Here are some comments from two students who went on the recent trip to the Galapagos Islands:
Megan Davidge said: ‘It was amazing. For me the project was the most amazing thing because there is no technology when you are in the jungle. It is such a different environment, it was amazing to witness how other people live and to see how much we don’t need the technology we take for granted here. When we were doing the project they chopped the wood with a chainsaw then we had to carry really heavy pieces of wood up the hill to where we built the hut. That was difficult but we all worked together and helped each other out. There was so much teamwork. 'The roof was made of layers of special types of leaves. They were already woven in groups of threes and we had to tie them onto the roof and that took a couple of days because there was so much and we had to overlap them to make it watertight. I speak Spanish and the peoplewere so welcoming and friendly. A few of us got a bit teary on the last day because we made some really good friendships in that part of the expedition. Where we stayed was a different place to where we did our project so we had a little friendship group where we stayed and we also expanded on that at our project site. We had to get a 20-minute bus journey there and back. It was mainly the children that we spoke to on the project site because they sat around and watched us. They were so helpful and all tried to get stuck in.
'Quito was really different and a very vibrant city. It felt safe in the daytime. The market was really funny and there were so many different things to buy. Guinea Pig Lake was beautiful and it prepared us well for our main trek, it was a good way to build up to it. The trek to the volcano took about three days. That was quite difficult because we had two days when we had two really steep climbs. A couple of people in the group struggled but we all stayed together and made sure that no-one was falling behind. It was important to all stay together and get to the top at the same time. It was breathtaking.
Galapagos was absolutely amazing but it was more of a holiday so, for me the project was the best bit. Galapagos is a once-in-a-lifetime experience because of the wildlife and how tame all the animals were, it was amazing to see them in their natural habitat. With the blue footed boobies, their feet were ten times more blue than they were in the photos, and their eyes match their feet!
'One of the main things I learned was leadership so that has helped with my confidence massively. Also team-working and friendship has been a massive part. As we were such a diverse group you have to adapt to different styles that people have and get on with it. It was really nice to get to know different people and spend time with them. It was the most amazing four weeks and was the best thing I have ever done. None of us wanted to leave and it went so quickly. The experience of living out of a backpack was so different. It was so much more relaxed and a different approach to life. I have 100 per cent got the travel bug and have been looking at where to go next!'
Her fellow traveller, Jonathan Navarro-Marin, said: ‘Before leaving I was very sceptical as to how the trip would pan out. However getting to know everyone a bit better gave me the confidence I needed throughout the journey.
‘What surprised me the most was the way of living. Everything was so different there and yet we all familiarised ourselves relatively quickly. I took great pleasure in living the same way as the locals, and experienced many different foods along the way. The weather was nice, even though it was their wet season it was still relatively hot throughout our expedition. Living in the jungle was just amazing and getting to live with the locals was incredible. We helped to build a shelter in a local school and were taught the traditional Shuar techniques. They showed us the different medicinal plants and herbs they use and we also had to experience their toilets first hand, which was very interesting to say the least!
‘My favourite part was definitely the Galapagos. We saw many different animals such as penguins, sea lions, turtles, tortoises, blue-footed boobies, white-tipped sharks and many crabs. We visited three different islands and went snorkelling twice. Also the weather was lovely, a lot warmer than expected. We also spent a fair bit of time relaxing on the various beaches we visited, and got to swim with sharks and sea lions, which was a truly amazing experience.
‘The trek consisted of four days and in that time we trekked approximately 14 kilometres. I think we all found the trek rather difficult but mainly because of the altitude. By the end of the trek, we were about 4,000m up, and started off at around 2,500m. A few people struggled quite a lot, so we spread some of the weight of their bags between us and put them at the front so the group would not split off. Whilst trekking, we stayed in various towns and got to meet many new people.
‘Overall, the trip was definitely worth all of the time we invested in it and I would recommend doing something like that to absolutely anyone. Upon returning to the UK, my confidence has soared and I fell a lot more independent which will help me in my studies and in my life after school.’