What makes nature such a tempting getaway? For most, it’s the peaceful contrast to a bustling city. However, much like the city that never sleeps, the Amazon’s constant humming and buzzing reveals a similar atmosphere. Come join the Amazon wildlife community to see what all the commotion is about.
Home to one-tenth of all animal species and spanning across nine South American countries, the Amazon is also home to countless volunteer programs. Volunteer programs are geared toward conserving the wildlife, plants, and communities that have either suffered or are threatened by deforestation or other illegal practices. Choosing to volunteer for Amazon wildlife is choosing to help the most diverse community on the planet stay alive.
Your future career does not have to be animal-related to volunteer for the Amazon wildlife. These programs accept all levels of experience. When it comes down to it, they really just need all the help they can get. So even if you have only a slight interest in animals or conservation—even if the experience in traveling abroad is all that pulls you, the Amazon awaits.
Volunteering abroad can seem like a scary experience. But it doesn’t have to be if you have all of the information. There are three Amazon wildlife volunteer programs that can introduce you to some of the various opportunities that are offered and show you what you can expect from volunteering.
Before volunteering, however, you should be aware of the general requirements of these and other programs. The ones highlighted here have a volunteer fee, which pays for living expenses, information guides (mailed to you when your application is accepted), on-site training, and 24-hour emergency support. This fee does not pay for travel expenses, a passport and visa, and travel insurance. These programs require a minimum age of 18, a current passport/visa, and travel insurance.
Spend some time looking into the expenses and requirements before applying for any volunteer programs. It is also smart to apply for a program at least six months in advance, as space may be limited and fills fast. The more you prepare, the better your experience will be!
Personal Overseas Development–Peru, Animal Research
Personal Overseas Development (POD) focuses on three areas: documenting the ecosystem, studying local wildlife and endangered species, and supporting local communities by conserving the rainforest. While studying the local wildlife, volunteers have the opportunity to interact with other volunteers on a team performing specific research. The typical schedule for wildlife volunteers depends on what species they will be studying. Before
volunteers are given specific duties, however, they are given training on the current projects and learn about the jungle ecology.
When they aren’t working, volunteers share rooms at the Manu Biosphere Reserve, a certified Rainforest Alliance research center and one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Volunteers can relax in hammocks at the Manu center, go on leisurely nature walks, and play football with the staff. Main meals are provided at the center. Any additional food or travel outside of the site is up to the individual volunteer.
DURATION: 2 to 12 weeks
COST: $2035 to $5945
HOW TO APPLY: To volunteer for one of POD’s Amazon wildlife programs, fill out an online application. There you will indicate where and how long you would like to volunteer. Applications can be submitted for one month to two years in advance, but plan far ahead because only 6–12 volunteers are selected per session.
Frontier–Ecuador, Animal Care
Frontier’s Amazon program is based in Ecuador’s Amazon Wildlife Rescue Centre. The center is family-owned and run by volunteers who give tours to visitors of the center and surrounding park. At the center, volunteers also have the daily opportunity to care of individual animals. These animals are rescued in the wild and from illegal pet trade. Rescued animals are constantly being brought to the center, sometimes including nonnative species that cannot be released back into the wild. Because of this, there will always be a demand for volunteer work.
Volunteers should be aware that this program requires a lot of work to maintain the center and the population of rescued animals. With its hands-on experience, Frontier’s program differs from POD’s: POD volunteers observe animals in the wild, assisting scientific researchers, while Frontier volunteers have real, physical interaction with the animals.
Because of its location in Ecuador, Frontier requires that volunteers speak a high-basic to intermediate level of Spanish. In that sense, this program could be beneficial to anyone learning Spanish as a second language. Volunteers share a bunk bed, restrooms, and a living area in a cabin. Main meals are provided, but volunteers must pay for any meals or travel outside of the volunteer site.
DURATION: 2 to 4 weeks
COST: $1,345 to $2,545; you can volunteer for additional weeks at $445 per week.
HOW TO APPLY: Frontier volunteer sessions are flexible. Apply for any month of the year, up to ten years in advance online.
Kaya–Bolivia, Veterinary Internship
Animal lovers who are especially interested in animal conservation and who want to learn how to care for different species long-term will gain practical experience from a zoo veterinary internship in La Paz, Bolivia. For this internship at Kaya, students and professionals work together to care for the animals in the zoo. Volunteers will learn how to sustain indigenous Amazon species. This project is beneficial for prospective vets who want real experience for their resume; however, Kaya’s volunteer program in Bolivia also includes lab test assisting, observing wildlife, and habitat development.
Aside from the work, volunteers have plenty of opportunities to visit Bolivia’s attractions, from the largest salt flat in the world to the local community culture. As with POD and Frontier, volunteers share rooms in a house with a kitchen, though meals are not included. Because of this, the program expense is considerably lower, at $1593 for 4 weeks. The program requires at least an intermediate level of Spanish speaking, as most of the team members speak very little English. Before applying, a background check is required, which is not covered by the program fee.
DURATION: 4 to 12 weeks
COST: $1,593 to $3,185
HOW TO APPLY: As with the other programs, go to Kaya’s website to apply for this internship. A deposit fee is required at application, which will be refunded immediately if you are not accepted.
Feature photo by LollyKnit.