Operation Wallacea

Program Reviews

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Fiona
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

A Truly Unique Experience

I had such a wonderful time in the Peruvian Amazon with OPWALL last summer! It was something that I signed up to without really thinking it through fully (because I would probably never have taken the chance, otherwise), but it was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I have made. Because there is nothing in the world that compares to waking up each morning to the urgent squawking of brightly-coloured macaws overhead, the splash of pink river dolphins out for an early morning hunt, and the low, stirring call of the howler monkey which echoes through the foliage on all sides.

The two-week expedition was packed full of exciting, varied and genuinely meaningful fieldwork tasks, ranging from fishing and mist-netting to bat-counting and caiman-catching. Not only were all of the tasks exciting and awe-inspiring in themselves, offering a unique set of close-up encounters with species endemic to the most biologically diverse region on Earth, but we were constantly surrounded by the knowledge that what we were doing was actually helping to make a difference. By contributing invaluable data to the fieldwork studies, we were playing our part in sustainable rainforest management,to ensure its protection for the wildlife and communities reliant upon its resources. And all whilst having the time of our lives!

The OPWALL staff and the natives played an enormous part in helping to make the trip so enjoyable. They really looked after us throughout the trip, right from the moment the plane landed in Iquitos, and not only that, but we were entertained each evening with activities from pub quizzes to a particularly memorable night of salsa dancing! The staff have dedicated most of their lives to observing and studying the species in the Amazon in meticulous detail, and so had so much wisdom to share with us, which they did through a series of fascinating biodiversity lectures held throughout the trip. The local people working on the boats could not have been more friendly and welcoming, and the extent of their skills and talents when it came to producing souvenir crafts for us to take home, using resources from the rainforest, has to be seen to be believed...!

Another highlight of the trip was visiting the village of San Martin de Tipishca on the return boat journey to Nauta. The local children there were so delighted to see the boat again (the arrival of which is clearly viewed as a big event!), and the local people showed us great gratitude for the gifts of toys, clothes and medical provisions which we took for them. It was really promising to see the developments which had taken place there over the past few years, and in particular the brand new school, which was about to open. And it was extremely thought-provoking to see the hopeful faces of the children beaming, in spite of the poverty that surrounded them. In addition to this, what better way to spend the final afternoon of the trip than by feeding manatees their greens at the rehabilitation centre near Iquitos?!

Overall, I cannot recommend undertaking an expedition with OPWALL highly enough, to anyone who is interested in conservation and willing to experience an extraordinary ecosystem which so many talk about, but so few have actually set foot in. Even as a mere Geography student, with no expert knowledge or experience in biological surveying techniques, I got a huge amount out of the trip, and learnt a great deal along the way. OPWALL were there supporting me right from the start, providing tips and guidance for fundraising and detailed packing lists and tutorials to ensure that I was fully prepared for the expedition, and that I had a brilliant time.

I couldn't have been happier with my trip to the Amazon with OPWALL, and I strongly urge you to push the boat out next summer and join them, too. You will never regret it.

Miles
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Unforgettable experience in Madagascar

This was an amazing experience and definitely one of the best trips I have been on. All of the different animals that we saw were so different from anything I had seen before. I discovered a new interest in snakes and many other animals that we studied. I made many new friends who will stay with me for a long time. This experience has opened my eyes to the different living conditions and cultures of different people in other countries.

What would you improve about this program?
Improve the sleeping and travel arrangements.
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Alisha
4/5
Yes, I recommend this program

A magical splash in the ocean

On the long travel up the coast, as we stopped in the resort for an evenings rest, myself and the other teacher snuck away for a quick dip in the ocean. As we entered, the waves and fleeing fish turned bright blue with luminescence. Soon the whole camp was out for a midnight swim, chasing blue fish and painting blue snow angels in the water. It was a magical splash that was uncapturable by a camera and left only in memories and stories.

What would you improve about this program?
The dive site was not ready for us as the first group and provided very little scientific value.
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Katie
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

South Africa

When we arrived on the outskirts Balule National Park we began the drive in we began the journey of a life time, within 5 minutes an Elephant was only 20 metres away, and every single on of us on that vehicle we speechless. However moments later we drove for the maximum of 1km before we saw not one but two black rhinos. They are one of the rarest animals on the planet and we had the privilege of seeing not only an adult female, but also its calf. The reality of what we had just seen finally set in when our ranger, had to call in on his radio the location and time we saw these two rhinos. We had only been there 10 minutes and we had already seen of the rarest animals on the planet, that is when I knew this was going to be the trip of a lifetime.

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Antoinette
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Opwall Transylvania Expedition Review - Butterflies! Everywhere!

I am very new to travelling, although not new to ecology and field work. Nonetheless, signing up for the Transylvania Expedition was a huge move for me - and I am thrilled I decided to join in!
This trip represented 1) my first time backpacking in Europe 2) First trip to Romania 3) First time camping and doing field work for a lengthy period of time.

A few things I noticed: It really helps to be fit. You will learn soon enough that you will be doing a lot of hiking, and it will really work your muscles! As well, stay hydrated and take care of yourself when you get back to camp.

This experience was wonderful overall. The camp and schedules were extremely well organized, and the camp was well stocked with medical materials if anyone were to fall ill. The staff were friendly, attentive, and addressed any concerns. We could have used a bit more time to rest to remain on form throughout the trip though! This experience allowed me to test my own endurance, to learn many new and cool skills, and to meet plenty of awesome people along the way. It was a safe intro to field work and camping, and an excellent stepping stone for future experiences abroad. I highly recommend it!

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Emily
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

AMAZING experience

This trip was definitely the most unforgettable trip I have ever experienced. It was the perfect balance between learning and fun. Academically, I gained so much knowledge about ecology while on this trip as well as about the forest itself. However, when we got back for the night things got really fun as well. I made lifelong friends on this trip and I feel like since we shared this trip together we're all connected through it. I also feel like I had more opportunity to learn about the Amazon river than anyone else my age. I was completely surrounded by experts who knew the answer to just about any question that came to mind. It was fascinated to be surrounded by such knowledgeable people and this trip is the reason I have decided to go to college for science. In addition to the positive social environment and environment filled of knowledge, it also helped me practice my Spanish skills. I am a seventh year Spanish student and I feel like the staff and native people taught me more about the language than I have ever learned sitting within a classroom.

What would you improve about this program?
Honestly, I feel like this program is so solid and amazing as it is. I would not change one part of it if it were up to me.
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Paul
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Opened my eyes...

I am a theology doctoral student and I came to Romania to see how scientific research is carried out first hand. What I experienced was incredible and has changed my outlook on life in a real way.
The care and dedication of the survey leaders was outstanding. Not only did they know there areas of expertise but they where engaging and helpful. Each day was filled with new experiences, from trekking bears, to catching birds and chasing butterflies.
I had left my children at home to come on this trip and I missed them incredibly but I had so many stories to tell them when I came back of what we did and saw.
I spent time on the computer showing them my pictures but also looking up the other species that we had seen from scoops owls, to black woodpeckers and wild boar.
They have learnt so much and have now the same affinity with nature that I have had since I came back from Romania.
I loved my time there and would recommend it to anyone.

What would you improve about this program?
The food was at times not great but the people providing it were trying there best.
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Andrew
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Expedition to Mexico

"Not just the best school trip but the best holiday I have ever been on." This was a quote from a pupil after our expedition to the Yucatan Peninsula and Akumal and it pretty much summed up the trip for the group. The staff were fantastic, the journey was challenging and the experience a once in a life time. The pupils went on the trip from a range of different backgrounds and friend circles but after a week in the jungle became close friends. Bring on the next trip in 2017!

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Barbara
4/5
Yes, I recommend this program

3 Cuban projects, one week to do them

Firstly, I really enjoyed the first week of the expedition where we learned to dive. Being out on the water and having the beauty of shallow, crystal clear water, all around you with little islands in the distance made me feel like I was on vacation.
The only thing that upset me was losing two days of diving because of weather and boat malfunctions, ALTHOUGH at the same time I was grateful for that becasue it gave me time to explore Havan which I otherwise wouldn't have been able to do.

But in terms of the research I was a bit disappointed becasue altough there were 3 projects going on I didn't feel like I was getting the true research experience. It was just data collection. We didn't get to analyze anything or see past data that the professors were working on. It was very limited and becasue of that there was a lot of free time. With that free time it was difficult finding interesting thingsto do near the end of the expedition.

But I did learn how to collect data and what it takes to be a researcher, which is a lot of patience since most of the tasks you will be doing are repeats of the previous day. I also learned a lot about the marine life in Cuba and it has come up a lot in some of the lectures I took this year so I am satisfied with the outcome.

The social experience was wonderful. From what I know there wasn't any major drama that happened and I definitiely can say I made new international friends which thankfully, I still keep in touch with.

What would you improve about this program?
Efficiency, more warning of having a lot of free time, engaging students to do more work that is related to "after data collection", assess the circumstance of the country/place of research before so any necessary adjustments can be made before the volunteers arrive.
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Rosa
4/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Vulcanology Day

On the last day of our terrestrial week we went on a vulcanology tour around the island Dominica. It was amazing as we had our own expert tour guide and went to see all these volcano ruins. We also went to a waterfall site and got to swim in small bodies of fresh water, which was absolutely beautiful and a once in a lifetime experience. On the same day we hiked up a sulfur deposit area on the side of a volcano which led to one of the prettiest sights I have ever seen. All in all this day was filled with amazing views and opportunities and was most likely the best day of the entire trip.

What would you improve about this program?
By preparing the students more for exactly what they're expecting and what they will need to bring for where they are staying.