Opportunities are available to volunteer in Peru, or intern in Peru, in some of the most remote, fascinating and largely unspoiled parts of the Amazon rainforest. Research Assistant Volunteers and Interns can work with 4 different taxonomic groups - Mammals, Birds, Herpetofauna and Insects. Volunteers can also join our Forest Ranger Programme, Primate Conservation Research Programme, Creative for Conservation Programme, Green Living Programme, Wildlife Camera Trapping Programme, Community-based Medicinal Plant Research Programme or our Photography Programme.
We also offer Individual Project Internships for students doing University placements, or wanting to carry out research for dissertations, or scientists/students wanting to do deeper research. You can join for 1 week up to 10 months and we have places available all throughout the year. Spanish lessons are also available at the project. Families who would like to volunteer together are also welcome to join.
Individuals, groups, families and students doing research all welcome.
Cost for food, drinking water at all times, lodging, boat transport, airport pickup/drop off, training & supervision; from £731.
The aim is for environmental volunteers and interns to assist in the project’s long-term scientific research in the Peruvian Amazon; to better measure the effects of human activities on wildlife, including endangered species; to get the collected information to the people who can make decisions and act on the solutions that help conserve rainforest, and to make a clear and positive impact on the Amazon ecosystem in this part of Peru. As well as the Volunteer and Internship Programme, volunteers can now also join our Forest Ranger Programme, Primate Conservation Programme, Creative for Conservation Programme, Green Living Programme and Wildlife Camera Trapping Programme.
We currently offer four different taxonomic groups for Research Assistant volunteers and interns to select to work with (although it may be possible to work with more than one, so please ask):
Each project is 1, 2 or 3 weeks in length and volunteers are needed for a minimum of 1 week. For longer durations above one month, you will qualify for a Research Assistant Internship position (1 to 10 months in duration).
Each Research Assistant volunteer and intern will learn about all of the taxonomic areas that the project researches so as to benefit from a broad spectrum of rainforest knowledge, regardless of their chosen team(s). A training period at the start will cover the theoretical and practical background of the field methods to be used, the ecology and identification tips for the species under study, and forest safety. During this initial training period and throughout the project, open presentation and discussion sessions with the Principal Investigator and other project scientists and ecologists will be held about many of the current issues facing the rainforest, its wildlife and peoples, and potential solutions. This is a great opportunity to contribute to the ongoing dialogue between conservation groups, the government, local grass-roots organisations and communities concerning the appropriate use of the Amazon rainforest. Coaching and mentoring will continue throughout and while in the field with the team coordinators. Here’s a rough guide to the teams’ daily activities:
• Walk approx. 7 km of trail systems and transects slowly each day, starting the first session at 5:30 am, to check for mammals and take down data of sightings
• Occasionally walk trails and transects at night to census nocturnal mammals
• Create and check mammal footprint traps on a daily basis
• Maintain existing trails and on occasions open new ones
• Set up heat- and motion-sensing camera traps and download images every few days
• Enter data of the above research into the project computers
• Monitor designated research plots for herpetofauna, once during late morning and again either before or after dinner, daily to collect data of sightings
• Occasionally walk to (and through) swamp, stream and lakeside habitats to search for species that might not be found in the research plots
• Build and maintain herpetofauna pitfall traps and check them daily
• Maintain existing transects and on occasions open new ones
• Assist in the careful handling of snakes, frogs, lizards and sometimes caiman and turtles in order to identify, process and photograph them before release
• Enter data of the above research into the project computers
• Help carry and set up mist nets along trail systems and transects each day, from 5:00 am, monitor the nets, and carefully process the birds caught before subsequent release
• Walk approx. 6 km of trails and transects to observe and record birds and record data of any sightings (point counts)
• Maintain existing transects and on occasions open new ones
• Assist in the careful handling of birds in order to identify, process and photograph them before release
• Enter data of the above research into the project computers
• Walk approx. 2-3 hours a day on trails and transects to monitor butterflies through visual and hand-net catching methods
• Assist in creating, setting up and monitoring tropical bait traps for butterflies
• Assist in creating, setting up and monitoring dung bait traps for beetles
• Characterise and measure forest types surrounding traps and transects
• Assist in the careful handling of butterflies and beetles in order to identify, process and photograph them before release
• Enter data of the above research into the project computers
This programme is focused on visiting local native and mestizo communities in the lowland rainforest and recording their multiple uses for medicinal plants and assisting them with their ecotourism development plans. By spending time with shaman, healers, and other community members, and using a combination of direct observation, structured and un-structured interviews, as well as botanical data collection alongside experts, the aim is to identify the diversity of medicinal plants used in each community; to calculate the abundance and extraction rates of these plants; to document the main methods used to prepare the twenty most common plant-based remedies in each community; to understand how medicinal plant ecology and use varies between communities (including between the sexes and age groups); and to help develop a road-map for those communities interested in offering their remedies in local markets. Recording the use of other natural resources (timber, bush meat, etc.) may also be important at times.
In terms of ecotourism, the programme aims to develop photo-guides and video-pieces of medicinal plants to help visitors from Peru and abroad identify the plants and better understand their use; to develop text, images and video for community websites and social media platforms (where these are in place or planned) as part of community marketing strategies; as well as offering direct experience to community members of what it is like to have small groups of visitors staying with them, including incentivising members to become more skilled as temporary tour guides, cooks, and boat drivers.
Volunteers will spend approximately 70% of their time on medicinal plant research activities, and the remaining 30% on ecotourism development activities. Living conditions at communities can be basic, although beds, mosquito nets, sheets and blankets are provided throughout; as well as clean drinking water and three healthy meals per day. A knowledge of Spanish, although useful, is not required, as the field programme coordinators all speak English well. You can join for 2 weeks and upwards in duration.
Volunteers will receive time off during the programme, usually 1.5 days per week, during which they can either relax or undertake group-based pre-organised visits to local attractions such as mammal or macaw clay-licks, streams and lakes to go swimming in, forest camping, spending time in Puerto Maldonado, among many other activities.
We offer three types of internships:
- Research Assistant Internships where positions are learning-focussed doing Research Assistantship/Apprenticeships (with one or more of the core teams: Bird, mammal, herpetofauna, insect or plant) for 1 month durations and longer (as described above).
- Individual Project Internships for students doing University placements, or wanting to carry out research for dissertations, or scientists/students wanting to deepen their research and practical experiences for 1 month up to 10 months in duration.
- Community-based Medicinal Plant Research and Ecotourism Development Programme - See description above on the Medicinal Plant Research programme, interns can join this for two weeks to three months in duration.
Durations for all internships can range from 1 to 10 months. Individual Project Interns can select from a wide variety of research topics available, including studying dung beetles as a biodiversity indicator, studying patterns of noctural mammals, or the abundance of macaws and parrots in specific locations, or you can work out your own in conjunction with the Project scientists. Email email@example.com for details on the availability of internships. At the end of your placement, interns will receive a certificate of completion and a letter of recommendation with the option available for us to work with your university/college to fulfil any requirements you may have for obtaining credits/assignment review etc.
The Forest Ranger Programme offers volunteers an opportunity to get directly involved in rainforest conservation efforts. Volunteers will work alongside and learn from Forest Rangers and the rest of the field team. They play a vital role in maintaining a presence on our 4,460 hectare private reserve in the remote Peruvian Amazon. Our Forest Rangers provide an on-going supply of research data which helps us identify where threats may occur and what activities are being carried out on the land. In addition, they contribute to the long-term collection of core data sets and help to maintain an extensive trail network. Finally, the Forest Rangers help to build relationships with our neighbouring communities and forest users.
Typical duties include:
We are looking for volunteers and interns to assist us with applied research of wild and endangered monkey groups in the remote, primary rainforests of the Peruvian Amazon. Volunteers and interns will support the vital work of our Primate Conservation Research Team, based in a remote watershed in the south eastern corner of Peru, near the border with Bolivia and Brazil. Our task is to better understand the current status--and assist with conserving--the endangered Peruvian black spider monkey (Ateles chamek) and at least 8 other species of monkey found in the local area. Research undertaken by the team helps us determine strategies for local conservationists in their quest to create a Biodiversity Corridor in an important river system which is at risk from illegal logging, gold mining and slash-and-burn deforestation for unsustainable agriculture.
Here are some things you can expect to learn, experience and achieve:
Monkey species seen during research:
Using media and art to connect people with rainforests is a key objective of this programme. To do this we develop data, information and media, then we actively share this content through open source portals, galleries and schools. An example of one of these initiatives is a film series covering natural history and current topics in the Amazon. Another is the recording of forest sounds for a chill-out album. All our content is developed by our fantastic network of voluntary co-creators and participants.
The overall challenge/objective for the participant is to soak in the forest, then create content that will engage and inspire people, locally and abroad, with forests.
The Las Piedras River watershed is one of the last wild frontiers on our planet. Basing ourselves in Las Piedras means we have a responsibility to live and work sustainably within this precious rainforest ecosystem. Our goal is to demonstrate sustainable living through green infrastructure and energy, local food sourcing, permaculture, reduction of waste and best practice for forest use. Buildings are constructed using majority locally-sourced materials such as timber, earth, bamboo and cane. We use a mix of local and foreign expertise while keeping up with new (and ancient) techniques that reduce impact on the environment.
Volunteers will learn about living responsibly in the rainforest, have the opportunity to go into the forest with research teams, visit communities and experience one of the most spectacular ecosystems on Earth.
Activities may include:
Volunteers and interns will support the vital work of our busy Camera Trapping team. Our task is to better understand the current status - and assist with conserving - the vast abundance and diversity of wildlife found in the Las Piedras Watershed. Research undertaken with camera traps helps us create conservation strategies for our quest to establish a 50,000 hectare conservation corridor.
The programme is currently studying two themes using camera traps. The first focuses on predator-prey relationships between terrestrial mammals. The second is a long-term observational study of arboreal mammals. Volunteers will learn how to set up the cameras, then revise and analyze camera trap footage, and finally determine species densities and discuss how human activities may be affecting specific species in and around our protected area.
The main focus of this study is camera trapping but other activities include: mammal walks during the early morning, afternoon, or night, tree climbing (up to 40 m) and wildlife observation from the canopy, and animal track identification with creating molds from fresh tracks traps/spoor.
Technology is increasingly being used to answer biological research questions and to help overcome threats to wild nature and biodiversity conservation areas. High up on the list of technology-based techniques is digital photography and videography. A project has begun in the Peruvian Amazon that uses digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras, GoPros, high definition camera traps, in combination with a lot of sweat and perseverance to answer hitherto difficult research questions and to assist conservation biologist teams with accurate species identification and with projecting their work to a broader audience via social media outlets and the internet at large. The photography professionals and biologists leading this project in the Peruvian Amazon have opened their doors to amateur photographers and videographers from around the world with the basic equipment and passion required to contribute in a meaningful way to this initiative. Find out how to participate as a volunteer or intern, below.
1. Wildlife Photo Guides
The diversity in form and colour both within and between species in the Amazon rainforest means that correct identification of wildlife to species level can be problematic. Most existing published guides to the species of this region only contain one or two images of a species, and may rely on textual descriptions for other colour morphs. Our ambitious and long-term aim is to document (with HD macro imagery) the diversity of colour morphs and body shapes for numerous taxa in the Madre de Dios and Cusco region of the Peruvian Amazon, with an emphasis on amphibians, reptiles, butterflies, moths, dung-beetles, mushroom-eating beetles, grasshoppers, ants, stink bugs, and snails. Close contact with taxonomists will ensure quality identification of live specimens. Photography volunteers and interns will use their own cameras in combination with project equipment (such as white-boxes, black-boxes, flashes, and tripods), to capture the required imagery, with training and photo-editing assistance provided by the experienced professional photography team leading this initiative. Collecting additional background ecological information on species will be an additional activity, requiring access to published material and communicating with specialists.
2. Photography-based biological research
Photography techniques are now commonly used to study wildlife and ecological processes, particularly as stills images and video allow for more detailed and repeatable examination of wildlife encounters and thus more accurate identification of species themselves and their behaviours. The types of photography-based research that volunteers and interns will be involved with includes:
a. Wildlife abundance and home range size – Using camera traps placed in a grid to determine relative abundance levels, area occupancy rates and home range size of identifiable individuals (such as spotted cats that have unique coat patterns). A selection of camera traps will be used for this task, with activities including placing cameras out into the field, and periodically changing batteries, reviewing imagery, and transferring data to databases. Walking long distances through jungle following GPS points will be required.
b. Predation and herbivory studies – Capturing imagery and video evidence of predation and herbivory events on focal species. In the case of predation, we are interested in understanding which species feed upon caterpillars (of butterfly and moths), grasshoppers, termites, ants, and certain types of beetle. In terms of herbivory, evidence is required on which insects consume the leaves of tree seedlings and flowers of multiple plant species, as well as mushrooms, in addition to the rodent species that consume the fallen seeds and fruit of Brazil nut trees, Astrocaryum palms, and Dipteryx trees.
c. Pollination studies – Imagery showing what types of insect and bird pollinators (butterflies, hummingbirds, hawkmoths) visit certain species of flower are required in order to identify key-stone pollinators for these flowering plants. Temporary capture of some insects may be required in order to take high-definition macro images.
3. Documenting research and forest conservation activities
The volunteers and interns will be based at sites where research and conservation biology teams will be active. These teams frequently need photo and video diaries undertaken to help document their activities and biological discoveries. This will entail following these teams around the forest as they undertake their research and conservation activities and taking representative images and video of their activities. Some formal interviews of members of these research teams may be required at times. The teams that require the most photographic documentation tend to be those studying birds, frogs, insects, and plants. Some teams also spend time researching the forest use of native communities, and thus short expeditions to visit these communities and to document their activities may be required.
4. Assisting professional nature photographers with training workshops and photography expeditions
A group of independent wildlife photographers based in the Peruvian rainforest are frequently in need of field assistants who are equally keen on photography in order to help them with planning (recce expeditions) and executing training workshops aimed at up-and-coming amateur and professional nature photographers and film-makers.
Spanish lessons are available for any volunteer or intern who wants to spend time before going into the field taking intensive lessons. You will live at the volunteer house in Puerto Maldonado and can take 20 hrs of classes, 4 hrs per day Mon-Fri. The teachers are all qualified language instructors. Any further questions on this, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
For all Research Assistant Volunteers and Interns, Forest Ranger Volunteers, Primate Research Volunteers, Creative for Conservation Volunteers, Green Living Volunteers, Wildlife Camera Trapping Volunteers and Photography Volunteers the dates are below. Volunteers can join from 1 to 3 weeks in duration and Interns from 1 month upwards.
6th May to 19th May 2017
17th May to 30th May 2017
28th May to 10th June 2017
8th June to 21st June 2017
19th June to 1st July 2017
30th June to 13th July 2017
2nd July to 15th July 2017
11th July to 24th July 2017
22nd July to 4th August 2017
2nd August to 15th August 2017
13th August to 26th August 2017
24th August to 6th September 2017
4th September to 17th September 2017
15th September to 28th September 2017
26th September to 9th October 2017
7th October to 20th October 2017
18th October to 31st October 2017
29th October to 11th November 2017
9th November to 22nd November 2017
20th November to 3rd December 2017
1st December to 14th December 2017
12th December to 25th December 2017
23rd December 2017 to 5th January 2018
5th January to 18th January 2018
16th January to 29th January 2018
27th January to 9th February 2018
7th February to 20th February 2018
18th February to 2nd March 2018
1st March to 14th March 2018
12th March to 25th March 2018
23rd March to 5th April 2018
17th May to 6th June 2017
8th June to 28th June 2017
30th June to 20th July 2017
2nd July to 22nd July 2017
22nd July to 11th August 2017
13th August to 2nd September 2017
4th September to 24th September 2017
26th September to 16th October 2017
18th October to 7th November 2017
9th November to 29th November 2017
1st December to 21st December 2017
23rd December 2017 to 12th January 2018
5th January to 25th January 2018
27th January to 16th February 2018
18th February to 9th March 2018
12th March to 1st April 2018
1 month (30 days)
17th May 2017 to 16th June 2017
30th June to 29th July 2017
22nd July to 21st August 2017
13th August to 12th September 2017
4th September to 3rd October 2017
7th October to 6th November 2017
9th November to 8th December 2017
1st December to 30th December 2017
5th January to 4th February 2018
27th January to 26th February 2018
18th February to 18th March 2018
12th March to 11th April 2018
The above are the programme dates we are offering, but we can also be flexible with start/end dates. We also offer short-term volunteering placements for durations of 1 week. For research assistant internships, we have provided one month dates above, but you are welcome to extend for 2, 3, 4 months up to 10 months in duration. For Individual Project internships, we are flexible with the start/end dates. Please email Charlotte@workingabroad.com for further details or any questions about dates.
The cost for 1 week is £731, 2 weeks is £1112, 3 weeks is £1346, 1 month (30 days) is £1804, 2 months (60 days) is £3042 and 3 months (90 days) is £3946. Please email us for prices for longer durations. This covers all programme costs, including all food (3 large, wholesome meals a day), clean drinking water at all times, lodging in town and in the field, project materials, boat transport to and from lodges, Puerto Maldonado airport collection and departure transfers, all training and supervision by project manager, WorkingAbroad Projects backup and placement support.
The cost to join the Community-Based Medicinal plant research & ecotourism development programme for 1 week is £938, 2 weeks is £1254, 3 weeks is £1665, 1 month (30 days) is £2227 and 2 months (60 days) is £3231. Please email us for prices for longer durations. This includes all food (3 large, wholesome meals a day), clean drinking water at all times, lodging in town and in the field, project materials, boat transport to and from lodges, Puerto Maldonado airport collection and departure transfers, all training and supervision by project manager and PhD scientist, permits to carry out research and take data, backup and support, plus personal translator and guide into in the indigenous communities and visits.
The cost to join the Photography Programme is £1223 for 2 weeks, £1685 for 3 weeks and £2308 for 1 month. This covers all programme costs, including food, clean drinking water, lodging, project materials, boat transport to and from lodges, Puerto Maldonado airport collection and departure transfers, all training and supervision by project manager, WorkingAbroad Projects backup and placement support.
The airfare to Peru and the internal airfare/bus to Puerto Maldonado, travel/medical insurance and personal expenses are not included within this price. It is mandatory for you to take out travel and medical insurance for the duration of the project.
The main reason why the programme cost is more than others is solely because the work we do, specifically the research in very remote locations, does cost a lot. Here are some points which explain why this is the case:
Our programme partner, not only believes in the importance of the research we are conducting, but we have much bigger aspirations to help protect and improve the Amazon rainforest. And, we believe strongly in the education and inspiration factors for volunteers and interns who work with us. We want to help people from all different parts of the world, from all different age groups and ethnicity backgrounds, to understand why the Amazon Rainforest (and all of its inhabitants) are so important for our planet and for every one of us, and to feel inspired to join us in protecting it.
The project conducts research in a variety of different areas within Tambopata and thus the location will change regularly. It is likely that environmental volunteers will travel with the project to at least two different locations in a single stay. There are five lodges and research stations that are used more regularly; Explorer’s Inn, Reserva Amazonica, Sachavacayoc Centre and the Tambopata Research Centre, Amazon Research and Conservation Centre, Las Piedras. Motorised dugout canoes will be used to access the lodges, situated between 3 and 8 hours up river from Puerto Maldonado.
Team members will be expected to share accommodation facilities, between 2 and 8 people per room (some rooms are large!). The majority of lodges visited provide rooms with en suite toilets and showers, whilst others provide shared facilities. All locations provide cold water showers only, and at meal times food is sometimes taken alongside visiting tourists. On very rare occasions, when lodges are full of tourists and researchers, volunteers may be expected to sleep in tents, but in the event this does happen, good washing and toilet facilities will always be accessible.
Applicants should be at least 18 years of age unless accompanied by a parent or guardian (at the discretion of the Project Manager), be in good health, have a fairly good level of physical fitness, and be able to swim 100 m unaided. A keen interest, educational qualifications, and previous experience in a related biological or environmental field would be an advantage. Some knowledge of Spanish would also be useful, but is not essential for most aspects of the work will be directed in both English and Spanish. A sense of adventure and the ability to endure often challenging conditions are essential - as is a good sense of humour!
We are also in a good position to offer university students the chance to work alongside biologists and experts in the field of wildlife research and conservation, and upon request we allow students to run mid-term research projects either alongside the Project’s own research or in some cases independently with the use of the Project’s logistics and know-how. Please enquire.
A number of additional experiences are available during a phase, though some are dependent on the locations visited, including:
• Relaxing walks through the forest, during both day and night
• Visiting local communities, farms, Brazil nut extractors, and Park Guards
• Camping at oxbow lakes to see the Giant river otters (and many other dawn- and late afternoon-active species)
• Ascending to the canopy, 30 metres above the forest floor, to spot arboreal species by climbing up observation towers and canopy walkways
• Swimming in freshwater streams and rivers
• Observing early-morning activity at some of the largest and most active macaw and parrot clay-licks in the world
• Visiting local mammal clay-licks
• Football and volleyball with the locals
Included activities in town (Puerto Maldonado):
• Visiting the local serpentarium
• Hanging out at a jungle lodge and Thai restaurant outside town which has a swimming pool and many rescued monkeys that frolick in the trees above
• Visiting the local butterfly farm
• Visiting the Amazon Shelter - an animal rescue centre
• Sampling many of the wonderfully exotic local foods and drinks at various restaurants (don’t forget to ask for Lucuma icecream too!).
• Browsing the Puerto Maldonado market for fresh fruit, veg and cheap DVDs!
• Climbing the Biodiversity Obelisk – a tall tower with panoramic views over the jungle town (considered the 5th ugliest building in the World, come see it to believe it)
Other attractions in the region (before or after the project and not included):
• Cuzco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley
• Puno, Lake Titicaca and Taquile Island
• The Los Amigos Research Centre (CICRA)
• Kayaking down the Tambopata or Madre de Dios rivers
• Manu National Park
• Cloud forest of the Cuzco Region
• Rio Branco in Brazil
• La Paz in Bolivia
Weather & visa information
In terms of weather, the temperature is much the same throughout the year – with mean monthly temperature ranging from 20° to 28° C. The year is divided into two seasons: rainy and dry. The rainy season runs from November to April. Though it rains most days, there are still plenty of sunny periods and it can get quite humid. The dry season runs from May until October, during which it rains infrequently (5-6 days a month), but as ever it is still humid. Throughout the entire year, the sun usually shines during at least part of the day.
Volunteers and interns from around the world are able to arrive in Peru without a pre-arranged visa, and can pick up a free tourist visa on arrival which is valid for up 6 months (do ask for 6 months if you want it). Anyone staying longer than the stated visa expiry date granted on arrival in Peru will accumulate a daily penalty fine – this is not recommended.
The Amazon rainforest in Peru is within a malaria zone, and although it is rare in Tambopata we still recommend to take malaria pills when in the jungle. Yellow Fever and Typhoid injections are also required, and outbreaks of Dengue have been reported in the past. Rare cases of Leishmaniasis are also known. However, it is best to consult your own GP to find out about recommended vaccinations and treatments.
Some recent camera trap footage of a jaguar captured by our Mammal Coordinator (Holly O'Donnell) on one of our transects at the Amazon Center on the Las Piedras River:
My first ever JAGUAR caught on camera trap!! So exciting! I set up this camera, just for fun, around 4km from camp for just 5 nights. Unfortunately, a palm frond has fallen in front of the camera, but I have now moved it and so hopefully I will capture some better footage in the coming weeks. There has now been 3 jaguar sightings at camp, unheard of in the history of the project. We know that there is definitely one female, and we spotted incredibly large tracks which for sure belonged to a male. According to the native people, rather than the literature, this is the time of year that male jaguars are more frequently sighted as the move around looking to mate. and so we are taking extra care in the forest. Such incredible animals, and I hope to study them more in my time here.Posted by Holly's Life in the Amazon on Wednesday, 29 July 2015
Below is a video from a long term intern on the project, Harry Williams, discussing Boa activity:
Below is a camera trap video taken at the research base - Amazon Research & Conservation Centre- Las Piedras, Tambopata, Madre de Dios, Peru. Jaguar (Panthera onca) occurance at a small mammal clay-lick near the Las Piedras River. Interesting Fact: Jaguars eat grass regularly as a purgative: to throw up unwanted parasites and any hair which accumulates in their stomachs.
Below is some more camera trap footage from the research base - the Sachavacayoc Centre- Tambopata, Madre de Dios, Peru, during 1 week in Early May. 15 Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) occurances on a wooden bridge which connects a trail roughly 1km away from the Sachavacayoc Research Centre. We believe there are at least 4 different individuals, including a mother and cub, and a male. Best time of day to spot an Ocelot walking over this bridge? Either at 06:44h or 19:38h.
Below is some footage taken at the research base -the Sachavacayoc Centre- Tambopata, Madre de Dios, Peru. Inquisitive Brown Capuchin (Cebus apella) occurance on a wooden bridge which connects a trail roughly 1km away from the Sachavacayoc Research Centre.
Below is an interactive map showing key locations for the project:
Bordering Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile, Peru is an archaeological hotspot riddled with ancient sights, from the renowned Incan citadel of Machu Picchu situated thousands of meters up in the Andes Mountains near Cuzco, to the gigantic Nazca Lines featuring kilometre-wide images of animals and mythical creatures in the driest desert on earth. The country receives around 900,000 tourists each year, of which most come also to admire the breathtaking natural wonders of the country, such as Lake Titicaca, the Ausangate peak, the cloud forests of Manu, and of course the mighty Amazon river, its tributaries and evergreen rainforest.
With 84 of the 104 known life zones on the planet, Peru is one of the 17 megadiverse countries on earth. Overall it ranks in the top four for species diversity, and is second in birds with 1,701 species, second in primates with 34 species, third in mammals with 361 species, and fifth in reptiles and amphibians with 297 and 251 species, respectively. However, a number of increasingly visual threats are currently endangering the Peruvian rainforest and its wildlife, including: i) timber extraction; ii) alluvial gold-mining; iii) unsustainable farming practices, like cattle ranching; iv) inappropriate, over-ambiguous or unregulated natural resource extraction laws; v) oil and gas prospecting; vi) land speculation; and lastly vii) poorly regulated tourism development, particularly in and around protected areas where lodges tend to congregate.
Tambopata, where the project is located, lies in the province of Madre de Dios in the south eastern corner of Peru. The provincial capital of Madre de Dios is Puerto Maldonado which has been recognised by the Peruvian Congress as the Biodiversity Capital of Peru. The protected areas at the centre of the project’s research are the Tambopata National Reserve (TNR) and Bahuaja Sonene National Park (BSNP), together protecting an area of 1.3 million hectares of rainforest and home to IUCN Red List Threatened Species such as the Giant river otter, Neotropical otter, Pacarana, Giant armadillo, Harpy eagle and Blue-headed macaw.
Cassie Windows from Australia volunteered for 3 weeks in February 2017 with the Herpetology team:
I have had an absolute ball! I learnt so much more than I thought I would have. The coordinators and chef were all so friendly helpful with everything. I was in the herp team and my coordinator was just amazing, it was very hands on which I loved, whenever we caught something he would tell me facts about the animal and teach me about them, even mammals, birds and plants he would stop and tell me about them. Once we returned to camp he showed me what process had to be done to collect the data, it took me a little longer to pick it up but he was patient until I picked it up properly. I personally wouldn't change a thing about the program, the site we stayed at was perfect for living in the jungle, simple but comfortable. The community was wonderful, the kids so inquisitive and always wanted to have a chat and play. I could write a novel on the time I spent here.I cannot express in words how amazing this experience has been for me. I would go back in a heartbeat. My only regret is that I didn't book for longer.
Isabel Apkarian from Canada volunteered for 4 weeks from January-February 2017 with the Birds team:
I was part of the bird team, and enjoyed it so much! The banding was amazing. For a few days during my stay the bird team coordinator went back to Puerto so I joined the herp team. I enjoyed that just as much, and working with that team has got me more interested in herps! The people were also amazing, and I miss them all so much. It was neat to be living in a local community, and it was cool to be able to interact with them. I took 4 years of Spanish in school so that helped a bit.
Meilin Lyu returned in January 2017 from volunteering 2 weeks at our Primate Conservation programme:
The program was fantastic and everyone was super sweet. I had the best Christmas ever. I mainly focused on primate project with lovely wild animals. I really appreciate this great experience and wish to come back in the near future.
Brendan Latham from the UK volunteered for 4 weeks from November-December 2016 with the Insect team:
I was astounded by the intensity of life in every square metre; like nothing I had ever witnessed before. Everywhere I looked I saw exquisite butterflies, beetles and spiders and I met many other extraordinary creatures, including a plethora of snake species and both caiman and monkeys. I enjoyed meeting new people on the expedition and I spent a lot of time following the primatologist and herpetologist and others on their walks through the forest, when not working on my own research.
I conducted research on the biodiversity of the local dungbeetle populations in three habitats - Burnt Forest, Flood Plain and Terra Firma - using three pit-fall traps in each location. By choosing to identify and measure all species of dung beetles I found that my design plan required a considerable number of man-hours, so I only managed to record my data in five field journals. I am still in the process of transcribing the data into an excel data sheet to be sent to my host organisation. My entire experience during this conservation project was incredible, and I delighted in the amazing creatures I saw. I also really enjoyed meeting lots of interesting fellow volunteers and making a number of hopefully lifelong friends.
Sara Kaiden from the USA spent 1 month doing a Medicinal Plant Internship in the Amazon:
My experience in Peru was a life changing experience which has changed my perspective towards life. This was the best organization I could have worked with. It matched my personality, and it was well organized. By doing this internship not only have I learned what I need to study more or what I should pursue in graduate school it made me notice what was happiness in life. I am very glad I got to participate in this internship.
Thank you very much for all the help and organizing this trip for me.
I am very blessed to be this lucky.
Harry Turner from the UK writes about his time on the Herpetology team
My name is Harry, I'm 20 years old and went to Peru to help the Herpetology team for a month. My time out there was amazing and I really enjoyed it. I saw some really incredible wildlife. I saw 2 green tree vipers together, male and female which we think where a mating pair. I also got to see plenty of frogs, lizards, caiman and other snakes as well. I also got to see an Ocelot which was something I never thought I 'd see. The Amazon was the best experience of my life and I cannot wait to go back.
Video below: With little or no ability to hear, Cindy King from Oregon, a volunteer on our Amazon Basin Research and Conservation Programme in Peru, discovers the rainforest in silence, using her heightened sense of sight to locate animals during wildlife monitoring (please note that this video has NO SOUND)
Molly Ackhurst joined the programme for June-July:
It was one of the best things I have ever done with myself. You guys over there are so incredibly welcoming, from the moment i got to the house I felt at home and that is such a huge thing! Having been travelling for so long before hand I was fairly used to crazy hectic stuff but everything was so relaxed and chilled despite how much stuff we actually had to do.
I've always loved the idea of going to the amazon and going in there with a team like yours has just made me even more desperate to do it again. The knowledge oyou all have is so impressive and also the willingness and ease with which you teach it to a whole new bunch of people every phase is pretty amazing.
I knew that I had had an amazing time, and I'm sure you want some form of constructive criticism but I honestly have none, everything was just the way I had wanted it to be. I loved that I got there not knowing what I was going to be doing then found out not only were we going to be using machetes regularly but we were going to actually camp in the jungle (possibly something others may prefer to know well in advance, I on the other hand like surprises).
This project has really impacted what I want to do, for example I am doing spanish with my history degree now and have also take up latin american modules as you all got me so interested in the background of it all (particularly in relation to the gold mining).
Not only that but you've given me all these amazing memories and also introduced me to some of the most amazing people, I love Lucy, Naun and Brian ... amazing co-ordinators! I just can't believe that sitting here in my cosy little room in Warwick (really it is so tiny hehe) that I was in the jungle just a few months ago beating the record of eating the most purple puddings and getting bitten by sandflies and swimming in the river!
When can I come back!?
Alexandra Mangold describes her experience
My time in Peru was amazing. I really had a great time. Everything was organised and I didn't have to worry about anything.
I was working in the herpetology team and the work was hard sometimes, but I absolutely fell in love with the jungle and the animals living in it, so that the work was never too hard.
So all together, everything was well organised, the people were friendly and caring and the work in the jungle was amazing. We even saw a jaguar.
I like to thank you guys hosting us, your hospitality was amazing, I was already feeling so comfortable in project house. And especially I thank for unforgettable journey to tropical rain forest as members of your field team research group - greetings for Naun and Brian!!!
This was definitely the type of volunteer work that I wanted to take part in. And experience to go out in nights with Bryan working in transects was really exciting and great way to examine herpetofauna of jungle!
Satu Kangaskolkka and Pekko Parikka from Finland (May-June)
Both of my coordinators were great in field they shared great amounts of information about the different animals and trees in the jungle. They really did teach me a lot. The different lodges and accommodation that we stayed in were really good; being out there living in them really gave me the proper jungle feeling! At all the places the food was really nice. This whole experience was amazing and definitely fulfilled my expectations plus more! This has by for been the best experience of my life so far.
High points: Just being in the jungle was a high point on its own the things you see, hear and small are extraordinary. Working at Anaconda Lodge and Amazon Shelter was just amazing to get to see the animals that we had seen out in the field up close was so cool. Also working with the animals in the field was incredible I got to learn so much.
James Spence, from the UK (Jan to March)
Abraham shouted: “Ruuuun!” and that was the last bit of encouragement I needed. I held his day sack close to my chest and I sped with all my might down the trail. I guess I was running too fast because I felt like my feet could not catch up with my pace. I was so scared that I felt my face go white from the blood rushing down to my feet! I was gasping for air as I ran out of energy and I shouted to him that I could not run anymore. I turned my head to Abraham who was a few metres behind me and he told me to stop. I was so relieved and stopped just before one of our footprint traps of T1 trail. I saw a wasp stuck on his shirt and he said he had only been stung by two. We laughed and laughed and laughed… … I wish to thank Brian, Terry and Sara for everything they have taught me… …Thanks to the project for this experience - I can't wait to share this all with my family and friends back home in Malaysia.
Fahrol Liza Jaafar (Malaysia)
Mammal Team Volunteer
Like other species in its former genus Agalychnis, these frogs choose to lay eggs above the water source that will be the tadpole's home in a sticky mass that waits for the best conditions of abundant prey and lack of predators. Many frog species can't breed in large permanent water bodies as they will be eaten by the various predatory residents. So tree frogs of this subfamily choose temporary water bodies, and further hedge their bets by letting their eggs develop outside of the water, hatching and dropping in later. The catch is: there are predators outside the water as well, always searching for juicy frog eggs.
Brian Crnobrna (USA)
I am able to appreciate my surroundings better now that my initiative has been accomplished. I find joy in many things I couldn’t before; like the way the forest flowers smell at night, waking up to howler monkeys in the early morning, a clear starry sky, observing Anolis lizards eating crickets, doing my laundry next to a scarlet macaw, watching giant river otters as they catch fish, chocolate-covered bananas at dinnertime, the sound of approaching rain and yes, even the pretty butterflies… …So for anyone visiting the rainforest hoping to encounter reptiles or amphibians, I encourage you to be patient, be persistent and pray for rain!... …Before arriving in Peru I prayed my experience on this project would be so great, so memorable and so unique that afterwards I wouldn't be able to imagine my life without it. My prayers have been answered.
Terry Burwell (USA)
Herp Team Volunteer
Chocolate, biscuits and cigarettes can all be bought pretty cheaply in town – most of the multipacks retail at under 5 Soles. However, their value increases significantly a few hours outside of town in isolated parts of the jungle. Give it a couple of weeks, and their value, when sold individually, can go up to approximately one person’s immortal soul… Seeing the tapir that lives around the lodge at Reserva Amazonica does not count as seeing one in the wild. Mostly because when it sees you it runs towards you wagging its tail and rolls over to have its belly scratched. It will probably also fetch sticks… …This project isn't just another gap year programme - this is the real thing so if you're faint hearted and afraid of a challenge stay away. Everyone else will have the time of their lives! You will see and do things you won't believe and come away with stories you couldn't make up. This is not only an exclusive and prestigious experience to have completed, but it's as exciting and as genuine as volunteer projects come.
Nella Beavor (England)
Bird Team Volunteer
And thus our great trip is coming to a close. We’ve just gotten back from TRC where we saw those of the team that were still there and got one last hurrah in the jungle. The boat ride up was absolutely spectacular. While it was still light we saw an entire family of half a dozen Capybara, but we had gotten a late start and so later we wound up driving straight into another particularly beautiful sunset on the river. And as if this weren’t enough, as the light from the sunset faded, the almost full moon was rising in the sky to our left as an enormous lightning storm started flashing behind us. It was far enough away that we couldn’t hear the thunder, but it must have been several miles wide, and the strikes were absolutely incessant, brilliantly lighting up the hazy thunderheads every second or two. Eventually another storm cropped up in front us, and our boat was surrounded on all four sides by the moon glinting off the river, the dimming glow of the sunset and the luminous bursts from the storms.
Ned Lederer (USA)
It was a privilege to work on the project helping to conserve incredible wildlife. It's in an area of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest where something spectacular can happen at any moment, and often does. What a great experience. When can I come again?
Paul Greaves (England)
The Ceiba tree witnessed the warrior fall to the ground and rose up to fight fearlessly against the demon. Branches fell from almighty heights, spells cut through the air and with a thunderous crack, the big tree too began to fall. With one final gust of energy, the tree swung its fall towards the Chullachaqui and landed straight on top of him. The demon did not die, but was forever trapped inside the trunk of the tree. Furious for losing the battle and for becoming trapped inside, the demon threw one final spell, turning the princess into a Tinamou, the large ground bird that calls into the evening dawn. If the demon could not be with the princess, he would not allow her to be with anyone else.
A Native Tale, told by Caty Cosmopolis
Mammal Team Coordinator
The Tambopata area of the Peruvian Amazon where the project works is an incredible place for travellers of all ages to explore; I was able to arrange a trip to the Andes mountains where I trekked to Machu Picchu, one of the new seven wonders of the world. Other volunteers on the project used their time to travel to Puno to explore Lake Titicaca, to Arequipa to see the Colca Canyon; there really is a whole host of spectacular sights to see either before or after your volunteer experience and all within easy reach of the basecamp town of Puerto Maldonado. I recommend this project to anyone looking for a great learning experience; fantastic wildlife, great people, beautiful surroundings, everything you need from a trip to the Amazon rainforest!
James Bird (England)
Herp Team Volunteer
Bird point count stations were located along five transects that traversed the various forest and habitat types of the area. Early censusing produced promising results, with species such as Pavonine quetzal, Trogons, Motmots and a handful of different Antbirds being frequently observed - species indicative of the quality of both the existing canopy and understory habitats. Meanwhile, completed questionnaires were rolling in and the receptiveness of the six neighboring families to a “compensation for conservation” agreement was high across the board. After seven days of solid field work, and filling up on Delicia’s endless platefuls of delicious food, the intrepid crew headed back out onto the highway ready for Round 2.
Oliver James (USA)
I’ll admit it: I’m a city guy. I’ve lived in the suburbs around Seattle my entire life and have never done anything remotely similar to living in the Amazon jungle for five weeks. In fact, “camping” for me is at most a 12-hour, overnight activity where I sit around a fire and roast marshmallows with friends... …I’ve only been here for a week, but it feels like so much longer. I’ve learned so many things and met so many cool people. In these next four weeks, I’m looking forward to having an unforgettable experience, finding new things in the field and seeing what cool pictures the mosquito bites on my arm can form.
Dennis Tat (USA)
Bird Team Volunteer
Indeed, much in the same way as a pet owner will start looking like their pet. I started out on the herp team with Brian as my coordinator. Nothing will go to waste if Brian sits at your table. He will happily polish off anything that is left on one’s plate. And I was doing pretty much the same. I just felt hungry all the time. Then I switched to the bird team after 3 weeks. Strangely my appetite got a lot less all of sudden. Cesar doesn’t exactly eat like a bird but (shock, horror, unthinkable to the herp team) he has missed meals at times because he was napping. Sleep is never, I repeat, never, more important than food. It is still the only reason I get up in the mornings. But all of a sudden I found myself only having my own food, even if there were leftovers going that even Brian didn’t want. So if you have a fast metabolism, join the herp team. If you want to lose a few pounds, welcome to the bird team. I have no experience yet with the mammal team but I expect it is somewhere in the middle.
Sara De Vos (Holland)
Herp and Bird Team Volunteer
"I dreamed about going into the rainforest my whole life and the project fulfilled that dream. All of the sightings and experiences gained were beyond my imagination."
Martina Jurcovicova (Czech Republic)
If you are interested in volunteering in Peru's Amazon Basin, you will need to fill out the online application form (you can also print it out and send it to us by post) – to secure a placement on the project, please complete and submit the form including two references and your application payment of £195. If for some reason, your application is not accepted, we will reimburse this payment fully. However for those who are accepted, 10% of the full amount needs to be paid within 10 days of being confirmed on the project, with the remainder (90%) to be paid one month before departure. Once you have been accepted on the programme, you will receive an Information Package with all detailed information on your project, Peru, suggested items to bring etc.