Operation Wallacea Conservation Research Expeditions for Schools

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About

Operation Wallacea is a research and environmental organisation, working with university and college academics to build long term datasets to put towards conservation management goals. We recruit school groups to help out with the data collection, and train them in the skills and background that's needed to help effectively. The project lets school students get involved and help out with true research in a number of very special and unique locations. We aspire to educate and inspire, with a lecture series and experience gained from over ten years of running school expeditions. By 2017 we'll be operating in fourteen different countries worldwide, each project unique in it's own way.

School groups participating get the full support of our experienced team, with everything from advice on how to fund-raise, to what to expect when joining us and how to prepare. Some of the projects are not for the faint of heart!

A 2 week expedition is $1,925 - but this excludes flights/transfers

Questions & Answers

Reviews

97%
based on 72 reviews
  • Growth 9.3
  • Support 9.3
  • Fun 8
  • Housing 9
  • Safety 9.1
Showing 16 - 30 of 72
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David
10/10

Go go go go go go!

I was responsible for 16 students aged 16-19 from my English school. We had an extraordinary time. We travelled to Calukmal in Mexico for a week in the forest, trekking and surveying with expert scientists, visiting the Mayan ruins, enjoying fascinating lectures and just living the jungle life. Accommodation was basic but gave a real experience, and we would not have wanted it to be more touristy. The second week was spent diving in the Caribbean at Akumal, with more glamorous accommodation (air con and flushing toilets!) and expert tuition from Akumal Dive Centre.

Throughout the expedition Opwall staff were professional. We felt safe, but not too safe (it's the jungle in Mexico, not the New Forest in the UK). Arrangements were impeccable. We would go again - in fact we are, to Honduras with Opwall in 2018. Can't wait!

On the back of their experiences a number of my students changed their university plans, wrote EPQs or founded their UCAS statements on their travels. All have university offers, some unconditional, some expressly as a result of their work. Opwall changes lives. Go. Go now.

How can this program be improved?
I've got nothing. It was the best, the very best, experience of my 25 year career in school science and adventure holidaying.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Andrew
10/10

Best trip of my life

During my time in the Amazon I will say was the best trip of my life. During my stay I experienced people and cultures that I never would have experienced anywhere else. The trip also was an eye opener to what I want to do in my life. I also made some very good friends through the trip that even after two years I still keep in contact with. I was also able to use the trip as a good resource in school by contacting the biologists from the trip for information as well as insight on what or how to do something.

How can this program be improved?
Not in my case but based off what I observed with others on my trip people were not prepared, so prior to the trip inform the people on what the trip entails
Yes, I recommend this program
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Celia
10/10

My Experience in Dominica

After getting off the plane, in Roseau Dominica, I had no idea what was to come. All I knew is that I was excited. I heard we were working with scientists but wasn't sure if it'd be more like a vacation then actually learning.

To my surprise, everything was great. Obviously, theres things we would all like to change about any experience but looking back I think it just what I needed. We had comfortable sleeping arrangements, we had authentic food, and beautiful scenery. I couldn't ask for anything better.

My favorite part was when we began to work with the scientists. They were so interesting! They all had their own story on how they got to where are and all had an immense passion for their work. That was truly inspirational. We also got to know them as people and they were really cool and knew how to make us all laugh.

Another favorite part was diving. I found a new passion of mine. It was incredible discovering a new world up close and in person. I know that in the future I'll definitely go on more diving adventures.

I can go on and on for how much I liked it, but if you're some one who craves adventure, and loves the outdoors, and is curious about nature. I cannot think of a better trip for you. This is FOR you.

I'm planning another trip with OpWall in the summer of 2017 as a research assistant to Croatia! I can't wait!

~Celia

Yes, I recommend this program
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a
10/10

Madagascar 2016

Staying at Matesdroy was paradise. Where else in the world can you be relaxing in a hammock, enjoying the tranquillity and watching a group of Sifakas in the trees? The scenery was beautiful. The lake was like an oasis teeming with wildlife. The ability to disconnect from the rest of the world was refreshing, in stark contrast with the fast pace materialistic life full of distractions we generally live. Highly recommended for anyone, really.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Alistair
8/10

Operation Wallacea Madagascar 2015

I thoroughly enjoyed my expedition to Madagascar with OpWall, a few of the many highlights of the trip included diving in Nosy Be and staying at Matsedroy. I feel that the staff and University students were friendly, helpful and well informed, ensuring that the trip ran smoothly. I would recommend the trip to any sixth form or University students who are looking for an extra curricular activity to broaden their outlook.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Mo
9/10

Over Summer...

This summer, 2016, I went on this research expedition via my school to Samos and Lipsi islands in the Aegean sea near Turkey. I was not sure of what to expect per se but I was very satisfied with the trips I was part of over the Island of Samos. I first took part in a chameleon survey one night on which we were told the rarity of them and the importance of species conservation which I am very interested in.

I also took part in an insect survey which was great as this was done at night, same with the jackal survey which was very scary! Especially when we actually heard the reply of the packs of jackals roaming around us in the foresty area when we played the stock jackal sound.

Aside from the deep sea diving course which was great, as well as gaining a certified qualification, these trips to scour the island were really enlightening for me, and the classes we went on really opened my mind to the bigger picture of species conservation all over the Galapagos of islands.

How can this program be improved?
Bigger rooms for groups of students. The room I was in was very small at the hotel on Samos and had 8 students living in a very small area with one bathroom/shower. Also provide more fans in the summer as it gets hot!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Victoria
10/10

One of the best experiences

I went on Op. Wall to Sulawesi in Indonesia in 2015 and it was amazing. I knew before I went that I wanted to go down the ecology route in my studies but my trip to the Indonesian rainforest cemented my passion for my subject. I was amazed by the knowledge and zeal of the staff and how they taught us so much in so little time. One of my highlights had to be the canopy access course where by using high ropes we were able to climb to the top of one of the emergent trees in the canopy and could see for miles around not to mention the fact that a Draco lizard was on the branch opposite us. This is truly the adventure of a lifetime and the hammocks are so comfortable !

How can this program be improved?
I would have liked to spend more time in the jungle and less in the village.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Mike
9/10

South Africa 2016

Our base in Balule was a game lodge set on a river bank. There were crocodiles basking on the sand bank and hippos grazing or sleeping on the far shore. The day –to-day activities consisted of game drives (to identify animals), game transects and walks on foot. We had some memorable encounters; lions, elephants, leopard, hyena, giraffe and baboons. We came across elephants on the third day. We found ourselves in the middle of a herd of 13, crossing the road. The guide said: “don’t say a word, don’t even take photos, just shut up”. One of the matriarchs flared her ears at us and the leader gave her a nudge to stop her charging us. You could imagine her saying “leave it, they’re not worth it”. The only way the encounter could have been closer was if the truck had been rammed. Even the guide got out of the truck afterwards, visibly pale, and said “I need a cigarette after that - you’re not supposed to get that close.”
One evening, during the meal, the camp leader came in and said “stay quiet and go to the fence - there’s a leopard hunting”. And there was. A large male leopard walked past us, not bothered by the numerous lights trained on him.
For the second week we transferred to Sodwana Bay, near the Mozambique border. When not diving, we spent most of our time in the café which served coffee and toasties. The entertainment was provided by a troop of vervet monkeys who raided at random intervals. You could have your chips taken out of your hand if not careful. Sometimes they would steal food from the counter. The old lady who ran the place would come out with a catapult, which was less-than-effective but good for a laugh.
Sodwana Bay is a world-renowned dive site. The marine life is spectacular. Ironically, the snorkelers saw the most. They saw humpback whales in the distance, dolphins and a manta ray. The divers had some spectacular encounters including two huge potato bass, (black and white groupers, about 6 foot long), turtles, white-tip sharks and big morays.
Overall, it was a stunning trip. We ate impala stew and Mopani worms (actually caterpillars), saw how far we could spit impala poo (it’s a game, honest), danced with Zulus, slept under the stars and played football with elephant dung. It beats going to Southport.

How can this program be improved?
The dive week involved a lot of hanging around. Those who weren't qualified didn't see the beach until the 4th day - its all in my feedback.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Mandy
9/10

Indonesia..

This was probably the most personally challenging two weeks of my life, in particular the week spent in the rainforest, coping with the rain (not surprisingly) and the week was topped with the awesome experience canopying. The staff were incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, and although conditions were hard, everyone had a sense of achievement at the end of this week. The second week diving and snorkelling was an amazing experience too, the unspoilt beaches and reef wildlife meant it was an absolute privilege to be able to visit and enjoy the location.

Yes, I recommend this program
Sarah
10/10

Operation Wallacea: Indonesia, August 2015

This trip was amazing for my development academically and aided the inspiration of a project I did in my final year of school towards the conservation of dugongs in the UAE. It also made me see the different aspects of the world and what parts need more conservation to be promoted.
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It made me understand more as to why we need to help conservation of marine and land life and I've found more of a passion towards wanting to help this conservation movement. The Operation Wallacea team also helped me in figuring out how I could do that. I especially liked listening to the dissertations of the university students on Hoga Island, as well as the classes we had with one of the dive instructors who gave us more of an insight into marine life and conservation.
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As a whole, the trip was a massive adventure which was what I really needed at the time. I made many new friends, as I only came over with a small group with 3 other girls. We met Norwich Girls School and managed to get along really well with our team. The support staff were also amazing, especially in teaching and explaining their topic areas to us.
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I wouldn't even complain about the accommodation as it was an experience of living like a local. The family we stayed with were absolutely lovely and hospitable. Going on the jungle trek was also an amazing experience of sleeping outside (despite the leeches and spiders we may have found in our hammocks) and having to use a ditch as a toilet.
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I would also like to especially mention the Canopy Access crew, the opportunity they gave us was amazing and even support after when I had mentioned that I would further like to take up canopy climbing and getting my BCAP.
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As well as that, the guides we had on our tour were amazing and captured our interest in the way they described what they knew of the Indonesian jungle. This gave me a real sense of how important the conservation in Indonesia is and how much they considered it to be home.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Melissa
10/10

Mexico

The stand out memories from this are about the staff in the forest section of this two week experience. They were so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their field of work, and this definitely inspired our students throughout the week.

We really enjoyed taking part in all of the activities - the bat surveys were amazing, and all of our students thoroughly enjoyed painting the bats nails with nail varnish and measuring them before releasing them back in to the wild - a once in a life time opportunity!

How can this program be improved?
The accommodation in the marine section of this trip was lacking in shower and toilet facilities in Akumal, however I believe this has already been addressed and the location of the accommodation was set to be moving after our trip.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Jonathan
10/10

Indonesia 2016

Operation Wallacea is one of those rare opportunities in life for students to experience something completely life changing; to get a sense of the real world, its challenges, rigors and beauty. This was my second year leading a group of my students on Operation Wallacea to North Buton and Hoga island in Indonesia and despite the awful weather. It rained for the entire two weeks, and trust me if anything is going to dampen spirits its sleeping in a wet sleeping bag, there was no dampening of spirits among our cohort. The rain was greeted like an old friend and boots squelched on, whilst sipping coffee in the dim morning mist, as minds wandered to the hill of death that awaited us on our long trek to the forest transects. Indeed as one student recalled with a broad smile - "Operation Wallacea, its kinda like saving the world, one terrible trek at a time." After days in the field we would always return to our little boondock which became the epicenter of our jungle experiences. So much so that one night an improptu disc started with the locals and students sharing dances, music and magic. Pak Dessar - the local village headman - was left shaking his head as the cards move, the dancers swayed and the music played...all the time to the drum of the rain on the roof and the chirp of the Tarsier's which surround the camp.

Our week in the jungles could be summarized as incessant wetness, treks, transects, lectures, learning, friendships, dancing challenges and huge, huge enjoyment. We all left, treking out from our little camp, deep in contemplation, realizing that we had all experienced something far greater than the sum of its parts.

Week 2 - Diving and Hoga. As soon as we were met and whisked onto the boat, with some anticipation we awaited Hoga as it slowly chugged into view from behind a skirt of rain. It had a lot to live up to. Hoga is one of the most picturesque and stunningly beautiful islands in the world and it did not disappoint. As an active research base with many more university students from around the world Hoga feels very different. Its buzzes with activity, people zipping around on their own little missions all under the watchful eye (and instruction) of Pippa!

If I am honest you come to Hoga to dive - The diving is incredible - two dives a day for 5 days pushes students to their limits, but it is so, so worth it. The coral, the biodiversity of the marine ecosystem that rings this small island is stunning - out highlight was the school of Eagle rays, just hanging out off the reef, not doing much, just mooching around.

Then suddenly, it's over..at least for another year.

Operation Wallacea is one of the most incredible journeys any high school or secondary student can and should do. It pushes students to go beyond their envelope, their boundaries and opens their eyes to what was only heard of in school and through books

Opwell - see ya in 2017

Jon

Yes, I recommend this program
Kalina
10/10

Honduras 2015

This trip was truly the most remarkable 2 weeks of my life. Experiencing a new culture while having the opportunity to live in the breathtaking cloud forests and diving off Utila was a time I'll never forget. One of my favorite things on the trip were the herpetology walks. At first, our group moved slowly and clumsily, carefully scanning unfamiliar terrain for creatures we'd most likely never seen before. Occasionally, someone would point out a frog disappearing into the jungle or a snake retreating into a burrow. But as the week progressed, there was a universal development of a connection with our environment. Our eyes adjusted to the jungle landscape, and became familiar with the Craugastor and Exquisita frogs native to Cusuco National Park. It became normal to dive into the bushes without a moment's notice in pursuit of a species, and we all learned to treasure the accomplishment of finding a creature worth documenting. On one particular night walk, our group was fortunate enough to encounter a baby green pit viper dangling from a vine, and we waited and watched until a herpetologist came to safely capture and tag the snake. Nothing can beat being able to fully experience the environment at all times.

How can this program be improved?
Providing students with more fundraising support and more in depth counsel on how to pack would be helpful.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Liam
10/10

Great Trip!

The staff are all super friendly, the overall trip quality is great. Safety is off the charts- I felt as safe as I did at home. You'll learn a great deal of tricks and many new things, but you'll also find beautiful sights and creatures. Housing is not a problem at all, the one problem I had was getting a fly out. Travel was easy and quick, everything was taken care of and there was no hassle. Totally recommend signing up!!

Yes, I recommend this program
Danny
10/10

Honduras was lit!

When choosing to take a group of teenagers abroad, there is bound to be something that creates a lasting memory. More often than not, it is an injury, lost student or some small 'tragedy' that arises from the under-development of the teens frontal cortex. For me, the lasting memory involves two separate days but one incredible experience. When leaving base camp, I had endured a few days of prima dona experiences with one of my students. She complained too often about...well..everything! and to top it off her boyfriend was overly protective and over-involved in everything that she encountered from too heavy a backpack to having to use the rugged outdoors as a loo. When arriving at our high altitude camp, everyone set up their potential sleeping arrangements and we went to dinner and after dinner, in the rain went to gather data on amphibians. While on the evening adventure, my student went to bed. Upon our return the camp was alive with excitement about a rare viper that had been found at camp! As it turns out, the viper was quietly coiled up under the hammock of my student! Upon seeing the snake she calmly walked to the scientists and stated, "I think there is a snake under my hammock and you might be interested in seeing it." Here was this individual who we had come to believe couldn't handle the outdoors and she is the one who so calmly informed the scientists that there was a snake that might interest them.
Needless to say, the event changed our view of her and in fact changed her own outlook about the trip. Throughout the remainder of the trip, she was often the most active and engaged student. And....upon her return to the States, she was one of the most vocal about how great her trip had been. You never know what can happen!

How can this program be improved?
The only difficult part was all of the educational PowerPoints and talks and the timing of these events. They often fell after a long day and it made it difficult for some students to stay focused. As for me and my wife, it was all fantastic and even encouraged me to do another trip but to Indonesia.

In retrospect, I probably should have returned to Honduras.
Yes, I recommend this program

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About Operation Wallacea

Operation Wallacea is a network of academics from European and North American universities, who design and implement biodiversity and conservation management research programmes. Research is supported by students who join the programme, to strengthen...