Bilsa Biological Station

Bilsa Biological Station
Help out with agroforestry and reforestation projects, various bird and phenology studies, frog diversity comparisons and natural regeneration studies.

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Esmeralda’s province, Canton Quinindé,

Area: 3.300 hectares    Lat: 0º20,816’ N, Lon: 79º42,659’ W    Altitude: 300 - 730 msl

Temps: 18-22°C, Avg. Humidity: 75%  

Precip: 1500 – 2000 mm, rainy season Jan-June, fog July-Dec.



There is a main house with a kitchen and a dining room, 8 bedrooms and 2 showers; a scientist´s cabin with a kitchen, 6 bedrooms and a shower; 3 cabins with 4 and 6 bedrooms, a small library, a meeting area, a table tennis table and a carpentry place.

Other facilities include: 8 Latrines/outhouses, shower in the river, generator that provides light for the main building and makes it possible to charge batteries, a laundry place, water system (using gravity) that provides running water for all the cabins and the laundry place, Orchid & Bromelia garden, Medicinal plant garden, volleyball field, mobile phone, and more than 10 marked trails in primary and secondary forest.



Between October and December it is normally possible (depending on weather conditions) to make it all the way to Bilsa in pick-up trucks. The rest of the year, one needs mules to carry the backpacks and it is a 3-4 hour horse ride or a 3-5 hour walk from la Y de la Laguna to the station. In the wettest months (March-June) it’s highly recommended to ride a horse.

The journey is split into 2 days. The first day you travel from Quito to la Y de la Laguna and spend a night in the recently renovated cabins of the Laguna de Cube, with stunning views of the lake. The next morning you walk or ride to Bilsa.



Reforestation & maintenance:

- Seed collection and selection
- Planting of seeds in the nursery beds
- Maintenance and monitoring of the nursery beds
- Replanting trees in the reforestation lines
- Maintenance of the paths and gardens surrounding the cabins and main building
- Maintenance of the fruit tree gardens close to the cabins, medicinal plant garden, banana plantation (clearance with machete and pruning of the trees)
- Reforestation and maintenance around the station

Individual projects:

- Maintenance of Orchid & Bromelia garden, collection and identification
- Maintenance of trails in the forest
- Natural Regeneration studies in primary and secondary forest and in reforested areas (NOTE: to participate in this study, a volunteer needs to spend a minimum of 2-3 months at Bilsa as it takes a while to learn all the different species and it’s a lot of work)
- Medicinal plant garden: Make a booklet with detailed description and photos of all the different species, and maintenance work
- Carpentry: make signs for the various trails; make small benches/stools for the cabins, and others, depending on what’s needed at the time
- Birds: observation of the nesting biology of many different species (January-May), observation of fruiting trees, making an inventory of the birds sighted around the station
- Assist scientists: There are opportunities to help out in all of the scientific projects, in coordination with the responsible scientists
- Teaching at a nearby community school: This is not an ongoing or structured project yet

Hikes in the forest and along the rivers

Night hikes

Your own personal project:

It is also possible to work on your own personal project, which you may want to do for your studies or just out of specific interest. It is important that you come well prepared to Bilsa, with a written proposal including objectives and methodology, and also with the necessary materials/equipment! To avoid any disappointments, we suggest that you contact the office in Quito well in advance to make sure that it will be possible to carry out your project at Bilsa. Normally you have 2 days a week to work on your personal project. However in coordination with the staff it will be possible to dedicate more days to your project if required. Once you’re in Bilsa, we will ask other volunteer(s) to assist you in your project as one of our main security rules is that no volunteers can work or walk alone in the forest.



Two days a week, volunteers & staff work together in activities such as reforestation, maintenance of the station, construction projects.

Two days a week, volunteers go on hikes in the forest and along the rivers. Biodiversity themes will be presented by the staff during the hikes and when available seeds will be collected for the reforestation projects.

Two days a week, volunteers work in small groups on the projects mentioned above or on personal investigation.

Staff and volunteers visit monthly the community of Dógola for a few days. The visit is optional and the costs are not included in the fee paid at the office. $12 per person/per night (including all meals) and $10 for the mule there and back (transport of backpacks).

Several times a week there are opportunities to go on guided night hikes.



1. Clothing & Footwear: Well fitting rubber boots (knee high) are indispensable, shoes to walk and/or play sports in, sandals, fast drying clothes are recommended, however any old shirts and trousers /pants will be good to work in. Just make sure you bring some extra clothes, at least 2 pairs of trousers to work in and 1 pair for the evenings, shorts, many t-shirts (short and long sleeved) and many pairs of socks (short and long), a fleece or anything else that’s warm for the evenings, swimming costume, poncho or rain jacket.

2. Toiletries & Medication: BIODEGRADABLE soap & shampoo, tooth brush, tooth paste, etc, Malaria medication (prevention), First aid kit, Sun screen, Repellent.

3. Other necessary items: Towels, Soap for washing clothes, Sunhat or cap, working gloves or gardening gloves, torch/flash light with enough spare batteries, Small backpack for hikes and work, water bottle, Ziplock bags, diary, writing pad, pencils & pens, enough money for traveling expenses, mules, community visits, a beer or coke, (about $150 for a month, please bring many small $5 and $ 1 notes!).

4. Recommended items, but not necessary: Binoculars (preferably waterproof), Camera, books, playing cards, pocket knife, chocolate and/or energy bars, biscuits, sweets, etc.


REMARK: Quinindé and la “Y” are the last places that you can buy things before arriving at Bilsa, however we recommend you to buy all you need in Quito.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Itinerary You choose your dates: after booking this package we will contact you and ask for your flight itinerary so we can plan your trip accordingly.
  • All accommodations
  • Airport transfers
  • Private transportation to and from station
  • Three meals a day
  • 300$ donation
  • If Spanish lessons option chosen: airfare, transport and dorm included
  • International airfare
  • Beverages
  • Personal expenses
  • Gratuities
  • Insurance