Opportunities are available to intern or volunteer in Peru, in some of the most remote and largely unspoiled parts of the Amazon rainforest. Positions include Forest Ranger, Herpetofauna Conservation Research, Primate Conservation, Mammal Research, Permaculture and Forestry, Creative for Conservaton, Photography and Medicinal Plant. Field Research Internships for University students also exist. You can join for 1 week up to 6 months and we have places available all throughout the year. We also offer Family programmes.
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 conservation-focused, scientific research in the Peruvian Amazon. The site is on a 4,460-hectare reserve and exists as some of the last frontier virgin rainforest in the world. All of our research exists to further conservation in this region; the goal is to come up with management strategies based on data results and to educate volunteers so they can be ambassadors around the world for research, conservation, and education. The skill sets that visitors will receive will teach them universal wildlife research methodology, prepare them for future careers, and/or open their minds to new ideas.
We currently offer the following programmes for Conservation Research Volunteers to select to work with (although it may be possible to work with more than one, so just ask):
Each project is a minimum of 1 week, but can be expanded to 2, 3, or 4 weeks up to 10 months in duration. If volunteering for 1 month or more, volunteers may achieve higher levels of training, freedom, and independent research capabilities.
Each research 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. Further below, you will find a rough guide to the teams’ daily activities.
At the Amazon Basin project, you can do two types of field research internships. One is learning-focussed, which means learning from the research that is already taking place. The other is for students to do university placements, to carry out research for dissertations, or to deepen their research and practical experiences on a topic of their own.
Durations for all internships can range from 1 to 10 months. Interns that want to do research on their own project can select from a variety of research topics already available, or you can work out your own in conjunction with the Project scientists. Email email@example.com for details on internships. At the end of your placement, interns will receive a certificate of completion and a letter of recommendation/reference, if requested..
The intensive Caiman Research and Conservation Program implements projects focus on population dynamics, behavioral observations and population status. The caiman and herpetofauna teams survey streams, the river and palm swamps for the four species of caiman that reside in the Madre de Dios region. You will utilizing Passive Induced Transponder Tags for a comparative study of Smooth Fronted Caiman populations in disturbed and protected streams. The caiman team also surveys riverine ecosystems for “White” and “Spectacled Caiman” as a measure to assess predator and ecosystem health on the Las Piedras River. The Herpetofauna Research Program is aimed at recording the various species of reptile and amphibians present in the reserve. We record the species composition of various habitats and combine it with spatial ecology in order to further analyze the data. These projects utilize common methods for neotropical herpetology research
The Forest Ranger Programme offers volunteers an opportunity to get directly involved in rainforest conservation efforts. The Forest Rangers are essential to the protection of the forest. 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. The Forest Rangers provide an on-going supply of research data which helps the project 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 sets for mammals, birds and herpetofauna and help to maintain an extensive trail network. Finally, the Forest Rangers help to build relationships with the neighbouring communities and forest users.
Forest rangers will patrol the borders of two land concessions which are directly across from each other on the Las Piedras River. Rangers get to visit two entirely different types of terrain; and see unique wildlife I each one. Volunteers will work alongside and learn from current Forest Rangers and the rest of the field team. They will assist the rangers with day-to-day data collection, input and analysis; monitor the status of the concession and its wildlife; and help ensure the work is reported back to the organization’s management, stakeholders and supporters.
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 the mammal team helps us create conservation strategies for the project and its partners during the quest to establish a 50,000-hectare Las Piedras Conservation Corridor. We use two primary strategies- transects and camera trapping- to understand the presence of mammal species on our property, the predator-prey relationships between them, foraging behavior, and also the arboreal mammal population. Volunteers will learn how to complete a mammal transect, set up cameras, then revise and analyze their data, and finally determine species densities and discuss how human activities may be affecting specific species in and around the protected area.
The Mammal Research Team works in small groups to set up, revise and analyze data for both terrestrial and arboreal studies. For the first terrestrial study, the focus is on population densities of ocelots and their main prey at various points around the concession.The location of the camera traps are changed once a month to gain a better understanding of ocelots’ use of the rainforest and their ranges. For the second project, we move and install fixed camera traps in the canopy using climbing gear to access the crowns of the trees. This study is to observe the general population of arboreal mammals since the use of camera traps in the canopy is a relatively new study method. The benefits of placing camera traps in the canopy are similar to placing them on the ground - to see mammals that are active at night and those that are difficult to find due to their elusive nature.
The team also focuses on identifying rare species as well as studying the distribution of mammals currently identified. During a volunteer’s first week, they will be trained in safety protocol, camera trap use, canopy tree climbing and any other pertinent information for the field. 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.
Sustainability is one of the highest priorities at the project. Previous volunteers have helped create a recycling system, a compost pit, and a pilot project for composting toilets. Maintenance of these systems are essential if they are to function properly, so we ask that volunteers help in maintaining and harvesting our compost. In addition, volunteers get to use their own background to suggest new systems that we might not be aware of. Permaculture and Forestry Volunteers will also help us in our medicinal and vegetable gardens and on reforestation projects. Be prepared to get your hands dirty!
Volunteers on the Permaculture and Forestry Team may find themselves practicing composting and recycling, encouraging other volunteers and researchers to participate in and learn about our sustainable systems, planting gardens around camp, and creating new ways for us to become more sustainable!
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. The 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 might 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.
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.
5. Mirror-Image Stimulation Study
A long-term study at multiple sites focusing on mammal and bird behaviour, using the “mirror image stimulation” technique. The main objectives of this study are to identify which terrestrial and arboreal species respond to their own reflection using large and small mirrors, what forms of behaviour they show as a consequence, whether or not recognizable individuals quickly habituate to the mirrors or not, and to understand what factors may help explain certain behavioural traits observed.
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.
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 Monday - Friday. The teachers are all qualified language instructors. Any further questions on this, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
For Field Research Volunteers and Interns for all programmes the dates are below. Volunteers join from 1 to 3 weeks in duration and Interns from 1 month upwards.
30th July to 12th August 2018
6th August to 19th August 2018
16th August to 29th August 2018
27th August to 9th September 2018
3rd September to 16th September 2018
17th September to 30th September 2018
1st October to 14th October 2018
15th October to 28th October 2018
29th October to 11th November 2018
5th November to 18th November 2018
19th November to 2nd December 2018
3rd December to 16th December 2018
17th December to 30th December 2018
30th July to 19th August 2018
6th August to 26th August 2018
20th August to 9th September 2018
3rd September to 23rd September 2018
17th September to 7th October 2018
1st October to 21st October 2018
15th October to 4th November 2018
29th October to 18th November 2018
5th November to 25th November 2018
19th November to 9th December 2018
3rd December to 23rd December 2018
1 month (30 days)
6th August to 4th September 2018
27th August to 25th September 2018
3rd September to 2nd October 2018
24th September to 23rd October 2018
1st October to 30th October 2018
22nd October to 20th November 2018
5th November to 4th December 2018
26th November to 25th December 2018
Volunteers and interns are to arrive and leave Puerto Maldonado on the start and end dates, respectively.
Please note that the above dates are flexible. We also offer short-term volunteering placements for durations of 1 week. For field research internships, we have provided one month dates above, but you are welcome to extend for 2, 3, 4 months up to 6 months in duration. Please email Charlotte@workingabroad.com for further details or any questions about dates. You can stay more than 6 months, but please enquire about this beforehand.
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 Photography Programme varies depending on the time of year you join. Between 1st June and 30th September, the cost is £1272 for 2 weeks, £1499 for 3 weeks and £1956 for 1 month. Between 1st October and 31st May, the cost is £1280 for 2 weeks, £1689 for 3 weeks and £2299 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. 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 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 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 they are conducting, but they 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 depend on the volunteer programme that you join. For the majority of the volunteer programmes, volunteers will be staying at the same lodge for the entire stay. Motorised dugout canoes will be used to access the lodges, situated between 3 and 8 hours up river from Puerto Maldonado.
For the majority of our Volunteer and Internship programmes, you will be staying at the same lodge in a pristine reserve of the Amazon. Team members will be expected to share accommodation facilities with between 2 and 12 people on the suspended platforms that can accommodate between 4-6 bunk beds each. The platforms are sturdy wooden decks, raised over a meter above the ground. Each platform is fully sheltered from the rain by a roof made of double-lined recycled vinyl. On the Photography and Medicinal Plant Programmes, the accommodation is slightly different from above, and you might change location during your stay.
Only cold-water showers are available, which along with the toilets are shared facilities among the volunteers. At meal times, food is sometimes taken alongside visiting tourists at the lodge. In really rare cases during the peak season, volunteers could be staying in tents instead of the platform. However, all the same toilet and shower facilities will still be available to use.
Volunteers will be staying at the volunteer hostel in Puerto Maldonado during the first and last night at the project.
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)
Depending on your nationality, most 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. It is required that your passport is valid for min. 6 months after departure from Peru.
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.
See below for a presentation highlighting the key features of the programme
In this video, you can get to know more about the Primate Research, Forest Ranger and Mammal Conservation volunteer and internship programmes at our Amazon Basin project
This great video shows the work volunteers and interns are part of at the Photography Programme in the Amazon
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.
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.
Below is some footage from a camera trap of a beautiful Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla). The anteater can be seen here visiting a natural salt lick deep in the Amazon Rainforest, it lies down to scoop out the earth for minerals and ants/termites.
Below is the camera trapping footage of a Jaguar, as part of the Mirror Image Simulation Study - A long term project at our Photography Internship programme that studies mammal and bird behaviour using the “mirror image stimulation” technique.
Brian Peters volunteered for 2 weeks on the Fungi Research programme in April 2018:
I recently returned from two weeks volunteering with Working Abroad in Amazon Basin Research & Conservation in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Their partner non-profit here is run by a group of like-minded scientists, students, interns and volunteers whose mission is to protect this eleven-thousand-acre tract of primary forest and to educate the public regarding biodiversity and the need for habitat protection. Working with local people they are also helping build sustainable economies, respectful of the surrounding forest. Their mission to protect this land extends to all of its residents, even the tiny ones (see below).
I was involved with their Tropical Fungi Program but they offer other opportunities. I had stayed previously at a number of eco-lodges but this time I wanted to dial my rainforest participation up a notch. Working Abroad delivered exactly the hands-on experience I had hoped for. Besides the experience of this beautiful natural setting and the satisfaction of helping a worthwhile cause, a bonus was the feeling of having joined an extended family. Truly diverse, our ‘family’ included folks from Israel, Canada, The U.K., South Africa, Peru and the U.S. including me (grandson of a Welsh coal miner). Meal times included sharing stories of our day and what we saw or accomplished.
Working with their on-site mycologist, we catalogued about 200 different fungi (rainforests host an estimated 2 - 6 million types so we have a way to go!). Other teams included herpetologists (reptiles) and primatologists (monkeys in the Neo-tropics) as well as adventurers and photographers but even as we focused on our specialties we all shared in sightings of unusual and interesting animals and plants.
Tropical spiders, not known for doing well in freezing weather, on discovering an apparently lifeless one in the freezer, most folks would unceremoniously dump her in the compost bucket. As I had previously related the story of resuscitating a Trap-Door Spider found at the bottom of a cold Jacuzzi, ‘freezer spider’ was gingerly carried to me (the spider-whisperer) with the urging, “work your magic.” I placed her on the mushroom examination table where I was working, administered a few warm breaths and after half an hour she was walking about. To the person running this center, even a spider which has blundered into the freezer is a valued rainforest resident! When administrators rescue unconscious spiders from the freezer you know you are among passionate conservationists.
You can read Brian's full blog piece about his time in the Amazon in our 'From the Field' blog here.
Robin Hedley from the UK joined our Photography Internship programme for 2 weeks in April 2018:
My two weeks on the Photography programme were most certainly untamed! With no experience of jungles before, it can be a bit nerve-wracking to enter in to the unknown, however, very quickly I was holding Caiman, finding snakes in swamps and climbing in logs to get the most amazing photographs, under the supervision of my experienced coordinator: Mark. In such a wild place, I had a very wild time and I would recommend it to both the avid photographer and anyone with a sense of adventure!
Andrew Beeson volunteered on the Primate Research programme for 3 weeks in April 2018:
My time at the Amazon project was an amazing experience that I wished hadn’t had to end. I had always wanted to visit the Amazon rainforest, and chose to volunteer for the primate research programme as I figured this would be the best way to see as much as possible, and plus, monkeys are very entertaining to watch. Sure enough, monkeys weren’t the only thing I got to see; there were macaws, caiman, tapir, plenty of snakes, and loads of spiders!
Helping the primate research programme was great. I got to learn a lot about primate behaviour, research methods, and the rainforest in general. It can get very chaotic chasing a troop of monkeys around the rainforest so be prepared to get the odd spider web in your face or an occasional army of ants in your pants.
It wasn’t just the rainforest and wildlife that made my time in the jungle so great, it was the people too. Everyone there is so passionate about what they do and full of interesting facts and anecdotes, but above all they were very friendly and made me feel welcome from day one. My research programme coordinator was really enthusiastic and ensured I knew what I was doing and why it was important, but above all she made sure I enjoyed doing it.
Whether you’re a researcher, volunteer, or tourist, this project will give you a once in a lifetime opportunity and experience; from tree climbing to caiman catching I got to try it all, and best of all, I know that I contributed towards a genuinely worthy and massively important project.
Jaime Thomas, from the US, joined our Photography programme for 5 weeks from Nov to Dec 2017:
I worked with Mark as a photography intern in Oct/Nov 2017. It was a great way to learn photography skills while immersing yourself in all that the Amazon rainforest has to offer. Mark is a very skilled photographer and also extremely knowledgeable about the rainforest and its wonderful and fascinating inhabitants. We had a great time exploring the forest and working on various photography projects (one of my favourites was capturing photos and video of bats inside of a large hollow log).
Andrea Maffioletti was an Intern on the Primate Research Conservation programme from July to October 2017:
I have been in the Amazon for 3 months and it has been awesome! I did not know what to expect, but my experience went beyond any expectation.
In general I found the project extremely well organised and safety for being into the jungle. I heard about the experiences of other people in similar organisation and it sounded like this project was one of the best. I could feel there was a general attention to make sure that volunteers and tourists were having the best time in safety. The first day I received all the most important information about possible dangers in the camp and outside. I found the general organisation in the camp extremely efficient. I appreciate that everyone had daily tasks to help and contribute to keep common spaces clean. Food was delicious and generous; I loved the open space platforms where we were sleeping; the staff was friendly and helpful for any doubt and necessity.
Being there 3 months, I had the opportunity to work and assist to all the projects present in the camp. I was fascinating by the people's enthusiasm and dedication carrying their projects and was for me really inspiring having these guys around me. Especially, I had really good time with the lead scientist responsible of the primate project. She was always enthusiastic about what she was doing and she was making sure everyone was involved in the project. I appreciated that rather than deciding our schedule, she was planning the daily task according to our physical condition. Usually we were going out during the early morning to take advantage of chilly weather and be back for lunch. Our main goal was to find a specific group of spider monkeys and take note of all their daily activities: what they were eating, their interaction with other monkeys etc. She knows a lot about her project and I learnt a lot being next to her. Even when we could not find our lovely monkeys, she was always making sure we could get the maximum in term of animal sightsings during our daily exit.
In general, vibes in the camp with other volunteers and researchers were really good. After 3 months I felt being part of a family. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing and inspiring people that wanted to share their passion with others. I came back from this trip full of amazing memories, teaching and pictures! I would definitely suggest this place to whoever would like to make such an experience.
James Trott volunteered at the Primate Research programme for 3 weeks in July - August 2017:
I had a great time in the jungle, it was a really enlightening experience that has completely changed the way I think and view things which is amazing! I will definitely try to look to go back again in the future when I have enough money to afford it. I made some great friends whilst there and the staff and volunteers were all very helpful and friendly. I think that the numbers were good and that the experience would be ruined if there were too many people in a group.
Fenja Squirrell from the UK volunteered for 1 month from February - March 2017 at the Bird, Mammal and Herpetofauna teams:
My time was amazing just a month, not long enough. I learned so much and everyone was really nice! Despite me being the only volunteer for the majority of the time, I made amazing friends with the staff. I still miss being in the jungle and one day hope to maybe live and work there. I was on the bird team for the majority of the time and did alot of bird ringing, which was fantastic way to add to my UK bird ringing experiences, with so many wonderful different species. My highlights were the rufous motmot and the Ivory billed Acaricari!
After a hearing a sighting from one of the locals two weeks before we arrived to the community of a harpy eagle coming to the trail and picking up an armadillo off the path and flying off with it, we had to try and look for it! Trekking through the rainforest to search for a harpy eagle nest for over three hours in the hot, sweaty humid jungle was an eye opening experience. We found three nests one of which had an Ornate hawk eagle in it, which is a beautiful huge raptor. Unfortunately no Harpy eagle but was still a really fun hike and we were rewarded by the eagle in the end!
I managed to visit a local Harpy eagle rescue centre later in trip to see the powerful birds up close! I also went out walking during the day looking for mammals and did some night walks for mammals and amphibians! An amazing find was a huge pit viper which was brought back to the community to try and educate them on snakes and not to kill every snake they saw. In one of the communities their efforts had clearly worked, as locals would catch the snakes and handle them to show their strength rather than simply killing them!
As a vegetarian I was slightly worried by what food I would get, but the chef made me some delicious dishes and really made lots of effort! Overall it was an epic trip filled with so much wildlife, and I would recommend it to anyone who has a love of nature and can cope with the many biting insects and ants which are part of the jungle life.
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.
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.
Ben Anderson, from the UK, joined the Photography programme for 1 month from November to December 2016:
While out with the Photography programme, I genuinely had some of the best experiences of my life. I’d gone out hoping to make some short wildlife videos for a small zoo in the U.K , Mark provided a wealth of knowledge and experience that was much needed as I had a distinct lack of photographic talent. During my time on the Photography programme, we saw some fantastic flora and fauna ranging from reptiles and amphibians to Harpy eagles and even a Jaguar. I enjoyed my time there so much that I booked a further two months.
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.
Stijn de Jong, from the Netherlands, joined several of our programmes from September to December 2016. Here's his feedback on his time with the Photography programme in October 2016:
For two months, we resided in the indegenous village of Boca Pariamanu to capture and photograph reptiles and amphibians for a herpetofauna guide. Our daily schedule: photograph a specimen in the white box in the morning, release them in the afternoon plus take pictures in their natural habitat, then search for more species in the evening and at night. Living like this was an incredible experience and has taught me a lot about the natural world of the Peruvian rain forest, and has helped me develop myself as a photographer.
Sara Kaiden from the USA spent 1 month in 2015 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 joined the Herpetology team in May 2014:
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)
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 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.