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GROUP VOLUNTEERING PROJECTS
Organising Voluntary Projects Overseas for GROUPS since 1994.

PERU

AMAZON RAINFOREST CONSERVATION AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT IN PERU

A marvelous opportunity for your group to get involved in conservation and community development by actively assisting in the environmental monitoring study, possibly at multiple locations, depending on what's required while you're there. Some aspects of the programme may be tailored to your group's specific requirements. You may also get involved in rewarding Community Development work with the local indigenous families and communities.

SUMMARY: THE BASICS

  • Price: £1,595 per person for 2 weeks. £375 per person for each additional week. Excludes flights.
    Please see Full Price List & Other Currencies
  • Duration: 2 weeks or longer, subject to visa requirements
  • Start Dates: All year round. There is one start date every month - please see "Start Dates" below.
  • Requirements: Minimum age 18. No qualifications needed, just lots of enthusiasm for nature. You should be physically fit and easily walk 10km carrying a 10kg pack within 3 hours on uneven and muddy terrain in humid conditions.
  • What's included:
    Arranging your Programme
    Full pre-departure support and assistance
    Payment Protection insurance
    Accommodation
    Food
    Meeting you at the nearest Airport
    Transfer to the Project site and return transfer at the end of your placement
    Local in-country team support and backup
    24-hr emergency support
    Certificate of Completion
  • What's Not Included: Flights, Insurance, Cost of Visas (if a visa is required), Return transfer from Cusco to the airport.
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Would you recommend this placement to anyone else? Yes, yes, yes and a hundred million times yes! Adam Watts

Begin your programme in the Inca city of Cusco where you'll receive an induction and orientation before travelling through the High Andes to the Acjance Park Guard Station and the Cloud Forest. Then you descend into the Amazon via motorised canoe down the Madre de Dios River. The journey is spectacular, an adventure in itself!

In the first week you'll be given a full induction and a brief look at all of the projects the centre is working on, after a while, you'll be assigned according on your interest and the requirement at the time.

This is an experience of a lifetime, one for people from all walks of life. Also anyone who likes great food because the food is awesome here... It has been an amazing experience for me in so many ways. I’m even thinking of coming back to Peru to work in the future, maybe in conservation. All in all, I’m becoming very used to this way of life and not looking forward to going back home. Lawrence Smart

WORK CONTENT:
The centre will try to match volunteers to their interest, providing an exposure to all the projects in the first week and then assigning volunteer to tasks they find interesting and where they will have the most impact. This tailored approach enriches the volunteer’s time and creates better overall results.

There are many different types of projects on the go at the same time, but you will also be guided and encouraged to work on your own projects as well. The degree to which you'll run or assist on such projects will depend upon your abilities. Below are some examples of the types of projects and activities that are carried out at the Centre:

Mammal Monitoring:
The aim of this project is to prove the importance of regenerating the rainforest as a habitat for different mammal species. This is achieved through a combination of activities, such as the setting up and monitoring of camera traps, tracking and setting up transects.

More than 37 species of large mammals have been recorded at the centre, including 13 individual Jaguar. The huge range of mammals living around the main camp and in and off the trails makes it possible to observe directly and indirectly the activities of different types of monkeys, tapirs, peccaries, armadillos, pumas and more.

Forest Regeneration:
Globally, and in the Amazon, large areas of tropical forest have been replaced by agricultural land. The study of processes in these disturbed areas is import. In Peru, the main cause of this is the increasing migration of people to the forest. The area around the centre is ‘natural laboratory’, made up of patches of regenerating forest with different human disturbance. These plant communities are not going to undergo further disturbance and so this allows the centre to study the flora and how it has been affected by disturbance. Monitoring changes in the biomass levels enables the centre to gather information about the regeneration rate of the forest and determine whether the reserves of carbon in the forest are changing.

Volunteers set up ‘leaf litter traps’ to collect data within four different forest types. Materials are collected weekly, studied and the data recorded. Canopy photos are also taken, with data recorded to detect seasonal and successional changes in the forest light. Volunteers are also taught about phenology (to learn more about growth, flowing and fruiting patterns of various tree species). Marked trees are visited every 4 weeks and the status of each tree is recorded and studied.

Avian Studies:
Peru is home to 20% of the Worlds’ bird species. Species composition and overall avian diversity can signify many different things about the forest. The centre has one of the only clay-licks (or collpas) in South America visited by the rare and endangered Blue Headed Macaw as well as many other species of large macaws, parrots and parakeets.

Population surveys are also carried out; recording what is seen and heard during regular walks in the jungle. Your ability to identify species is enhanced by the use of recordings played to you in training as well as in the field practice.

The centre is also involved in an important Blue Headed Macaw monitoring programme. This bird has been classed as vulnerable and threatened with extinction, due to loss of habitat and exploitation by the pet trade. Volunteers monitor the clay lick every morning to record numbers, activity and tourist impact. This ongoing programme has identified a correlation between decreasing numbers and increasing tourist numbers. Long term, it is hoped this study will reduce disturbance and help to make a positive contribution towards conservation of the species.

Amphibian & Reptile Studies:
Amphibians are excellent indicator species as they are extremely vulnerable to changes in their environment. They are often one of the first groups of organisms to respond to changes in climate (or microclimate) caused by deforestation and other human activities. Reptiles are another important indicator group, as they are both predators and prey. Any changes in the food web can have a knock on effect, making reptiles an ideal group to study. Almost 30% of the worlds assessed reptile species were listed as threatened and are greatly understudied.

Volunteers carry out various studies, including transect surveys. This involves walking slowly along a 100m trail through the forest looking for amphibians and reptiles on leaves, branches or on the ground. Any that are seen are caught and brought back to be identified, weighed and measured before being released back in the same habitat type. In the last 2 years four species of frog which may potentially be new to science have been discovered in the surrounding reserve!

Butterfly Study:
Butterflies are important in ecosystems as pollinators to many plant species. They are good indicators of the quality of habitat and are sensitive to any changes, which means that they are an ideal group to study when looking at regenerating forest. The centre is creating an inventory of the butterfly species to gain an understanding of their distribution between the 3 forests types that differ in their disturbance level.

Volunteers set up butterfly nets baited with fermented banana at 3 different heights in the 3 main forest types. The nets are left in the forest for 6 days and are checked every 24hrs after they are set up. Butterflies are retrieved from the net and identified against guides. They are also marked so they can be recognised if recaptured. If the butterfly is not in the guide, then it is taken back to camp and photographed so it can be added before it is released. The traps are re-baited each day except for the 6th day when they are taken down. There are currently 4 butterfly survey sites in each forest type and the nets are rotated around each of these every time the project is run which is every 3 weeks.

START DATES:
These dates are for the 2-week placements. Start dates for longer placements can be adjusted to include more start options (please speak to us if you need a different start date). 19 October 2015
16 November 2015
14 December 2015

And for 2016:

11 January 2016
8 February 2016
7 March 2016
4 April 2016
2 May 2016
30 May 2016
27 June 2016
25 July 2016
22 August 2016
19 September 2016
17 October 2016
14 November 2016

SAMPLE ITINERARY

Being a conservation programme, it is difficult togive an example itinerary, because nearly every day is different and tasks can change at the whim of Mother Nature, the weather, what is required while you're there, as well as many other influencing factors.

What can be said, though, is that each day is fascinating and an exploration in into the local region and culture. You won't be bored!

Depending on how long your group is there for, you may be given some training in some or all of the following:

  • First Aid & basic rainforest survival skills
  • Tropical ecology
  • Conservation & sustainability
  • Natural history
  • Astronomy
  • Cultural diversity
  • Wilderness ethics & natural resources conservation
  • Flora & fauna monitoring
  • Reforestation & agro-forestry
  • Ethno-botany
  • Environmental education

ACCOMMODATION

This project is idyllically placed on the edge of the Amazon Rainforest, on a hill next to a river. It has a ’nice’ feel to it. It is relaxed and peaceful, and has been tastefully constructed in keeping with its surroundings. At present the area has six thatched buildings. Three are accommodation houses with a classroom/workroom on the ground floor and a bedroom area above and you'll be sharing a room with other volunteers. All buildings have open walls and are fresh and airy.

The bathroom is a separate block consisting of six cubicles, each containing a (Western) flush toilet, hand-basin and cold shower. There are also extra washbasins and a large sink in which to do your laundry.

There is a dining and relaxation area, with tables and a few armchairs, as well as a library and covered hammock area.

Lighting is by candle (not allowed in bedroom areas) and there is generally no electricity on the site. There is, however, a generator which is run for a few hours every night in order to charge camera batteries etc. We recommended that you take out a portable headlight torch and a few other items, but we'll provide you with a list of recommended items to take with you before you leave.

FOOD:
Food is provided and you'll have three meals per day - breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food is wholesome and mainly vegetarian. Often pasta or rice, soup, fruit juice. Not 5 star (it’s the jungle after all) but very acceptable. There is always a flask of hot water, tea, coffee and filtered (safe) drinking water available in the dining room. The cook is able to cater for a number of specialised diets, although choices may be limited.

Entertainment / Leisure:
This is the Amazon Jungle - unique and exciting and wonderful and tranquil and awesome - but it isn't a placement for people who want to party the night away. There are board games, books to read and other ‘quiet’ activities. At night this has to be by candle light. Most people start their work early and get up between 4 and 5 a.m., consequently people tend to go to bed early.

"Some nights we watched a DVD on the laptop, (somewhat surreal, sitting in a jungle clearing watching a laptop crawling with moths!) Occasionally we just sat and socialised over a beer."

During the day there are activities such as swimming in the river, complete with vines to swing from ("Hello Tarzan!"). (You can only swim if supervised and depending on river conditions.) The manager is a keen climber and may be persuaded to teach you how to access the canopy, (climbing trees using ropes). Some scientists use this method in their work when studying birds. It is safe (when under instruction) but can be difficult.

Although there are lots of places to visit in Peru, there are few external places to visit while on your project. In the dry season Salvaccion is a 1¾ hour walk away (after crossing the river) and it is a safe walk. In the wet season it may be possible to reach another village by boat, but it would not possible to walk to Salvaccion. Sometimes it may be possible to get a lift with other volunteers or staff and perhaps spend a few days in Cusco. Generally, however, volunteers tend to stay at the Centre for the duration of their placement and visit Cusco at the end of their project.

WHAT YOU'LL GAIN FROM DOING THIS PROJECT

  • An exciting, never-to-be-forgotten overseas volunteering holiday into South America and the wonderful Peruvian culture!
  • The enormous satisfaction of Contributing to, and learning about, seriously beneficial conservation efforts - and making a difference!
  • New skills, more confidence, a greater understanding of a different culture, invaluable personal and professional development.
  • An entry on your CV or résumé that will put you head and shoulders above most others in the job market.
  • And best of all ... an unforgettable experience!

OBJECTIVES FOR YOU

  • Coming soon!

PROJECT OBJECTIVES

  • Coming soon

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

YOUR SAFETY, SUPPORT AND BACKUP:
Read important information about the Support & Backup you receive before you leave and during your programme.

Read about the Safety and Security measures we take to ensure your safety and wellbeing while on our programme.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU BOOK YOUR PLACEMENT?

Once you have applied for a placement, we'll contact you and send you our Welcome Pack. You'll also receive Log-on details and password for our Volunteer Extranet where you'll have access to all the documentation and information which we've put together to facilitate preparations for your adventure! Your Project Co-ordinator for your country will liaise with you throughout the arrangements process, as well as while you're on your placement and on your return home.

The documents you'll have access to also include a Country Factfile, Safety Guide and any manuals that may assist you on your particular programme (e.g. Teaching Guide, Sports Manuals, Enrichment Suggestions for Animal Care, etc.). We do all we can to make your stay one that you'll never forget. This is a truly awesome, elegant and beautiful country.

As with all our destinations, the culture and heritage is different to what you're used to ... which, although one of the most exciting aspects of travelling, should be borne in mind. Self-reliance and independence are highly appreciated in all our destinations and will help you to make the most of this wonderful opportunity!

On Arrival, your Introduction to the Country: When you arrive you'll be welcomed by a member of the team who will take you to your accommodation and introduce you to everyone.

THE CENTRE AND ITS ENVIRONMENT:
The Centre itself covers 640 hectares in a seemingly endless rainforest which stretches across Brazil and to the Atlantic Ocean. This is the Amazon! Mammals in the area include peccaries, puma, jaguar, armadillos and various monkeys. Tortoises and lizards are also present.

Currently 365 species of birds have been recorded in the area, including parrots, hummingbirds and the rather bizarre Hoatzin. The resident bird expert, Claudia, is very enthusiastic about birds and her knowledge is truly exceptional. As one of our people said, "Working with her is a privilege!" Like any jungle there are lots of insects and there are also tarantulas and snakes, but these are not frequently seen.

There are many trails in the forest that are very productive in terms of wildlife because they are not used by tourists, but one of the main reasons the area was selected for study was that within a reasonably small area there is land that has been impacted by agriculture and human activity in the past. This is why there are such a variety of forest types within the private reserve (forests in different stages of re-growth as well as in different ecosystems).

It is through comparative studies between the old and new forest that conservationists aim to learn more about the effect of human activity on biodiversity as well as the ability of forests to regenerate.

The environment is relaxing, with nice weather, good views, excellent accommodation and very pleasant company. Entertainment is very much home-made and there is a real community spirit among the volunteers whilst still allowing for ‘personal space’. Volunteers are well cared for whilst still having the excitement of being in the jungle. All the staff are enthusiastic, helpful and caring. There are some opportunities for engaging in leisure activities such as swimming and climbing.

The trip from Cusco to the Centre:
You will arrive in Cusco, where you'll be met by members from the Project. You will stay in Cusco for 2 nights, before beginning your journey to the Rainforest. This journey is by road and takes from 9 to 10 hours, so there will also be another overnight stop on the way. Almost the entire journey is along an unpaved road and the last few miles are very unmade indeed! For some of the way it is a typical Andean road along the side of a mountain but the road is relatively ‘quiet’ with maybe 6 -10 vehicles passing every hour.

The scenery is stunning, including barren mountains, cloud forest, seemingly endless jungle, impressive valleys. There are places of interest to stop every hour or so, either to take photos or buy refreshments. The journey is very totally fascinating and adds to the sense of adventure! The last part of the journey involves crossing a river by boat.

Return transfer from the Centre in the Amazon to Cusco is included in the cost of the placement and is arranged for you by the managers in Peru. At the end of your project, you will stay for 1 night in Cusco, and after some end of project administration, be free to depart after 9am. Those wishing to do some independent travel after their placement can opt to stay in Cusco rather than going straight to the airport. Either way, you’ll need to make your own arrangements to get to Cusco Airport, which is about a 15-minute drive away and costs about $15-$20 by taxi (prices correct at time of writing).

Rainy Season: The rainy season is between November and April with the worst of the rain occurring from February to March. Work at the Centre does continue through the rainy season because the arrays (working paths) are designed to be useable throughout the year.

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REVIEWS AND FEEDBACK:

ADAM WATTS
British
Conservation in the Amazon Rainforest in Peru

THANK YOU so, so much! I will never forget the time I spent there. Would love to go back one day.

What experience do you feel you're gaining? Team work; expanding knowledge of another culture; construction; learning Spanish; understanding rainforest ecosystems.

What is the best thing about your placement so far? One thing?! Okay, the people. Other volunteers, staff, locals. All were incredible. Friends for life as the cliché goes.

Would you recommend this placement to anyone else? Yes, yes, yes and a hundred million times yes.

What type of person do you think this placement would suit? Anyone who wants a drastic change of scenery, willing to work hard, and anyone who wants to reflect on what they're doing with their life.

What, if any, improvements could be made to the placement? Honestly, none. They were the best three months of my life and I would not change a single thing.

Was there anything that you weren’t told before your departure that you think future volunteers should know? No. It's the jungle and the surprises are half the fun!

Can you describe a typical day? Up at 05:00 to take a boat trip upriver to monitor the parrots at the clay lick, back for breakfast at 7:30, working in the biogarden into lunch at 13:00 then possibly a trail walk in the afternoon or a swim in one of the many nearby creeks. Dinner at 19:00, then a chat, game of cards and bed.

SAMM BENNETT
British
Conservation in the Amazon Rainforest in Peru

I have gained a great understanding of the real life of the Amazon rainforest, ranging from the chaotic sounds of the Peccaries during the day to the peaceful sounds of the night time insects and frogs.

I have learnt a huge amount of about all kinds of animals. Ranging from insects, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and exotic birds like the Macaws, parrots and parakeets. I have gained enough understanding of all these animals that I can now identify them instantly. In my free time I have had enjoyment of fishing with the clean air and the overwhelming view of the river and the forest around me. I have also had the chance to go swimming in the river after a long trek through the jungle observing all kinds of animals, as well as swimming in the small pools of the streams within the forest.

The whole experience of helping out in this project has given me a great satisfaction, knowing that my work here is helping towards a great and important course within conservation.

My favourite experience at my placement was the sightings of the Wholly and the Squirrel Monkey. Although they are very different in many ways, they were equally exciting. On my second day in the forest I saw 20-30 small Squirrel Monkeys that ended up to be all around me jumping from one tree to another. Some of which were very curious and were trying to get a better view of me. A couple of weeks later I saw the Wholly monkey, one of the largest monkeys here. Which were huge, almost like gorillas. They were the most impressive things I’ve ever seen.

I would definitely recommend this placement to anyone interested in nature. The forest itself is the most beautiful place you possibly could go. Filled with all kinds of plants, flowers, insects and a huge variety of different animals, some of which are harder to see than others.

Can you describe a typical day?
A typical day for me is to get up for 5am to go observe the Macaws, parrots, parakeets. Then I have breakfast at 7:30. After this I then go into the jungle to do mammal observations and return by 12pm to have lunch at 1pm. Then I may go back into the jungle to go to the mammal clay lick to see what kind of activity as occured, but sometimes I will have an afternoon off to relax. Then dinner is served at 7pm. Afterwards I will go to bed or sometimes go for a night walk.