Before leaving for Peru
You must be at least 18 years old and have sufficient English skills to apply for this project. You should be healthy and physically fit enough to work in the Peruvian climate. Self-motivation, interest in nature conservation and the ability to work in a team are required.
You will live in a small, close-knit community in a very isolated way and should be comfortable with this. You must be able to help prepare meals and keep your accommodation clean during your stay.
You need travel health insurance. Specific medical needs, such as vaccinations and other precautions, must be discussed with your doctor in advance.
You need a passport to enter Peru. Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your trip. You may also need a visa for your volunteer placement. Requirements may vary depending on the length of your stay and your destination. You are responsible for extending your visa if necessary. You can find out about visa requirements on the website of the Foreign Office.
Before you start your trip to Peru, we will support you in organising your volunteer stay and help you with the flights and visa application. Our partner will provide scheduled transport by taxi to and from the airport and by boat to and from the research station. During your project stay, you will be accommodated in a house with shared rooms with bunk beds, bathrooms and a communal kitchen. Food for three healthy meals a day is included. The participants take turns preparing the meals themselves. As part of the programme, you will also receive on-site training. There are project staff in Peru who will support you on-site. You can also contact Natucate around the clock if you have any questions. Flights, visa fees and other costs are not included in the project fee.
You should consult your doctor about any medical precautions you may need and check with your country's foreign office for any necessary vaccinations before booking. It is important to inform your doctor that you will stay in a very remote area. Take with you any medication that you take regularly or occasionally. All travellers must ensure that they have received all recommended vaccinations.
It is possible to contract dengue fever. Wearing long sleeves and trousers and using insect repellent at dawn, dusk and night will significantly reduce the risk of infection.
The Amazon rainforest in Peru is located in a malaria area. Although the disease is rare in the project, some doctors still recommend taking malaria prophylaxis when staying in the jungle.
Yellow fever and typhoid vaccinations are also required. Rare cases of leishmaniasis have also been reported. Check with your doctor about recommended vaccinations and treatments before your trip, and allow enough time to complete your vaccinations.
We recommend taking diphenhydramine or another antihistamine with you in case of an allergic reaction.
Yes, you need travel insurance. We can help you find one.
Some activities require a compass. If you don't have a compass, you don't have to buy one. You can also download an app on your phone that will act as a compass for you. Binoculars are optional, but can significantly enhance your experiences and discoveries in the Peruvian forest.
You will receive a detailed packing list before your departure. In general, quick-drying textiles that can get dirty and stained are strongly recommended. A daypack large enough to hold a rain jacket, binoculars, a camera, some snacks, a water bottle, insect repellent, sunscreen, a notebook, etc., is handy. To avoid plastic bottles, take your own water bottle, which you can fill up with filtered drinking water. Waterproof bags are convenient for protecting electronics and certain field equipment. Medium-weight hiking boots are recommended for their snake-proof properties. You will also need an adapter for Peru, as three different power outlets are common. These are examples of what you should pack, as well as your clothing, biodegradable hygiene items and any medicines you may need.
A volunteer's stay lasts a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of 12 weeks.
Arrival in Peru
You have to organise your travel to Peru. When arriving by plane at Padre Aldamiz International Airport in Peru, most volunteers stay another night in Puerto Maldonado at their own expense before travelling to the research station. This way, the arrival will be less stressful. We will provide you with a list of recommended hostels and hotels.
Taxis and Tuc Tucs are readily available in this part of Peru. There are no buses or Uber in this small town. Our partner will organise your pick-up from the airport by taxi transfer. It takes about 15 minutes by taxi from the airport to the city. You will gather with the other participants at a meeting point. Here you will be picked up by our partner by boat. This boat trip takes 1 hour. Our partner has fixed days with a fixed schedule on which they are in the city by boat.
The boat leaves the town of Puerto Maldonado for the research station every Wednesday and Sunday at 15:00. It is recommended to arrive in town the day before or before 14:00 the same day.
After being picked up by boat from Puerto City and arriving at the station, you will receive an introduction to the research work. The rules and protocols of the station will be explained to you. You will also be given a first orientation tour of the reserve. A staff member will show you your room, the kitchens and the rest of the research station.
During your stay in Peru
An example of a daily routine for a volunteer in Peru could look like this:
07:00 - 08:00: Breakfast
08:00 - 11:30: Activities and ongoing programmes
12:00 - 13:00: Lunch
13:00 - 14:00: Rest time
14:00 - 17:30: Activities and ongoing programmes
17:30 - 19:00 Free time
19:00 - 20:00: Dinner
From 20:00: Free time, table games, films, lessons, presentations, etc.
The programme's content during your stay is flexible and depends on the weather, the number of participants, the researchers and the current activities at the station. For example, you could spend the morning setting up camera traps and observing the spider monkeys. In the afternoon, you might do maintenance work, such as cleaning the trails with a machete. For the next few days, you could spend the whole day on the transects. On another day, you could be assigned to vegetation plots in the morning and have time for social activities in the afternoon.
Behavioural studies of black spider monkeys
In this long-term study, we are investigating the seasonal fluctuations in the behaviour of black spider monkeys. We are collecting data on pattern activity, diet composition and habitat use. These data are used to study the ecological requirements of the species and their impact on the ecosystem. You will go into the forest to look for the monkeys and study their behaviour. There will also be presentations to explain the theoretical background.
Activity duration: 4h-9h
A standardised method is used to determine local mammals' diversity, abundance and density. The transect is 4 km long (4 parallel lines of 1 km). You will walk the route in teams of 2 when the animals are most active: early in the morning and when the sun sets. To increase the chance of meeting animals, the running speed is low: 1 kmh. Each time an animal is encountered, the name of the species, the hour, the location and the distance to the trail are recorded.
Activity duration: 3h-4h
We continuously monitor mineral licks with the help of camera traps. This allows us to study the seasonal use of these mineral licks by vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles). These areas include places where animals visit the ground to extract minerals. In this way, we can photograph animals that usually are difficult to spot.
Activity duration: 3h-4h
When: Every two weeks
Phenology studies of angiosperms
A standardised method is used to understand plants and trees' reproductive stages better. The transect is 2 km long in total (4 transects of 500 m each). You will walk the transect and collect flowers, leaves and fruits in the morning. In the afternoon, the collected material and pictures get identified. We have a library with many books and field guides to help you with the identification. In addition, we can always help you find the family name or even the species name.
Activity duration: 3h-4h
When: Every two weeks (1 km)
This study aims better to understand the forest's structure, composition and dynamics. To investigate this, we have created ten plots (20 x 50 m) in which we have marked all trees with a diameter of more than 10 cm. Various parameters, such as diameter, height, number of dead trees, etc., are measured. Every year we evaluate the data. We also take care of the maintenance of the plots.
Activity duration: 3h-4h
To study the diversity of bat species, we set mist nets every now and then. This activity takes place in the evening, and the nets are checked every half hour. A professional biologist carefully takes out the bats and determines the morphological characteristics and species names.
Activity duration: 3h
When: According to the season
A lot of data is collected at the station (data from the cameras, phenology, temperature, humidity, etc.), which has to be digitised for research. Therefore, the data has to be transferred into Excel files. This activity is mainly done on rainy days or when you want to be less physically active.
Activity duration: 3h
Machete Work & Maintenance
It is vital to keep our area and paths tidy. Therefore, we regularly clean the house, the trails and the surroundings of our station with a machete. This activity requires a bit more energy than the others, but it provides a nice change from the other activities. It is satisfying to see how quickly you can clean something up. Other activities to maintain or improve the field station are repairing, painting, cleaning, small construction works, gardening, etc.
Activity duration: 1-3h
When: When it is necessary
Monitoring and control of wood species
It is crucial to protect the concession and prevent people from logging and other illegal activities in the area. To protect our site, we do some monitoring in the concession. During this walk, we also visit the different habitats with aguaje (a local palm fruit) and Brazil nut trees. These species have great economic importance.
Activity duration: 3h
Sometimes, students and/or researchers in the station collect their data here. You can join them and help them with their fieldwork. They also share their knowledge in presentations. This allows you to learn more about different topics.
The theoretical classes provide you with an academic background on various topics. This helps you better understand the research's purpose and learn about certain issues. These lectures take place after dinner or on rainy days. Biologists, researchers and students hold these classes.
The reserve's number of volunteers and researchers varies greatly, but it is usually between 4 and 20 people. Usually, the dry season (May to October) is more popular. Volunteers and researchers come from all over the world, but mainly from France, America and Germany.
On-site in Peru
You stay in a comfortable bungalow with clean water and electricity. The cabins are open so that you can enjoy the beautiful view and sound of the forest. Each bungalow includes a shower and toilet and has enough room so that 1-4 people sleep comfortably together. The accommodation also provides shared spaces such as a well-equipped kitchen, a spacious living room, a working area and a hammock with a river view where you can rest after your activities.
At the station, we use solar energy to minimise environmental impact. We try to buy only locally produced vegetables and fruits and grow some of them on our land.
You do not have to buy the food yourself. However, the volunteers take turns in preparing the meals.
- Breakfast: milk, eggs, fruit salad, bread, coffee, muesli, juice, etc.
- Lunch: Variety of typical Peruvian and creative dishes (Mainly vegetarian food; meat is offered 2-3 times a week)
- Dinner: Variety of typical Peruvian and creative dishes (beans and lots of vegetables are an essential part of the diet)
Vegetarians and vegans are welcome. Vegans should bring their personal supplements. Remember that you must bring them with you or buy them in town at the latest. You will not be able to get any supplements at the research station. You could, for example, pack nuts as an additional source of protein.
The team consists of dedicated, passionate and enthusiastic biologists, students and volunteers, some of whom speak English and some Spanish. Some speak good English. Others speak little English but are willing to communicate with you because they want to improve their English, and you can learn some Spanish as a result. The common language in the programme is, therefore, English. Knowledge of Spanish is an advantage, but it is not a must.
One day a week is usually meant for rest. So the volunteers work six days a week in the field. On average, they spend 6-8 hours here, depending on the activity. It is important to know that some activities will take place early in the morning or late in the evening. Sometimes you will spend a whole day in the forest and take a meal and some snacks with you. After dinner, around 8 pm, there is time for board games, movies, relaxation and conversation. Occasionally, there are also lessons or presentations at this time.
Within the research station, you can use your free time to talk to the other volunteers, play community games or watch films. You can also use this time to relax or read a good book. So don't forget to bring some leisure items such as books or games.
For safety reasons, you should only be accompanied outside the research station. However, swimming on the riverbank, for example, is possible in pairs.
On the weekends, many participants take the opportunity to make an excursion to Puerto Maldonado, the starting point of your trip.
On-site, you will work with other volunteers, researchers and staff. The head of the research station will be your contact person on-site.
In Peru, you pay with Peruvian sol (Short: PEN).
You will not have many extra costs during your stay at the research station, as food is included in the price. However, there is a laundry service for a fee. You can also buy sodas, beer and e.g. T-shirts at the research station. These services are best paid for in PEN. You can withdraw PEN from the ATM in Puerto Maldonado with your credit card.
Due to the station's remoteness, there is a weak phone signal and no stable mobile data network. However, there are some areas near the river where it is possible to get a connection/signal for phone calls or mobile data. You will need to get your own local SIM number (Claro or Movistar) or another international solution for this. The research station has internet for 2 hours per day.
Peru is located in the tropical region south of the equator. The rainforest is characterised by hot, tropical weather with high humidity and a lot of rainfall. Due to the altitude, the highlands are characterised by a dry, temperate climate with strong day/night fluctuations.
There are some swamps during the rainy season (November to April). Remember that you have to cross these swamps or rivers with your own strength. The water here is up to the middle of your body.
During the dry season (March to October), temperatures can be high. Usually, this time is more popular and recommended for those who enjoy hiking, as the trails are less muddy then.
Smoking is not prohibited, but it must take place outside the buildings in an open area. This area must be kept clean.
Excessive drinking is strongly discouraged, and inappropriate behaviour resulting from alcohol abuse will result in the loss of this privilege.
We aspire to create and maintain a drug-free environment. The improper use of drugs is incompatible with the professional and responsible behaviour we expect from researchers, staff and volunteers. The use of illegal drugs will not be tolerated.
Potential visitors should be aware of the remoteness of the station. In emergencies, a boat can be chartered to take you into town.
The biological station has basic medical equipment, including antibiotics and first aid material. However, the research station does not take responsibility for stocking all possible medicines or therapeutic equipment that might be needed in certain situations.
If an accident or emergency requires urgent medical attention, the project will evacuate the volunteer as soon as possible.