Catalina Island is 21 miles long, by 8 miles at the widest point and is approximately 22 miles off the coast of Southern California. Most people make the one hour ferry journey from Los Angeles. The Island has one “city”, Avalon, which has a population of about 3,500 (swelling to 10,000 in the busy summer months) and there is also the much smaller village of Two Harbours which serves as a great base for water sports and out-door pursuits.
The climate is mild in the winter (18C) and pleasantly warm in the summer (23C); but don’t be deceived by the figures it will feel significantly hotter when you are doing manual work inland away from the coastal breeze!
The island ecosystem includes a unique variety of native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, grasses, ferns, mammals, insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fungi, lichens, and other forms of life. Some are found only on Catalina Island, while others are widespread. Maintaining the health of these species by preserving and restoring their habitats is one of the tasks of the volunteer.
You will stay on one of a number of campsites on Catalina Island. Which one will depend on the needs of the island at the time that you travel and the project you are working on. All locations are well equipped and some even have semi-permanent cabins, though in most cases you will stay in tents. The camps are relatively remote however; don’t expect to walk in to town in the evening for a beer and a pizza. Instead, kick back with your fellow volunteers in the idyllic locations of the campsites. Again depending on where you are staying, meals are either provided by a camp cafeteria or volunteers all pitch in to cook at an outdoor camp kitchen.
You will normally work Monday – Friday and have the evenings and weekend off. During your free time you can choose to relax on anyone of the many beautiful beaches, hike some of the trails, go snorkelling or kayaking, hang-out in Avalon or take the ferry across to Los Angeles.
Pre/Post Work Travel
This is a fantastically flexible programme that can fit in with a host of other travel experiences; why not take a conservation break after your time on summer camp or combine it with a North American road trip.
Catalina Island is an outdoor activity lover’s paradise. It has numerous hiking trails, a zip line experience, rocky shores and idyllic beaches to discover. There are shoreline campsites dotted along the east coast. It’s a water sports haven: kayak, snorkel, scuba or sail around the beautiful waters. For people who enjoy an outdoor lifestyle it really does have everything.
Inland is rugged and at its highest point is Mt. Orizaba at 639 metres above sea level.
The beauty of Catalina Island isn’t lost on the Californians and it is a popular destination for holidays and weekend breaks. The lively town of Avalon is well equipped to cater for all types of visitors; with its lavish marina, casino, and plenty of shops, al fresco bars, cafes and restaurants.
If you want to travel further a field, you can take a ferry to the main land and visit Los Angeles. However, be warned, after a couple of weeks on Catalina the frenetic pace of LA can come as quite a shock!
Most people will arrive in America on the US Visa Waiver which allows a total stay of 90 days; ample time to volunteer and take in some sites. After your volunteering experience, you are ideally placed to explore more of California with must see destinations including, Los Angeles (Hollywood, Universal Studios, Disneyland, Venice Beach), San Francisco (Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge), The Pacific Highway, redwood forests, Death Valley and Yosemite National Parks, the Big Sur coast and Lake Tahoe. Travel interstate and you can include the Grand Canyon National Park, Las Vegas, the list is endless!
BUNAC participants will work alongside local volunteers, project staff and other international volunteers.