Biodiversity Research Institute in the Tropical Forest of Brazil

Video and Photos

IPBio Team
IPBio Team
Bioluminescent Mushroom Research
Bioluminescent Mushroom Research
Waterfalls
Waterfalls
Amphibian Research
Amphibian Research
Tree Inventory
Tree Inventory
Caving
Caving
Dolphins on the Islands off Cananeia
Dolphins on the Islands off Cananeia
Volunteer Room
Volunteer Room

About

The Biodiversity Research Institute (IPBio) is a place where research meets conservation. IPBio is an NGO that develops projects in environmental education and scientific research on biodiversity, ecology and on the behavior of species. In addition, IPBio 's mission is to encourage conservation, management and sustainable use of natural resources; promote the development of eco-tourism and cultural projects.

With only 7% of the Atlantic Forest remaining, we are rapidly losing one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots. 200 birds and 21 primates are endemic. Conservation is critical.

Volunteer Roles:
1) In Research Projects: Bioluminescent Mushrooms; Bioacoustics Project; Tree Inventory and Monitoring; Amphibian Research
2) Reserve Maintenance and Gardening: maintain trails, aquarium and microclimate greenhouse
3) Photographers/Movie Producers: wildlife photography; produce volunteer videos; short documentaries; our videos have been used by Discovery Channel

Highlights
  • Visiting the town with the highest concentration of bioluminescent mushrooms in the world
  • Gaining hands on experience in the field of research and conservation
  • Participate in exciting activities such as tubing and visiting caves and waterfalls
  • Work for an organization which received accreditation as an advanced outpost of The Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO

Related Programs

Questions & Answers

Reviews

96%
based on 93 reviews
  • Impact 9.1
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.6
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.5
  • Housing 8
  • Support 10
  • Fun 10
  • Value 10
  • Safety 10
Showing 16 - 30 of 93
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Larissa
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

unforgettable life changing experience, forest you took my soul!

It was the most beautiful place I've ever seen! It was simply incredible to explore so many different plants, animals and observe the biodiversity in one place only. I enjoyed having a mixture of film work and "eco biology- work" especially because I could combine my passion for nature and being involved in different projects of the Reserva. The time I spent there exceeded all my expectations!
They are certain rules to follow, If you're not too rebel you will not get kicked out, don't worry, the IpBio Crew was really super super kind, if you just follow the rules :P.

The working experience, was magical and the free time experiences even more magical
Living in the forest felt a bit like Avatar. There are glowing mushrooms and glowing insects, what I've found so fascinating. You see a million shining stars, even the milky way and each day you feel all the beauty of the universe. Everything was well organised, the volunteer's, IpBio Crew Are, and local people I've met were amazing and the moments I spent were just unforgettable, I will keep them in my heart!
The forest showed and taught me one more time, why humans should protect nature, instead of destroying it and how important animals as well plants are for our biodiversity and life on planet earth. A big thank you to the Institute making this trip possible and I hope I can come back and stay longer.

What would you improve about this program?
For me everything was super perfect, there was nothing to improve for me personally!
Default avatar
Marie
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An amazing time!

I had a wonderful time at the Betary reserve. I chose the eco-volunteer role as I would like to get into conservation work in the future and wanted to have some experience with field work.

It was a great opportunity to learn about the biodiversity of the Mata Atlantica forest and to get involved in on-going research. The eco-volunteer programme included several different projects and I really enjoyed learning about the area's biodiversity from all various angles.

The location itself is beautiful and the staff were kind and welcoming. The group of volunteers I stayed with were lovely and when we were not working we would do lots of things together, such as enjoy weekend trips to beautiful locations nearby.

I had an unforgettable time at the Betary Reserve and I would definitely recommend it.

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Chandler
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Out of my comfort zone, and grateful!

After 5 weeks as an amphibian researcher I can say being here has taught me so much. My background is in microbiology but working with tadpoles is nothing I've ever done before. There's many chances to think freely and create your own projects. It is also such a unique place that your experiences here capture your attention but also the attention of future employers as well. My favorite activities were working with the tadpoles and going on excursions on the weekend with all the other volunteers. You get to learn and experience not only the Brazilian culture, but also the culture of all the volunteers from all of the world. I would recommend making it a priority to get to know the biologists and staff that work here; they are so passionate and have real life experience with conservation work.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
What you get out of it is up to you, take advantage
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Juliana
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Commentary

After staying here for four months, I would highly recommend this program to any nature-lover, as during the program you are constantly in contact with the astounding amount of biodiversity the Atlantic rainforest offers, and not just during working as a volunteer, but pretty much 24/7, as that you live directly upon the reserve. the staff here are friendly, easy-going, and are also incredibly knowledgeable about the flora and fauna, and so every time you work with them, it’s a learning experience. The work in the program is engaging, and what I found impressive, is that it is also always evolving; volunteers can suggest improvements to pre-existing projects as well as suggest new projects to add to the program, so that it is constantly improving. I would suggest that if you are going for about or over two months to get involved with a project, as some project can get a little repetitive after about 8 weeks. Also, there are seasonal differences which can affect the viewing of certain wildlife; for instance in the late summer here you are more likely to see many various species of frogs, but most likely will not see any of the monkey species, but in the winter it will in reverse.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
if you are staying around or over two months, get involved in a project as activities after 8 weeks can become repetitive
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Lucy
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Lots of different activities

I spent one month at the betary reserve and had an amazing experience. I got to take part in lots of surveys and also work in the amphibian laboratory. I enjoyed having a mixture of lab and fieldwork and particularly enjoyed being in the river, catching fish for the fish inventory. My favourite part was working in the amphibian laboratory, supporting with the various tadpole studies. I had no real experience in a laboratory before so it was an invaluable opportunity for me. I learned so much and it was exciting to be part of practical research. The atmosphere is very supportive, with the staff really listening to your ideas.There was a lot of free-time, which sometimes dragged, but the location is beautiful and you can always go to the local town or there are some restaurants/bars down the road.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
When a tree snake fell out of a tree onto the decking in front of us with a huge smacking noise!
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Malaurie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A once in a lifetime experience!

I spent almost 4 months at Reserva Betary as an amphibian researcher. These 4 months were the best 4 months of my entire life. Surrounded by all this nature and biodiversity, I felt like I wanted to stay here forever. The researches that are going on are very interesting. As an amphibian researcher, you spend quiet some time in the lab with frogs and tadpoles, the remaining time you will spend outside. I think this is a great balance. I met some amazing people and made some great memories that I will carry the rest of my life. The house where volunteers stay in, is very comfortable. There is a lot of kitchen equipment available and the location is very beautiful. My favorite spot was the river. I loved swimming and chilling there after a hard day of work. I would definitely recommend this experience!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
We went to Cananeía in our free time. There, I swam with dolphins in the sea. They come very close! It's amazing to see. We also saw some alligators in town.
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Eva
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My 3 months at IPBio

First of all, I have to say that my three months at the betary reserve of IPBio have been amongst the best ones of my life. I was there as an amphibian researcher, but this took up less than half of my working time here, the other time I spent together with the eco-volunteers. I always loved the workdays as, even though we worked on a more or less fixed weekly schedule, every day was new and unique in its own way. A big part of this has to do with the mindboggling nature. I think the Atlantic rainforest is greatly underestimated by the wider public. Even I had never even heard of it, Brazil’s rainforest is the Amazon right? But once I arrived here, I knew I was in my own little paradise. It was not only the visit of monkeys or the colorful butterflies everywhere, not even the hummingbirds which are flying around your head like little helicopters, it was the extreme diversity of this place. And because you are volunteering here you live in the forest and through your work you get to interact with the place like no holiday ever can. You start learning the scientific names of a variety of sighted birds, search for macroinvertebrates or just help weeding in the greenhouse. You can feel that your work is valuable and needed and it is apparent that every volunteer makes a contribution to sustaining this wonderful place. As an amphibian researcher I started getting attached to the frogs in our care and see tadpoles grow, and all of this in the name of scientific research and the conservation of this unique place. Of course, it is a non-profit organization and it doesn’t have the facilities an established university has, but we have the dedication to improvise and make it work. The living space was surprisingly comfortable with a working kitchen, a sofa and TV, the rooms have either AC od a fan and the beds are made every week. The weekend activities made the experience complete, whether it was going downriver on a boia or hiking to a cave or going to swim with dolphins in Cananeia!
I have fallen in love with this place, with the stars during the night, the people, the bioluminescent mushrooms and everything else! Leaving IPBio is definitely the hardest thing I have done in my gap year.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
First of all, read the volunteer package and bring a laptop. And then if you stay for two months or longer, apply for a specialisation. You still get to do most of the regular projects but you also have an additional one to immerse yourself in.
Zane
Zane
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I adore being there

I am Zane from Latvia. I was in Reserva Betary in Brazil for 2 months as eco volunteer where I could help for different nature observation projects.
It was amazing!!! Great job, awesome people, beautiful nature, cute animals, glowing mushrooms, fresh air and just wonderful living, traveling and working experience.
I adore that besides all other amazing activities (bird, mushroom, fish, habitant, etc. inventories) I also had a chance to see and to take some photos of butterflies and moths as well as other animals.
And I absolutely love all great caves and stunning waterfalls nearby and delightful mountains and charming trails.
It could be highly recommended for those who love nature and adventure!
Even just being there and feeling nature all around was magic!!!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Most surprising thing I saw was a green snake jumping from a tree on deck in front of us. And most surprising thing I did was working in quite fast river and catching fish during fish inventory.
Matthew
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Welshman Abroad

I’m Matt from Wales and I spent eight weeks at IPBio working in the frog lab and setting up a camera trap project. My time at IPBio has been filled with fun and learning at every stage. From hiking through the forest to check for amphibians in the pitfall traps, to studying disease in tadpoles in the lab. The staff at the reserve are extremely friendly and always happy to assist in any way they can; they know a huge amount about the native fauna and flora so ask many questions! The facilities at the reserve are very good, and the volunteer house is clean and comfortable. The number of volunteers present at any time is perfect. There are many opportunities for weekend activities whilst at IPBio; including swimming beneath waterfalls, exploring huge caves, and if you’re here in early March – Carnival! I recommend you bring plenty of mosquito repellent, and arrive with a desire to immerse yourself in the forest and have an awesome time!

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Absailing down a waterfall in the rainforest with the other volunteers!!
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Amy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An unbelievable time in an awe-inspiring rain forest location

Volunteering at the Betary Reserve was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I’m so happy with myself that I chose to do this program. I had recently finished my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science but am starting my masters in conservation this year and this month being an eco-volunteer was the perfect start to my new life chapter. I feel like I really have learnt a lot about ecology while being here and have gained some applicable skills. The volunteer house has everything you would need (including WIFI) and is quite nice considering its also not too expensive to stay here. The staff are very vegan/vegetarian conscious which made me so happy and I had so much amazing traditional vegan food here! I’m 22 and most of the group was very similar to my age and it was such a heart-warming experience to spend a month living with like-minded wildlife/nature lovers. Overall, I would highly recommend the experience if you love being in nature; even if you have no background in biology. I would suggest staying for a long period of time and also learning a bit of Portuguese before you come so you can communicate better with some of the biologists here and get the most out of your time 😊

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
- stay for longer than you think you should
-learn Portuguese
-bring your camera if you have one
-if you've never solo traveled before - don't stress! You have so much support and you truly feel at home and safe in the area and volunteer house.
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Jennie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best experience ever

I visited Betary reserve for four and a half weeks in January and February. It was honestly the most amazing experience and I only wish I could of stayed longer. I am an ecologist, and have therefore used some of the techniques that were used through my education and work, however I still felt very challenged and learned a lot. I never thought I’d be able to do something like this because I would get too anxious or homesick but the staff are so supportive, and you are kept so busy and physically active that there is really no worries of this and the time literally flew by. I loved the house, it always had a great social atmosphere and whilst the WIFI was slow, having aircon and WIFI in the jungle felt very deluxe. If you love being in nature, and don’t mind getting muddy, I would definitely do this volunteer programme!!

What was your funniest moment?
On our long hikes on hills in the mud, and whilst in rivers, trying to stay on two feet, and watching other equally clumsy people slip over aswel. But we were all embrasing it!
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Priscila
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Beautiful reserve and gratifying work!

I volunteered at Betary Reserve for three weeks to make an Institutional video about the release center.

I’m doctor based in Buenos Aires and I wanted to really do something about conservation and this was just what I was expecting.

It was an incredible experience working with my husband, all the staff and volunteers, that were so helpful to us during our time there.

The biologists there are amazing persons and really help us in the video with the incredible footage of birds and others animals that can be found in the reserve and the entire park.

The reserve is a beautiful place, with it’s aquarium, green house and the incredible deck in the river, you can live the rainforest like nowhere else.

Thanks to this program I want to do more nature related volunteer work around the globe.

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Humberto
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great Place to help the nature and meet amazing people

My wife and I volunteered at Betary Reserve for three weeks to make a institutional video for one of the areas of the reserve.

The whole time spent there was a gratifying experience. All of the reserve staff were super helpful to us during our shooting and editing of the video, and that made the work much more easier.

The reserve itself, with great infrastructure and amazing landscapes, grant us the opportunity to see really cool animals, birds, fishes, trees, and the list go on.

The volunteer house was comfortable and well equiped, with internet and a complete kitchen that made our living there very cool.

I really recommend that anyone interested in filming or photography nature contact the reserve and let your talent help an important cause.

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Benjamin
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

5 Stars!!!

Spending the last two months as an “eco-volunteer” has been outstanding. While the projects the volunteers are involved in are not lab-based nor consist of serious field-work/research as I had hoped, they were still enjoyable and I had fun each and every day of “work”.
I wish I had invested more time in learning Portuguese before arriving, but both the staff at Reserva Betary and the locals of Iporanga are encouraging and will patiently listen to your best Portuguese attempt and try to figure out what you’re saying. The staff here are all wonderful human beings and are friendly and caring enough to make the Grinch’s heart grow an extra size. In addition to the staff, the other volunteers I was living with in my time here were nothing short of amazing. My time spent with all these people quickly became more valued to me than the work experience I had been expecting.
Living on the grounds of the reserve is a once in a lifetime experience to be surrounded by so much natural beauty; eating breakfasts with hummingbirds around you, having a natural aquarium with turtles and fish steps away, or exploring the greenhouse for the dozen’s of frogs croaking at night, it has been a dream. And, with all of this, the small but beautiful town of Iporanga is just a ~10 minute drive away (groceries came out to about 30 Canadian dollars a week).
The Reserve is isolated but the journey to airports in Sao Paulo or Santos is efficient and doable in less than one day, so travelling before/after/while staying here is very easily achievable.
The pitfalls program here was my favorite aspect of the work and only runs in the summer season, if possible I would recommend coming during that period if you enjoy some hiking and getting a first hand look at the wildlife here!
Additionally, Imran is a very good manager and the volunteer program would simply not be the same without him.

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Loraine
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Not only my first trip, but one of the best experiences I've ever made

As my stay at the Betary Reserve was the first time I've ever travelled by myself (I just graduated from high school) I expected myself in eventually feeling clueless, but as soon as I took my first step out of the bus at the Betary Reserve I had to change my mind. The volunteer coordinators as well as some other volunteers welcomed me warmly and I immediatly started loving the whole atmosphere that stayed awesome throughout my whole 12 weeks at the Betary Reserve.

In my luck I arrived right before the Brazilian Independence Day which meant that I did not have to work on my first days, but got to enjoy the Brazilian holiday atmosphere as well as some trips to waterfalls and beautiful Cananéia, but even when work started it did not feel like work. It was fun, especially because most of the time all volunteers worked together, sometimes playing music in the background and making a lot of jokes. Usually the staff also takes part and is always open for questions. They may don't speak English, but understand it pretty well and answer in slow, understandable Portuguese.

Eventhough I applied as an Eco Volunteer I got to work at the Amphibian Research Program. I didn't know frogs and tadpoles were so cute! It was really fun to work with both, but especially the tree frogs called Boana Faber grabbed my heart. You really feel like a proud mother when you can watch the tadpoles becoming frogs.
But obviously I also enjoyed all the other projects I got to work on.

Next to work we also did a lot of weekend activities, organized with the help of the volunteer coordinators. We hiked to beautiful waterfalls, caves or just enjoyed Caipirinhas on the beach of Cananéia. In Iporanga, the small town next to the Reserve are also a lot of small, a little bit old looking bars where you can easily meet the locals who were also super friendly. Very easily I became friends with the bus driver of the school bus who from then always took me back to the Reserve after I went grocery shopping.

Adding everything together my trip to the Betary Reserve was the perfect choice for my first travel and I recommend it to everyone else who wants to experience the true Brazil with all its beautiful and also weird aspects!

PS: If you want to do trips to other places in Brazil like Rio de Janeiro or Iguacu, you can easily take a few days off.