By Kathleen Megan Harfman, College of New Caledonia, winner of the 2017 Stories from Abroad Scholarship.
Well, the bags are packed and ready to go. In less than 24 hours we will be off to South America! Eight of us from the College of New Caledonia will be flying out tomorrow morning; destination: Ecuador. We will arrive in Guayaquil and from there will meet Claudia, who, for the next three weeks, will be guiding us around the country as we explore the unique ecosystems, environments, and resource management issues of the area, as well as experiencing the culture.
Our adventure will begin at the Ecotec University in Guayaquil where we will attend a couple days of lectures. After finishing at the university, we will tour an organic shrimp farm. Shrimp production is a large industry in Ecuador and has resulted in the destruction of important mangrove ecosystems, which are also on the list to visit.
Ecuador is also well known for its Galapagos Islands, an area rich in biodiversity. We will not be stopping there, as it is expensive, but will instead spend a day on Isla de la Plata, or “Poor Man’s Galapagos,” as it is known.
Later on, we will be spending three days in the Amazonian jungle within the Yasuni National Park, exploring the ecosystem, observing fauna and flora, and discussing conservation and environmental issues. This national park has recently experienced development pressure from the oil industry. The area is facing tension between conservation to sustain the environment and large ecotourism industry, and the extraction of oil. This will be interesting to explore and learn about, as British Columbia also faces the challenge of balancing sustainable environmental management and resource development. Plus, I’m sure there will be a mosquito or two upon which to fine-tune my swatting skills
Near the end of our trip we will be travelling to the Maquipucuna Cloud Forest Reserve. This is also a rainforest ecosystem, but has been described to me as much wetter, like being in a cloud.
Hopefully, there will also be time to fit some fun between tours: swimming, hiking, ziplining, and tasting new food! Guinea pig is apparently a common dish……definitely on my list to try. At any rate, the trip is bound to be interesting, educational, and full of new experiences. Stay tuned for the next update!