This expedition takes place in the remote indigenous community of Warapoka, located in Guyana’s Region One, in the Northwest corner of the country. The 600-person community of Warapoka owns 101 km2 of title land nestled within a pristine blackwater river system with lush forests, plentiful fish, and many Amazon giants including anacondas, harpy eagles, and jaguars. This area of Guyana is incredibly remote and can only be reached via charter plane or a long journey in boat and car from Georgetown that even takes you out into the Atlantic to reach the Waini River mouth. Warapoka is surrounded by an unstudied brackish and blackwater river system that brings together rainforest, mangrove swamps, and clay and sand hills. The community is also home to an Agami heron nesting site, offering a rare opportunity to study one of the Amazon’s most beautiful and enigmatic birds up close.
Warapoka has been very interested in developing tourism to bring in additional income to protect their land – as most people are subsistence farmers – and have built a lodge to start accepting visitors. The goal of this project is to help Warapoka catalogue and monitor their unique wildlife to be able to attract additional visitors and show them the marvels of the remote Guyanese forest. As this will be the first year of formal surveys for Warapoka, Opwall field scientists will focus on setting up baseline surveys for mammals, herpetofauna, birds, and insects (beetles and butterflies), as well as working to map the vegetation and habitat types within Warapoka’s territory.
Bird surveys: Helping an experienced ornithologist with collecting data from mist net captures from dawn to midday. These surveys use standardised mist net hours help quantify the changes in understory bird communities. Point counts are also completed by the survey teams to provide comparative data sets.
Agami nesting survey: You may also have the opportunity to camp overnight at the Agami heron nesting site (depending on weather and nesting conditions) to study the birds alongside an ornithologist. Surveys will be done to measure predation events by anacondas, giant otters, and other predators on the heron eggs during the peak nesting season.
Herpetofauna surveys: Assisting an experienced herpetologist with standard search scan samples for reptiles and amphibians.
Butterfly surveys: Installing and emptying baited butterfly traps to study biodiversity of local charismatic species, attractive for tourism.
Large mammal surveys: Helping to check and download data from camera traps that have been installed throughout the reserve. The groups are involved in analysis of the images and these data used to assess ground based mammal abundance, including the big cats and herbivores such as tapirs, deer and agouti. In addition, the students will be completing transect surveys to collect data on primate abundance (e.g. Black Spider Monkey, Red Howler Monkey, Wedge-capped Capuchin, White-faced Saki) and mammal tracks that can give indications of species density.
Forest structure and dynamics surveys: Helping a forest ecologist with quantifying the forest structure (age class structure of trees, amounts of understory vegetation, sapling regeneration, canopy cover etc) of new permanent monitoring plots. These data are re-used to quantify changes in the forest.
Warapoka is an incredibly remote and threatened indigenous community that lies far outside of Guyana’s existing tourism circuit. However, the community protects a significant area of pristine forest and is committed to maintaining it through sustainable use, subsistence hunting and farming, and ecotourism. Warapoka is located far outside Guyana’s existing tourism circuit – but in a beautiful area teeming with wildlife – so the objective of this project is to identify unique wildlife in the area and set up monitoring systems to help the community care for their rainforest. This expedition will seek to help Warapoka identify unique wildlife with tourism potential that can bring funding to the community to continue the long-term protection of the forest.
While Warapoka’s territory is not currently under direct threat, the community has few local employment options and many people leave to work in gold mining and industrial fishing and farming to support their families. These options threaten other areas of forest and traditional livelihoods based on subsistence hunting and farming, which are being lost as young community members leave for opportunities in cities and factories. However, training in wildlife spotting and monitoring, as well as support in developing trails, spotting areas, and itineraries for the Warapoka ecolodge provides opportunities for community members to stay in Warapoka while working to protect the forest.
Most of our volunteers fundraise for their expedition costs. Find out more.
Climate – The weather is generally hot, humid, and rainy for most of the field season. Daytime temperatures average around 30, with at least some rain common most days. Being in the rainforest during the wet season, you will get wet!
Fitness level required – Medium-High. You will sometimes be walking 5-10k in muddy, hot, and humid conditions or rowing canoes in and out of camp.
Accommodation – Accommodation in Warapoka village will be in homestays with occasional overnight hammock- or tent-based camping on expeditions from the base. Facilities are comfortable but basic. You may have access to either flushing toilets or long-drop toilets with cold showers in the homestay. Overnight camps will often have no permanent facilities but will have bucket showers available at the river side. Accommodation at all survey camps is in hammocks with mosquito nets and bashas, which are small tarpaulins.