You will take part in a variety of the research activities below, but prior to this, you will complete a training program which consists of presentations, fieldwork, educational forest walks, species recognition tasks and a first-aid course.
Amphibian & Reptile Monitoring
Amphibians are excellent indicator species, as they are extremely vulnerable to changes in their environment. They have very thin skin which makes them sensitive to chemical pollutants and changes in climate; therefore studying the way they use regenerated forest is vital for assessing its conservation value. Volunteers will take part in night-time transect surveys where you’ll walk along 100m trails 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. Since 2013, the team have made some fascinating discoveries including the Ameerega Shihuemoy (a new species of poison-dart frog)!
The field site is located in 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 do we know very little about the ecology of many of these tropical foothill species, but the true value of regenerating forests for birds is also understudied.
In order to understand the importance of regenerating rainforest for mammal species, the project has used a series of camera traps to capture images of mammals in all 3 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, this research is on a more ad-hoc basis. 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 can prove to be an exciting and memorable part of your time on the project!
Like reptiles and amphibians, butterflies are significant bio-indicator species and are also essential in pollinating the rainforest. The project is working to create an inventory of the butterfly species at the field site to gain an understanding of the types and number of butterflies across the 3 main forest types. You will join your volunteer 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 before being released.
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% since 2009 for the direct beneficiaries of these gardens as well as an increase in child nutrition and health!
Please note, itineraries are subject to change and the below is simply a rough guideline. The itinerary below is based on a 4-week stay as this is the recommended minimum duration to ensure you experience all of what the project has to offer. If you stay for fewer than 4 weeks, your training period will be shorter, and the volunteer work will not be as involved. If you stay for longer than 4 weeks, the period of project days will be longer.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
After arriving at Cusco Airport, you will be collected and transferred to your first two nights’ accommodation. You will receive a short briefing of your schedule for the next few days, before having some time to explore the city and acclimatise to the altitude.
Day 2 - Explore Cusco:
After an induction and orientation with your group in the morning, you will be able to explore Cusco and experience some Andean culture. Today is also an opportunity to ensure you have everything you need for your time on the project. At the end of your day, you will go back to your 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 and through the cloud forest. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to learn about the local ecosystems and hopefully spot the national bird of Peru, the Andean cock-of-the-rock! You will be accommodated in the Cloud Forest Lodge for the night.
Day 4 - Transfer to Manu National Park:
After breakfast, you will start the 3-hour transfer through the foothills of the Andes to the Amazon lowlands, getting a taste of rainforest life as you go. The final leg of the journey is a 45-minute boat ride on the meandering Amazon river to the Manu Learning Centre. Upon arrival, you’ll spend the rest of your day settling in, exploring your new surroundings and getting to know the project team.
Day 5-8 - Training Period:
These days are your training days when you will learn about the aims and achievements of the project, as well as the necessary skills and knowledge you will need to constructively participate in conservation tasks. The training will involve field-based learning, watching presentations and visiting local communities. During this time, you’ll also be invited to an official welcome party!
Day 9 - Final Day of Training:
This is considered your last day of training, and today could see you taking part in a workshop, joining a community project, or assisting with an element of conservation fieldwork. Be sure to rest up tonight, as you will need to be up bright and early to take part in the next day’s activities, where you’ll be a fully-fledged member of the team.
Day 10-31 - Project Days:
Conservation activities during these days will vary according to which tasks the volunteers are assigned each day. There are usually morning and afternoon work sessions, with meals and breaks in between, and Sundays are a rest day for everyone. For an idea of the schedule on a typical day during this time, please request the project guide.
Day 32 - Transfer Back to Cusco:
Take some time to soak up your final moments in the Amazon jungle and bid farewell to the Manu Learning Centre staff, as after breakfast, you will transfer back to Cusco, re-joining the hustle and bustle of city life. You’ll be accommodated in a city hostel for the night.
Day 33 - Final Day:
This will be your final day, with checkout 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 airport transfer is not included and will incur an additional small 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 gathering 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 a part of the Manu ecosystem and are left to use the area as they please. The Manu Learning Centre provides local communities with the finance and training they need to develop sustainable enterprises, as well as improve 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 an en-suite bathroom. Your third night will be spent in a rustic lodge within the cloud forest.
Accommodation whilst on the project in Manu National Park consists of comfortable and airy pods, which each feature two or three beds and a magnificent view of the rainforest. Bed linens and mosquito nets are provided. The project aims to reduce its environmental impact, so the showers, electricity and internet connection are all solar-generated.
Three meals a day will be provided throughout your stay on the project and will be made using typical local ingredients, such as rice, beans, eggs, vegetables, and occasionally meat. The project is able to cater to many different dietary requirements, but we kindly ask that you let us know in advance of your stay so the project staff can prepare for your arrival.
This project involves a fair amount of walking, so volunteers must be able to walk up to 10km per day. 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 can be incredibly humid, so it is important to stay hydrated!
While there are no specific skills required to take part in this project, all 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 comfortable working in all manner of weather conditions.
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/Doctor 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 some occasional rain.
Wet Season (November - March): On average, 1,200 millimetres 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 important 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 where you will be met by a project representative and transferred to your hostel in Cusco. From here, you will be transferred to every stage of the project. On your final day, the transfer back to the airport from your accommodation is not included but can be arranged for an additional fee.
If you are from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia or most of the EU, you do not require a visa to enter Peru as a tourist, as a stay of around 6 months is granted on arrival for tourism purposes. As entry requirements can change, however, please ensure you check your own visa requirements before travelling.
What's included in the price of the project?
- An airport transfer from Cusco Airport on your first day
- 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?
- An airport transfer back to Cusco Airport on your final day
- Soft and alcoholic beverages and snacks