College Prep: Peruvian Amazon | Field Projects International
 

The Peruvian Amazon

Conduct Research in the Most Diverse Rainforest on Earth
This program is available year-round for either an 8 or 15-day trip. 

Stretching vertically from Venezuela to Bolivia and horizontally from Ecuador to Brazil, the Amazon rainforest is the largest intact rainforest in existence. Unsurprisingly it hosts greater biodiversity – more birds, insects, mammals, plants, amphibians, and reptiles –  than any other place on the planet. So expansive is the Amazon that there are human populations that to this day live in voluntary isolation from the rest of the world, completely reliant on the forest, alongside cryptic jungle cats, clever monkeys, and friendly anacondas, nearly-blind armadillos and sticky-tongued anteaters.

Goal One: Scientific Research
First, you will experience a series of short lectures on how the jaw-dropping biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest was generated and is currently maintained by natural processes. Through related activities, we will reveal how present-day scientists study these natural phenomena, discover new species, and monitor extant wildlife populations. You will pay a visit to the Green Lab – the Amazon rainforest’s first molecular genetics field laboratory, operated by FPI in conjunction with the Inkaterra Association. Nocturnal surveys of herpetofauna, infrared camera trapping, point counts of birds, and setting up insect traps are just a few of the techniques that you will learn. We will also teach the art of keeping a field journal; a valuable skill shared among all naturalists past and present, including Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. 

Goal Two: Conservation Education
 Second, as you acquire a greater appreciation for the diversity of life present, you will also learn about the numerous threats to the Amazon rainforest ecosystem. These include climate change, human resource extraction, and harmful agricultural practices. In fact, as you travel between field sites, you are likely to witness gold mining operations, which are the primary source of mercury contamination into the environment and lead to high concentrations in species that top the local food chain (a process referred to as bioaccumulation). On a more cheerful note, you will also learn about and try your hand at many sustainable living practices, including organic gardening and farming, and green infrastructure development. Throughout the program, we will discuss actions at government, community, and individual-levels that are in place to mitigate threats to and improve the care of the amazingly rich Amazon rainforest.

Goal Three: Cultural Immersion
 Third, we will immerse you in a foreign culture where the language, cuisine, modes of transportation, and interests are diverse. If you received prior instruction in Spanish, you would have a mixture of opportunities to improve your language skills with research station staff, peer program participants, FPI’s local liaisons, and people you meet during travel. If Spanish is new to you, you will grasp not only new language skills but also help local students practice their English. We believe you can never be too young to acquire friendships across borders, and international partnerships can be key to successful future careers.

Program Highlights:

Take several boat safaris, on the Los Amigos and Madre de Dios Rivers, which are tributaries of the mighty Amazon River 

Conduct off-trail tracking of wild, free-ranging monkeys in the rainforest, of up to 11 species at a single site

Get eye-to-eye with tropical birds – toucans, macaws, aracaris, and more – from a 30 m-high canopy walkway

Explore brazil nut agriculture, an important cornerstone of the local economy

Participate in lepidopteran (butterfly) diversity research and hand-rearing

Learn GPS navigation and radio telemetry 

Setup camera-trap grids and decode videos of rare rainforest denizens

Trip Details
  • 8 Day Sample Itinerary
  • 15 Day Sample Itinerary
  • Food & Lodging
  • Health & Safety
  • Travel Logistics

DayLocation/TravelHighlights
1Fly to LimaTransfer to a hotel Team building exercises
2Fly to Puerto Maldonado, spend the night at Finca Las Piedras (FLP)
  • Pit stop for lunch and local ice cream
  • Meet staff from Alliance for a Sustainable Amazon (ASA)
  • Drive to Finca Las Piedras
  • Settle in, safety and orientation to the site, evening presentation
3FLP
  • Introduction to biological monitoring techniques
  • Field Module: Plant biodiversity, identification and counting
  • Field Module: Insect identification and rearing
  • Field Module: Macaw nesting behaviour
  • Field Module: Behavioral observations of primates
4FLP
  • Introduction to sustainable living practices
  • Shade agriculture
  • Solar energy, waterless sanitation systems, bicycle-powered water pumps
  • Plant rearing for forests plots with native food
  • Field site service project
5Transfer from FLP to the Inkaterra Field Guides Station
  • Excursion to Taricaya animal rescue and rehabilitation center
  • Explore the local market, make an ice cream pit stop
  • Take a boat safari to Inkaterra Guides Field Station (IGFS)
  • Settle in, site presentation
6IGFS
  • Early morning naturalist excursion to canopy walkway: focus on avian diversity
  • Late morning hike to aguajal (palm swamp): focus on habitat diversity
  • Introductions to infrared camera trapping research
  • Evening mist-netting of birds
  • Nocturnal amphibian and reptile survey
7IGFS
  • Morning boat excursion to Lake Sandoval to see a parrot clay lick
  • Palmetum conservation project
  • Snail agriculture program
  • Afternoon field site service project
8Return home
  • After breakfast, travel directly to Puerto Maldonado
  • Flight from Puerto Maldonado to Lima
  • If time permits: tour of downtown Lima, visit Museo de Historia Natural
  • Fly from Peru to the USA (arriving home on Day 9)
 

 

DayLocation/TravelHighlights
1Fly to LimaTransfer to a hotel for team building exercises
2Fly to Puerto Maldonado, spend the night at Finca Las Piedras
  • Pit stop for lunch and local ice cream
  • Meet staff from Alliance for a Sustainable Amazon (ASA)
  • Drive to Finca Las Piedras
  • Settle in, safety and orientation to the site, evening presentation
3Finca Las Piedras
  • Introduction to biological monitoring techniques
  • Field Module: Plant biodiversity, identification and counting
  • Field Module: Insect identification and rearing
  • Field Module: Macaw nesting behaviour
  • Field Module: Behavioral observations of primates
4Finca Las Piedras
  • Introduction to sustainable living practices
  • Shade agriculture
  • Solar energy, waterless sanitation systems, bicycle-powered water pumps
  • Plant rearing for forests plots with native food
  • Field site service project
5Leave Finca Las Piedras and spend a night in Puerto Maldonado
  • Excursion to Taricaya animal rescue and rehabilitation center
  • Explore the local market, make an ice cream pit stop, visit the bridge over the Madre de Dios River
  • Take a boat safari to Inkaterra Guides Field Station (IGFS)
  • Settle in, site presentation
6Travel to Los Amigos Biological Field Station
  • Travel the Interoceanic highway for an hour to Laberinto, a gold mining shanty town
  • Take a boat safari up the Madre de Dios River for 4 hours to the Los Amigos Biological Field Station
  • Site safety and orientation presentation
  • Extended nature walk
  • Evening movie presentation on the site and FPI's work with the BBC on rare primates
7Los Amigos
  • Morning excursion to a canopy tower to watch the sunrise from 20 m above the canopy
  • Forest orienteering and navigation training using handheld GPS machines
  • Radio telemetry practice, so you can learn how scientists track animals in the rainforest
  • Evening tower excursion to watch the sunset over the Amazon rainforest, and birds returning to roost
8Los Amigos
  • Morning primate survey and follows of any of the 11 primate species at this site
  • Afternoon excursions to oxbow lake and palm swamp to view our resident anaconda, hoatzin, caiman and giant river otters
  • Nocturnal hike to survey amphibians and reptiles
9Los AmigosPrimate survey and follows: a focus on FPI's long-term tamarin monitoring project. Meet the most famous tamarins in the Western Amazon. Spend the afternoon on independent projects:
  • Leaf cutter ants
  • Ant diversity
  • Termite nesting
  • Dung beetle foraging behaviour
  • Colony spiders community dynamics
  • Bird diversity
10Transfer to Inkaterra Field Guides StationAfter a boat safari from one site to another, spend an evening relaxing at your final field station for this trip.
11Inkaterra Field Guides Station
  • Early morning naturalist excursion to canopy walkway: focus on avian diversity
  • Late morning hike to aguajal (palm swamp): focus on habitat diversity
  • Introductions to infrared camera trapping research
  • Evening mist-netting of birds
  • Nocturnal amphibian and reptile survey
12Inkaterra Field Guides Station
  • Morning boat excursion to Lake Sandoval to see a parrot clay lick
  • Palmetum conservation project
  • Snail agriculture program
  • Afternoon field site service project
13Fly to either Cusco or Lima (your group chooses!)
  • After breakfast, travel directly to Puerto Maldonado
  • Flight from Puerto Maldonado to Lima or Cusco
14Cusco or LimaIn Cusco, take a day trip by train to visit Machu Picchu (extra cost) or in Lima, tour downtown Lima, the Museo de Historia Natural, and local fisheries.
15Fly homeReturn home, typically by an overnight flight, arriving home on Day 16.

 

Meals are one of the best times in the field, when researchers, students, and staff all come together to enjoy satisfying food, have fun and lively conversation, and share good humour. The cuisine provided in the Peruvian Amazon is a mix of Andean and international dishes. Meals typically include soup and a main course of rice, chicken, or beef, and one or more vegetable sides. Tasty vegetarian options are always available upon request; however, remaining vegan while in the field will be more challenging.

Outside of meals, simple snacks are available throughout the day in the dining area, including hot tea, hot chocolate, and coffee, in addition to fresh drinking water. Dessert is less common in the field; so we always stop for local cake and ice cream when passing through town.

Lodging will be provided in two or three field stations (depending on program duration): Los Amigos Biological Field Station, Finca Las Piedras or the Inkaterra Field Guides Station. Although there are differences from site to site, all of them provide students with dormitory style living, with independent private rooms for chaperones if requested. The more remote the site is, the more rustic the accommodation is, but all lodging is safe, comfortable, and above all, low-impact. In urban locations that we might transit through for a night upon occasion, same-sex students will be paired up in each room. 

 

FPI takes students to foreign and often remote field sites for maximum exposure to environments that are high in biodiversity. Here we provide information that is important to maintain participant safety throughout the program. However, we also wish to highlight some reassurances about the Peruvian Amazon that often go unnoticed.

  1. There is no wildlife in the Amazon that considers people as natural prey, or that goes out of its way to cause harm to humans
  2. Field research stations are removed from large human populations and are usually only visited for short periods of time.  As such, they do not maintain significant human reservoirs necessary for the majority of human communicable diseases.
  3. In the field, participants are generally removed from risks associated with moving vehicles, street violence, or any other human-caused danger, which are responsible for the majority of the hazards to a person’s health or well-being in more urban settings.

Health Insurance: All students are required to have health coverage that will be valid for the entire duration of their field course. If participants are unsure if their current health insurance will cover them while abroad, they should contact their insurer prior to travel. Medical evacuation coverage is another requirement that not all health insurance providers offer, and should be purchased for participants as needed (see World Nomads). Participants must provide FPI with proof of health insurance coverage, including a scanned copy of their health insurance card or policy documents, before travel. 

Vaccination History: All field course participants will have to provide proof of an official vaccination record (as listed HERE by the CDC). For travel to Peru, we require that students also get the following vaccines: typhoid, yellow fever, and tetanus. For many vaccinations, there is a series of injections over time, so participants ought to get their shots EARLY!

Travel and Program Safety Rules: Participant and group safety during travel and in the field is our utmost concern, and as such all participants will be required to sign FPI’s Participant Contract (available upon request before registration). However, below are the most fundamental safety rules that all participants must follow:

  • At all times, participants must notify and receive permission from the FPI trip leader to go anywhere separate from the group.
  • Participants will provide all travel documents to the trip leader, or a designated teacher or parent chaperone for safekeeping when not in use.
  • Participants will refrain from all plant and wildlife handling outside of supervision by trip leaders or other designated instructors.
  • FPI prohibits rude language or behaviour directed at other participants, trip leaders, instructors, field site staff, or other people met during travel.
  • We strongly oppose sexual or gender-based misconduct, and all participants must sign and agree to our policy before travel.

Health Risks: While our field stations do not have enough a large enough population to support reservoirs for many human diseases, travel to and from the field locations may increase exposure to risk. FPI does not offer medical advice; thus field course participants should contact their doctor and a travel clinic for travel-related medical recommendations.

Emergency Procedures: There are site-specific emergency medical evacuation procedures in place for all of the locations visited during this program (Finca Las Piedras, Los Amigos Biological Station, and the Inkaterra Guides Field Station) (available upon request). Outside of these three locations, the group is in a city with close medical facilities.

*Note* Additional information is in our participant manual, which is available upon request before registration. 

FPI will handle all group arrangements and travel logistics, beginning with flight departures from participants’ home cities and ending with their return. We also provide a travel packet, which includes the following information:

  • A detailed itinerary finalised with your consent and input 
  • The names, locations and contact information for all hotels and field stations
  • Emergency evacuation protocols for each field station
  • Air travel itineraries
  • Comprehensive packing lists with recommendations for vendors for specific gear
  • 24-hour FPI telephone hotline to staff that have open lines of communication with trip leaders at all times

 

  • Group Requirements
  • For Educators
  • Chaperones
  • For Parents
  • Reservation & Fee Details

For your group’s program to be finalised, you must meet the following minimum requirements:

1. All students must be in high-school.

2. All educators and chaperones must be over 22 years of age

3. The minimum number of students in a group must be 6

4. The maximum number of students in a group cannot exceed 15

5. With the help of an FPI travel coordinator, you must pick your program dates and itinerary before paying the downpayment that will reserve the program for your group

 

For every six students, one chaperone can attend this program for free. Group sizes will not exceed 15 students, and thus groups with 12 to 15 students can include the travel of two chaperones for free. Typically, these chaperones consist of one educator and one parent, but we can accommodate alternative solutions on a case-by-case basis.

The educator’s role in planning

We hope that our college preparatory travel-study programs can be incorporated into the science or international studies curriculum of your school. To accomplish this, we collaborate with educators to tailor our programs as needed to fit each group.  We provide the general framework, the local and scientific expertise, and with input from educators, we are more than happy to hone in on specific topic areas and cut out others altogether. Here are some questions that we ask educators to consider:

  1. Should students be subject to periodic tests or quizzes?
  2. How would you like to evaluate student participation?
  3. Are there overarching assignments that students are responsible for?
  4. Should time be set aside each day for reflection on the materials covered?
  5. What proportion of the time would you like students to work together and independently?
  6. Are there particular presentations, special topics, or activities that you want to attempt in the field?

We will do our best to accommodate special requests and the objectives of each educator. We evaluate all changes or tweaks to the program based on the following criteria:

  • Does it fit with FPI’s mission to impart knowledge and training in conservation, plant and animal research, and sustainability?
  • Do we have the expertise and infrastructure to facilitate the experience as requested?
  • Do we have the requisite permissions from local and state authorities to accommodate the request?

In almost all cases we can provide educators with the experience they desire, or at the very least, something resembling it.

Educator involvement in program preparation and execution

We expect that educators maintain a leadership role before and during the program by supporting the efforts of the FPI planning team and trip leader. We hope that they will:

  • Understand the trip itinerary from start to finish
  • Work with FPI to make sure that all students are adequately prepared before departure
  • Enrich the experience of the students by enthusiastically participating in activities
  • Monitor student well-being and acclimation to new surroundings
  • Maintain a calm and composed presence even if confronted with stressful conditions, environmental or otherwise (e.g. travel delays, loss of baggage, someone is injured or has an unknown allergic reaction)
  • Conduct grading and student evaluations
  • Ensure that FPI’s basic rules of conduct will be followed at all times

Educator eligibility

Educators that co-lead FPI trips must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Be at least 22 years old
  • Be in generally good health, as determined by a physical examination
  • Be able to hike for at least 2 miles
  • Be capable of lifting a 30 lb bag
  • Be in possession of a valid passport
  • Have general interest and curiosity in the natural world

It is NOT required that teachers:

  • Speak Spanish
  • Have field research or conservation experience
  • Have extensive travel experience

If 12 students sign up for a course, an extra adult chaperone (usually a parent) may accompany the group for free. Of course, additional chaperones who want to accompany the group as a participant may do so at any time for the same student fee.  

The chaperone’s role in planning

Adult chaperones are an essential part of the program experience. They provide familiarity to students in a foreign environment that some may find stressful, and they also assist the educator and the FPI trip leader in supervising the group. As such, the best chaperones are known to the majority, if not all, of the students. Chaperones with experience or interest in the natural world also add value to the group experience, and we welcome their involvement.

Adult chaperones should be identified several months in advance of the trip. They should be proposed by the educator or other school administrators involved in program planning and interviewed by FPI to ensure that they seem compatible with the program. The parents or legal guardians of all participants must be aware of this decision and comfortable with the selected adult chaperone.

Chaperone requirements

Chaperones that assist FPI trips must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Be in generally good health, as determined by a submitted physical examination
  • Be able to hike for 2 miles
  • Be capable of lifting a 30lb bag
  • Be in possession of a valid passport
  • Ideally, have a general interest or curiosity in the natural world

It is NOT required that chaperones:

  • Speak Spanish
  • Have field research or conservation experience
  • Have extensive travel experience (although this is a plus)

Parents should realize that our primary goal throughout the program is the safety and well-being of your child, both physically and mentally. We want them to return to you with exciting stories, pictures, videos, and lots of knowledge to share. Parents that have a unique set of concerns specific to their child are encouraged to speak with the educator who will be accompanying this trip and directly to FPI staff (we are happy to arrange a phone call or correspond by email). In some cases, we can even send someone from FPI to your child’s school to share more information about the program.

Here are frequently asked questions that we have received from past parents:

Is my child going to be safe?

We know that traveling internationally brings to mind fears of terrorism, disease, car accidents, mugging, and other random things that happen to good people. We are constantly checking the State Dept. Travel Advisory page in the countries that we operate, and in the event of an alert that effects this program we will be in touch with groups immediately to discuss changing the destination, altering program dates, and if called for, canceling the program.

Specific to Peru, there are presently no travel alerts. While we are spending 1-2 days in Lima and/or Cusco (which are bigger cities), our tour is restricted to the downtown commerce areas, or very nice neighborhoods, e.g. Mira Flores (Lima) or San Blas (Cusco), and specific attractions (zoos and museums). Security is extremely high in all of these areas. Outside of the city, we will be passing through the small town of Puerto Maldonado. Road traffic and crime exist and low levels, and the local stops we are visiting are safe and frequented by families and children that live in the area. Outside of the city, we are at forest field stations, with small and dedicated groups of staff that keep the place clean and running. At field stations, students are accompanied by their teacher, the FPI trip leader, and adult chaperones at all times, when not in their dorms.

Please read through the health and safety section above, and if you have specific questions that were not addressed, or require further details, get in touch with your teacher or directly with our administration.

What kind of transportation is being used, who is operating the vehicles?

The flight carriers we use in Peru include LAN and Avianca (major carriers to South America). In and around Lima and Cusco, we use professional for-hire transportation services, generally we reserve a single van for the entire group. In and around Puerto Maldonado, we are mainly on foot, but hire an airport transportation service to get us to and from the airport. To get to the field sites from Puerto Maldonado, each of the field stations has transportation whether by road or boat. Boat drivers are licensed and experienced, all passengers are required to wear life jackets at all times, and river passage is delayed as needed to let inclement weather pass (not so much for safety concerns as for the comfort of the passengers).

Where will my child’s food and water come from?

Please read the above “Food and Lodging” section. At no point during this trip do we encourage students to eat street-side food. In cities and towns, students are taken to reputable restaurants for lunch and dinner, and the hotels we use all provide breakfast. Outside of field stations, students will only be drinking bottled water.

All of our field stations source food locally, and they take great efforts to make sure it is prepared with the utmost care and highest sanitary standards. Water is obtained from wells or clear water streams that have been damned, and thuroughly filtered prior to consumption. The drinking water at the field stations is clean and refreshing, but students wishing to drink only bottled water can easily do so.

What happens if my child gets sick or hurt while on the program?

High school students are typically NOT very experienced travelers who know what health signs to watch out for. Also, they may not be comfortable bringing up and sharing details of what they feel. We counter this by watching students carefully, ensuring that they are eating and drinking well, have energy, and not worrying any particular itch, cut, or scrape. FPI staff have been working in the field for a long time, and in most cases our staff realize that a student needs help before they do.

The most common illness faced by students, or any traveler, is minor indigestion, in worse circumstances, this becomes diarrhea or vomiting. In nearly all cases, a single course of antibiotics that can be prescribed in advance by your child’s pediatrician and taken under supervision, as needed, will bring them back to good health quickly. Outside of this concern, we repeatedly remind students to use sunblock and bug repellent, take daily showers, wash hands frequently, don’t share drinking bottles with others, and eat well; the basic ingredients for a healthy trip.

For high fevers, unusual aches and pains, bad cuts or scrapes, apparent ear or sinus infections, etc., you would be notified and your child would be taken to a local, private medical practice for diagnosis and treatment. There are several we have used in the past, and if you desire this information please get in touch with FPI staff.

My child is a female, how will she get practical advice or assistance about feminine care matters?

There are certain hygiene and health matters that females, in particular, need to be cognizant of when traveling abroad and staying at fairly remote field stations. We have a feminine hygiene and care hand-out that your child will receive with other standard informational materials on how to prepare for this trip. If you would like a copy in advance, please contact FPI staff.

Should an event occur in the field that requires assistance or advice from someone experienced, and the FPI trip leader, teacher, and adult chaperone, are not qualified, there are a few options. 1) There is nearly always a female staff member at the station who is able to assist your child, 2) the student can be put on the phone with FPI staff who will provide direction as needed, 3) in some cases there is another female student who is able to assist your child, 4) the trip leader will call a qualified local assistant to help as needed (usually to bring supplies that were forgotten).

  

 

Please read this section carefully, as it provides you with everything you need to know regarding reserving a program, fundraising for a program (if desired), and program cancellation.

Cost Overview 

The cost for each program participant will include FPI’s program fee, travel costs, and any additional costs associated with visiting local attractions, such as Machu Picchu. These costs are estimated below, but could vary depending on how close to travel a group can reserve their flights (the earlier the better):

DurationProgram costs per headFlight cost estimate*Optional add-ons**
8 Days2150 USD1000 - 1200 USD
15 Days2850 USD1200 - 1350 USDMachu Picchu Trip ($350 USD)

*Flight costs will vary based on group numbers, time of booking, and if you desire additional stop-overs in Cusco

**For groups that can afford to, we highly recommend a day-trip to Machu Picchu. Prices vary based on time of year and tour availability; so please let us know if you would like to receive a quote that includes this visit.

Program reservation and payment

Step 1: Complete a college-prep program reservation form four months before travel dates. Keep in mind that we have a 6 participant minimum with one educator travelling for free. If you are submitting this form with under four months left to your proposed start date, don’t worry – we have solutions for you. 

Step 2: We will then invoice you for a down payment of $1200 to reserve the program dates. You may choose to pay online or by check. This payment will reserve 6 student spaces + 1 educator space in the course. Since you are travelling as a group, we make every effort to be flexible in how you can make this downpayment on behalf of your group. 

Scenario 1: If someone who is paying to attend the program (i.e. a student) makes the down payment on behalf of the group, then we will credit it towards that participant’s program fee

Scenario 2: If someone who is not paying to attend the program (for example, a teacher, chaperone, or school administrator) makes the downpayment, we will refund it in full once we receive final payments from the minimum number (6) attending students

Scenario 3: If the school is paying for the course on behalf of the students, we will credit the downpayment toward the full program fee.

Step 3: Assuming the reservation was made in time, the final payment of the program and travel fees is due 100 days before the program start date. Note, in certain circumstances, it may not be feasible to stick to this final payment schedule, in which case FPI will determine a separate due date with the school liaison.

Individualized Fundraising Assistance

FPI can now provide a peer-to-peer crowdfunding platform for all field workshop students. You will be able to share your fundraising page with your contacts and social networks. At the end of the pre-agreed fundraising period, FPI will issue a discount code to you for 100% of the funds that you have raised. You would then enter this code as you make your final workshop payment. If you collect enough to cover all (or part) of your initial reservation fee, you would be refunded that portion as well. Please note that funds raised in excess of your program fees will roll into our scholarship fund. Also, if you withdraw from the program after fundraising begins, please note that your donors cannot get a refund. In this case, all of those resources would also roll over into our scholarship fund for other students. To set up a fundraising page, please register for a workshop first.

Program Cancellation

  • $300 of the deposit made during registration is a processing fee that is nonrefundable under any circumstances.
  • Since the execution of this program requires multiple advanced bookings of air travel and field site reservations, no refunds will be provided once final payments have been received in full
  • If FPI has to cancel this program due to mitigating reasons, a full refund of all fees paid, including the registration fee, will be made available to you.
  • A cancellation schedule with dates specific to your group will be sent to you at the time of registration

Program expulsion or dismissal

Our programs bring you into areas that are remote, and normally only accessible by researchers doing tropical field biology research. As such, we have a responsibility towards the environment we are in, and the countries that we visit. Before the trip begins, we will meet with the group to discuss our code of conduct, and we will all pledge to follow it. If despite these efforts, a participant intentionally breaks this code, they can and will be removed from participating in the remainder of the program. In such an unfortunate situation, no refunds will be possible, and any costs incurred for the early return of said student will be borne by the student’s family. 


Frequently Asked Questions

If you don’t find the answers you are looking for below, please contact us.

Preparing to travel to Peru

Do I need a visa for Peru?

Every country has different requirements for visitors, depending on their citizenship. Tourist visas are free for US citizens and are available upon entry (see the US State Department’s information on travel to Peru here). For all other nationalities, please check here for your specific requirements. It is possible that you will have to apply for a visa at your local embassy before you arrive in the country so please confirm your visa requirements early. Visa applications can take as long as six weeks sometimes, during which your passport will need to be with the embassy in question. 

One further thing to consider is the visa requirements of any country you are transiting. For example, flying from Asia into Peru can be done via Europe, or via the UK, Canada or USA, which require transit visas.  So when you consider purchasing a flight, please look at the visa requirements of any stops along the way.

What should I bring with me?

A detailed packing list will be included in your travel packet upon registration. Please read sections below for explanations of many recommended items.
How do I deal with Peruvian money?

You are NOT required to bring cash with you to the field, however, you may want to have some for the purchase of souvenirs or gifts.

The currency in Peru is the Peruvian Nueve Sol. We say 1 “sol” and many “soles”. The currency exchange rate is ~ 2.7 soles to 1 USD.  Changing US dollars in Peru is a difficult thing to do; you will need to bring brand new, high-denomination bills, without any blemishes on them, for a bank to exchange them for you. You can find currency exchanges easily in the airport in Lima as well as in Lima city. In Puerto Maldonado, you will have to change currency at a bank (so keep in mind bank working weeks and hours). Thus, the easiest way to get money is to use an ATM via a credit or debit card.

Things to consider: Bring two cards, in case one doesn’t work. Test that your pins work on both of your cards before you come to Peru. You can use an ATM in Lima, Cusco or Puerto Maldonado very easily. The most you can withdraw in a single day from an ATM is 700 soles or ~$260. ATM charges can apply, including conversion fees, so check with your bank about that. Withdrawing from an ATM is convenient, and prevents you from carrying around a lot of cash, which is always a much safer way to travel.

Traveler’s checks are entirely a thing of the past – just don’t buy them!

What's the lowdown on footwear?

You will require gumboots (aka wellingtons or muck boots), which are knee-high rubber boots. These are essential for all activities, every day at the stations. You can bring these from home or buy them in Puerto Maldonado. If you have unusually large feet, don’t risk it and please buy your boots at home. Select a natural coloured or black pair, if possible. You will wear these boots every single day while you are in the forest, so if you’re bringing them from home, break them in if you can. If you have sensitive feet with arch trouble, please bring insoles for your boots.

A pair of sneakers will come in handy during your travels and for use while at each camp. You will never wear flip-flops at camp, for your safety. You may, however, prefer to bring a pair so that you can wear them to — or in — the shower.

What kind of luggage should I use?

Pack in something you can carry on your shoulders. Suitcases are not very practical (though people have managed with them). We recommend bringing a big duffel bag, or a backpack with most of your things in it. Try to make it waterproof, or buy a waterproof cover. In the worst case scenario, though, you can put your whole bag in a giant plastic bag to keep it dry once you get to Puerto Maldonado.

You’ll also need a small daypack when on site.

What do I need in the forest?

The most important things you need in the forest that we will NOT be providing are your daypack, a water bottle, insect repellent, rain jacket or poncho, and a pair of binoculars. Additionally, a laptop (not a Chromebook) can be extremely helpful, as will be a digital watch with a repeat timer. Also, some things to consider bringing include a penknife (check it in, don’t hand carry – it will get caught), a bandana or hat, and some energy bars as an extra snack.

What about battery-operated equipment?

You will need to use a battery-operated headlamp with LEDs on this course. This headlamp will be your best friend and is useful since it is hands-free. If you’re interested in seeing wildlife at night, bring one that is bright, and that has a red light option, as the red light scares nocturnal animals a lot less. Headlamps will need batteries, and we strongly suggest that you bring rechargeable batteries with you.  This means that you must also obtain a small battery charger. If you can’t and have to bring regular batteries, please buy energy efficient ones so you use as few as possible, since you will have to take all batteries back with you and recycle them (you cannot leave them at the field stations).

Do I need a watch or alarm clock?

Yes. Make sure that you have something extremely reliable as an alarm clock – whether you use your phone or watch is up to you. 

How do I care for my passport and papers?

In the field, passports will be stored by the trip leader, your teacher, or a designated chaperone in a dry safe space. Any other paper items you will want to keep dry in ziplock bags.  Do the same with any cash you bring with you also. Paper gets moldy very quickly in tropical climates.

What is the weather like at these field stations?

The weather at the Los Amigos, Finca Las Piedras and Inkaterra stations is typically warm and pleasant (~24C or 75F). However, travel in the “winter” months of May through September can be cold at times, when cold-fronts, called friajes, from the Andes come down onto the lowland forest. Your packing list will reference the specific requirements of your group, based on your travel dates.

What medications should I bring?

 

The field stations and the course do not provide any special medications to students. If you take regular medications, bring plenty, and some backups that are kept in a separate place from your main supply. Upon request, and on a case-by-case basis, we can coordinate a system by which the trip leader, teacher, or a designated adult chaperone supervises the taking of medication by a student. Additionally, we also recommend that students bring the following for common illnesses, cuts, or scrapes that may occur:

– A course of broad-spectrum antibiotics (ciprofloxacin is a common and effective one)

– A course of antibiotics for digestive trouble, and a small number of pills of Immodium (to be used in emergencies only)

– Electrolyte/rehydration packs (hint: the juice flavoured ones are much nicer than the medical ones)

– Anti-fungal cream/powder (effective on yeast), particularly if you are prone to these infections

– Anti-itch medication: over-the-counter lotions are ok

– Camphorated alcohol – a local anti-itch/disinfecting method that we highly recommend  (can be purchased in Puerto Maldonado)

– Antacids to comfort your stomach

– Band-aids, tweezers

–  An Epi-pen if you are allergic to anything at all

– Antihistamines to be taken in case of mild allergies (something like Claritin/ Zyrtec)

What about health and safety?

We take the health and safety of all participants very seriously.  We look out for each other and take care of our students. The field sites have stringent protocols on safety procedures in the case of an emergency that we are obliged to follow.  From Los Amigos, should anyone need medical help, they can be transported downriver to town in a matter of three hours, where they can be treated or evacuated to Lima for treatment. Inkaterra and Finca Las Piedras are only one hour from Puerto Maldonado. 

Neither the field station nor Field Projects International will be responsible for costs associated with medical emergencies. Before being accepted to the program, applicants must submit a brief medical history evaluation. This is not meant to discriminate against people, but instead to protect them from being in a situation where they are at a severe or life-threatening disadvantage.

All participants must sign a participation contract, without which applicants cannot participate in our courses or research programs. We make special references to an alcohol policy in our participation contract – we have a zero tolerance policy at this field station. You will also sign a sexual and gender-based misconduct contract (and so will your supervisors). This is not to suggest that this issue is a problem at this field site in particular. However, there has been a large amount of reporting on these matters in the press of late, and we want to assure you that we will take any such violations extremely seriously. We want our participants to be as safe and comfortable as possible.

Field Station Amenities

Do I need to bring linens and towels?

The stations will provide you with sheets during your stay. However, we encourage you to bring a spare towel for use while one is in the wash or drying. 
How do I care for electronics at the field stations?

We encourage you to bring your laptops on this course, as well as your cell phones. They will come in handy for data entry, entertainment, assignments and for checking email. Due to the intermittent/slow nature of the internet, as well as the need to use Garmin Basecamp software, Chromebooks are not recommended.

Electronics have to be treated differently in the rainforest than you would anywhere else. Do not bother to bring a soft sleeve for the laptop with you, because it will suck up moisture from the air and will envelop your computer in it, which is terrible news. We find that simple plastic ziplock bags work better than sports dry bags. We recommend that you buy at least two ziplock bags that are large enough to fit your computer. You can also purchase silicon gel packages online (Amazon Smile or Jake’s Silica Gel have them, along with local stores like REI). Put a couple of 5 gram packs inside the ziplock with your computer and bring at least 2 more packets with you.

Peru uses a different set of plugs than the U.S. or England. The field sites, however, will have extension cords and power strips that accept US plugs. If you want to plug things in while you travel, though, you might consider picking up a small converter for your electronics that will fit plugs in Peru (see here for a full explanation). The Peruvian system uses 220 volts, instead of 120/140 volts as in the U.S. Please CHECK your electronics to make sure they are compatible before plugging them in at the station or anywhere in Peru. If they don’t work at both voltages, you will need to bring a step up converter such as this one.  Also, note that you will not find three-pronged sockets in most places, so definitely at least bring a three-to-two prong modifier (such as this) for your electronics.

Electricity at the field stations will be provided via a generator for a period each day, during which you will charge your electronics as needed. You may bring solar chargers if you feel the need to, but most of the day you will not be using your electronic devices at all.

Do not bring a hair dryer, electric razor, or electric toothbrush because those are very much considered an unnecessary luxury on these programs. Energy is limited and we will prioritise charging absolutely everything else over those items.

Is there internet at the field stations?

Internet access at the field stations is wireless but can be slow. This means that smartphones, iPads, tablets and computers of all kinds should be able to connect to the internet, but sending emails with images is going to be tough. We strongly recommend that you do not rely on it to be available to you every day. Sending an email once every three days or so is a reasonable estimate to provide to your family. See the section on phones to learn about other ways in which to communicate with home from the field stations.
Is there phone service at the field station?

The best way to stay in touch with your family is through your phone. The phone network accessible at the Los Amigos, Finca Las Piedras and Inkaterra is called “Claro.” Contact your cell service provider and make sure that you can pick up Claro service while in Peru. Then, purchase an international calling plan, pre-paid minutes, or an international texting plan. This will allow you to communicate with your family at home, as and when you want.

Things to consider: If your phone is not compatible with Claro, you can rent a cell phone at the Lima airport with a local number. You can communicate with services like Whatsapp while you are in Puerto Maldonado because your hostel has wireless internet service, but remember that the internet can often be slow or inaccessible at the field stations.

How do I do laundry at the field stations?

On a short trip, you might be able to avoid doing laundry entirely, but for the longer 15-day trips, you will do your laundry yourself at the field stations. In this case, please bring (preferably) biodegradable laundry detergent from the US with you. You don’t need a lot of it, so a 10 oz bottle of liquid or a small packet of powder should be more than enough for the duration of your stay. You can purchase non-biodegradable detergent as well as clothespins (to secure your washing to a line for drying) in the Puerto Maldonado market.

What is the risk of disease in the Amazon rainforest?

In the Amazon rainforest, and as with all tropical areas, there are disease risks. Unlike towns, however, this field station does not hold enough people to serve as constant reservoirs for many diseases.

Malaria is not a significant concern at Los Amigos, and none of our principal researchers takes malaria prophylactics. Your travel doctor will most likely disagree because their information is about the region in general, and it is true that malaria can be contracted in Puerto Maldonado. As such, the choice to take malaria prophylactics is entirely personal – if you feel better about it, take the medication. FPI offers no recommendation or medical advice in this regard.

In recent years, there have been a few cases of dengue at Los Amigos, although it is hard to verify whether researchers have contracted it in town or at the field station. There is no vaccine, but there are cures – we remain watchful for this disease.

Leishmaniasis is a tropical disease that several researchers have contracted in past years. It is not a painful disease, but it can be unpleasant if left untreated. As such, if any student or researcher receives a bite that does not heal in a week, we advise them to get tested locally. In short, any misgivings you may have about using high concentration DEET are significantly outweighed by the unpleasantness of leishmaniasis. Treatment for leishmaniasis can be obtained in Peru or abroad at a travel/CDC clinic.

The recent Zika outbreak is of concern in much of Latin America, although a great deal is still not known about this virus. Since Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes are the primary vectors of the virus, we again recommend DEET to prevent bites. For much more detailed information, please see the next section in this FAQ.

Chiggers are annoying but do not carry disease. They are small mites of the family Trombiculidae (also known as harvest mites) that can cause you some irritation at Los Amigos. They cause small welts, like mosquito bites, that can itch very badly. They clear up quickly, and there are rarely any scars. Using insect repellent can help in preventing these bites. Also avoid directly on the ground, and tuck your shirt into your pants. Wearing the tall rubber boots will also help greatly. FYI, the mites are 1/60th of an inch long (nearly invisible to the naked eye) and are long gone by the time the bites start itching.

How concerned are you about the Zika virus?

A great deal is still not known about this virus, which is spread by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. There is a possible link to a condition called microcephaly in children born to infected women. While mosquitoes are the primary vector of the virus, the virus can be sexually transmitted.

The CDC’s travel advisories for pregnant women have extended to Peru, suggesting that students who are pregnant — or likely to be pregnant at the time of the course — use caution. There is currently no evidence of any effect on future births for those who are not pregnant at the time of infection, and only around 20% of all infected people exhibit even the minor symptoms of Zika (fever, rash, etc.). There is an additional suspected link to a rare but more severe condition called Guillain-Barré. However, this risk is exceedingly low.

The Peruvian government is taking numerous proactive measures to prevent the spread of Zika within the country. These include the use of ovitraps to identify the virus in mosquitoes at many monitoring sites around the country, allowing for a swift response if detected.

This is a developing story, and much is still unknown regarding the transmission and health risks of this virus. We recommend that each prospective student and researcher determine their comfort levels by weighing the available data against their own relative risk. At this point, FPI’s non-pregnant investigators and other staff remain confident about safely returning to the field.

To reduce mosquito bites, we recommend repellents with DEET as the active ingredient, along with loose-fitting clothing and long-sleeves. Clothing may also be treated with permethrin. Furthermore, mosquito bed nets are provided at the field stations.

Read more:

General information from the CDC

CDC travel advisories

Discussion of Zika (Cosmos Magazine)

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