In June of 2011, entering my sernior year in high school, I traveled to Ecuador with 29 of my Iowa City West High School classmates. The reason I decided to go on the trip was because I want to be a marine biologist and we were going to be spending a week in the Galapagos Islands while we were there. It was just going to be an added bonus that I would also get to spend a week in the Amazon rainforest. I ended up loving all aspects of the trip, although I did like my week in the Galapagos Islands better than the week spent in the Amazon. To me, the trip meant making a ton of new friends (I only knew 4 of the 29 going well enough to call them my friends). I experienced things I never dreamed I would, like walking in the canopy of the rainforest and seeing the exotic bird species and sloths hanging from the trees. I visited paradise in the Galapagos Islands seeing so many turtles, sea lions, and iguanas I thought I would step on one every place I went. Unfortunately I got altitude and motion sickness during our short trips to Hotel Quito when we were transferring between the Amazon and the Galapagos- thank god for altitude medicine and motion patches! Each day (both in the Amazon and the Galapagos) we went on a morning and afternoon excursion- always with a guide. The guides are very knowledgeable of both the land and animals and answered any question I had.
Canoeing on a black river in the Amazon was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced- the leaves drop from the trees causing the lake in front of our lodging area, called Sacha Lodge, to turn the darkest black you could imagine. Everything reflected off it. The Amazon was one of the most peaceful places I have ever been in my entire life, even considering the fact you were continuously surround by animals both harmless and those that with one touch could kill you. I ate piranha and met the kindest people. My native guide, Ernesto, was the medicine man of his community. Due to the amount of time we spent with him in the jungle, I learned about all the different plants and ways to prepare them in order to cure the most common things we have in the United States- like the common cold for example.
The Galapagos was a similar experience we stayed on the 100 passenger ship known as the Galapagos Legend. During the trip, I snorkeled with penguins, swam with turtles and marine iguanas, hiked on islands that all looked different. Played on different 4 beaches, each with different colored sand (my favorite probably being the island of Santiago), and again met the kindest people. I loved everything about the Galapagos.
Being from the United States we’re always going fast paced. Going on the trip made me realize not everywhere is like that. I wasn’t used to being waited all the time, people opened my door, carried my suitcase to my room for me, waited on me at every meal, and were always kind and willing when they were helping me. I experience a love for Spanish I didn’t know I had, and confirmed that marine biology is the career path for me! If I had the chance to return to Ecuador and visit the Galapagos or the Amazon again, I would do it in a heartbeat. I recommend a trip like this to anyone.
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