All volunteers on this project are required to complete a training programme prior to commencing project work. This consists of presentations, field work, educational forest walks, species recognition tasks and a first-aid course. Project work comes in the form of varying smaller initiatives, which alter depending on the time of year and needs of certain species. Some examples of these can be seen below.
Amphibian & Reptile Monitoring
Amphibians are excellent indicator species, as they are extremely vulnerable to changes in their environment. They have very thin skin used for gas exchange, which makes them very sensitive to chemical pollutants and also to changes in climate (e.g. temperature and humidity). Studying the way they use regenerating forest is useful for assessing its conservation value, and you will take part in transects of a 100m trail at night looking for amphibians and reptiles. Another survey volunteers conduct is through pitfall trapping, where four buckets are dug into the ground to capture the animals for study and release.
The field site location is one of the best places for bird watching in the world. As bird species composition and diversity can signify many different things about the forest (such as forest type, structure, age, health, and level and type of human impact), you will conduct early morning transects along the reserve to listen and look for birds. This is important as not only is the ecology of many of these tropical foothill species poorly known, but the true value of regenerating forest for birds is understudied.
In order to understand the importance of regenerating rainforest for mammal species, the project has used a series of camera traps set up around the reserve to capture images of mammals in all three forest types. So far, more than 40 large mammal species have been recorded at the project site, including 13 individual jaguars. Due to the elusive nature of many mammal species, the rest of the research is more ad-hoc. You may find yourself unexpectedly tracking puma prints for half an hour, or trying to frantically count the number of peccaries that just crossed your path. Either way, this could prove to be an exciting part of your time spent on the project!
Like reptiles and amphibians, butterflies are brilliant indicator species and are also vital in pollinating the rainforest. The project works to create an inventory of the butterfly species at the field site, and you will join your group in setting up butterfly nets baited with fermented bananas to attract the insects. The butterflies are then carefully retrieved and identified, using the field guides created from previously-found species.
The project works specifically with local mothers to combat malnutrition, by providing resources and knowledge to build biogardens that produce nutritious, fresh food for families, and extra income through surplus crops. So far, volunteers and local mothers have created over 50 family biogardens, and have helped build six institutional biogardens. These activities have resulted in an annual increase in income of 35.28% since 2009 for the direct beneficiaries of biogardens, and an increase in child nutrition and health.
Help to create, plant, monitor and map reforestation plots. Volunteers have helped turn 17 hectares of degraded land into agroforestry plots which have enabled the planting of 10,000 plantains and 3,000 trees, and with your help, the team will be able to continue this impressive feat, reversing the impact of logging and human disturbances.
Please note that itineraries are subject to change and that the below is simply a rough guideline. This itinerary is based on a stay of four weeks. If you are staying for less than four weeks, the training period will not be as long and the volunteer work not as involved. If you are joining the project for longer than 4 weeks, the period of project work will be longer.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
Arrive at Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport, Cusco, before transferring to temporary accommodation at a hostel in Cusco. You will spend the day acclimatising to the altitude and can explore the city. In the early evening, there is a briefing where you will meet your fellow volunteers and learn more about the project itself.
Day 2 - Explore Cusco:
After a brief registration in the morning, you will be able to explore Cusco and experience Andean culture. Today is also a great opportunity to ensure you have everything you need for the project and, if not, you can pick it up in Cusco. You will be back at the hotel for a good night's sleep before travelling into the jungle the following morning.
Day 3 - Transfer to the Cloud Forest Lodge:
Today you will begin your trip to the Manu Biosphere over the Andes, through the cloud forest and into lowland Amazon. Upon arrival into the cloud forest, you will have the opportunity to learn about the local ecosystems and hopefully meet the national bird of Peru, the Cock of the Rock! You will stay in lodge accommodation for the night.
Day 4 - Transfer to Manu National Park:
This is your final transfer to the project site, which is a 3-hour journey through the foothills of the Andes and includes a visit to a cocoa plantation on the way. The final part of this journey is a 45-minute boat ride on the meandering Amazon river. Upon arrival, you will settle into your accommodation before heading out into the jungle for your first taste of Amazonian living.
Day 5-8 - Training Period:
On these days, you will learn about the aims of the project and the conservation tasks that take place, as well as learning how to live in the Amazon jungle safely. Education will also centre on indigenous species and how to recognise them. Training will be mainly field-based, but will also involve regular presentations.
Day 9 - Final Day of Training:
This will be your last day of training and will consist of field work and workshops assisting the conservation research team.
Day 10-31 - Project Days:
Activities during these days will vary according to which of the smaller projects volunteers are assigned to day by day. There are usually morning and afternoon work sessions, interspersed with meals and breaks with Sunday being a rest day.
Day 32 - Transfer Back to Cusco:
After breakfast, you will transfer back to Cusco and spend the night in a city hostel.
Day 33 - Final Day:
This will be your final day and you will check out before midday. At this time, you can be transferred to the airport for your return flight, or commence any independent travel plans. Please note that the return transfer is not included and will incur a small additional fee.
Dates, Availability & Price
To secure a place on this project, a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.
Select a duration below to see the available start dates. All dates shown are currently available for you to join this project!
Updates & Outcomes
This project is at the forefront of conservation and research in one of the most ecologically important ecosystems in the world. The work undertaken here consists mainly of garnering data and honing techniques, which are vitally important to the future of not just Manu National Park but also the entire Amazon rainforest ecosystem. Some of the project goals can be seen below:
Conservation Research: The project explores and supports the value of the Amazon rainforest through scientific research of its biodiversity and complex ecosystems. By studying endangered species and discovering new ones, the project is able to inform government decision-making, helping to protect the rainforest from irreversible destruction.
Community Initiatives: Manu currently supports four native ethnic groups: the Machiguenga, the Mascho-Piro, the Yaminahua and the Amahuaca. These communities are considered part of Manu's ecosystem and are left to use the area as they please. Manu provides local communities with the finance and training needed to develop sustainable enterprises, as well as education. This empowers people to create a positive future and diverts labour and resources away from damaging practices (such as logging and mining).
Forget their sneaky reputation, there is more to the snake species than you know! This World Snake Day, learn something new by checking out these 6 strange facts about the serpent kind. Shed that misguided fear and help protect these slightly creepy but very cool creatures. Just remember, they're more scared of you than you are of them!
Sadly, there are so many endangered species all over the world, and the responsibility is upon everyone to change these circumatnces. We shouldn't just leave it up to wildlife conservationists, as they can't do it all themselves. The Great Projects aim to spread awareness of the shared responsibility of humans, to care and preserve the animals we are slowly destroying.
- posted on 16/07/2017
- by Phoebe Codling
Today marks World Snake Day and it gives us a chance to discuss all things snake! These amazing animals need our help now more than ever, and even though people are often scared of the serpents this is often a misguided fear. We all need to work together to help the snakes so read up and learn more today!
Is this trip for you?
For the first two nights and last night in Cusco, you will stay in a comfortable hostel within the city centre in a twin room with en-suite bathroom and breakfast provided. The third night will be spent in a beautiful lodge within the cloud forest.
Accommodation whilst on the project at Manu National Park consists of comfortable and airy pods, which each feature two or three beds, bed linens, mosquito nets and a magnificent view of the rainforest. Your linens will be washed for you once a week. There are toilets, solar-powered showers, and a solar-powered internet connection. Additionally, water is generated from a pump in the ground, allowing the project to keep in with its aim of reducing environmental impact.
Three meals a day will be provided and will consist of typical local ingredients: rice with beans, eggs, vegetables, soups, and occasional meat. The project is able to cater to dietary requirements, but we kindly ask that you let us know well in advance of your stay so that the project staff can prepare for your arrival.
This project involves a fair amount of walking, so volunteers must be prepared to cover up to 10km per day by foot. The terrain here can be uneven and muddy, so please do take this into consideration when deciding whether this project is for you. Additionally, the climate here can be incredibly humid, so it is important to stay hydrated!
While there are no specific skills needed for this project, volunteers must be able to carry (light) equipment and their own belongings; have the ability to climb in and out of a small boat whilst wearing a personal flotation device; and be able to get onto the ground for the setting up of camera traps.
For this project, you must be vaccinated against Hepatitis A, Typhoid Fever and Tetanus. Other vaccinations required will depend on your medical history and we recommend consulting your GP regarding your own needs.
When Is The Best Time To Volunteer?
In Manu National Park, the climate is generally hot and humid all year, however, there are two distinct seasons:
Dry season (April - October): During these months the temperature is typically 30°C (86°F) and rainfall is limited, however, being a rainforest climate, you should still expect occassional rain.
Wet season (November - March): On average, 1,200 millimeters of rain falls during the wet season, and whilst it only rains for short periods of time, the rainfall can be very heavy. It is also much hotter during these months and temperatures can reach up to 40°C (104°F).
Throughout the year the weather can be variable, with tropical storms happening without much notice and temperatures often reaching very high levels, so it is imopoirtant to be prepared for anything.
You will need to arrive into Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco between 7am and 5pm on the start date of your project, after which you will be picked up by a project representative and transferred to your hostel in Cusco. From here, you will be transferred to every stage of the project.
If you would like help booking your flights, please visit our flight page and fill out the form. A member of our team will get back in touch as soon as possible with a suitable quote.
If you are from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia or most of the EU, you do not require a visa to come to Peru as a tourist: a stay of around 6 months is granted on arrival for tourism purposes. However, do please research your own visa requirements before booking your place on this project.
What's included in the price of the project?
- Collection from Cusco airport
- Transfers between Cusco and Manu National Park
- An overnight stay in the cloud forest
- Full training & orientation programme
- Three meals per day
What's not included?
- Drop-off at Cusco airport
- Alcoholic or other beverages and snacks not detailed