Honduras

Due to limited spaces on the forest research programme in some weeks, the forest only options in Honduras are available as either a 2 or 4 week period. There are also 4 week expeditions available which combine both forest and marine components consisting of either 2 or 3 weeks forest and the remainder marine. If you want a marine-only project then you can book an expedition of 2, 4, 6 or 8 weeks and choose from the marine expeditions below. Please read the expedition options below and then move to the descriptions of the constituent parts for further information.

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Expedition Options 

Expedition 1 – an introduction to cloud forest research

Why choose this expedition? Taster of forest research

Start date expedition 1: Wednesday 18th July
Expedition length:  2 weeks (forest only)

This project is based for two weeks in the Cusuco National Park cloud forests. The first week is training to be able to join the research projects and involves a jungle survival skills course (including an optional canopy access course) and a course on Neotropical forest ecology including lectures and field based practicals. For the second week you will be working with the forest researchers on a series of biodiversity projects in base camp and also at one of the more remote camps. The type of research that you will be involved with include patch occupancy analysis for large mammals, small mammal trapping, bird point counts, genetic screening of amphibians for chytrid infections, tropical snake ecology and many other projects.

Expedition 2 – diving and marine research training

Why choose this expedition? Taster of Caribbean marine research

Start date expedition 2: Wednesday 25th July
Expedition length:  2 weeks (marine only)

This expedition would take place either in the Opwall marine research site on Utila Island or on the mainland at Tela. If you are not dive trained you would start with a PADI Open Water dive training course before spending your second week completing a Caribbean reef ecology and survey methods course where you would learn how to identify some of the major fish and coral species likely to be encountered in the Caribbean. If you arrive dive trained you would start on the Caribbean reef ecology and survey methods course before spending the last week acting as an assistant on some of the many marine research projects running. These include 3D reef modelling, stereo-video surveys of fish, lionfish and urchin surveys among many other projects.

Expedition 3 – cloud forest and reef biodiversity

Why choose this expedition? Best expedition if you can’t choose between forest and marine research

Start date expedition 3: Wednesday 13th June
Expedition length: 4 weeks (2 weeks terrestrial, 2 weeks marine)

This expedition involves spending two weeks in the biodiverse rich cloud forests of the Cusuco National Park followed by two weeks in the Caribbean working with a team of marine scientists. The first week of the expedition involves three days of jungle skills training (including an optional canopy access training course) followed by three days completing a Neotropical forest ecology course with practicals to get you acclimatised to the forest and the research projects. In your second week you will work with a large team of forest biologists on projects including estimating population sizes and infection rates with chytrid fungus of rare endemic species, helping with the longest running dung beetle project in Central America, light trapping for moths, camera trapping for large mammals and other projects. For your third and fourth weeks you are allocated one of our research sites in either Utila Island or Tela. If you can’t dive your first week here will be training to PADI Open Water level and then for your final week completing a Caribbean coral reef and survey methods course with practicals done by diving. If you can already dive by the time you arrive with us (or just want to snorkel) then in your third week you complete a Caribbean coral reef and survey methods course with practicals done by diving (if you are trained) or snorkelling. For your last week you would then join the marine research teams.

Expedition 4 – cloud forest biodiversity with diving

Why choose this expedition? Better for more detailed forest research but includes diving

Start date expedition 4: Wednesday 20th June
Expedition length: 4 weeks (3 weeks terrestrial, 1 week marine)

This expedition starts with three weeks in the Cusuco National Park cloud forest, which has been listed in a review of 173,000 protected areas in the world as being in the top 50 most important sites to conserve. The first week is spent learning to live safely in the forest from a jungle survival course (including an optional canopy access course) and a lecture course with practicals on Neotropical forest ecology. The next two weeks will be working with the largest group of forest researchers we have at any site on projects as diverse as coral snake ecology, chytrid infections of amphibians, calculating the carbon content of the forest, aquatic macroinvertebrate communities and many other projects. Note for at least one of these weeks the team will be helping out in one of the more remote field camps. For the last week then you will be based at the Opwall marine research camps in either Utila or Tela completing a PADI Open Water dive training course or a coral reef ecology and marine survey methods course with practicals by diving (if already trained) or snorkelling.

Expedition 5 – pre-med training with biodiversity research and diving

Start date expedition 5: Wednesday 20th June
Expedition length: 4 weeks (3 weeks terrestrial, 1 week marine)

This expedition involves staying in the Cusuco National Park cloud forest for three weeks and then spending a week at one of the marine sites. The first week of this expedition is the same as for expedition 4 with jungle training, canopy access (optional) and a Neotropical forest ecology course. However, in the second week you will be completing an Introduction to expedition medicine with lectures and practicals on how to organise medical support for an expedition, how to health screen participants and organise evacuations, common tropical diseases such as malaria, dengue, chikungunya, treatment of snake bites, how to deal with anaphylactic shock, trauma treatment and how to suture. The course is taught by a very experienced expedition medic in the field camp with practicals each day and is always very popular. In the following week you will be sent to work alongside the medic in one of the more remote fly camps. Most of the time though in this week you will be helping with the biodiversity surveys but if there are medical consultations you may be involved as an observer. In the final week you will go to either Utila or Tela marine research sites and complete a PADI Open Water dive training course or a coral reef ecology and marine survey methods course with practicals by diving (if already trained) or snorkelling.

Expedition 6 – advanced cloud forest biodiversity research

Why choose this expedition? Most detailed forest research with trekking in remote areas

Start date expedition 6: Wednesday 27th June
Expedition length: 4 weeks (terrestrial only)

This project is based entirely in the cloud forests of Cusuco National Park which have been identified from an analysis of 173,000 protected areas around the world as the top site for wildlife conservation in Honduras. The first week will be in base camp whilst you complete jungle training (including an optional canopy access course) and a Neotropical forest ecology lecture course with practicals. After this week you will be trekking across the whole Park joining the research teams in a series of different remote camps. Survey work will include patch occupancy analysis for large mammals, bird point counts, small mammal trapping, mist netting for bats, forest habitat structure surveys, screening amphibians for chytrid fungus infections, spotlighting surveys for amphibians, coral snake ecology research, light trapping for moths, pitfall trapping for dung beetles and many other projects.

Expedition 7 – Divemaster training with marine research

Why choose this expedition? Obtain a PADI Divemaster qualification whilst working with marine researchers

Start date expedition 7: Wednesday 20th June
Expedition length: 4 weeks (marine only)

This expedition is based on Utila Island and is aimed at training you to become a PADI Divemaster, (DM). You need to be qualified to PADI Rescue Diver and have 40 logged dives before starting on this course. Your course will then involve assisting qualified Divemasters and Instructors in training new Open Water divers and providing additional supervision in the water to the normal DM and Instructor ratios. The costs of the course are included in the expedition, though you will have to purchase the necessary PADI training materials ahead of joining the expedition and pay PADI registration fees after completion. During your expedition you will also have time to join the Caribbean reef ecology and survey techniques course and will be able to learn how to identify most of the coral and fish species encountered in the Caribbean as well as gain an insight into the marine research being carried out at the Utila Marine Research Centre. Note one of the benefits of training with Opwall is that assuming you perform well on site then for future seasons we offer those who have trained with us the opportunity to fill one of the DM roles on different expeditions around the world.

Expedition 8 – Caribbean marine research

Why choose this expedition? Gives a good all-round knowledge of marine research

Start date expedition 8: Wednesday 20th June
Expedition length: 4 weeks (marine only)

This project is based at both the Opwall marine research sites: Utila Island and on the mainland at Tela. The time spent at each site will depend on the projects running in the weeks you are on site. If you are not dive trained already then your first week will be completing a PADI Open Water dive training course. For those already dive trained or wishing only to snorkel then in your first week you would start with the Caribbean reef ecology and survey techniques course with lectures and twice daily in-water practicals either by diving (if qualified) or snorkelling. Those who completed the dive training course in their first week will do this course in their second week. For the remaining weeks on site then you would be working with the marine researchers on activities including survey and analysis of stereo-video data to quantify fish communities, behavioural studies on fish and invertebrates, 3D modelling of reefs to quantify structural complexity, macroinvertebrate transect surveys and other projects. You should complete 40 dives or more on this expedition and be familiar with most of the Caribbean coral and fish species. If desired, additional PADI dive training can be done in your spare time, at an additional cost.

Expedition 9 – cloud forest and coral reef research

Why choose this expedition? Combines a taster of forest research and more in-depth marine research

Start date expedition 9: Wednesday 13th June
Expedition length:  6 weeks (2 weeks terrestrial, 4 weeks marine)

This expedition is based for two weeks in the Cusuco cloud forest site and then for four weeks at one, or both, of the Opwall marine research sites in Utila and Tela. The first two weeks are as for expedition 1 with training in jungle survival, canopy access (optional) and Neotropical forest ecology followed by a week working with the various forest scientists including collecting data on forest structure, amphibian diversity, small mammal trapping, assessing aquatic macroinvertebrate diversity and other projects. Then the next four weeks are based at a marine site where you will learn to dive to PADI Open Water level (if not already dive trained) and then progress to a Caribbean reef ecology and survey methods course with practicals by diving. If you are already dive trained or would prefer to snorkel you just start with the Caribbean reef ecology and survey methods course. Then for the remaining weeks you would be working on the various marine research projects such as 3D modelling of the reefs, using stereo-video surveys to quantify fish communities, collecting data on sea urchin and lionfish abundance and other marine research projects.

Expedition 10 – advanced Caribbean marine research

Why choose this expedition? Best project for those wanting an in-depth knowledge of marine research and Caribbean species

Start date expedition 10: Wednesday 20th June
Expedition length:  6 weeks (marine only)

This project will take place at both the Opwall marine research sites on Utila island and on the mainland at Tela. If you are not dive trained then the first week will be spent completing a PADI Open Water dive training course. If you are already dive trained then you would start with a Caribbean reef ecology and survey techniques course which would teach you the main species of fish, macroinvertebrates and corals likely to be encountered. Those who did dive training in the first week would do this course in their second week. For the rest of the expedition you would circulate between a series of marine research projects including 3D modelling of reefs to determine structural complexity, stereo-video surveys of fish communities, macroinvertebrate transects, behaviour studies on invasive lionfish, examining ways in which sea urchin populations could be restored and many other projects. During the expedition, you should complete 60 dives and could also gain some additional dive qualifications in your spare time (at an additional cost) and be working on the various marine research projects.

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Optional Additional Dive Training

If you are already dive trained, you can sign up for additional dive training in your spare time. These courses include PADI Advanced Open Water (US$220) and PADI Rescue Diver with EFR (US$400).

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Facilities

Forest

Accommodation at Base Camp is in tents and there are toilets and showers. There is a wireless networked computer system with an internet link at Base Camp (although access to the internet will be limited) and this is where all the data from the various survey teams are collated. In addition, there is a field DNA lab. From Base Camp, teams can access four core zone fly camps across the park, giving the experience of living deep in the forest, sleeping in hammocks or tents and with the river as your shower facility. Terrain in Cusuco is the toughest of all our expeditions.

Marine

Utila

Located outside of Utila town is the Coral View hotel, situated between some of the best reefs and the largest mangrove-lined lagoon system on the island. Accommodation is in shared rooms and 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 home reef can be accessed from the jetty by snorkelling or diving and provides a site for more intensive experimental research.

Tela

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 between the sea and a small lagoon which connects to some of the larger lagoons in the area. Accommodation is in fan cooled dormitory style rooms. There is a small dive centre with newly built lab facilities, a swimming pool and lecture facilities. All diving is by boat, with mangroves reached by a combination of kayaks and a small boat.