Published on: Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Embracing an unforgettable journey filled with wildlife encounters, cultural exchanges, and dedicated service, a team of intrepid pupils from King's embarked on a month-long expedition that spanned the diverse landscapes of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and the Andes. Their journey, full of challenges, learning, and mutual exchange, left them with a profound sense of accomplishment. With a commitment to helping local communities and an unwavering enthusiasm for exploration, the pupils truly made the most of an experience that was as enriching as it was adventurous.

During the third week of their expedition, the team had the privilege of spending 5 nights on the island of San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands, known as La Isla Bonita, and were surrounded by fascinating creatures of all sizes everywhere they went.

Apart from the prolific sea lions adorning all the beaches, playing in the sand and sea, basking on the pier, beach steps, benches and pavements, the highlight of the trip was undoubtedly the two days of snorkelling. The sea was teeming with turtles, many species of colourful fish, playful sea lions, the occasional marine iguana, whales, rays and sharks. One group even saw a hammerhead shark, while another spotted a school of around 200 dolphins. It was indeed incredible. They had the fortune of visiting Punta Pitt by boat, stepping on the softest, sparkling sand formed from volcanic rock, minerals etc. Here, they saw blue and red-footed boobies with their chicks, as well as frigate birds, Nazca boobies and many lizards.

The team also visited the giant tortoise breeding centre, a local farm in the highlands with an abundance of many species of fresh fruit, homegrown coffee, a volcanic crater in the highland mist and the Darwin Interpretation Centre. Additionally, they planted trees at a local primary school, read books to the children, filled bags with soil at a plant nursery to assist in a project growing endemic trees on the island, and contributed to the island community's monthly beach clean. Overall, it was a week to remember. The following week, they were set to travel to the Andes via the Otavalo market for the final leg of their expedition.

Their journey was nearing its conclusion - they were then waiting for their connecting flight home from Madrid, having spent the previous week at a camp in the Andes, with a stop at the Otavalo market en route. The backdrop to the camp was stunning, nestled between two volcanoes and at a high altitude. The local community in Quitumba were warm and hospitable, performing a welcome dance, inviting the team into their homes to make and bake bread in traditional clay ovens and showcasing local embroidery.

The pupils delved into their final projects with their usual enthusiasm, painting the school building, revamping the children's playground and transforming a patch of grass on rock-hard soil - it hadn't rained for 3 months - into a vegetable patch at the local primary school, helping to make a grateful community more self-sufficient.

Their final morning was spent trekking in the majestic surroundings of the two volcanoes; a beautiful end to a remarkable and rewarding expedition. During their final debrief, the Operations Manager for Ecuador congratulated the pupils for choosing to spend their time and money making a difference in the communities they visited, whose cultures and living circumstances were so different to their own. The pupils learned a great deal and did King's very proud over the past 4 weeks with their strenuous manual labour (building, digging, concreting, sanding, painting and planting), resilience in challenging climates, and their positive attitude towards all they do, always working to the best of their ability. This was recognised and appreciated by all of the Camps International staff at every camp.

All staff involved are exceptionally proud of them. It had been a privilege to share with each of them the personal journey they had undertaken and to witness how they overcame the challenges they each faced. The team were returning to England suitably exhausted but with a massive sense of achievement, looking forward to some home comforts and well-earned rest and relaxation.

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