Volunteering in times of Corona

Great news: Merazonia is receiving volunteers again! And we can surely use the help. For those eager for an adventure, in this article we list all the extra safety procedures currently in place at Merazonia. Two newly arrived volunteers share their travel experiences too. For specific questions you can always e-mail or WhatsApp us.

International flights to Ecuador started again in July and the first two people, Thomas and Kaya, have made the journey from Europe. Although relatively small, there is no risk of infection when traveling. When travelling to Ecuador, you should show negative PCR corona-test that is no older than 10 days, carried out in your home country.

Currently, Merazonia upholds the one week of quarantine before entering the Merazonia reserve. Our preference is you fulfil the quarantine in a hostel in Mera called Tika Chiraw, which is close to us, offers a safer environment than Quito and gives you more space to move around. Ecuador itself is loosening up its restrictions and the state of emergency is lifted half September. This means busses will start going again on half capacity and curfews are lifted, although new restrictions might then be implemented by national or local authorities.

List of hostels

Thomas and Kaya Merazonia volunteers 450 x 600The quarantine period of one week can also be done in Quito but you should refrain from socializing and avoid hostels that do not uphold the self-isolation! After a week of quarantine, you can apply for the quick corona test (blood test).

When staying in Mera, the test can be done in a nearby German-Dutch run clinic in Shell. It costs about $30 and the result is known within the hour. We will assist you in arranging the test and transport. In Quito, we can also put you in touch with a lab that comes and does the test at your hostel. If the result is negative, we will welcome you with open arms in Merazonia but note that a postive result means the quarantine period is extended.

National travel

With the state of emergency about to be lifted in Ecuador, there will be less travel restrictions and curfews. Interprovincial busses will start running again on half capacity but a private taxi is still recommended to lower the risk of infection. We work with various reliable taxi drivers. The ride costs around $140 one way with a maximum of two passengers currently allowed per car. The taxis now all have separation panels between the driver and the passengers to diminish infection risks.

We asked Thomas, who arrived back here in July, to make a short video of the trip to Ecuador and the onward travel to the jungle so you have an idea of what to expect. The spectacular views on the end of the video are made with his drone, showing the entrance road to Merazonia.

Life in the jungle

Certain areas of Ecuador, like the big coastal city Guayaquil were hit hard by corona. But on this side of the Andes, in the thinly populated areas, numbers have been low. Merazonia is now a corona free safe haven, tucked away in the jungle with plenty of fresh air and natural attractions of its own. There is a lot of space to move around in (and animals to take care of!). Currently there are 7 people working here, a mix of managers and volunteers all working side by side to give the animals the best care possible.

We have prepared ourselves and put protocols in place for when a corona case is suspected. There is also a very highly regarded German-Dutch run clinic in Shell (15 minute drive) that can do tests. They also see patients for any kind of other medical issue, which is reassuring.

Corona protocols

On site, things run a little different at the moment. Volunteers stay in Merazonia during their stay here. In our region there are very few cases of Covid-19, but we like to keep the risk of infection to a minimum. We have all food brought to us from the big town twice a week. The owners, Frank and Louisa, go to town once a week and can provide any kind of personal items you might desire.

View Merazonia Wildlife office volunteer houseTourist hot spots like Baños (1 hour away) are not receiving tourists yet but this might change soon. To compensate the restrictions in movement, we have opened our office for volunteers to spend their free day. This house is a few miles down the road from the centre and overlooks the Pastaza valley, the Amazon basin and the mountainous national Park, Sangay. The views are breathtaking! Apart from that, the house has several rooms, electricity and wifi (and a domestic cat). At the moment we only ask for a small extra fee to spend the night here.

Controlled relaxation

The nearby Swiss Bistro has opened its doors again in the weekends and is a longstanding favourite among volunteers. They offer great food, a swimming pool and beautiful views towards the Merazonia reserve and the National Park Llanganates we border. Often volunteers take a taxi together to relax here for a few hours after work. They also offer camping if you want to go on your free day.

It is also possible to walk into the town of Mera to have a wonder around or buy some small personal items. Wearing a face mask in public is compulsory in Ecuador and we also provide you with a small bottle of hand sanitizer to wash your hands after buying things in a shop or any other interaction in town.

We are aware that there is still a lot of uncertainty in the world and that traveling comes with a risk. But we hope this article clarifies things for you, and family members, so you can make a well informed decision. You can always contact us, and Thomas and Kaya are also willing to share more details of their experiences with you in person.

Volunteers and managers MerazoniaMerazonia office and volunteer houseMerazonia volunteer with puppy