Amazon Riverboat Exploration

Wildlife & Ecosystems

Amazon Riverboat Exploration

Help conserve wildlife within the Amazon Basin, while seeking pink river dolphins, primates, macaw, caiman, giant river otters, piranha and exotic fish.

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Aboard a riverboat deep in the heart of Peru’s flooded Amazon region, you’ll help to conserve river dolphins and monkeys, and protect the fragile South American wilderness.

The vast, pristine Amazonian forests of northeastern Peru are home to an incredible array of wildlife. Pink river dolphins and caimans still swim these waters, while extraordinary birds fly through the canopy. Monkeys abound along the Yarapa River and manatees swim in the lakes. Rare giant river otters can sometimes be seen hunting and playing in lakes and rivers.

In this remote region of the Amazon the local people are helping safeguard the forests from the intrusion of illegal timber companies, pet traders, and illegal hunting activities. As part of an Earthwatch team, you’ll help to survey the area’s wildlife to develop conservation strategies for the region and the people who inhabit it.

You’ll sleep aboard a restored, remodeled, air-conditioned vessel from the Rubber Boom era that is moored in the Yarapa River of the Samiria-Yavari protected area. There, you’ll discover a flooded forest whose waters run from the Andes Mountains to create a delicate wilderness. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet and work with the Cocama people from a nearby village. With your help, Earthwatch and the Cocama will develop management plans to protect both the needs of the indigenous people and the wildlife of the Samiria-Yavari landscape.

The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

The animals you’ll monitor provide key information about the health of the ecosystem and the sustainability of traditional hunting and fishing.

Global climate change and human intrusions threaten the Peruvian Amazon. Help us conduct critical surveys to protect this pristine wilderness.

The Yarapa River, the location of this study, is a rare example of how conservation can work in collaboration with local people. Today, global climate change, bringing severe droughts and floods, threatens even this remote area. Your help is critical in the effort to survey, manage, and protect the region so that wildlife and local human communities can thrive together.

What does it take to contribute to such an important project? Much of the research is conducted from small research boats, surveying for river dolphins and counting macaws as they fly overhead. You’ll monitor the waters for once-endangered caiman, and keep your eyes open for large fish as they swim slowly by. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot recovering populations of giant river otters and manatees. And you’ll count wading birds along the floating meadows and rivers. You will use a hydrophone to study dolphin vocalizations and communication in these murky, tannin-rich waters.

Amazon rainforest wildlife

Help conserve wildlife of the Yarapa River basin.

When you’re ready for more strenuous work, you’ll climb aboard a canoe or motorized boat, and explore the shoreline, seeking out river turtles and helping to protect their eggs. Or you may walk slowly and quietly through the forest to record the movements of peccaries, tapirs, primates, and game birds. Working with local community members, you’ll learn about local fishing, hunting, and conservation efforts.

About the research area

Samiria River, Peru, South America

Imagine staying in the Amazon rainforests on your on air-conditioned boat, complete with bar, delicious and bountiful cuisine, with a staff of trained researchers to explain and describe your surroundings. Now, imagine those surroundings: a flooded forest virtually overflowing with a diverse array of plant and animal species. You’ll share this tropical environment with beautiful birds, flowers, monkeys, and more aboard a restored riverboat you’ll call home during your expedition.

During your stay in the Amazon, you’ll paddle through lakes and along shorelines. You’ll motor into smaller rivers and tributaries. And you’ll walk along forest paths, observing wildlife and monitoring the environment. In the evening, you’ll return to your boat for a well-cooked meal along with lectures, movies and conversing with fellow teammates. You’ll also have the opportunity to interact with local people from local villages. The research team has formed very positive relationships with these communities over the years, and you can expect an open and friendly reception.

Daily life in the field


This is a summary:

  • Day 1: Meet in Iquitos and stay overnight at the Casa Morey
  • Day 2: Travel to Nauta and board a chartered passenger boat to arrive at the riverboat, moored in the Amazon
  • Daily activity includes:
  •     • Dolphin Census and Hydrophone
  •     • Terrestrial Transect
  •     • Wading Bird and Macaw Monitoring
  •     • Fishing Census
  •     • Caiman Tracking
  •     • Fishing bat surveys
  • Final day: Visit local Cocama community along the river; travel back to Nauta, and return to Iquitos.

Once you arrive on the moored riverboat deep within the Amazon, wildlife surveys will run each day. You’ll get to try your hand at all research tasks (and can spend extra time on your favorites). You'll:

  • Search for dolphins and record vocalizations. As you boat along with the current, you'll spot, count, and identify the species of individual pink river dolphins and grey dolphins. And you’ll use a high frequency hydrophone to record dolphin communication to study their sonar and social behavior.
  • Hike the rainforest. In the rainforest, you'll track an abundance of wildlife, including primates and game birds, and record their behavior. When the forest is not flooded, you’ll also assess wildlife presence through deployed camera traps, which document many of the creatures that walk the forests at night.
  • Take fish census. The fish practically jump out of the water onto the team's hand-made rods and nets. Measure, weigh, and identify the species of everything you catch and use a high tech side-scan sonar and record the multitude of fish swimming in the murky water.
  • Track caimans. Take to the river at night to find these smaller relatives of the alligator. The team will locate caimans by shining headlights that reflect back when they catch their eyes. You'll safely capture, measure, and release any caimans you catch.
  • Count wading birds and monitor macaws. Early in the morning you can watch the sunrise over the forest and river as you spot and count herons, kingfishers, horned-screamers and a multitude of shore birds. You will also observe and count colorful macaws at 500-meter intervals.
  • Spot Fishing bats. At dusk, just after sunset you’ll search for fishing bats and count them with a search light and acoustic bat box as they swoop down to river and catch fish.

Between activities, you'll relax on the riverboat, enjoy the roof deck bar, or peruse the library. Upon request, the crew may even take you on short canoe excursions.

Research scientist measuring a caiman

Conduct wildlife surveys and censuses.

The Scientists


Professor, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology

ABOUT Richard Bodmer

Dr. Richard Bodmer’s travels for Earthwatch by riverboat into the heart of the Amazon region to help preserve the incredibly diverse rainforest habitat.



Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food

  • Option for single and couples rooms
  • Air conditioning
  • Home-cooked South American cuisine

You’ll stay on one of the project’s restored rubber-boom-era vessels that will be moored deep in the Amazon. These historic boats offer private, air-conditioned cabins with attached bathrooms. Towels and toiletries are all provided; cabins and toilets are cleaned daily and laundry can be done every few days.

After mornings and afternoons in the field, you can head to the air-conditioned dining room and be treated to an array of local delicacies as well as familiar offerings like roast beef and fish. The large dining room is also used for lectures, and movies.

Mid-morning coffee and afternoon tea (and cakes), are served daily, and beverages are available on the upper deck.

Amazon riverboat

Amazon Riverboat


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