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 and in Ecuador. 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. “Travelling by plane was pretty nice”, says Kaya. “There was a lot of space left open between travellers and travelling with a face mask on wasn’t too bad either.” Air circulation in planes is now filtered by HEPA which makes the air very clean and safe to travel.

Safety procedures

In Ecuador, there are currently several safety procedures in place. Ideally you can show a negative PCR corona-test that is no older than 7 days and is carried out in your home country before travelling. In the plane, you will be handed out some extra forms too, regarding your health. These forms are handed over upon arrival when your temperature is also checked.

Currently, one week of quarantine is compulsory before being allowed to travel onwards. Thomas admits it was a bit boring. “But I used the time to do an online Spanish course, so it was not all lost time and the views over Quito from the roof top terrace were amazing! The food was good and there were vegetarian and vegan options.”

List of hostels

Thomas and Kaya Merazonia volunteers 450 x 600The quarantine can only be done in a government authorized hotel or hostel in Quito, which come in all price ranges and include meals three times a day and a private room. “It was all pretty straight forward”, says Kaya who stayed at the same hostel as Thomas, the Secret Garden. “The people from the hostel picked me up from the airport, so it was very easy!”

For a list of all available places to stay, click here. (We can also send you the list by e-mail)

After a week of quarantine, you can apply for a corona test. The test costs $28 (more expensive in other labs) and we can arrange for the laboratory to come and do the test at your hostel, so you do not have to leave the hostel. The results will be sent to your phone within a couple of hours. There are also other labs that are authorized to do the test.

Onward travel

If the result is negative, you are free to travel on! Currently, interprovincial busses are not running (yet), so a private taxi is needed. 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 windows between the driver and the passengers to diminish infection risks.

We asked Thomas to make a short video of the trip to Ecuador, his time in Quito 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 has been 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 9 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 yet receiving tourists. To compensate the restrictions in movement, we have opened our office for volunteers to spend their free day. The 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.

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 a bit 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