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Conserving the Amazon

Listed under Volunteering Opportunities in Cusco, Peru.

  • Photo of Conserving the Amazon
  • Photo of Conserving the Amazon
  • Photo of Conserving the Amazon
  • Photo of Conserving the Amazon
Photo of Conserving the Amazon
Photo by flickr user caitlinread
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I guarantee you have no idea how mind blowingly big and amazing the Amazon Basin is until you go there. It all comes down to the gulf of difference between seeing a photo of a frog the size of your fingernail and coloured with more colours than your Mum’s eyeshadow from the 70’s and waking up to find said frog on the top of your can of baked beans.

By now we all know the Amazon is endangered and that it’s full of all sorts of things which could be the answer to cancer etc. but how do you go about actually doing something about saving it from a practical point of view? This was my line of thinking anyway. I ain’t Richard Branson so I couldn’t just throw money at the problem I had to actually go out there and do something with my hands or eyes or what every body part they need out there, so I got hooked up to be part of a program at The Rainforest Centre and took two months out of my regular life to try and still the nightmares I keep having about wrecking the environment.

Turns out you do a lot of counting things and walking around poking though the rainforest. This contributes to studies about how humans are changing the forest and of animal numbers and the ability of the Amazon to regenerate. There is also some tracking and trailing and spying work to be done: unearthing mud to trap footprints and see what kind of critters have passed by, and trailing unusual species or even just ants, I spent quite a few days trailing different kinds of bugs – not something I thought I’d do but totally enlightening. I also spent a few evenings staying up watching monkeys – I like to call it Monkey Big Brother – and tried to attract birds using all my charms and some recorded bird calls. There was hard labour as well, gentle clearing and building projects, but it was very varied and – here’s the cliché – I learnt a lot, well of course I did, last year I went skiing in Chamonix.

On the practical side you get to stay in what is essentially a tree house and pretty much go native and entertain yourself. Limited electricity and no hot water were a shock at first but the replacement options, climbing into the canopy, swimming in the Amazon River, oh, yeah baby, and messing around in boats is so much more fun and the staff are a fantastic, sexy bunch of people, if not a little challenged with the English – I would advise you learn a leetle Spanish - as were the other volunteers who came out with me.

Why anyone would want to stay in a lodge costing hundreds of dollars a night when you can be part of a project like this is totally beyond me. Don’t get your feel good kick and cheque for carbon credits for the rest of your life from throwing money in the right general direction, get down and dirty and do some counting of tiny frogs or something, man. It’ll be way less hippy and way more science than you think and it will potentially be the best holiday you ever take, and the girls love it.

Written by  Rich Andor.

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