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 61 - 72 of 72
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David
9/10

Operation Wallacea 2015:

Going on this expedition was something I had never done before. I have been living in South East Asia for the past three years so I am used to the culture and the nature here yet this trip showed more even more of this part of the world.

The trip that I went on was with my International School in Singapore and I was very nervous about going. I wasn't sure what the accommodation would be like, if the food would be nice and if I would have any fun. The people I was going with weren't friends of mine at school and I was worried I would spend the whole trip alone. However, within the first few days I loved it. We started the trip with a week in the jungle monitoring the wildlife. The science itself was very hands on and it was great to feel that I was contributing to actual research that could save this forrest. Hiking and camping in the jungle was like the best scout camp I could ever go on times 2. Everything was very well organised and everything was provided for in the jungle also.

The second week of the trip was at the marine site. This is the part that I remember the best and which I learnt the most from. I had got my diving qualification a week before this trip and was still pretty terrified of being several meters under the surface but I was hooked within hours. I actually enjoyed the diving so much that I completed my 'Advanced Open water diver' qualification with the dive instructors there. I also learnt so much about the ocean and the state that the global fish populations are in. What we learnt about our oceans in the lectures was very depressing and it shows that we need more expeditions like this to create marine protected area.

The worries that I mentioned earlier about going on the trip were all set aside. The food and accommodation was great for the most part and I really bonded with the small group that I was with during the time we had spent on the trip. When I wasn't talking to school friends I was talking with the leaders and university students who were all super friendly and really showed a keen interest in the work that Opwall is doing. Overall this trip was a real eye opener into current environmental affairs but also a great personal experience.

Yes, I recommend
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Emily
10/10

Trip of a Lifetime

We spent a week in the Rainforest, in the North Buton forest camp, and the best part was on the second day of the expedition. we had come back from the butterfly survey and heard screams. The local guides and the Scientists ran into the Forest and then came back to tell us that a 7m python was eating a snake, just 5 minutes away from our camp. Because of them with us, making sure that we were safe and that it wouldn't become dangerous, we were allowed to go and see a the snake when it had swallowed the Pig. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had, and i know i will remember it forever!

How can this program be improved?
the only way it can be improved is through making the trek times more accurate. they would say we only had an hour to walk and it would turn out to be more like 2 hours. However, the camp was amazing, especially as all of it had to be handmade and carrier in by hand, to get into the forest.
Yes, I recommend
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Helena
10/10

Indonesia in the eyes of a school pupil

I went to Indonesia with a group of year 12s and 13s and 2 biology teachers from my school and it was an unforgettable experience. Indonesia is the furthest I have ever travelled but the excitement made it less nerve-wracking, when we reached Indonesia we then had a series of travel and accomodation until we reached the remote island of Buton, our group was based in the South forest camp, Bala, which required us to boat over to the forest and walk for 4 hours to our secluded camp. Although this was hard especially due to prior rain making it muddy our guides helped us immensely, including taking people's bags. Over the week at the forest camp we participated in many surveys, including listening to birds and measuring amphibians as well as short lectures on the biodiversity of the forest. The facilities were amazing considering we were miles into a forest and the equipment would have had to be carried into camp. The toilets were westernised but we used the traditional Indonesian mandis (a large tub of water with a scoop) to shower, which was a lot easier, more efficient and fun to use than anticipated. Also the huge river running through the forest was helpful, we washed our clothes, occasionally bathed and had a river party there on our last day...But by far the most important and special asset to this camp was the amazing volunteers and locals. Firstly, the volunteers are all so fun, interesting and friendly, they have so many stories to tell and are great at their jobs. They are so enthusiastic about what they do as well, when I was about to do my tree canopy access (which I 100% recommend, it is beautiful) Jesse, the amphibian and reptile expert, got a call from camp telling him 'a python has eaten a pig' just next to camp. This was exciting for everyone but Jesse was giddily running back down to camp, I think that is the most important thing Opwall offers; professionals who are great to work with and love their job. Next, the Indonesians that stayed with us, many of them live in Buton and travelled over with us, they are the loveliest and funniest people you could meet. Our cooks were amazing, our guides cared for our safety and knew the forest so well and our medic had a cure for everything (if you get spiked by a caterpillar rub some ash on it). The atmosphere in the camp was great and everyone had fun.

Our next stop was the marine site of Hoga and another set of boats, cars and hotels to get there, when we arrived there the views were amazing. At this site we spent the week doing 2 sessions of either snorkelling or diving a day. I snorkelled and it was really cool and fun however as this was all we were doing (we could not collect data due to no training) it got boring at times. Reflecting back on this I would now chose the dive training. The atmosphere was also very different than the forest, in the forest the group was a lot smaller and more intimate - our school, a few university students and the staff - whereas at the marine staff it was crowded with university students. At times, I felt these students would look down on us and frequently I noticed many of the girls went against the dress code and showed a little too much flesh than appropriate for a muslim country, this included wearing short shorts or even walking around in just a rash vest pulled over their bum. I hope Opwall will use this feedback to enforce the dress code more as I felt it unfair on the locals. Another problem was the littering, I understand that it is in the Indonesian's culture to throw their rubbish in the water, however due to the site's purpose I felt that the amount of litter covering the coral holes around the island was too much. Maybe a couple of bins around the walkways would encourage less littering? We also visited the close Bajau village called Sampela (village built in the sea), this was one of the most extraordinary places I have been and the kids were fascinating and fearless. All in all the site and island was beautiful and offered some great opportunities, I only picked up on these faults due to comparison.

Thank you Opwall for an amazing experience, the work and dedication that goes into ensuring everyone has fun, from the head of the Indonesian sites down to a diving instructor, attention was given to all our needs and speaking on behalf of my school we had an unforgettable trip that was worth all of the money. I would recommend this to everyone who wants to explore the world and different cultures, the good thing about going with the school is you get the opportunity without needing to study biology at university. The 2 week trip crams so much into it and some of my experiences mentioned are just a few, you will do things that you thought exceeded your abilities, you will become more humble and most of all you will create memories that will stay with you and adapt you as a person. My advice to those doing a similar trip as I have done is;
- Say 'Hey Mr!' or wave to everyone in the small villages that you drive past in Buton, you will never see strangers so happy to see you
- Buy a traditional Buton sarong
- Learn their language
- Take a pack of cards
- Take tons of photos (any photos you take with locals, show them)
- Have fun!!!

Yes, I recommend
Lewis
9/10

Honduras Jungle Base Camp

From the moment I arrived at jungle base camp in Honduras, I knew I was on track to have a great week. There are so many reasons to recommend it. The first thing I noticed upon arriving was the set of stalls that the locals had set up to sell visitors snacks and keepsakes. I visited these stalls often throughout the week and I still treasure the hand-carved, hand-painted bird statuette that I bought, which I chose to remind me of the real bright-yellow bird I saw.
The thing I enjoyed most about the jungle base camp was the light trapping - using a bright floodlight shone on a sheet to attract moths and other insects. They were mesmerising and beautiful to look at, I could have stared for hours.
Another notable experience was seeing the species of bird that dances along tree branches to attract a mate. Where else can you see that? I was so fascinated by the birds that the bird expert staff member took me on an extra bird-watching hike. This is a good example of how friendly the staff are!
Finally, the educational part of the experience is not boring or pointless, but actually quite fun. As well as gaining an insight into which species were endemic to Honduras (only found there), I have learned how to classify species and even have been shown a live wild vampire bat up close!
There are so many reasons why this trip is more than worth doing, don't miss out on this excellent opportunity!

Yes, I recommend
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Joanne
9/10

South Africa 2016 - what an experience

We had a fantastic week at Struwig camp. Toby is an amazing character and the students will never forget his enthusiasm and goodwill. The game drives surpassed expectations and the elephants were out in force. All participants were so terribly sad to leave the camp.

So...what are the abiding stories that keep being reflected on back at school. The time we followed a hyena? The elephant that threatened to charge? The manta rays at Sodwana Bay? Strangely enough, its the small things! Yep, the really small things - insects in fact. It seems that setting up insect traps and delving through dung are as abiding positive memories as the big game and marine megafauna. I'd never have guessed.

Thank you Opwall.

How can this program be improved?
Feedback already given about diving concerns.
Yes, I recommend
Emily
10/10

Honduras

I traveled with OpWall with a group from my old high school. At the time I went, I was going into my second year of college studying environmental studies and biology. This trip was a great chance for me to get hands on experience in the field of study that I enjoyed and also gave me a chance to see if I wanted to go into research or not. Since I technically went with high school students, I wasn't a research assistant and didn't have a big part to play in the actual science, but I still really enjoyed being out in the field and learning from the scientists who taught us what we look for when collecting data. That is to say, though, that we did have a big part to play in the overall Operation Wallacea program however. As a group, we helped the scientists find certain organisms and collect data on habitation, etc. We spent most of our time out in the forest or scuba diving in the Caribbean.
During our week in the Cusuco National Park, we slept in tents that were set up on platforms above the ground. The fact that they actually had make shift stalls and toilets was amazing seeing as how we were in the middle of a forest and wanted to keep our carbon foot print as little as possible. The base camp living standards are pretty comfortable; you have basic electricity and natives to the small village not too far from our base camp actually cook food for you. It is good food too, however if you rely on meat for most of your diet you might need to bring jerky with you because they don't have access to a lot of meat. For part of the week we also stayed in a satellite camp in the middle of the jungle. These camps are literal camps because you either sleep in a hammock or in a tent on the hard ground. They have dug holes and trenches to use as the bathroom (I thought it would be horrible, but it wasn't that bad). I got sick while at this site and the medic was very attentive to me. They were ready to airlift me out if I didn't get better, but I did. When you go to satellite camps, it requires strenuous hiking with your heavy rucksack on your back so it does require you to be in okay shape. But honestly, the hiking was half the fun. It really allowed us to see the forest and experience it hands on. I love the green and all things nature so it was so much fun for me to go on hikes with the scientists looking for amphibians and snakes. One time we actually spotted a rattlesnake that was hidden under some leaves; it was a gorgeous yellow tan color.
The second week of our two week trip was spent on the island of Utila off the northern coast of Honduras. Op Wall plans everything for you so all you have to do is follow directions. The living standards on Utila are better than base camp because we are living in a hostel situation where there are 7 people per room with 4 sets of bunk beds. We had running water and our own bathroom in our room. We were right on the ocean and could see it out of our window. Since we were there in the summer it was quiet hot and there was no AC, but what do you expect for such a small island. We were living in luxury compared to the rest of the country. We went scuba diving twice a day for six days and it was a great experience.
This trip made me grow as a person and also made me realize that this is something that I want to do for the rest of my life. To experience another part of this beautiful earth was such an amazing thing for me because it reaffirmed my goals of saving this planet and conserving the wildlife that we threaten. For the parents out there, we were constantly with trained professionals who knew what they were doing (i.e. doctors, tour guides who knew the forest like the back of their hand, op wall people who do this year after year) so your 15/16 year old will be just fine. It is a good experience for them to learn responsibility too. I went with 16 year-olds and one 15 year-old and I can say that they needed to learn a thing or two about what it means to be a mature and responsible adult and hopefully they achieved that while working with OpWall. I would love to go on another trip with OpWall soon!

How can this program be improved?
During the week in Utila, I got a bit bored with just learning about the marine ecosystem. I would have liked to do more hands on work like the scientists were doing or at least watch what their process was. They were also studying the lion fish when I came to the island and I would have loved to learn more about that/help out in their work.
Yes, I recommend
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Ellen
10/10

My expedition

Being able to witness what I've only ever seen on the television was amazing. The vast biodiversity of the cloud forest was an unforgettable experience and the knowledge of the scientists and volunteers only helped to further my own knowledge and deepen my interest. A particularly memorable part of the terestrial week was when we went on a point count walk along one of the transects and helped to record all of the species of bird by just their call. Being able to develop this skill was a great opportunity and extremely fun. The same can be said for the marine week also, going out on dives every single day and learning all of the signs for the different species was fantastic. Overall the trip was something I will never forget and has definitely aided my ambition to be a part of a project such as this in the future!

Yes, I recommend
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Rebecca
10/10

An Amazing 2 Weeks in South Africa

It was exciting to take on the challenge of taking a group of biology students to Africa, and as the date of departure drew near, a little scary as well! We had spent a year preparing for this, meeting regularly as a group to; get to know one another, complete our PADI qualifications, learn about the research we were going to take part in and the areas we would be visiting, discussing ways of managing risk, packing, getting vaccinated and the list goes on. The levels of excitement grew and I was a little nervous that the high expectations we had developed might not be met. As it turns out, we had nothing to fear. This was an amazing expedition and it exceeded our expectations on almost every level. During our first week we were lucky enough to have fairly close encounters with elephants, lions, wild dogs, black and white rhino, hyena, scorpions, giraffe, baboon, zebra, buffalo and of course a plethora of antelope varieties! Our second week was so different but no less rewarding with multiple dives every day in the beauty of Sodwana Bay. Thanks to the incredible organisation and expertise of OpWall staff we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, we learned a lot, we experienced everything we had hoped for and more. Our students have returned with greater independence, confidence, motivation, a broader view on careers and opportunities, and some great stories!

Yes, I recommend
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Gavin
10/10

Honduras 2015 trip

I had an amazing adventure on this expedition. The knowledge I gained about evolution, biology, and marine biology was extensive. The staff were knowledgeable and great teachers.
Additionally this trip provided first hand experience and career exploration into what biologist and other academics do in the field. I had no idea what amazing opportunities were available to those studying abroad. After the trip I gained a new appreciation for the work and understood how one could become involved in that type of experience.

The Cultural and social aspects of this trip were also eye opening. I made valuable friendships and explored a rich and vibrant culture. The cultural understanding i gained was one that will last me a life time.

This trip was an amazing experience and I would do it again in a heart beat.

Yes, I recommend
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Jason
10/10

Review of Opwall South Africa 2016

From start to finish, we had an experience that left and indelible mark on all of our lives. Many of the students have talked of trying to make a career out of the work done or have shifted their focus to include this type of work. The guides and staff had enthusiasm for the work and the students. They were just as excited to see the wildlife as we were! From stories around a campfire at bush camp, to making a very rare spotting - a pangolin - to diving with a sea turtle, our kids got see an amazing part of this world and Opwall made it possible!

How can this program be improved?
Can't think of anything right now.
Yes, I recommend
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Stella
10/10

South Africa 2016

I travelled with my school to South Africa in July and it was probably the best experience of my life. The first week in Balule was incredible- we saw a leopard cross the front of camp whilst eating dinner, and my personal highlight was the night spent in bush camp hearing lions roar close by. The next week in Sodwana Bay was amazing too. On our last dive, our instructor thought he could hear dolphins but we couldn't see any. When we resurfaced, the skipper told us we had been swimming below a whale! It had been right above us on the buoy line and we were completely oblivious. It was an unforgettable 2 weeks.

How can this program be improved?
More time in the community/ free time (in sodwana)
Yes, I recommend
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Tahia
10/10

South Africa

I had never been to an African country before, so had no idea what to expect. The South Africa Expedition was absolutely incredible, I have never enjoyed my experience in a new country as much as I did in South Africa. Waking up, jumping on the back of a 'bakkie' to chase down lions at 6:00am is a memory I'll never forget. I almost don't want to go back to South Africa because i know I'll never live such a great 2 weeks there again. Truly amazing!

Yes, I recommend

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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...