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UW Exploration Seminar

From Andes to Amazon: Biodiversity, Conservation and Sustainability in Peru

28 August- 19 September 2014


Contact information:


Ursula Valdez

University of Washington


Tim Billo

University of Washington



Cody Knaub (knaubc@uw.edu)

David Chang (Peru)


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Destinations with the program:

Refer yourself and your parents to the course website for more details ()

1) Cusco and Valle Sagrado (also known as Urubamba Valley), bus from Cusco, 2) Machu Picchu, train from Valle Sagrado, 3) Wayqecha Biological Station, 5 hours bus from Cusco, (see Amazon Conservation Association website), 4) Cocha Cashu Biological Station, 2 days by boat from end of Manu Road, which is 1 day on bus from Cuzco (see Cocha Cashu website: ).


Required documentation for entering Peru:

American citizens entering Peru do not need a special visa, just a valid passport and a travel card distributed by the airline during your flight. Entry visas for tourists valid for 90 days are standard upon entering the country. Please verify this information with the Peruvian consulate/embassy in your city, well before leaving the U.S., if you are not a US citizen.

For Americans with passport issues or other problems in Lima:

American embassy in Lima:

Avenida La Encalada cuadra 17 s/n (=“Sin numero” no number)

Surco Lima 33, Peru

Tel: (51-1)434-3000

Fax: (51-1)618-2397

Office hours:.Monday- Friday 8 am-5pm

Plane tickets

Commonly used agencies are STA Travel (800-781-4040, ). Check for the STA travel office that has a special deal for students going on exploration seminars. Other options are Council Travel (800-226-8624, ), Student Universe (), and Travelocity (). You can also try some of the cheaper discounted travel agencies such as Cheap Tickets (), Exito (), and Discount Fares (). A good fare for a round-trip ticket generally ranges from $1500-1600 for fares of 1-3 months, but you can get a cheaper one. Also it is worth checking directly with airlines such as LanPeru/LanChile , Continental, American, Delta, for good fares.

You need to book your roundtrip to Cuzco, Peru. Flights can be also booked to Lima, if case you want to spend a few days there (the plane stops there anyway, since it is the international hub) and then buy another ticket for Lima-Cuzco-Lima . In case you don’t have time to spend in Lima before flying to Cusco, try to get an overnight flight to Lima, so then you can continue a few hours later to Cusco. If you arrive later in the day you will need to spend a night in Lima and return to the airport next day for your flight to Cusco.


When arriving in Lima, airport, you will first go through “Migracion” to have your passport stamped (serves as your tourist visa). Double-check the travel dates for your visa to avoid potential problems later. Then you will pick up your bags and go through customs, even if you checked all the way to Cusco. Then you will need to re-check your bags. That is standard procedure (again pick bags after you get your passport check even if you check all the way to Cuzco). ATMs (can give you dollars or Peruvian soles) and money exchanger booths in the baggage claim area are usually available for accessing Peruvian cash (note that American dollars with any blemishes—marks or tears—will not be accepted by money changers). Make sure you get the cash you need before you head outside to the taxis (if you are heading into the center of Lima).

There is plenty of airport transportation at your arrival in Lima, but make sure you hire an authorized company. Taxi Green is a highly reputable company and they have established fares depending on the destination, so no need to negotiate or danger of being ripped off. Alternatively, you might choose a hotel or hostel (make reservations from the U.S.) that provides airport pickup. They will meet you with a sign at the airport.

If you are continuing to Cuzco on the same day, you will need to go to the domestic flights area.

Money, safety, airport etiquette, etc.

In general, Peru is considered safe. However, like anywhere, there is risk of theft (mainly in Lima). Passport, airline tickets, cash, etc. should be carried in a money belt or neck pouch (under your clothing somehow), not in a pocket or a backpack. ATM machines are widespread in big cities, some towns, and all airports. Visa and Mastercard are the most common ATM cards in the country. Don’t expect to be able to pay with credit card unless you are in a very high-end hotel. On the course, you should not need much money except for personal expenses beyond what is covered by the program. For example, you might need to cover a few meals, some taxi fares, souvenirs, etc.


There are plenty of hotels for all budgets in Lima, but here are a few we have used during research travel and with US students. The Lonely Planet Guide for Peru is a great source of information too. They have an online option where you can buy and print only the pages you need (rather than purchasing the whole book).

Malka Youth Hostel Lima (about 30-40 minutes from Airport, depending on traffic)

Los Lirios 165 (Av. Javier Prado Este cdra. 4), San Isidro, Lima.

Telephone: (51 1) 442 0162

Fax: (51 1) 222 5589 

Email: hostelmalka@.pe 


In September 2010 it was about $15, US$1 discount to students (ISIC) or SAE members. Airport pick-up additional US$10…maybe a little bit higher now because of current dollar rate exchange.

Below are more recommendations. They are for hostels in Miraflores. The Miraflores area is one of the nicest and safest neighborhoods in Lima, and near the coast. Prices are more expensive here, but still very reasonable options exist. The following are only suggestions and are mainly based our familiarity with them:

For some nicer and more comfortable options you could check:

Casa de Huéspedes Porta

Porta 686

Miraflores, Lima


Telephone [pic][pic][pic][pic](+51)1-242 0505

TOLLFREE USA/Canada: [pic][pic][pic][pic][pic][pic]877-838 2236[pic](Reservations only)

email :  info@

It was about $40/double room in Sept 2012


You can arrive to this city either flying for an hour from Lima (best option) or by 2 day-bus trip, roads are good on that route. Most reputable bus company is Cruz del Sur (but can check travel blogs for some other ideas. In Cuzco, official taxis from either the airport ($8-10) or from the bus terminal ($3-5) are abundant. Students are highly encouraged to arrive anytime in the morning of August 27, at the Hostal Alfonso II (see below). We will all meet by noon on that day at the hotel which is near the airport and about 10-15 min taxi ride from the center of the city. We are requesting the day-before arrival because we will begin course activities early on the morning of the 28th. The program will also cover the lodging expenses on 27 Aug. If you are interested in arriving even earlier in the week in Cusco and want to use the same hotel we can help you making additional reservations (at your own expense).

Hostal Alfonso II (Show or read this full address to the taxi driver)

Av. de la Cultura A-14 Urbanizacion Santa Mónica, Cusco

Teléfono +51 84 223738 (Peru’s international code is 51 and 84 is for Cusco)

We are planning to have a cell phone in the city (there is not coverage for cell phones in all the places we will be going) in case you need to contact us. Pay phones and phone booths, calling centers and calling cards are widely available in all larger cities and basically at least a phone boot in smaller towns. Calling cards for international call are pretty inexpensive, so that is a much better option that paying roaming fees in your phone.

Again, the Lonely Planet Guide for Peru is a great source of information for hotels and tourism. They have an online option where you can buy and print only the pages you need (rather than purchasing the whole book).

Climate in Cusco (and Lima):

Peru seasons are opposite to Seattle. We will arrive at the end of the winter there, and it will still be cold. During winter, it is humid, cold, and foggy in Lima, which is a coastal city. Be sure to bring something warm as it can get really chilly. In Cusco, a mountain city, the daily weather is quite dry and cool, but temperatures are variable; early mornings and nights are very cold (many times below freezing) and during the day it can be warm (layering is the way to go). Cloud forest weather will be a little less cold, but still a lot of variation from morning to night, with frequent damp fog (a warm fleece jacket, good rain coat, wool hat, quick drying under layers, and gloves will be desirable!).

Climate in Amazon Basin:

Dry (drier) season is from May-October, but remember, this is the rainforest! It can rain anytime, so be prepared to carry your rain gear all the time. Wet season starts in November and continues through late March. Days are mostly hot (above 80 degrees F) with lots of humidity, though early morning can be a little chilly. Occasionally there can be “friajes” (cold fronts) that can be remarkably cold with night-time temperatures below 50 degrees F, so bring something warm like a fleece jacket, just in case, and raingear for sure!!





Yellow fever (one shot – lasts for 10 years). THIS IS A REQUIREMENT for entering the Peruvian Amazon. You may be forced to obtain the shot if you don’t have proof of having gotten it already and they have the right to return you to the highlands if you don’t have it. The shot is not always available in Peru, and it is not effective until 10 days after receiving it. So basically, don’t leave home without this!! Yellow fever is a serious disease without good treatment options.


tetanus-diphtheria (each booster lasts 10 years and is recommended whether or not you travel!)

polio booster (each booster lasts 10 years)

typhoid (injection or oral, lasts 3-5 years)

The risk of typhoid and Hepatitis A are extremely low to non-existent in the areas to visit; if you intend to travel elsewhere in Peru or other places in South America, then we recommend them.

Health insurance policies may cover immunizations, so check on this before proceeding.

Make sure that you get the little yellow booklet where all immunizations can be duly stamped (most doctors have these) and bring it with you as proof of your vaccinations.

Malaria prophylaxis

The risk of contracting malaria at the places we will visit in the Amazon is low, but increasing. We are beginning to recommend you use prophylaxis this year. There is no immunization available. Recommendations for the appropriate prophylaxis vary; most common are a combination of Chloroquine and Paludrine, Mefloquine (Lariam), or Malarone. Most doctors in the US recommend Mefloquine, though it can have severe side effects.

Leishmaniasis and dengue

While these diseases have been reported for the region of Madre de Dios, they are associated with higher densities of human settlements. In the Amazon field station and surroundings, there have not been reported cases in the +10 years. The sand flies responsible for transmitting Leishmaniasis are uncommon in the Amazon field station, but it is wise to be proactive at preventing any possibility of infections by simply making sure you cover your skin early in the morning and later in the day when these sand flies are known to be active. A mosquito net is a MUST to have for covering the whole area around your bed at night, and this will be provided by the station along with the bedding (note that at Cocha Cashu we will be sleeping in personal tents which should have intact bug screens).

Prescription drugs & medication

There are basic first-aid kits at both field stations and access to medical care at Puerto Maldonado and Cusco. We will have a basic kit too for common use. However, you should bring a small supply of general first-aid supplies, such as, pain killers (ibuprofen, aspirin, etc., your choice), antiseptic, antihistamine, hydrocortisone cream, moleskin, Band-Aids, foot anti-fungal powder or cream (if you are prone to fungal infections), etc. If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to insect stings (e.g. bee, wasp), PLEASE BRING an anaphylaxis kit (Anakit). You should definitely bring enough of any prescription medication you may need to use (be sure to leave these in their original bottle with the prescription handy in case you are asked at customs). Keep your prescription meds in two places in case you get separated from one of your bags. You should consider bringing a snakebite extractor kit (“The Extractor”) which works for bees, wasps and other unfriendly insects, but is now not recommended for snake bites. “Sting-eeze” (some anesthetic that is wonderful to relieve the pain of bites or stings…personally tested) and/or tea tree oil, both available at REI and campmor~$13, are also nice to have.

Medical insurance

Please, be sure that you have medical insurance while traveling in Peru. If your current insurance doesn’t cover such costs as emergency medical evacuation, then you should consider supplementing with a separate policy. Check with IPE which has specific instructions for student travel insurance and is required.

ISIC card

The ISIC card costs about $25-30 and offers the possibility to obtain student discounts in some places. It is an easy one to get extra benefits specially if you are interested in traveling before or after the program. If you get one please let us know as we may be able to save some money on entrance tickets to MachuPicchu.


Documents to remember:

Passport (and photocopy of first page of your passport, please make 4 extra photocopies of your passport that we will need to leave a hotels)

Airline ticket or e-ticket print-out

Money, ATM card, credit card

Insurance policy/card and immunization booklet (with proof of your yellow fever shot)

ISIC card (can be obtained at STA travel/council travel)

Note: It's a good idea to have photocopies of all your important documents (passport, airline ticket, etc.) in case the originals get lost or stolen. Keep this material separate from the original documents. In general when traveling, a laminated color copy of the personal data in your passport cut to the size of a credit card is a good way to keep your passport info handy without exposing your passport to theft or confiscation. Keeping all of these documents protected in a waterproof envelope or zip-loc bag is highly advisable

Clothes: definitely pack lightly!

For the city: basically once set of the same casual and comfortable clothes that you use here (i.e jeans and shirts, a fleece jacket)

For the field –

Lightweight sleeping bag, sleeping pad and tent

T-shirts (2-3) quick-dry clothing is the best

Baggy, light long-sleeved shirts for bug and sun protection while working during the day (2)

(keep in mind that we recommend wearing long-sleeve shirts in the evening too, when flies and mosquitoes are most active to minimize your exposure to the off-chance of contracting a nasty tropical disease, although the risks for leishmaniasis, dengue or malaria in the area are quite low)

Good waterproof shell for cold Andean weather (see below in Raingear). It can be really windy and may even rain while doing field work, so better be prepared!

Wool hat and gloves (fyi: you can find a great variety of knitted warm alpaca stuff in Peru!!)

Sun hat with brim

Fleece jacket for temperature drops

Durable long cotton pants or quick-dry synthetic. Baggy—NO tights (2-pairs)

Several pairs of lightweight quick drying hiking socks

Bandanas—many uses: napkins, handkerchief, scarf, sun protection, etc.

Bathing suit

1-2 Long sleeve polypro/capilene shirt, i.e., the type that dry quickly and wick moisture. Those would be helpful in Andean weather. We do not recommend Capilene clothes for field work in the Amazon since they are hot and have a tendency to take on odors that are impossible to get rid of in areas with high humidity! But they are suitable for cooler nights in the rainforest or for hiking in the Andes.

A pack- towel or a sarong (which dry super quick and are lightweight) work great to ensure that you always have a dry piece of cloth on hand. During the day when not in the woods, and indoors, in the Amazon you may want to wear shorts and t-shirts.

A day pack

Raingear –rain jacket (preferably breathable) or poncho. Could combine one of these two with a collapsible umbrella (sounds a bit strange, but very useful when waiting out a downpour).

Footwear – lightweight hiking boots (we normally wear Goretex boots or rubber boots on the trails); rubber knee-high boots which you can buy in Cusco for very cheap (unless you need a big size, 10+). Also bring camp and town shoes (e.g. sandals/flip-flops and sneakers).

Personal Equipment:

Essential –

Headlamp and spare flashlight. LED type is best if you are buying a new one. (bring extra bulbs if you flashlight requires replacement, LED bulb last forever!!)

Binoculars if you can borrow one or get one for good price.

Rechargeable batteries (we will have a small supply of solar chargers for regular size batteries. If you have special requirements bring your own spare or already charged batteries). There is limited electricity at the field stations and electricity in Peru is 220V.

Waterproof light daypack (alternatively you can get a waterproof pack cover, or even just use a garbage plastic bag to line up the bag for rainy times)

Reusable water bottle (at least 1 liter capacity)

A sturdy Tupper ware for a sandwich, lunch or snacks (can be bought in Peru)

A washable cloth napkin and reusable fork/spoon

Ziploc freezer bags in various sizes, to keep your gear dry and free of mold

Pocket knife (don’t pack it in your carry-on luggage!)

Hand-sanitizer lotion (e.g., Purell)

ONLY Biodegradable toiletries (shampoo, conditioning, soap, toothpaste, laundry soap)

Watch (with alarm)

Insect repellent (try to avoid brands that have high concentration of DEET, we know this is a hard one but if possible avoid the highly toxic brands. Natrapel or Lemon Eucalyptus, or just use long sleeves!)

Tea tree oil is wonderful to relief itching (highly recommended against chiggers and a great natural antiseptic

Sunscreen, sunglasses, sun hat and rain hat

Extra eyewear if applicable (with your prescriptions and lens solutions; many brands are available in Peru but more expensive).

Binoculars (highly advisable) and camera

Dry bag (useful for camera equipment or other non-waterproof items if caught in the rain while hiking or traveling by boat)

2 “Rite in the rain” notebooks


Pencils, pens, Sharpies (2 fine point and also thick point ones)

not essential but useful….

Sun glasses

Foldable light camp stool

Sewing kit, or duct tape wrapped around your water bottle.

Hand lens (for looking close up at cool insects, plants, etc.)

Field guides (we have many of the books needed)

Spanish dictionary/phrasebook

Reading material

A memory stick to save work and photos

Water purification for your personal pre and post course travel—so you don’t have to buy as much bottled water.

Local connections and Community involvement

We will spend an entire afternoon in a mini-symposium in Ecology and Conservation offered by some faculty/students from the University in Cusco and Peruvian conservationists.

Additionally, we may visit indigenous communities both in the Andes and the Amazon and share a whole activity with them, such as coloring wool with natural plants, working on an organic garden, preparing local foods, etc.

We are planning on dedicating a whole day for a community service conservation project or any other project involving sustainable practices that benefit local students or communities.

Conservation Policy

We will make every effort to minimize the impacts on the environment caused by any of the activities conducted during our Exploration Seminar. This is a going to be a matter of our course policies as well as our own personal choices. While we will compost all the organic matter we generate at least in the field stations, we want to minimize the amount of solid waste. Unfortunately, in Peru recycling facilities are still not widely available. We will try as much as possible to use local services that consider environmental ethics and practices. Similarly, when buying any goods or materials for our program, we will aim to buy the least toxic materials, as well as to minimize the waste for the materials we will use. We will buy food and others we need along the trip, from local markets and avoid individual packages. If you have more ideas on what else we can do let us know!

To assist with this goal, we ask you to consider re-usability and sustainability as you make your packing decisions. Bring only the essentials and plan to return with everything you bring, including packaging, plastic containers, plastic bags, even items billed as disposable, such as non-biodegradable hand wipes. The issues are always larger than meets the eye. For example, the Puerto Maldonado landfill is overflowing and poorly contained. As in many parts of the world, much of that garbage ends up in the rivers. We encourage your support in these efforts and hope also to raise awareness of how much impact we all have in our daily life that we often don’t even notice or take for granted.

To further assist in these efforts, we have requested on the packing list refillable water bottles and a reusable container for packing lunches, snacks and other food. We will have safe drinking water available in large-capacity containers for refills at all times.

Some suggested books (in addition to those on the syllabus)

1. Peru, the travelers’ wildlife guide, by Pearson

2. A Neotropical Companion, by John Kricher

3. Birds of Tropical America by Steve Hilty (a nice intro to tropical birds natural history)

4. Birds of Peru, by Tomas Schulenberg et al….A really worthy piece of work if you really like birds!

5. For plates on plants and wildlife of SE Peru (Cusco and Madre de Dios) check the following website. You can download the plates for free, print copies and laminate them.

8. Lonely Planet Peru

9. Tropical Nature by Forsythe and Miyata (required)

10. The Diversity of Life (E.O. Wilson)—read before you leave as a reference for your presentation

11. The Future of Life (E.O. Wilson)—read before you leave as a reference for your presentation

Thanks for being part of this program and we look forward to working with you.

Ursula, Tim, Cody and David

May 2014

(OPTIONAL) Pre- or Post-course travel and cultural exchange (BUT NOT ASSOCIATED WITH OUR PROGRAM):

Many students have traveled on their own or in small groups before or after the course. The Lonely Planet guide or similar guidebooks will have good tips on where to go and where to stay.

Spanish language courses in Peru, with homestays, can be an excellent and fun thing to do before our trip or any travel in Peru. Again the LP guide will have info on this.

Volunteer at an orphanage in Cusco: Email: aldeayanapay@ to get involved. Several students have done this in the past and have had excellent experiences.

Travel to Ausangate to hike in the mountains and observe mountain agricultural lifestyles with our friend Victor Llana and his family, members of the Quechua indigenous group. If you are interested in doing this trip, talk with us soon, as we can help facilitate logistics—again, this is NOT part of the course and we are volunteering our time to help with this, as a contribution to Victor’s, who enjoys hosting UW students, and as a favor to you because it is an awesome experience.

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