purchasing and transporting additional food and other supplies to the reserve from Quito

The Los Cedros volunteer experience is, paradoxically, both hard working and relaxed. The length of the working day varies with the projects at hand. Volunteers can count on breaking an occasional sweat and earning their appetites. However, they can also count on plenty of time to relax, chat, read, eat, hike, drink tea, swing in hammocks, admire the views, and generally enjoy a well-earned sense of accomplishment from the day’s labours.

Long-term volunteers are particularly valuable since they have more time to get to know the reserve and to develop their own initiatives. However, shorter-term volunteers are also a necessary source of energy, ideas and labor. A minimum commitment of two weeks is required for volunteers, although a month or more is preferred. Most people who come here end up wanting to stay for longer anyway and many have.

The biotic landscape of the cloud forest is constantly evolving, as are the conservation goals of the surrounding community, and steady effort is required to adapt the reserve to those changes. Depending on what scientific research projects are active, there are frequently opportunities for volunteers to participate in field research. For up-to-date information on current volunteer priorities, please contact the reserve.

Accommodation for volunteers ranges from simple-slash-functional to grandly eccentric. Rooms are divvied up according to taste and availability. Most rooms are single occupancy. During periods of high traffic volunteers may be asked to share a dorm room. Most rooms (like everything else at Los Cedros) have a phenomenal view. Longer-term volunteers may consider reclaiming one of the several outbuildings on the trails around the central compound.

International volunteers: $300 for two weeks or $500 per month
Ecuadorean volunteers: $150 for two weeks or $250 per month

All prices are in US dollars. Fees include all accommodation, bedding and food. Vegetarian cooking is available. Food is plentiful and good.

Mule transport is provided for bringing you and your gear up the mountain to the reserve at no additional charge. Some volunteers prefer to hike the journey themselves for the extra challenge and experience.

Los Cedros is a non-profit reserve. All fees go to maintenance, staff wages, and the development of projects which are part of the reserve’s goals of conservation and education.

To apply, contact the reserve with some basic information about yourself and we will get back to you soon, usually within a couple of days. Useful info for us is your name, where you are coming from, why you’re interested in volunteering, when you would arrive and how long you would like to stay. A short email is usually sufficient. We can also answer any questions you have and provide additional travel information in response. Email

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