Our trip began with our flight into Quito, Ecuador. We stayed in a beautiful hotel in a popular and lively neighborhood. We shortly left Quito and headed west toward our next destination, Mindo. On the way we stopped to stand on the equator, a popular tourist destination. In Mindo, the lush green of the forest was striking. To get to our lodging, we sat on a swing which was brought across a river on a pulley system (very fun!). Each day we had a lecture from a specialist, and we would then put what we’d learned into practice. In the field, we would identify amphibians, reptiles, bats, kinkajous, armadillos, etc. With our guides, we were lead on walks and learned about many plants. Mindo is also a bird watching capitol of the world, and we saw many incredible birds.
After Mindo, we stayed in a lodge called the Santa Lucia Ecolodge. To reach it, our bags were loaded onto mules while we hiked for 3 hours uphill. While tiring, the lodge has one of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen. On top of a ridge, when the clouds are blown away, you can see endless rainforest covering mountains and deep ravines. Here, our guide lead lectures on diversity of hummingbirds, epiphytes, tree species, etc. We would walk each day to learn in the field. I did an optional hike to see a rare bird, the Cock of the Rock. To see them we woke up at 3:30am, and hiked for 2 hours in darkness. It was an incredible experience.
From Santa Lucia, we flew from Quito to Coca, in eastern Ecuador. From Coca, we took a boat. We went through a checkpoint in which the oil companies searched our bags and passports. There were no roads to reach the research station, so we took our second boat (4-5 hours on a boat). The guides on the boat would point out monkeys jumping in the trees, dolphins, and rare birds. We were in the Amazon for 4 days. We experienced their extreme wet season, we swam in the Tiputini River, we designed our own field research, and we met the Huaorani people.
We then left the Amazon and spent a few days in the Andes, where we stayed in a hacienda. We watched Andean condors and saw incredible mountain peaks. I absolutely loved my study abroad program.