I was in EV for around six weeks at the beginning of 2016. I had a fantastic time. If you have any doubts in your mind about going...you should go, even if you're scared about whatever creatures you might find in the jungle!
The Amazon is a truly amazing place and EV really gives you the chance to work, see and enjoy it all. One of the reasons I selected to go was that the price seemed to much cheaper than some of the other stuff you find on the net, and I can say it is good value for money.
I worked with tree planting, GPS mapping and GIS, in addition to helping with animal care tasks (food prep, cage cleaning) and construction work. I was also incredibly lucky that during my stay, three baby monkeys arrived and I, along with everybody else, was able to share the experience of helping to look after them, probably my number one highlight!
However, it is important to remember, that these are wild animals, that hopefully will be released, so try not to become too attached!
Douwe and Olivia were fantastic and I learnt a lot from both of them in such a short time. They are both very knowledgeable at different things and are a great team. I can honestly say I really admire them for the way they are prepared to commit their entire lives to a worthy cause.
Of course living in the jungle does have its challenges; the humidity, cockroaches, snakes, spiders, no fridge etc. But really, this a part of the experience, and being away from home comforts makes you appreciate them so much more, and realize, actually how little you really need them.
I would also recommend maybe going with an idea beforehand about what you really want to get from your stay; a project in mind, learning ecology of certain species, habitat management restoration, wildlife photography, as having this an really help you make the most of your time there.
A few essential items I would recommend:
vacuum storage bag (if you're happy to buy the plastic), stuff will get damp there and it's a good way to prevent this.
Zinc tape / Headtorch / Good quality poncho / Bungee cords (never know when they could be useful).
Finally, I wouldn't bother taking anything like nice clothes and our experience was that there were old clothes to use for work there.
It's a great environment, you will help a good cause, the people are friendly and you'll have a wicked time. My only regret is I didn't stay longer and could go back again!
Ali Ahmed, Canada (stayed 3 weeks February-March 2013)
I felt immediately welcome at Esperanza Verde when Señor Douwe called out my name as I arrived. Since then, the last few weeks have been a collection of much more than could be done justice to write in a short space. But be it the work itself, the surroundings, the company of the fellow volunteers, or even falling ill, it has all amounted to a rewarding experience.
Jennifer Brown, Australia (stayed 4 weeks in February-March 2013)
Traveling to Esperanza Verde was already an adventure in itself- plane, two cars completely full of people and crossing two rivers by boat before arriving in the majestic jungle here. I can’t say just one favorite thing. I really enjoyed the communal atmosphere and living with a family. There’s no need for an alarm clock because the monkeys are up at dawn. There’s been the heaviest rain I’ve experienced and it’s so cute when the monkeys seek shelter just outside our bedroom. It was great to see how far the construction progressed while we were here. If there were an activity that we wanted to do while being here, Olivia and Douwe were really supportive to make it happen. I hope everyone else will enjoy the experience as we have.
A day at Esperanza Verde by Arne Lysaker from Norway (stayed 4 weeks in February-March 2013)
The sounds from the forest, just outside the open window, fill the bedroom as you are waking up. The house is quieter after the kids (Marlon and Kayla) and Douwe or Olivia have left to the other side of the river to the local school, and now it’s time for the rest of the house to wake up.
There are still a lot of people around and since everybody lives in the same house it’s difficult to oversleep, though it can happen. There are animals that need food, cages to build, fixing the paths or helping Elena out in the kitchen. There’s always so much to do that you will never be bored during the day. Douwe, the man of the house, likes to sing songs that he finds suitable for specific moments. He leads a group that consists of volunteers and Machico and Roldan (two local working machines who always work faster and carry more stuff than you. This is the type of work that many people find very manly. Carrying rocks from the river, mixing huge amounts of cement by hand and general carpeting are typical activities. It does not matter if you have experience or not, everyone gets tasks so you will be hungry by lunch time for sure. While that is being done, Erik and Jen (resp. from Norway and Australia) are feeding the animals since it’s their turn today. The routine goes like this: cutting fruit, mixing food and placing it in their respective buckets. Then go to Rincay, the tapir, who will try to take a bite of your clothes. Cuddle with him and make sure that he and his friend Pepito, the tortoise, are healthy. Continue to the birdcage and from there go to the monkeys. Mica is the least shy of the monkeys and will probably follow you around for most of the trip. She tends to fall in love with volunteer guys, but ignore her and its fine. At the monkey feeding table you will also see Igor, Tika (the coati), Camilla and Jordi, which is an amazing sight. In the evening it’s time to feed the favorite animals of the volunteers, Elmo the sloth. As soon as you enter the cage he comes straight towards you and tries to climb onto you.
At twelve o’clock it’s time for lunch which is prepared by Elena. After the morning work, lunch is much anticipated. Speaking for myself, some of these lunches are the best I’ve ever had. It might have something to do with the need for energy after three hours of carrying rocks or whatever task Douwe has in mind. Lunch is served in the kitchen and we all sit around the table and eat heaps of food. Olivia is more or less the expert on animals and will always have a good monkey story during the day. Work continues after lunch until 4pm and after that it’s nice to go to the waterfall for a swim or just hang out, reading a book or solving a Sudoku. We cook dinner in turns so that’s always a nice end of the day. We sit in the kitchen and share the experiences of the day and listen to the crazy stories of this jungle family. ¨You know, today I got almost killed by a snake. Good thing I had my machete with me¨, is something Douwe could say. Today we are preparing a lot of cakes since we are having a party in the evening. It’s raining and all the volunteers are gathered in the kitchen, high on sugar.
A day at Esperanza Verde by Frank Mcnaghan, Ireland (stayed 3 weeks in April 2013)
A normal day at Esperanza Verde usually begins with preparing the animals‘food and then feeding them. We do this once again in the afternoon, and it is a really fun way of getting to know the animals which are kept here. After the morning feeding there are plenty of tasks which occupy our day. These range from helping make or repair the animal enclosures to taking Elmo the baby sloth out for a walk to encourage him to climb the surrounding trees. Moreover, there is a lot of construction work in and around the site which we can help with. A good thing about working here is that we can chose what work will suit us best and concentrate on that task. At the weekends we can relax here on site, but if we want to contact home via internet or go for a few drinks there are towns near-by (a village about one hour away, and the city of Pucallpa about four hours away).
The project itself is in a really beautiful setting – surrounded by lush rainforest, it takes a while for it to really sink in that you are living in the Amazon jungle! There is a little stream right beside the house and a waterfall up river where we can swim and cool off in the afternoons.
In the evenings, we all eat together and relax. There isn’t a huge amount of electricity on tap, but there is enough for lights while we read, chat or play games with other volunteers. Staying and working here is a great way to meet other travelers and spending time with Olivia and Douwe’s family is nice. The atmosphere here is really welcoming, and there is a big effort to show us volunteers the surrounding area and wildlife. For example, walking tours of the surrounding jungle or trips up river to look for flocks of wild parrots which nest here.
My stay at Eperanza Verde has been an overwhelmingly positive one, and is a trip that I highly recommend. It has been an amazing way to experience the rainforest while here in South America, and definitely a highlight of my trip so far.
Bryony Lee, UK (stayed 3 weeks in April 2013)
Esperanza Verde has been a great experience. Spending 3 weeks in the jungle is something I never imagined doing and will stay with me forever. The family is brilliant and Olivia and Douwe have gone out of their way to make sure we feel welcome and happy. I really appreciate the efforts they have gone to take us on jungle walks, to see the parrots and hopefully, within the next week, on a night walk.