Conservation volunteer testimonials, stories & video diaries
Of course we at Biosphere Expeditions are totally biased and bound to think that we are running a pretty cool conservation volunteer outfit. But don’t just take our word for it. Have a look at the kind of awards we have won, what the media say about us, and what our former conservation volunteer team members and scientists think.
Below are just a few comments we have had from our conservation volunteers, scientists and the media over the years on our conservation expeditions. For more comments and media coverage, go to the individual expedition.
"You have created something big with Biosphere Expeditions and I wanted to thank you for letting me be part of it. My experience with you was not only extraordinarily enriching and beautiful, but it has also put many wheels in motion in my life, amongst other things a new understanding of wildlife and nature, as well as a deep personal friendship. My expedition has been one of the most inspirational and formative experiences of my life. THANK YOU!”
“There was more useful information about the project made available before you travelled than any other similar ‘conservation holiday’ I have been on – this was really good as it gave you a very accurate idea of what to expect.”
“What a wonderful experience. One that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
“One of the most amazing trips of my life – wonderful people, wonderful experience.”
“….absolutely brilliant – this has to be the best ever Biosphere experience! Very impressed by – well everything ……”
“Fantastic food, a comfortable bed, washing & ironing done, cheetah in a trap, what more could a girl ask for? I loved every minute, even the storms. Thanks for sharing a little bit of your lives with me, I feel very privileged to have been able to take part in this awesome project. I wish you all the best with your work. I’ll be back!”
“Congratulations for the Biosphere Expeditions idea and the way the staff carries it through with their enthusiasm. I came across you on the internet by chance and your information materials and the way my questions were answered persuaded me to dare come on the expedition. Once in the field my expectations were more than fulfilled. The team was great, as was the food and I gained a real insight into how wildlife research and conservation works on the ground. I'll be back!”
"For me this was again a very successful undertaking and I look forward to receiving a copy of the report. Last year was my first venture into ‘responsible travel’ and I feel I made a good choice with Biosphere Expeditions. I would recommend this type of vacation to anyone. I will be back and follow Biosphere’s development with interest.”
“The site was extraordinary, the programme was excellent, the expedition leader & scientists were extremely well selected for this kind of an expedition. There was also outstanding care for safety matters.”
“This has been the most wonderful period in my life and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to spend four weeks here. Many, many wonderful memories. Thank you Biosphere for making it all possible and best wishes to Birgit & Harald for their work here. All in all a very, very memorable and life-changing experience.”
“The group dynamic was excellent...our team leader was excellent - really chilled but directive where necessary and the dive master and his phenomenal knowledge of the sites enhanced all our dives.”
“This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to and it felt like a real privilege to wake up here and go out diving with the scientists.”
“I want to thank you for your dedication and enthusiasm and amazing talents that you put into your projects. I thoroughly enjoyed my Cayos experience. I have nothing but the most glowing, positive comments to make about the expedition. I hope our paths cross again, both above and below the water level.”
“This was my first expedition and I was not sure what to expect. I was wanting the adventure of a lifetime and I certainly got that and more. A real feel for ancient times, met real people in villages, climbed mountains, swam in the sea. The mountains and indeed the country is spectacular, the Land Rovers are great fun to drive, the camp is great. To see the light and mist appear with the sun shining on the mountains – it’s out of this world. I got to be Indiana Jones for two weeks. Thanks to all.”
“I’ve just spent half an hour reflecting on everything that’s happened over the last two weeks – it’s been such a lot! What a fantastic experience. The sun and warmth, the stunning scenery, some truly dramatic surveys and, above all, a wonderful team with which to share everything. I envy everyone who is yet to come here.”
“What an incredible experience. Being part of an exciting research project with a wonderful team. I am so proud to be part of something like that and so impressed.”
“A big thank you to all those involved in this wonderful project for giving us the chance to be part of it. I came with high expectations, which have been more than fulfilled. I leave with wonderful memories of the real wild Africa, not just of the game reserves I have visited before. The last two weeks have been an awe-inspiring experience with so many highlights! I hope your continued work is as successful as it has been so for and you are able to fulfil your aims.”
“I can’t find French words to tell you how fantastic this stay was for me so you can imagine in English! So thank you for making my dream come true and so memorable. Please just stay the way you are – it’s so good to meet people like you and all the work that you do.”
“I am so grateful to have had the chance to work alongside you on the incredible work you are doing here. Thank you for really involving me in all the aspects of the conservation work, and the chance to get so close to such incredible animals. I can go home knowing so much more about conservation work and what it involves, and the memory of being so close I could feel a cheetah’s heartbeat. Thank you also to Biosphere who provided me with this opportunity and for making it safe and fun. I wish you every success for this and all your other expeditions”.
“The dynamics between the expedition leader, scientists, guides and cooks were outstanding, which really made the expedition go well. (…) It was amazing seeing conservation in action and it was especially the enthusiasm of the staff that brought the expedition alive.”
"I am so happy that I chose to come on this expedition; it has really surpassed my expectations (which were high!). The leadership, staff, organization and opportunity to participate in wildlife research combined to create an experience I will never forget. Thanks for allowing me to pin in :-). I would love to participate in another expedition in the future."
"I was very sad to leave. My expectations regarding animals and the research work were 100% fulfilled, but the thing that made it extra special for me was the genuinely friendly and relaxed atmosphere between everyone on the expedition. The group gelled really well right from the start despite our very diverse ages, backgrounds and languages!"
"Very worthwhile work. This is an expedition for people who genuinely care about the creatures that they are studying. Thank you for helping me find Eric (a whale!) It was very special."
“Oh my gosh! I think for the first time I’m speechless… This expedition has been so many things I can’t even begin to describe, but I’m going away with so much passion and enthusiasm to do more to help nature and this planet and its amazing life! I saw so many wonderful creatures of the deep but seeing the blue whale (and about 10 times with some flukes) was the highlight. My respect for this animal and the work that Biosphere Expeditions does for research & conservation is beyond words”
"I'll never forget the first time we saw fresh snow leopard tracks...the whole group fell silent. We were all moved in a way we shared without speaking. I knew then this was something I would remember forever. We had a great team and achieved more than we ever anticipated. Being in the Altai was a unique experience which I'll never forget."
“After ten years in the desolate wasteland of 9 to 5 office work, these two weeks have been an amazing inspiration and a life changing event. I could not have hoped to meet better people and look forward to signing up for next year. Thanks to Biosphere Expeditions for making this an experience of a lifetime.”
“This has been a wonderful first expedition for me and has lived up to all my expectations…”
“This is an incredible area, one that may not remain the same forever. I hope this expedition may give it a bigger chance. We were very lucky to see argali, ibex and much more. Fantastic laughs and a lot of fun. Thanks to the entire team who kept the camp….”
“To be able to come out here, to a place so removed and different from my own, and to meet a local population with lives so different to mine, and to feel that we are working together without imposing ourselves – that is a feeling I’ll miss and the feeling I simply can’t convey to people who have not come here to experience it themselves.”
“What a great two weeks – full of excitement, adventure and driving lessons. Great time and a great group.”
More testimonials from participants, journalists, scientists and others are on independent review website GreatNonProfits.org.
"Sumatran tiger conservation is the most important thing in saving the biodiversity of tropical rainforests in Indonesia and the most important area to save their habitat is Rimbang Baling Wildlife Sanctuary. Biosphere Expeditions, WWF Indonesia and Batu Dinding Community Forum as a local community group have been working together on research, conservation and developing environmentally friendly livelihood systems based on Sumatran tiger conservation. Our initiative is unique and very important, in particular in bringing together Indonesian researchers, international citizen scientists and local people to work together towards a common goal."
Wishnu Sukmantoro, Species & habitat management coordinator, WWF Indonesia
"The Sumatran tiger is listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN's Red list. This means it is one step from extinction in the wild. Since 2005, WWF Indonesia has worked to monitor and protect them. We face many challenges in their conservation, most of all habitat fragmentation and destruction through human activities. Biosphere Expeditions' support in Rimbang Baling Wildlife Sanctuary, a globally important Tiger Conservation Landscape (TCL), is much needed and appreciated. As tigers are so secretive, we need help to monitor them in the wild through transect and camera trapping surveys. Such surveys need a lot of resources in terms of manpower and equipment. By having WWF Indonesia, Biosphere Expeditions and the local community work together, those resources become available and local people benefit from living alongside tigers. This is the key to successful tiger conservation against all the odds."
Febri Anggriawan Widodo, Tiger and elephant research and monitoring coordinator, WWF Indonesia
“Asian elephants are endangered and in a steep population decline due to poaching and habitat degradation, as well as fragmentation leading to human-elephant conflict. Captive elephants are often kept in inadequate conditions and little research has been done on wild animals living in dense forests. Support from Biosphere Expeditions to carry out research on natural elephant behaviour is therefore crucial and will benefit both captive and wild elephant populations.”
Kerri McCrea, local scientist, Thailand.
“Poaching is a very serious problem for sea turtles around the world and Costa Rica is no exception. Through direct conservation actions such as relocating nests into a safe hatchery and assisting turtles to nest and hatchlings to make it to the sea, we have been able to reduce losses from almost 100% a few years ago to around 60% today. This is a great success, which would not have been possible without volunteer help. Their assistance is essential for highly labour-intensive tasks such as patrolling the beach every night, collecting eggs and taking them to the hatchery, where nests have to be dug and guarded around the clock. Once the hatchlings emerge, they need to be weighed and measured and guided back into the ocean. Since we are only two permanent staff at the research station, there is no way we could manage all this by ourselves, so I am very grateful for having committed volunteers helping me with direct conservation actions as well as research as citizen scientists. I invite everyone to join me at Pacuare to experience turtle conservation in action on this beautiful stretch of the Caribbean coastline of Costa Rica.”
Magali Marion, local scientist, Costa Rica.
"As the only long standing research organisation collecting data on both cetaceans and basking sharks in west Scottish waters, this project is vital to the effective management of these populations. Support from Biosphere Expeditions is fundamental to the delivery of the project; we rely on volunteers to help us with our data collection. Only long-term studies can provide the information necessary for effective management and conservation of the marine environment. Without the help and assistance of volunteers the long-term monitoring of marine mammals in these waters would simply not be possible."
Olivia Harries, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, Scotland
"Biosphere Expeditions provides a unique and valuable opportunity to monitor different taxa of wildlife including primates, birds and our endangered species of felines such as jaguar, puma, ocelot and margay through transect census, camera traps deployment and more, all of this at the Tahuayo River basin, one of the richest areas in the Amazon in terms of diversity of species. I'm very excited about this collaboration as it will enable me to perform many research and conservation activities, which would be impossible without the help from Biosphere Expeditions and its teams of volunteers."
Alfredo Dosantos Santillán, Tahuayo River Amazon Research Center, Peru
"Our exciting collaboration with Biosphere Expeditions will expand our primary goal of desert conservation, through active research and conservation work by expedition participants. Observations and data collected by the participants will enhance our understanding of the desert environment and help us achieve our ultimate goal of ensuring rare desert species survival in the wild."
Stephen Bell, Conservation Officer, Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
"Surveying coral reefs is, rightly, becoming more commonplace, but getting to hard-to-reach-places with a large enough team to obtain quality, useful data is still a challenge. These data are essential for getting a full picture of processes and impacts in the ecosystem to feed back to the managing authorities and scientific community. With Biosphere Expeditions, our research vessel and dedicated volunteers, we can not only do that in Pulau Tioman, but also spread awareness and increase education on a wide variety of marine conservation issues within local and global communities."
Katie Yewdall, Tioman Dive Centre, Malaysia
"Reef Check Malaysia has been conducting coral reef surveys around the country since 2007. However, we have always found it difficult to survey islands that are not inhabited and distant. We lack manpower and funding to survey such areas and hence there were gaps in our data. Working with Biosphere Expeditions helps fill in these gaps. The research vessel will allow us to survey the smaller islands off Tioman and the volunteers will provide the added manpower we require. This is vital for scientists and managers that are working hard to protect coral reefs in our country."
Alvin Chelliah, Reef Check Malaysia
“Here in South Africa, the Cape leopard, caracal and wildcat survive in the mountains of the Western Cape despite centuries of hunting and persecution. Due to the inaccessibility of its preferred habitat, the Cape leopard is little studied, as are caracal and wildcat. There are also few studies quantifying mammal abundance in this region, and none that explore the competition for prey resources amongst this set of carnivores. As part of our biodiversity monitoring in this relatively uninhabited part of the world we make extensive use of citizen scientists, who live with us, check our camera traps, assist in various research activities, such as trapping and tracking and reporting interesting wildlife encounters. I would like to invite you to join me at my home of Blue Hills Nature Reserve to help me in my quest to understand the prey dynamics of our most beautiful and elusive wildlife – the carnivores of the Cape Floral Kingdom.”
Dr. Alan Lee, local scientist, South Africa
“It has always been our dream to conduct this kind of large-scale study. But so far we have had neither the money, nor the people to do it. Biosphere Expeditions has changed all that and enabled us to realise many of our ambitions. The data gathered, combined with the weight of Biosphere Expeditions' international reputation, will be vital in our efforts of protecting the area and its wildlife such as the elusive snow leopard.”
Volodymyr Tytar, Schmalhausen Institute of Zoology, Ukraine and local scientist, Tien Shan & Altai
"For me as a lone scientist, it is not possible to check and cover the whole territory of the Veľká Fatra and Mala Fatra National Parks during the wolf and lynx mating season. But with the people from Biosphere Expeditions, who always enjoy the wilderness of these parks and are keen to help, it will be much easier to cover the area and collect important research and conservation information about lynxes, wolves and wildcats. Thank you very much!”
Tomas Hulik, Protection of Carpathian Wilderness, Slovakia
"We are always looking for help to do as much research as we can in order to increase our knowledge of our natural resources and how to manage them sustainably. Working with Biosphere Expeditions gives us a great opportunity to do this on our coral reefs. On top of that there is intense cultural exchange leading to greater cross-cultural understanding, so there are multiple benefits for the archipelago of Cayos Cochinos."
Adonis Cubas & Italo Bonilla, Cayos Cochinos Marine Natural Monument, Honduras
"Almost every sea turtle monitoring programme around the world relies on volunteers to walk the many miles on nesting beaches at night with researchers gathering valuable scientific data. We welcome Biosphere Expeditions and the support they can bring to our flatback sea turtle monitoring program here in Western Australia. This type of research is all about education, active involvement and understanding that sea turtle species can move through the waters of many countries from feeding to mating to nesting areas such as this one."
Glenn McFarlane, Marine Species Manager, Eco Beach programme, Australia
“Research teams from Biosphere Expeditions will enable cetacean research in the Azores to increase in scope and quality, thus increasing our knowledge of the whales and dolphins that are resident or passing through. This information will enable us to get a clearer picture of the migration patterns and behaviour of the animals and thus assess the threats they face from the modern world. We can confidently say that without Biosphere Expeditions, this research could not take place.”
Lisa Steiner & Chris Beer, Whale Watch Azores
"The collaboration between Biosphere Expeditions and the work of Reef Check in the Maldives is invaluable. In the past the Marine Conservation Society has taken part in ad hoc surveys with liveaboards, but this collaboration with Biosphere Expeditions has very significantly widened our understanding about the health of Maldivian reefs. We look forward to further successful surveys next year with our Maldives partners."
Jean-Luc Solandt, Marine Conservation Society & Reef Check co-ordinator Maldives
"The work of Biosphere Expeditions on the Musandam coral reefs has had a great impact in the region regarding the collection of scientific data and the creation of a marine protected area in a remote and little touched area of the sea. In addition there has also been a great increase in environmental awareness about this important underwater habitat - both locally through the creation of scholarships and educational programmes and influencing decision-makers, as well as internationally through the involvement of volunteers from all over the world. Biosphere Expeditions unite in an exemplary way in all their projects two important subjects - science and awareness."
Rita Bento, marine biologist, Emirates Diving Association, UAE
“Biosphere’s involvement in the Western Australian marsupial project will expand very important work that the Department of Environment and Conservation are undertaking to conserve threatened species in the south west of Western Australia. The involvement of expedition participants will allow us to survey marsupials on a much larger scale than would normally be possible and will significantly contribute to our understanding of the distribution and conservation status of these animals in the Walpole Wilderness.”
Karlene Bain, Department of Environment & Conservation, Western Australia
More testimonials from participants, journalists, scientists and others are on independent review website GreatNonProfits.org.
“I work at the Hanyini Research Station in the East Caprivi. My job is to run the station so that research assistants from Biosphere Expeditions can concentrate on research work that helps to protect the livestock in our communities and to manage predators. This is my first job and I am very grateful as there is little work in our area. I am also very grateful for the work that the research assistants are doing. Since their arrival I haven’t lost any cattle to lions and hyaenas. My cattle are very important to me and for my family. Thank you for your support.”
Simon Naha, Caprivi delta, Namibia.
"My name is Aldo Ramirez Mejia. I am 21 years old and from the local community at Lake Sandoval. While I finish my studies in Puerto Maldonado, I work with the Tambopata Macaw Project studying macaws and claylicks, which is supported by Biosphere Expeditions. Traditionally, my family has fished, farmed and hunted, but thanks to Biosphere Expeditions and its ecotourism and conservation opportunities, I have been able to dedicate my time to my interest with the local wildlife with which I grew up, rather than hunting it. Thank you very much."
Aldo Ramirez Mejia, Lake Sandoval community, Peru.
"My uncle used to work as a look-out for the whaling industry, spotting whales for the whalers and he taught me how to spot them. With whaling now banned around the Azores, I can do this job of spotting whales for Biosphere Expeditions and its research teams. It's a great way to use my skills, keeping them alive for future generations and helping the whales."
Miguel Vargas, Cedros, Faial Island, Azores.
"My name is Emil Respaevich Sanzarakov and live in the village of Kurai in the Republic of Altai. I am a student at school and help my father look after sheep, goats and cows. Instead of hanging around in the village with my friends during the summer holidays, I now work for Biosphere Expeditions, helping with the running of base camp and guiding in the mountains. The work helps me to see and learn about my country as I do not normally have the opportunity to travel and see places. I enjoy meeting people from other countries and improving my English. The money I earn is important for me to help support my family and also to feel independent. When I leave school, I hope to go to university; I also hope to continue working with Biosphere during the holidays." Emil Respaevich Sanzarakov, Kurai village, Republic of Altai.
"My work on Arabian leopard conservation began with the Oman Office for Conservation of the Environment in 2002 and since 2006 I have been assisting Biosphere Expeditions in survey work on the Arabian leopard and prey species in Oman. Through my work with Biosphere Expeditions, I have had the chance to meet people from different cultures from all over the world and I also gained invaluable information & experience on how to conduct conservation research by working with experienced scientists from Biosphere Expeditions. Through the Office for Conservation I am now studying for a conservation degree in the UK, something I always dreamed of. When I finish my studies I look forward to continuing my work with the conservation of the Arabian leopard.”
Hadi al Hikmani, Dhofar, Oman.
"I was born and raised in Cayo Cochino Menor. The island I once played on as a boy, I now work to protect as a boat captain for the Honduran Coral Reef Foundation. I know these waters like the back of my hand and enjoy sharing our marine treasures with the team members from Biosphere Expeditions. I am a certified rescue diver, in large part inspired by watching the teams work here. I am proud of my country and these islands and feel very lucky that researchers from Biosphere Expeditions are helping to conduct research that helps in the conservation of the area. Thank you!"
Alex Solis, Cayos Cochinos Islands, Honduras.
"My name is Alexandra Grigorieva; I'm 19 years old and I study biology in Novosibirsk State University. I was lucky to participate in a research expedition to the Altai mountains, organized by Biosphere Expeditions. The expedition was a great experience for me and gave me many impressions. For example, it was great to meet new people, especially from different countries. Getting the scholarship also gave me confidence in myself - that was really important for me, I now feel like I can achieve a lot. I also had a great experience communicating in English and after the expedition I also started to learn German as there were quite a lot of German-speakers on the expedition too. I also liked the way the research was conducted a lot - hiking all day, recording animals and their signs - it's so different from living in a city. I am very thankful to Biosphere Expeditions for providing me with such an opportunity."
Alexandra Grigorieva, Novosibirsk, Russia.
"I really learnt a lot from taking part in the Musandam coral reef expedition as part of a scholarship. Even though I am a Divemaster, I discovered a lot of new things about Musandam and its marine life. This has helped me a lot in my professional development and I would love to be part of an expedition again."
Badher Al Shehi, Musandam, Oman.
More testimonials from participants, journalists, scientists and others are on independent review website GreatNonProfits.org.
Journalists & media
"I am back from Oman and I have to say that it was one of the most interesting stories I have ever covered. I have to admit that I was sceptical at the beginning, but the way the team was led by the Biosphere Expeditions staff and the way the research was conducted have impressed me a lot. Now I am really glad that organisations like Biosphere Expeditions exist, who offer real hands-on conservation experiences for laypeople, which benefit the participants and the local wildlife conservation efforts. As far as I am concerned it was just a brilliant experience within a great set-up!"
Martin Amanshauser, travel journalist.
“Being here in the Altai as a travel journalist, this was one of the most exciting jobs I have ever had. Everything was perfect, the scenery, the team, the Russian supporters and especially the expedition leader who did a really good job.”
Uli Benker, travel journalist.
"I think your organization is probably the most appealing volunteer vacation organization I've come across. My partner said the same, having read about you in the book Volunteer Vacations."
Don Baker, founder of www.EvidenceOfHumanity.org.
"Fantastic opportunity and a fantastic project here in Slovakia."
Kyley Chapman, travel journalist.
"If you are looking for an adventure with a conscience and a sense of purpose, Biosphere Expeditions, one of the leaders in volunteer conservation expeditions, probably has just what you’ve been searching for."
"Biosphere Expeditions runs wildlife conversation expeditions to all corners of the earth. They combine local people and expedition teams to conserve wildlife and habitats. What better way to spend your holiday?"
"Wolves, pumas, mountain cats, bears and other rare and wonderful species on the brink of extinction need help. Biosphere Expeditions, launched by Dr Matthias Hammer, a biologist and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, sends out volunteers who contribute both financially and physically to animal conservation projects, working alongside scientists and other experts abroad."
"Take part in conservation projects in far-flung places without being a biologist? Impossible? Not at all. Biosphere Expeditions is a not-for-profit organisation that enables laypeople to join conservation expeditions, to protect endangered species, all whilst spending an exciting and useful holiday with a purpose."
"There is little doubt that once the adventure has begun these are holidays with a difference, with ordinary people able to directly benefit the planet’s wildlife."
"Once again Biosphere Expeditions is leading the way into the future, giving 'normal people' the chance to join a conservation expedition to the Amazon."
Independent review website
We would like to build up a library of expedition team members personal video diaries. A couple of examples are below and we would like to have your entry too. There are no limits to your creativity other than we ask that your final cut is no longer than 6 minutes.
Each year, we'll also award a small prize to the best video diary of the year.
Please join in, get in touch and let us have your very own video diary too.
|Watch more video diaries
Pete Eggleston, UK
I joined Biosphere Expeditions in Oman to survey for the Arabian Leopard. At the time I was working in banking but had a passion for the environment, and in particular wildlife conservation. The chief scientist was Tessa McGregor, and the expedition leader was Dom Hall. We also had a local ranger called Hadi, who was great fun and very knowledgeable. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Dom led the group fantastically and Tessa was a complete inspiration. Her enthusiasm and dedication inspired the whole team.
I have now left banking, I am due to complete an MSc in Biodiversity Conservation and Management with the University of London and I have started volunteering with my local Wildlife Trust. My dissertation is related to conserving the water vole, one of the UK's most threatened mammals.
Before my expedition I had no practical experience of conservation. A change in career was therefore, to some extent, a pipe dream as I had no idea if it was what I really wanted to do. My time in Oman completely changed that view. I loved every minute of the expedition, including the surveying. The expedition persuaded me that this is what I wanted to do and gave me the confidence to leave the banking salary, perks and security behind. I haven't regretted it yet!
Rasha Skybey, Australia
I have, throughout my entire life always been a huge animal lover. However, my love was only ever really expressed through regular donations to animal charities or involving myself in the animal law movement in Australia. I decided that I wanted to do something different to help our non-human friends and called Biosphere Expeditions for further information on saving Arabian Leopards in Oman.
I joined up without really contemplating the idea of living for two weeks without flush toilets, running water, electricity, internet, mobile phone AND hair-dryer!!! This wouldn’t have been a problem for those who have camped before, but please note that I had never been camping. I actually hated the outdoors, and would do anything to avoid going outside. I refused to exercise and refused to leave the house without blow-drying and styling my hair, wearing high heels and pretty dresses.
What did I get myself into? I remember how I felt in Abu Dhabi Airport before boarding the plane to Muscat. I thought I was going to faint because I was so nervous and anxious at the decision I had made to completely step outside my comfort zone.
Thankfully I did make it to Oman safely and I had the best 12 days of my entire life. Admittedly, the first two days were a bit of a struggle. My body, which never really walked a distance greater than 10 metres (the distance between the front door of my house and my car) found the hours of walking painful. After two full days I was climbing rocky mountains with little difficulty.
I met the most amazing people who I know I will be friends with for life and ate meals that would put Jamie Oliver to shame. I continue to reminisce our nightly ritual of sitting by the fire sharing our daily stories and telling jokes and conducting basic Arabic lessons. My fondest memory would have to be the morning observation at a nearby waterhole. The 6 am start was a struggle but as the sun rose, the waterhole came alive with sounds I would never hear in Sydney. The sound of so many insects, birds and mammals gave me goose bumps. I sat still for hours just listening and watching for the slightest movement. Then finally, I saw it – a beautiful black cat-like creature. Thankfully I had my video camera and began filming. I took the footage back to base camp where Tessa, our scientist stated that I may have stumbled on a new species! She may have been pulling my leg, it may just simply be a lost domestic cat that ended up in the waterhole. Regardless, it was still a surreal experience.
By the final week, going without a good hot shower, mobile or internet didn’t bother me in the slightest. In fact, it was almost a relief to be free from it all.
So I am back home now and absolutely miserable and considering a career change...perhaps a wildlife photographer? The experience was the best thing I have ever done in my life and I have already joined up for my next Biosphere expedition...see you in Caprivi!!
Andreas Odey, Germany
I'd like to send you some thoughts about my time after having participated in the Honduras coral reef expedition.
Those two weeks led me to more conservation diving. I also made a new friend for life - I'm still in contact with my dive buddy and we have been diving since. Biology,...... learning more about reefs and doing something for their conservation - I even wrote an article for a German magazine. I am also thinking much more about how to spend my holidays with the environment in mind. In short, Biosphere Expeditions gave me more awareness about our natural environment and motivated me to learn more about sea life. I really enjoyed my expedition, good memories, the natural way of life on the island, the good team spirit and atmosphere and motivated team members, expedition leader and scientists. What an interesting and life-changing experience! Thank you.
Peggy Hansen, USA
I did the Namibia expedition and had an amazing time....as I think all members of the group did. But since I'm a doctor and we had two leopards to deal with on the same day, I had a unique experience: I was able to assist the vet in tranquilizing, monitoring, and collecting samples from the cats. How many doctors can say they've taken a rectal temperature or drawn blood on a 140-lb wild leopard? Not exactly what I trained for during med school or residency, but what a thrill!
Liz Shaw, UK
I joined the Peru expedition back when I was a zoology student at Bristol University. Ever since I can remember I dreamed of one day visiting the rainforest, so this expedition literally was a dream come true! I remember having to pinch myself as we travelled by boat to our camp on the first day, just to convince myself I really was there!
During the two weeks of my expedition we surveyed parrots and macaws at a small 'clay lick', where the birds come in the early morning to eat the soil, and we also performed large mammal surveys in the forest. Every day in the rainforest is different, and you never know what you're going to see. It was an amazing experience - from showering underneath a waterfall, to hearing the loud calls of howler monkeys ring out over the forest, to nearly being charged by a herd of peccaries (wild pigs)! And of course not to mention the colourful and noisy spectacle of over a hundred parrots and macaws coming down to feed every day.
After finishing my degree, my expedition inspired me to do more travelling, and also provided useful experience that helped me gain voluntary placements studying monkeys and bats in Mexico, and performing biodiversity surveys in Tanzania. It was Peru that had really captured my heart, though, and later I was lucky enough to spend six months working as a naturalist back out in the rainforest - my dream job! Two years later my experiences came full circle, and I found myself back at the clay licks again, collecting data on parrots and macaws for my MSc in Animal Behaviour.
Now, eight years on from my expedition, I'm working as a researcher and writer for a charity who are at the heart of the wildlife media industry, and I love every minute of it. My expedition with Biosphere Expeditions all those years ago really started everything off, giving me both the inspiration and the experience needed to get into the wonderful and exciting world of wildlife conservation.
Helge Eek, Norway
I am a photographer and have joined Biosphere in Altai, Brazil and Namibia. Some time before my first expedition to Altai I had a wonderful dream. I was flying almost like an eagle above the most beautiful landscape I had ever seen. Lovely green slopes with a lots of colourful flowers, crystal clear rivers and behind the hills were high mountains with snow. I never forgot this dream. Later I discovered Biosphere Expeditions in the BBC Wildlife magazine and went on their website. And there it was, the landscape of my dream as part of the Altai expedition. At this time I was searching for new experiences in life. I wanted to give something back to nature not only "take" photos. So joining Biosphere seemed to be the right thing to do.
My expedition in Altai was very special and successful. I found the landscape of my dream and made new friends who I still keep in contact with. I think my life is richer now and I want to do more expeditions with Biosphere. For me, it's almost like life before and after Biosphere. My next expedition will most likely be Peru because the Brazil expedition strengthened my feelings for the rainforest. I want to see more of it, more birds, more spiders and snakes perhaps.
Robin Burns, Australia
My memories of Altai are more like a series of slides than a moving image. The overwhelming sense I have is the privilege to have visited this distant, isolated and exquisitely beautiful part of our planet. Wildflowers, wildflowers everywhere! Such a colourful profusion I have never ever seen before, and somewhat guiltily dropping out of the scat-search, lay prone amongst them beside a small stream, just trying to memorise the experience.
I remember meetings with local people - erecting a yurt for us for cosy evening gatherings, leading us into the mountains, and offering hospitality as we 'dropped in' to ask them about their experiences with snow leopards. There was lots of laughter and conviviality at the end of a tough day. A golden sun setting across the steppe and touching the distant mountains with soft sunset colours....
Dave Maisey, UK
My interest in the Altai was started by a university lecturer. I had never heard of the place or knew anything about it, but was intrigued when he told us about his experiences. After university I was keen to go and experience 'real' wilderness and I still remembered the stories and pictures of that lecturer. So after saving money for a year I joined the Altai snow leopard expedition. In my humble experience standing on the tops of those mountain ridges and looking out over 'nothing' - no roads, no people, no sound just steppe - is a feeling that will stay with me forever. Also I don't think I have ever been so proud as when I spotted ibex with my binoculars! Since this expedition I have been to Iceland to work with scientists investigating glacial outburst floods and this summer I will be in Argentina helping projects in small communities. The Altai expeditions left me with a continuing desire to go to remote places and experience life with just the basics!
Barry Hardy, Ireland
I joined the Biosphere expedition in Namibia to help the local scientists with their work of gathering information on the local wildlife and environment. One of the aspects of the project was to work with local farmers in order to mitigate the human-predator conflict. Most of the them are small subsistence farmers, i.e. they have a few cattle and goats, plant a small number of crops and use fishing, plants and wildlife from the local bush to generate a basic living.
We spent time travelling around the villages doing interviews with the local people to see what their experiences and relationships with predators were. Involvement of the community is critical to the success of the project in the longer term. For example, if the local people can benefit from future tourism and have better income and healthcare, they will be motivated to support the park and protect the valuable wildlife. It is their country and they need to be empowered and rewarded in protecting and benefitting from it.
Showing interest in the local culture and traditions was also valuable in making a connection with the local people. One afternoon our car broke down and we spent the afternoon waiting for a rescue. Meanwhile we were joined by the nearby villagers to play cards: we showed them our game and they showed us theirs. As evening approached they sang several of their local songs and we in return showed them a four hand Irish reel, which they found somewhat strange but fun to try with us! Such interactions brought home to me a better combined appreciation of the land and people in the region including its special beauty and how reaching out to interact with the local community was both a rewarding experience and critical for future conservation and responsible development success.
Patrick & Jill Walker, UK
(left and right on picture)
My wife Jill and I went on the Musandam leopard expedition. By coincidence I had worked in Khasab in 1980 as an engineer blasting roads to allow the 20th century to come in. At this time Oman was a closed country and Khasab a tiny fishing village surrounding an oasis and situated in the far north of the country overlooking the Persian Gulf. While I was there I volunteered to help the government conservation department to record as much of the wildlife and birds I saw because it was such a remote area. Sadly, in late 1980 a freshly shot leopard was brought in. Such a beautiful beast and one out of a total so small that nobody really knew how many there were left.
25 years later while trawling through the net I typed in Musandam leopard and the Biosphere site came up. I could not believe they were actually running an expedition to try to find out if the leopard had become extinct since nobody had seen any for some time. Thus my wife and I signed up for the first slot and joined the expedition in Dubai.
Despite both being over 60 we found the form of the expedition such that everyone could work at their own pace and this suited us. We managed to climb the jebels and trawl the wadis for signs that this endangered animal might still be around. In the middle of the second week we were actually lucky enough to find the unmistakable paw prints of at least two leopards. The species was still around! As well as the rare leopard prints we also saw lots of signs of caracal, foxes and hedgehogs all of which were recorded.
Living in tents was an experience but driving the wonderful Land Rovers more than made up for this. It took me back to my time driving around in my Toyota Landcruiser. To me it was pure nostalgia to see Khasab 25 years on and now a modern town with street lights and hotels, tarmac roads and flower beds. For my wife Jill it was a chance of an adventure and an opportunity to help on a very worthy project.
Lynn Kimmel, USA
My experience with Biosphere Expeditions in Namibia was the event that confirmed my pursuit of a graduate degree in Conservation Biology focusing on African wildlife. It was so exciting to be given every opportunity for active engagement in all aspects of a real wildlife project. The scientists were so willing to answer my many questions – and I asked a lot! They were open about the challenges and rewards of a conservation project. From our many discussions, I gained great insight into the necessary and important collaboration between biological and social scientists.
While all the volunteers came from totally different backgrounds, it was amazing to see a wonderful group of individuals pulling together using all our talents and skills! Oh, and relaxing by the fire, listening to the wonderful African night sounds, and sharing our experiences, was a great way to wrap up the day!Thank you Biosphere Expeditions, keep up the good work!