Read about an amazing tree climbing adventure with Operation Wallacea!
We are thirty metres up in a tree high above the forest floor in the heart of Cusuco National Park in Honduras. Ropes and specialist climbing equipment keep us safe and everyone is having a breather after the steep climb. The strident calls of solitaires and nightingale-thrushes hidden in the thick jungle vegetation make it clear we are far from home and yet we are climbing beautiful, towering pine trees which takes a little getting used to!
Enjoying the view!
It’s all part of their experience for participants on the Operation Wallacea expedition to Honduras who can join our Canopy Access team on a climb into the tops of some very special trees. Up here is a world where you can encounter lizards, huge red-headed woodpeckers, brightly coloured birds called Chlorophonias and the occasional glimpse of a big billed toucan.
All around us are vines and creepers, and every tree is dripping with a tangle of epiphytes with all kinds of orchids, lichens and ferns. And far below like ants, we see one of the survey groups setting out for the day, they could be heading out to monitor birds, mammals or insects, or measuring trees to assess the carbon content of the forest.
Monitoring in such a rich and biodiverse forest uses a whole range of different survey methods for assessing the amazing flora and fauna, and all of it is working right alongside skilled and knowledgeable research scientists who are specialists in their field. Super friendly, their enthusiasm creates a wonderful atmosphere.
This opportunity allows you to gain valuable conservation experience and to be directly involved in long-running studies with over twenty-five years’ worth of data. This collection of large temporal and spatial datasets has allowed Operation Wallacea to publish over 600 academic papers contributing to conservation management across many countries.
Immersed in the forest. Image by Zak Walters
As you can see from the smiles, we have lots of fun and even those who think a fear of heights will be a barrier often surprise themselves, finding new possibilities in a supportive environment, and discover that they too can become arbonauts! Our climbers are often scaling their first ever tree with the experts and we spend some time teaching the techniques required to keep them safe.
Instructor Tim and a student. Image by Zak Walters
An initial coaching session teaches you how to use the specialist tree climbing equipment and after that you are ready for go and ascend at your own pace using the ascenders, foot-loop and your new found knowledge. Once at the top we supervise a technical manoeuvre which allows you to do a ‘changeover’ into descent mode. With a last look around and a few last photographs it is time to return back to earth. Everyone loves the long abseil down through all the forest layers then it’s back to camp in time for another fine home-cooked meal before the next survey activity of the day.
Later I’ll climb into my hammock and fall asleep to the call of the Crested Owl, dreaming of seeing another Kinkajou in the treetops.
There are some great online talks about Operation Wallacea’s 2024 expeditions in countries around the world. Go to https://www.opwall.com find out more!