Wilderness Experience FAQ Peru –
Educational Courses in
South America

Wilderness Experience and Internship

Prior to departure

Do I need specific requirements or abilities to apply for this project?

In order to apply for this project you need to be 18 year or older and have sufficient English skills to participate within the course. Furthermore you should be physically fit; therefore we need a doctor’s certificate about your state of health and your vaccination record. Moreover, you need to be willing to adapt to the schedule of the wildlife. You might need a visa for your journey, depending on the duration of your stay. You should check out the foreign department’s website for the visa standards or ask the NATUCATE team directly.

If you would like to do an internship you need to submit a cover letter describing your motivation for taking part as well as two letters of recommendation. Furthermore we require your CV/résumé and conduct an application interview with you (in English).

Which services does the price include?

Prior to your departure we will support you during your preparation and help you choose reliable travel insurance. We will also help you arrange the flights and visa application. Transportation within the project as well as the transfer from and to the airport is also included (an exception is the optional transfer from Puerto Maldonado to Cusco during the course “Tropical Ornithology”). Generally, the fees will also cover possible overnight-stays in Puerto Maldonado before or after the project. On you last day in the hostel after the project you will also receive a breakfast. Furthermore your accommodation and food will be provided. Your accommodation is equipped with sanitation facilities and you will be provided mosquito nets, bed sheets and one towel as well as safe drinking water. In some accommodations in general you will have access to electricity in the evenings. You can always contact us during your stay if you have questions or if there are problems. Moreover, you will be instructed and taught by experienced staff members that you can also talk to anytime.

Do I need certain medical precautions or requirements?

In general you need to talk to your doctor and see what vaccinations he suggests. It is advised to be vaccinated against Diphtheria, Morbilli, Mumps and Rubella (MMR). In case of injuries it is also advised to be vaccinated against Tetanus and also vaccinations against Typhoid and Yellow Fever should be considered. As you will be working with wildlife on a regular basis you need to be vaccinated against rabies to participate in the project. For current information and warnings regarding your destination you should check out the homepage of the foreign department. You definitely need a travel insurance to start your volunteering work with NATUCATE. We can help finding something for you.

What kind of equipment should I take with me?

You will be spending a lot of time outside - that’s why you should consider packing light, comfortable clothing which can get dirty and most importantly: dries fast. For you daytrips through the jungle you will need a back pack, water bottle, a wristwatch with timer, insect repellent and binoculars (except for the "Rainforest Photography"). Furthermore we advise you to pack a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and maybe also a pocket knife. Generally you should pack a rain jacket in natural colors, a sturdy pair rubber (knee-high) boots and optional also hiking boots, long sleeved shirts, as well as a pair of long pants to protect you from mosquitos. We also suggest you to pack a laptop, cell phone, zip lock bags to keep your belongings dry and an additional towel. For the time in the camp you should also bring shorts as well as sandals or slippers for inside. Keep in mind that it can also be relatively cold in certain regions in the right time of the year and bring some warm clothing as well. Since you have to wash your clothes by yourself you should also get biodegradable detergent. Before your departure you should also pack a personal first-aid-kit with enough medication that you need on a regular basis and to treat common complaints (like headaches, for digestive or stomach problems, for mosquito bites etc.) and to care for smaller wounds.

If you participate at the "Rainforest Photography" you will need a DSLR camera, raw editing software, rain protection (for camera gear and person) and hard drives to store imagery and footage.

Arrival

How do I arrive at my destination? Do I have to organize it myself?

We will support you during your organization and planning process. Nevertheless, you will have to book your flight(s) to Puerto Maldonado International Airport on your own. Once you arrived, you will be picked up and taken directly to your field station or to a hostel in Puerto Maldonado where you will stay the first night, depending on the course. After the night at the hostel you will take a cab to Laberinto. From there you will go on a boat trip on the Madre de Dios River until you reach the research station after several hours.

During the course

What is my main function? Can I choose my tasks and will I be working independently?

First of all, your working tasks and functions depend majorly on whether you want to participate in a Wilderness Experience course or want to do an internship. Furthermore the work you will be doing also depends on the topic of the course or internship you are interested in. In the following you can find a short description of different topics and what you will be doing in these fields.

Tropical Primatology: In this course, you will track primate species and groups, observe their behavior to support long-term studies, take samples to monitor the health of the animals and enter data into a database. Experienced scientists will be by your side at all times to pass on their valuable theoretical and practical expertise. You will be trained in the basic knowledge of rain forest navigation and orientation as well as its corresponding safety measurements. Furthermore you will gain theoretical knowledge through scientific literature in the fields of tropical biology and conservation work. During the practical work you will gather experiences in the behavioral science of primates, learn to handle the animals and get an insight into the diversity of the Peruvian primates as well as telemetry and the analysis of generated data.

Tropical Ornithology This NATUCATE-Wilderness Experience will give you the chance to explore the diverse avifauna of the Amazon region as well as their ecology and habitat. Students participating in this course will learn a variety of approaches to gain a deeper understanding about bird behavior, their population dynamics and the habitat quality as well as about telemetry, taxonomy, ecology and conservation methods. Most of the time will be spent in field activities, complemented by theoretical lectures about conservation work, (local) ornithology as well as tropical ecosystem in general. This is intended to foster an interest in conducting scientific research, with a special focus on developing analytical skills relevant to tropical biology.

Tropical Entomology: The course covers the work with insects ranging from butterflies to beetles, bees, and aquatic insects, among others. Students will be introduced to an astonishing array of terrestrial and aquatic habitats that shelter a greater diversity of plant and animal species than anywhere else on the planet. You will spend most of our time studying insects in the field from the tops of towering tropical trees to the bottom of oxbow lakes. Our field activities will be supplemented by selected readings from the primary literature covering topics on theoretical and applied tropical biology and entomology, as well as conservation in the Andes and Amazon regions. Participants will also gain experience in cutting-edge research in other tropical biology fields in one of the most active biological research stations in the neotropics.

Tropical Herpetology: In this course, participants will develop an understanding of the natural history, anatomy, ecology, and conservation of neotropical reptiles and amphibians. We will additionally examine the roles of chemicals in herpetological studies, focusing on defense, food capture, aboriginal use, and modern pharmacology. Moreover the students will learn about different field-research methods such as telemetry and implementation of field studies. There will be a focus on practical work during daytime and nightly lectures which convey theoretical knowledge

Tropical Biology: This course is intended to provide an introduction and broad overview of Amazon forest ecology and conservation, with a taxonomic focus on plants and a geographic focus on the Madre de Dios basin in southeastern Peru. The overarching theme is the incredible biodiversity of Amazon rainforests, the key factors and processes underlying its creation and maintenance, and the impact of anthropogenic disturbance on these critically important forest ecosystems. Classroom-style lectures will complement extensive field-based activities and interpretation, and individual and group projects.

Tropical Genomics: This course aims at gaining more specific information about the wildlife population in the Amazonian habitat to better understand and encode behavior and physiology. During your time in the project you will assist with sample collection and extract, amplify, sequence and interpret genetic data by yourself to support the field research about wildlife ecology and natural history. As the genetic lab is located directly in the rainforest you will be able to experience the whole range of tasks from sample collection to the analyzing sequence data. Your tasks depend on the project you are researching as well as the phase of the project and will be assigned to you.

Rainforest Photography: The goal of these workshops extends beyond just the techniques that will enable you to get better shots under tough conditions, but also to convey the natural history of what you are shooting. Photography is a highly evocative art form with immense potential to increase knowledge and appreciation of the world’s incredible biodiversity. Your photos can tell stories when words alone fail, and for this workshop, your stories will be about the complex tropical ecology of the Amazon Basin. During the day you’ll be watching wildlife in the rainforest, while the evenings are for discussions as well as using our guides and resources to identify the species that you have seen. We offer three different photography workshops in Peru, they focus on Field Photography, Macro Photography or Arboreal Camera Trapping. No matter, which one you choose – you will always be guided and instructed by an experienced, professional wildlife photographer.

Internship: Our Peru internships aim at improving and broadening your knowledge and practical skill-set in primatology and tropical biology. You can decide which of the following internship courses you would like to join in order to gain deeper knowledge in important field research methods: Primate Disease Ecology, Wildlife Handling (primates and terrestrial mammals), Primate Behaviour and Space Use or Primate Sensory Ecology.

How big is the group?

The Wilderness Experience programmes are limited to twelve participants. The Rainforest Photography courses consist of four participants. The capacity for the internship courses are limited as follows:

Community Disease Ecology: no limit

Wildlife Handling: six students

Primate Communication and Space Use: eight students

Primate Sensory Ecology: four students

Do I have to regard any specific security measurements?

In the jungle you always have to pay attention and be aware of possible risks. The group leaders know what to do and when you need to be extra cautious. In general you don’t have to worry too much. Dangerous or poisonous animals don’t often come too close to humans and generally only react aggressive when they are attacked. It is still important that you listen to instructions and follow the rules.

Life on site

What is the accommodation like?

In each of our courses you will stay at one or more research stations, which are located in the Amazonian rain forest in Peru. Before and after the course you might spend one night at a hostel in Puerto Maldonado – depending on the course you chose. In each research station you will sleep in shared dormitories/rooms and shared bathrooms.

Each station also provides a kitchen, a dining area, classrooms and sometimes even a laboratory and a library.

How is the food provided?

You will be provided with three balanced meals daily. You will dine together with the other participants in the stations’ dining area. Usually there will be a lot of rice, fresh fruits and vegetables, but it always depends on the season. Throughout the day you can always get additional snacks like cookies and crackers as well as coffee, tea or hot chocolate, or bring your own ones if you want to. In case you need to spend one night in Puerto Maldonado before/after the course you will receive breakfast in the hostel; but need to organize all other meals before and after the project.

Is it possible to receive vegetarian meals?

The food is balanced enough to realize a vegetarian diet. A vegan or gluten free diet is not that easy. You should inform us beforehand.

How are work time and free time divided?

During the intensive two-week Wilderness Experience programme you won’t have a lot of spare time, because every day will be used extensively to show you the Peruvian rain forest by hear. Depending on the program you might have some free time in the afternoon or evening hours. As intern you will in general have one day off per week that you can use as you desire. Be aware that your working hours as well as your free time depend on the projects tasks and needs so that both are quite irregular and may vary occasionally.

How can I spend my free time?

You can use your spare time to connect with other participants or relax a little. We also suggest you to take some books with you. You can also check out the surroundings or get a book from the station’s library.

Do I have a contact person on site?

The team on site will always be around at the station and can answer your questions. They will be responsible for you and help you with any kind of problem.

What expenses do I have to expect during the project? Can I withdraw cash on site and do I have to pay in local currency?

In general, there won’t be a lot of expenses for you during the project, since food, accommodation and transport is taken care off. You might need extra money for meals, transfers and trips before/after the project, additional snacks and beverages or souvenirs. The currency is the Peruvian Sol (Nuevo Sol). You can exchange and withdraw cash easily at the airport. You can also find ATMs in most of the cities. You should make sure you can withdraw money with your bank card in foreign countries before coming to Peru and maybe also consider bringing a second for more security. For emergencies we advise you to take about 200 Soles with you.

How can I contact family and friends at home?

In most of the research stations there will be (slow) internet available. You can take your cell phone or laptop with you to occasionally connect with family and friends. Internet doesn’t work all the time and is rather slow – that’s why you might want to get a Peruvian prepaid card (the mobile network you need to choose is called "Claro").

What’s the weather like?

Usually the weather in the Peruvian jungle is quite nice and warm with temperatures around 12-24 °C, depending on the project site. During the months May to July you might be confronted with cold weather fronts called friajes. During that time temperatures might drop to 8-12 °C. For the night you should consider packing something warm, since the buildings are only made of wood.

Is there a prohibition concerning alcohol?

Yes, it is strictly prohibited to consume alcohol during the project.

Will I receive a certificate after completing the course?

Yes, after successfully completing the exam at the end of the course you will receive a certificate. In some cases your university will give you credit for this course.

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