Volunteer Review: Sophie S., Conservation in Peru
I have always had a desire to travel but never had the confidence to do it alone, especially as a young girl. Therefore, when I discovered the Projects Abroad High School Special Projects, which are specifically designed for people my age, I thought it was a perfect way to test the water before embarking on an adventure on my own. After my A-levels, I joined the Rainforest Conservation High School Special Project in Peru and I can honestly say this trip changed my life.
Why I chose Rainforest Conservation in Peru?
Peru has such a stunning natural beauty from the Rainbow Mountains to the Amazon Rainforest so this was an immediate point to Peru. The location of the project I chose is in Tambopata, an area of the Peruvian Amazon close to the Bolivian border. It was a rural location, with no Wi-Fi or hot showers, but this gave me a greater sense of adventure and I thought, “If Tarzan could do it, why couldn’t I?”
Another gleaming attracting was that I would be involved in conserving one of the most important habitats in the world. I love animals and plants and I thought the trip would be highly rewarding, as I would be protecting such an amazing home for these creatures.
Preparing for my trip
I was incredibly nervous while preparing for my trip, as it was my first time spending time away from home with no one that I knew. Fortunately, I was put at ease as my volunteer advisor put me in contact with some of the other volunteers who would be on the placement at the same time that I was.
This made the preparation process less daunting, as we were all in it together. It even turned out, we had the same flights so we could travel all the way there together too!
First impressions of Taricaya
Once my fellow volunteers and I arrived in the small rural airport near the Amazon in Peru, we were greeted by our volunteer coordinator and taken by tuk tuk to the river where we hopped on a long boat that would take us down to Taricaya Ecological Reserve! It was a journey like no other; the sounds and sights of the rainforest had me speechless. Once we arrived at the reserve, we were given a tour and taken to our hut. I immediately loved our jungle hut, which became our ‘bug-free zone’ in the following days! The whole place was incredible and I was so excited to spend my next two weeks here amongst nature and fell asleep feeling very content. However, we all woke up to the sounds of howler monkeys. I still have never been so confused and startled in my life!
Day-to-day life at Taricaya
Days begin quite early at Taricaya in order to avoid the midday heat, but the delicious breakfasts of doughnuts and pancakes a few days a week made the early wake up worth it. After our first activity for the day, we would have a long lunch, which most of the time consisted of a nap on the hammocks or a swim in the river! After lunch, we would do more conservation work before returning for dinner. I was always looking forward to dinner as Lola, the cook, makes the most amazing food (especially the fried rice)!
I was never bored during the conservation work. From butterfly catching to bird banding to trail clearing, there was always something new and exciting to try out. My particular favorites were animal feeding or animal training, as I adored getting to work with the animals at the rescue center. The vets who worked at the rescue center were extraordinary and very informative, so I learned a lot about the diets and behaviors of the animals too.
We always got Friday afternoon off, where we would usually go to the nearby eco-lodge to play football and get some snacks and a drink. I was luckily enough to be there for the annual Taricaya games! We all dressed up in sports gear and got our war paint on before battling it out to see who the best team was. The day included games like an egg and spoon race, potato sack races and more. This was one of the highlights at Taricaya.
What I took away from the trip
Most importantly, I made friends for life from all over the world! It is amazing how you can form such incredibly strong bonds with people in just two weeks. We still regularly keep in contact and are even planning a Taricaya reunion!
I also gained a new level of confidence that allowed me to push myself outside of my comfort zone! This included traveling on my own, so recently I spent three months traveling through Asia, which I would have never done before this trip.
This trip changed my life as it made me change my university degree from biology to veterinary medicine. After spending time with the vets, it showed me how rewarding and incredible the job was, and how perfect the job was for me. I could work with animals all day, which is what I loved so much about this trip. I will always remember my time at Taricaya as one of the best experiences of my life and I would go back tomorrow if I could, and I certainly will be back there at some point.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.