Christopher Woodfield - Rainforest Conservation in Peru
After finishing my A levels, I knew my traveling adventure had started when I arrived at Taricaya. Tired from 3 plane journeys and a boat ride but none the less blown away by the beauty of the Amazon rainforest. My first impressions were of amazement and the vastness of where I was, travelling down the Madre De Dios River towards my home for the next 3 months.
I soon got used to the 5:30 starts and waking up to the sound of every insect you could imagine in the surrounding jungle. The work was tough and challenging but at the same time you could relax knowing where you were and just admire your natural surroundings. There were a variety of projects and it was great because every day was different. The work was done on a rota basis so on each activity you got to work with a different staff member and different volunteers.
One of the projects which we started and also completed whilst I was at Taricaya was the building of the new monkey enclosure for the four adult Spider Monkeys. This was great fun and involved a group of us carrying large planks of wood 2km into the dense forest. We got the initial structure in place after much heaving of wood and also a lot of time was spent sewing up the netting so the monkeys didn’t escape! It was hard work but you feel it is all worthwhile when you realize you are actually making a difference. It just shows what teamwork can do.
The flora and fauna around the Taricaya reserve was something special. A five minute stroll and you’ve already seen a Jaguar, a baby River Otter, 2 Tapirs, 5 baby Spider Monkeys, 4 adult Spider Monkeys, a baby Howler Monkey and numerous wonderful birdlife including Macaws, Parrots and Toucans. The Canopy Walkway was definitely one of many highlights, especially seeing as it is South America’s highest and you can watch the sunset into the trees before heading back for Leandro’s “legendary” cooking.
One of the great things about this project is the fact you get the opportunity to learn so much, including trying out some of your Spanish on the local staff members! Every Friday we had a talk by one of the scientists which was always very interesting, especially by Stuart, the Conservation Manager. His Caiman talk, followed by the Caiman hunt is a great way to finish any week.
We glided down the river in the boat where the only sound was a frog croaking in the distance. We sat and watched for Stuart to leap onto the riverbank after catching a glimpse of the Caiman’s eyes glow orange from the reflection of his head torch. He emerged with a big grin on his face and a 2 foot Caiman in his arms.
I arrived at Taricaya at the end of the dry season and it was fascinating to watch the season change into the wet season. We woke up one morning to find the river had risen 2 meters during the night which was quite a shock to say the least! A tropical storm is an unforgettable experience and one evening we were blessed with a tremendous lightening show which sparkled for hours in the sky and reflected back perfectly in the river below.
My volunteering experience was for 3 months and a great thing about Projects Abroad is that if you go for 3 months you are entitled to 2 weeks traveling time. I took this opportunity to visit other parts of Peru with 3 friends I had met at Taricaya. Peru is an amazing country and we visited the mountains, desert, cities and small market towns but came back to the rainforest to finish off a wonderful trip.
The staff and other volunteers were very friendly and it was great to be around so many different people and of a range of nationalities. Although volunteers came and went there was a great homely and close-knit feel about the place and I will always remember my time there.
Taricaya is a special place and volunteering there was a great way to experience the animals, wildlife, people and culture of the jungle region of Peru.
Volunteering is a fantastic way to spend a gap year and where better to do it than the Amazon Rainforest!