Written By Regan McCormick ‘17
If you talked to me last year and asked if I was scared to spend an entire month in the Amazon rainforest, without my parents, without much contact with civilization, and even without hot water, I probably would have told you that I was pretty nervous.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to take care of myself without my parents by my side to tell me exactly what I needed to do and when to do it.
I wasn’t sure if I was brave enough to conquer the Amazon rainforest alone, and I definitely wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to remember to do my laundry in a timely fashion.
If you talked to me now, and asked me if taking this internship was worth it?
I would not even be able to put into words how amazing this trip was for me.
In hopes to ease myself into the “Amazonian way of life,” I started my trip as a tourist. I Spent most of our first day traveling, and we were welcomed to the Tahuayo River Lodge with glasses full of homemade star fruit juice. We learned all about the area surrounding the lodge and met with our fearless guide, Alfredo.
Our week was filled with boat rides up the Tahuayo River, a tributary of the Amazon, in search of birds, canoeing through the flooded forests, and hiking through the jungle in search of monkeys.
I had the opportunity to take a day trip to an area called Terra Firmé, where we got a chance to search for poison dart frogs and crawl through the bat cave (a rite of passage for all interns).
Not only did we find numerous species of amphibians, but we also had the chance to feed three rescued woolly monkeys on our trip back to the lodge.
Another one of my favorite excursions was the canopy zipline. The view from the top of the platforms is breathtaking! Nothing beats zip-lining through the trees on a gorgeous day in the jungle! Not only was each excursion filled with new animals, it was a chance to make new memories, and a chance to learn new things.
My first week went by so quickly, and soon my parents were heading back to the U.S. and I was on my own.
The first night was definitely the hardest for me.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it on my own, or if I was going to be able to be able to hold my own out in the jungle. I began my research the next day.
Grace, the researcher I was working for, and I headed out on a boat after breakfast. Our guide, Adolfo, was the shaman in Chino, the village that the lodge works with. He had extensive knowledge of the surrounding rivers and lakes.
Our goal for the research was to find 3 tagged manatees and monitor them to see where they were traveling and if there is a suitable habitat for more manatees to be released at in the future. It took a few days to locate where the manatees staying. We only found two of them because the youngest manatee had lost the radio collar that was placed on its tail during the release. To find the manatees, Grace and I used a radio telemetry system.
We used an antenna to pick up the frequency in which each of the radio collars are tuned to, and followed the signal. Though the manatees were almost impossible to see, we were able to get close enough to hear them breathing!
When I was not out on the water, I spent my afternoons helping out with excursions or with work around the lodge. This not only allowed me to see how the lodge is run from a business stand-point, but also learn even more about the animals and environment from the guides.
This trip has completely changed the way I look at my life.
I have learned so much not only about the amazing area that I stayed in, but I learned more about who I am and what I can do than I could have anywhere else.
Being removed from the usual daily life, not only gave me time to reflect on myself, but also allowed me to try new things that I would not get to try anywhere else.
I learned that I was capable of so much more than I could ever imagine and braver than I ever dreamed.
This opportunity taught me beyond what I could learn in the classroom, it opened doors to new possibilities, and gave me a new outlook on life that I will carry with me through the rest of my life.
The Western Amazon Rainforest is known to biologists as The Green Paradise of the Amazon. It is here that we can find the greatest diversity of flora and fauna found in the world. In this region the reserve that has the most spectacular megadiversity is the Area de Conservacion Regional Comunal de Tamshiyacu Tahuayo (ACRCTT).
The 1+ million acre ACRCTT contains the greatest diversity of mammals recorded of any place in the Amazon and with 15 species of monkeys, the greatest monkey diversity of any park or reserve in the world. The ACRCTT also has over 600 species of birds and the highest tree species diversity known in the world. The only tourist operator with licensed access to this magnificent reserve is Amazonia Expeditions, owned by Academy parents Dr. Paul and Dolly Beaver.
In business for 31 years, Amazonia Expeditions owns and operates two lodges in the ACRCTT. The tourism program and lodges are rated best in the Amazon by National Geographic, #1 (out of 50) by Trip Advisor on-line rating service and A+ by the Better Business Bureau (30,000+ guests, not one complaint ever filed). To learn more, visit perujungle.com.
Applications for internships are available for Academy at the Lakes high school students through Mrs. McCormick or Mrs. Mahoney. Families are welcome to experience the Amazon as a tourist during a 9 day, 8 night trip at the end of June. This year, the trip is also open to students traveling solo who may not want to stay a month as an intern, but would like to experience the Amazon as part of the group going at the end of June.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org