My family has been trying to make it to Ecuador for a while now and in the summer of 2021 we finally did! We spent the month of July traveling, learning Spanish and experiencing some of the wildlife and culture of this beautiful country. As always the people we met on the trip are what I will remember most. Ecuadorians are some of the sweetest people and the fellow travelers we met were incredible. Our trip broke up into three main parts that I go into a little more detail about below.
One of the main focuses of our trip was immersion Spanish. Going into this trip my Spanish was what I called 'functional.' I could communicate and get the information I needed but my grammar was a mess and I couldn't get into any difficult topics. For the first part of our trip we spent 10 days in Baños during which I worked with a one-on-one teacher for 4 hours a day and my sister and I lived with a host family. While my Spanish is far from perfect and my grammar can still be wrong at times, I improved greatly and had such a good time in the process. The town we were staying in was a little mountain city named after the thermal baths (hot springs) it contains. It was nestled in a valley between steep mountain peaks and not too far away from what was recently an active volcano. While here we tried many of their local fruits, explored the surrounding mountains and of course did lots of Spanish!
The Edge of the Amazon
The next adventure was a few days in an eco lodge on the edge of the Amazon rain forest. The lodge was located on the Napo river which is a tributary of the Amazon river. While we were there we saw 30+ species of birds including Toucans and Parrots as well as some little monkeys. One of our guides was a local man who was part of the indigenous community of the area. He took us on a hike through the rain forest and showed us medicinal plants, trees you can use to communicate and local food sources. He also was gracious enough to show us his family's home which was just across the river from the lodge and show us some of their traditional foods, crafts and hunting techniques. Our guides on this trip were incredibly knowledgeable and the rain forest is such a special place. I feel so honored to have been able to experience even a little bit of it.
We almost didn't go... but everyone told us we should and they were right. This turned out to be the highlight of the trip. We were on what I guess you would call a small adventure cruise boat (12 passengers) for a week. During the week we visited 7 islands and saw so much wildlife. The islands themselves look other-worldly and some are pretty barren lava rock but the ocean is so vibrant. As soon as you put your head under water you are surrounded by fish, rays, sea lions, swimming iguanas, sharks, turtles and so much more. On land the, sea bird population is incredible and part of the magic of the Galapagos is that the wildlife really doesn't seem to care that you are there so you hardly even need binoculars because it is so close. The people on the boat were also amazing and being in the same small boat with them for a week with no internet was so special. The staff of the boat were also wonderful. They were so welcoming and so much fun. Our guide was absolutely incredible and so knowledgeable and funny. It's a sign of a good trip when I'm tearing up when we leave and this one certainly made me cry a bit as we boarded the plane. Those tears were mixed though because as much as this trip was so special it drove home how much humans have impacted the earth and how much we need to do to save what is left.