The following page is designed to give you an insight into the types of environment you will working in whilst you are with Operation Wallacea. This should help you choose what you need to bring, and may also assist you in deciding which projects to participate in.
Forest Research projects
Research teams working in the forest will be collecting data from one of six sites in the Cusuco National Park. These camps allow scientists to access both core and buffer zone habitats of varying altitude, floral and faunal type, and disturbance level.
Base Camp is the main camp in the core zone, and Buenos Aires is the main camp in the buffer zone. Both of these camps are situated on the east of the Cusuco park, and can be accessed by a 2-3hr journey from San Pedro Sula using 4-wheel-drive vehicles.
The other two east-side camps (Guanales and Cantiles), can only be accessed via a tough trek (2 and 4 hours respectively) from Base Camp.
In the west of Cusuco National Park, there are two more camps: El Danto and El Cortecito.
El Danto and El Cortecito are the most remote camps in the park and are accessed on foot by hiking from Cantiles or Santo Tomas (a village camp on the west side). The walk from Cantiles to El Danto takes up to 7hrs with regular breaks. El Cortecito is then accessed from El Danto and takes approximatley 2 hrs. These camps will only be visited by University volunteers due to the travel time needed to reach them. Normally, one week will be spent in each location before moving on to the next camp.
Base Camp projects
Base Camp is the central research site for the Cusuco field sites and is where the Senior Scientist is normally based. The facilities at the Base Camp are designed so that volunteers and staff can stay here comfortably for the entire season.
Accommodation is in tents, so you will need to bring a sleeping bag, roll mat, and warm clothes for the evenings. There is a lockable storage room and a safe for small valuables such as passports and money.
There is a large generator which is used to power lights and the computer system in the main building. There are cold water showers and the toilets are western style. Clothes washing (using bio-degradable soaps) can be taken on the laundry run down to the village of Buenos Aires, where it will be washed and dried by locals who charge for each item (the charges are very small but using this service helps provide a considerable income for the people concerned). However, bear in mind that it can take up to 5 days to get your laundry back and if you are trekking out to the remote satellite camps you may not be able to use this laundry facility.
Food (for both carnivores and vegetarians) is prepared by a local team of cooks based on site, and a water filtration system ensures that there is drinking water available at all times. There are a number of tuck-shop style stores, run by the local community, at Base Camp, where you can buy snacks, soft drinks and souvenirs if you wish. The local guides also sell Cusuco/Opwall expedition t-shirts ($10) with all proceeds going to the guides and local community.
There is a study area where relevant books and papers used on the projects will be stored, and the computer facilities will enable each volunteer to store information such as work, photographs, etc. on the network, although it is a good idea to bring your own data storage device with you (USB memory stick/hard-drive).
If you have your own laptop, bringing this would be a definite advantage for dissertation students, as computer space can be limited and laptops can be connected to the network where necessary.
There are also Power Point facilities, and lectures will be given in the evenings on various topics.
The network will have digital maps of the areas in which you will be working, as well as GIS software with recent satellite data and many photographs which students can access.
There are very limited internet facilities available (depending on computer space), but please do not rely on this system as it relies on a satellite internet system which is weather dependent.
There will be facilities available for re-charging batteries (AA and AAA) as long as you bring your own 2-pin adapter. Please note that the voltage used in Honduras is 110V, not the normal European 220V, so if you wish to bring your own electrical equipment please check that it can function using 110V.
Buffer Zone Village camps
There are two buffer zone villages where volunteers may be staying: Buenos Aires on the east side of the park (just 20 minutes drive from Base Camp), and Santo Tomas on the west side. Both villages afford breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
Accommodation in Buenos Aires is in local houses (minimum of two volunteers per house) where a bed and mattress will be provided. In Santo Tomas accommodation is in tents, so you will need to bring a sleeping bag and a roll mat but this camp will only be used for one night when leaving the west side. There is a fantastic atmosphere in both villages, and volunteers will gain a real feel for the Honduran culture from their time at these camps.
You will need to bring a warm sleeping bag and warm clothing for the evenings. Meals will be prepared by local staff, and in Buenos Aires you will eat at the Toucan or Quetzal restaurant – a wooden hut at the top of the village.
Toilet and shower facilities are basic and in Buenos Aires may vary between local houses. As with other sites, it is important for you to use biodegradable soap.
Whilst in these villages, it is vital that volunteers act in an appropriate way – please refrain from drinking or from acting in an impolite manner.
These camps, based in the core-zone of the Cusuco National Park, will give volunteers the unforgettable experience of living and working at a truly remote field station.
The trek to the satellite camps on the east side of the park (Guanales and Cantiles) takes up to four hours to complete (from Base Camp). University Volunteers staying in Cusuco for longer than 2 weeks may access the western satellite camps (El Danto and El Cortecito) either on foot after spending a week in Cantiles or by transfer to Santo Tomas followed by a walk to either camp. The camps are located at varying altitudes and in areas with differing levels of anthropogenic disturbance. Moving on foot between the different satellite camps each week gives the opportunity to join the research teams in a number of unique locations while experiencing the full diversity of the park, as well as gaining a better appreciation of the conservation challenges posed by illegal deforestation in the area.
A local team of cooks will provide the meals at the camp, using gas cookers and an open fire to prepare the meals. Meals will generally be eaten on bamboo benches and tables underneath tarpaulins and vegetarians can be catered for. Water will be filtered and is always available for volunteers to drink. There will be a small generator to provide lights and battery (AA and AAA) recharging facilities at the site as well as to power the moth trap. As with the Base Camp please note that the generator will supply 110V only.
Toilets will be basic camping trenches and washing will be in the nearby streams (swim suites should be worn while washing/bathing). Please bring bio-degradable soap for washing.
Marine Research projects
Utila has a large and developing dive-based tourism industry with many hotels and associated businesses. Development control is much more limited and conservation organisations can only influence development proposals and have no direct control as for HCRF on Cayos Cochinos. Nonetheless the economic importance of the reefs on the island means that they are well protected by the activities of concerned divers and conservationists.
There are extensive stands of mangroves fringing the lagoons on the island, which not only provide habitats for a whole range of aquatic and terrestrial flora and fauna indigenous to these ecosystems, but also provide substantial nursery grounds for many reef species.
The Utila Marine Research Centre is based at Coral View in the southwestern corner of the island. Accommodation is in shared rooms with fans in the Coral View Hotel, away from the main tourism centre and situated between some of the best reefs and the largest mangrove-lined lagoon system on the island.
The hotel is run by a local Utilan family who have built, in conjunction with Operation Wallacea, a well equipped dive and environmental monitoring field lab. The Coral View home reef is one of the best on the island and can be accessed from the jetty at Coral View. The research centre has a number of dive boats that can be used to access the remaining reefs, which range from being designated as a Marine Protected Area, to those having no protection and with substantial fishing pressure. All projects based on Utila are coded HU.
The Bay of Tela is situated between the national parks of Punta Sal and Punto Isopo. Honduras Shores Plantation is located on the beach in the Bay of Tela just outside a small Garifuna community called San Juan. The plantation is located between the sea and a small lagoon which connects to some of the larger lagoons in the area. There is no swimming in the lagoon however because there are regular sightings of crocodiles! Accommodation is in dormitory style rooms set back from the beach and there is a small dive centre, swimming pool and lecture facilities in the adjacent hotel. Projects based at Tela are coded HT.