A lot of people studying wildlife will agree, growing up and seeing the Amazon rainforest on TV made it the dream destination due to the huge abundance and diversity of wildlife. What it fails to capture is the atmosphere generated by the incredible rainforest sounds- insects, so many different bird calls and of course the distinctive howler monkeys that can be heard for miles-the excitement of being the one to spot something, or seeing some interesting animals and behaviour. Even the wellies full of water when slipping on a log have their own charm in the Amazon.
As someone with a strong interest in cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) no trip sounded better than getting to see all the diversity the rainforest had to offer alongside my favourites- one of the few places in the world you can find river dolphins! And were they abundant, you couldn't go a boat journey without seeing the pink river dolphins (the other species, the grey dolphins, were less commonly seen but still exciting), a lot less variable than spotting cetaceans at sea and without the rough conditions! One great feature of Operation Wallacea is that on the 4 week+ projects they encourage you to specialise in your favourite surveys and increase your expertise in that. This allowed me to focus on the dolphins and really get the most out of the experience, although this was not limited and I still enjoyed partaking in other surveys.
Unforgettable memories were made, being completely surrounded by these strange, primitive-looking dolphins was fantastic and the best surveys were the few that the dolphins associated with the boat and followed us all the way down the channel. If you're lucky you may get a sighting of one of the rarer animals on the reserve such as jaguars or the harpy eagle. As someone who loves aquatic mammals, the rarer species I was keen to see was the giant river otter, which is endangered but occasionally encountered on surveys. I'd just about given up hope of seeing one when on our last day, our Peruvian guide spotted and pointed out two just ahead and it was an incredible experience, truly lucky on our final day!
Other highlights included the caiman and mist netting surveys- getting hands on to collect important data with such amazing animals was an experience!- seeing bizarre animals like the electric eel up close, observing lots of monkey species and sloths regularly and of course the amazing people I met through the trip, my fellow volunteers who are sure friends for life. Operation Wallacea had great organisation and information prior to leaving and when there. The Peruvian guides on site were wonderful people who were eager to share their knowledge of the rainforest- their home- and it was truly a joy to learn from them.
I would highly recommend Opwall to anyone wanting to experience conservation as the research done here is funded by you and generates very important data on climate change in one of the world's most incredible places. Lectures ensure the trip is very educational and you will come away enriched from the experience, even beforehand if you fundraise for the expedition! It also allows you to visit a remarkable country, my friend and I took a few days at the end of the trip to visit Machu Picchu- when in Peru! I would like to thank Operation Wallacea for the opportunity and again recommend it to possible future volunteers to allow this great research to continue.