Galapagos, Ecuador: Another World – by Connor

The Galápagos is home to many unique species. Some of them live on land but in my opinion the water owns an even wider diversity of life. With this said, we were going on a boat to an island called Santa Fe. This is where we were going to go snorkeling. We were going on a day trip and we started on Santa Cruz, then went to Santa Fe where we would go snorkeling two times. Then we would come back to Santa Cruz and snorkel once and also take a walk to see marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies.

We arrived at Santa Fe and put on wetsuits, snorkels, life jackets, and flippers.


The water was at the most twenty feet deep. Our guide was the first one ready out of the eleven of us. He sat on the edge of the boat, put down his mask, put in his snorkel and flopped into the water. Everyone followed. I was the last one. There I was sitting on the edge of the boat, shaking. One, two, three, jump. Those words never did anything! Finally the guide gave me his hand and I jumped in. I soaked up the water like a dry rag. The water spilled in from my legs and my neck and not one single part of me was dry. “You are dry?” The guide asked. “Not at all.” I mumbled, but out loud I answered the opposite. I put the snorkel I my mouth and put my face in the water. Fish! Thousands and thousands of fish. A large group of them swam past me and I looked over. They were dark, shiny blue with a yellow stripe in the middle. Many other fish passed and what surprised me was that I found something different in each of them.


I finally gave up trying to fight the cold so I swam back to the boat and had a break. We drove the boat about ten more minutes to the next spot. It wasn’t too long but we still got a snack. There were Oreos and juice, which gave me a good energy boost. We arrived at the next lagoon where we are going to play with sea lions. Since I was so freezing cold at the last spot, I put on a spare wetsuit under the other to be extra warm. Like the last spot, everyone jumped in before I did. I sat on the edge again, waited for two or three seconds, then plopped myself in and swam to where the rest of the group was. To my surprise, the water was very shallow. I could stand flat-footed on the bottom.

The water in front of me twirled and I looked. A baby sea lion, only two feet away from me flipped and jumped and I realized that it was coming closer and closer. I tried to stay on the rock that I was standing on but the current was too strong and I slipped. I flipped and twirled as much as the sea lions did and after that a sea lion hit me with one of its flippers.

After a few more minutes we swam to a different spot in the lagoon to find sea turtles. Two turtles were side by side and I could see them clearly. Again the water soaked through me, chilling me to the bone, and I climbed back into the boat.

After everyone got in the lunch was served. The guide joked with us that we wouldn’t have lunch unless we caught it and he cast two fishing rods into the ocean. Within 5 minutes we had caught a fish – but we didn’t eat it! He saved it for the next day, as our food had already been cooked and prepared. The fish (tuna) tasted really yummy and gave me another energy boost.

After lunch the boat took off at high speed across the ocean. You could see only water in every direction. We drove for an hour and finally arrived at Santa Cruz. We jumped out of the boat and walked ashore. Loads of marine iguanas greeted us as we tried to find our footing across the bumpy volcanic rock. They would sit on the rocks to get warm and once their body temperature reached a certain level they would head toward the water to eat.

Sitting on a large rock on the shore were two blue-footed boobies. Their blue feet looked so odd, against the black volcanic rock and their white bodies. They looked at us curiously as we approached, but didn’t seem overly concerned.

After our short walk around the shore we headed back out to the boat and drove out a few meters into the lagoon. It was time for our final snorkel. Our guide was hoping to see some sharks this time. Instead we were happy to find another pair of sea turtles who swam close to us for quite some time.


Snorkeling in the Galapagos was an amazing experience. The wildlife is so abundant and comes so close to you. Just make sure you have a warm wetsuit because the water is cold!

Galapagos, Ecuador: Live Boulders – by Connor

The Galápagos Islands are named after a very unique species: tortoises. Today we were going to see the giant tortoises. We took a 30 minute taxi to where you could see the tortoises in their natural habitat. We stopped at the first tortoise, two meters from where I was standing. Too bad you couldn’t touch them! It stood 1 meter tall and looked like a large bolder.


We passed a second, then a third, all of them looked the same but they were everywhere!




We got to the end of the path and there lay two tortoise shells. We asked if we could go in them and we could. I looked at the front. I looked at the back. HOW DO I GET IN?! I put one of my feet in the front of the shell, then the other. I got on the ground and shimmied the rest of my body through. To my surprise I was comfortable. We took a few pictures then got back in the taxi and drove back.


It was both scary and fun. It was scary because you were afraid of stepping on a turtle. It was fun because it was just plane cool!

Galapagos, Ecuador: Las Grietas – by Caleb

Today we visited Las Grietas. Las Grietas is a small grotto that is full of water so clear you could see every single fish swimming around in it. We brought snorkels so we could see everything. There was also a dock raised up about five feet above the water that you could jump off of.  DSCF5059

There was an extremely large assortment of fish in Las Grietas. Some were a bland grey, others were a very vibrant blue. Since we had gone snorkeling in Australia, we knew how to snorkel, so we were able to see many of these fish up close since we knew how to dive underwater. My favourite fish was a fairly large one that was black with white zigzag stripes and a bright blue ring around its eye. That fish was the most colourful of them all. 

 Once you swam through part of the grotto, you reached a pile of rocks that you could climb over to get to a tiny pool, and then you had to climb over another pile of rocks to reach another long grotto that went on for quite a ways. We only snorkeled in the second grotto for a short distance, because there was no resting point, meaning we had to tread water for about 40 minutes. Connor and I were also freezing to death. The water was ice cold. We snorkeled there for about an hour before climbing out of the water and drying off.


I would recommend this grotto for people new to snorkeling, because there are no currents, barely any people (if you go early and leave before four o’clock), and the water is so clear you can see everything. The only downside is that the water is freezing, but other than that, this place was great. 

Galapagos, Ecuador: Another and Another – by Connor

Waves could be seen from pretty much anywhere if you were standing in the right spot – some big, some small, and some in-between. Big waves were right in our faces and they would flood everything in their path. We were at Tortuga Bay. Tortuga means turtle but it’s ironic because we didn’t see any of them here. The waves, however, were at least 10 feet high. Caleb and I sat on the sand closest to the waves. We went up and down with the waves as the tide got higher and higher. A two-foot wave crashed into us and soaked the entire shore. Caleb jumped up and started sprinting to shore. I was sitting down and then looked over my shoulder. A wave, so big it looked as tall as me standing, was heading my way. I was not sitting anymore, I was sprinting for my life and the wave was right on my tail. I could feel its cool water on my heels. I ran as fast as I could to where our belongings lay. The wave was so powerful we had to pick up everything or else it would have pulled our stuff into the ocean. The lifeguard said that the tide was coming in too quickly so we had to leave and go home. Tortuga Bay was a blast for me and I would definitely go again, but if you don’t like swimming in big waves, I suggest you go to a different beach.

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Tena, Ecuador: Floating Donuts – by Connor

We’ve spent two days on the river in the Amazon rainforest! Today started out with us heading downstream on a motorized canoe on the Napo River. After plenty of time had passed, we pulled up to a rocky sandbar and jumped out of the boat.


The tubes had been traveling with us on the roof of our boat so we pulled them down and plopped them into the river. In no time the sun heated up the black inner tubes so they were too hot to touch and we had to dunk them in the water before flopping into them.


I found it even more relaxing to flip over and ride the tube on my stomach. The rapids were only class 1&2, unlike yesterday’s enormous waves but they were still fast enough to keep the tubes moving quickly and even make you wet at times.


At the beginning of our trip downstream there were loads of waves as the river turned a corner. I was about ten feet away from this when I rolled onto my back and enjoyed the bumpy ride! The waves got to about 2 feet in height, which kept things exciting!


We traveled downstream for about 1/2 an hour. The motorized canoe stayed close to keep an eye on us and take pictures. Finally, the boat pulled up to shore and they told us it was time to head in. Caleb arrived first and they pulled him and his tube out of the water. The rest of us followed, except for my dad, who was on the other side of the river and continued on downstream, missing the boat altogether! In the end, we had to speed down the river with the boat to catch him but he eventually made it in safely as well.

I found tubing even more enjoyable than rafting. I like being able to have a bit of control of myself and my speed, which I have with the tube. I also enjoyed the slightly calmer waters, which were still lots of fun.

Amazon, Ecuador: Day Tour – by Caleb

We went on a day tour through part of the amazon rainforest and learned all about the wildlife and about the culture of the Kichwa people. The itinerary of our day tour went like this: visit the Kichwa people and learn about their culture, take a flat bottomed boat down the river to an island made of rocks, tube down the river, lunch, visit Amazoonico (I’ll tell you about that later), take the flat bottomed boat back to shore, drive back to our hostel.

Watching a Kichwa woman pan for gold – this is done regularly as a source of income

Making pottery – another source of income.

The making of “chicha” – a local drink/meal.

Trying the blowgun.


 I’m going to tell you about Amazoonico.  Amizoomico is a wildlife rescue centre take takes care of wild animals that need help before being released back into the wild. Amaizoonico is located in the amazon rainforest right on the edge of the Napo river (the river we tubed on). It is not accessible by cars, only by people that have to walk on a designated path through the jungle, or by boat. Once we arrived, we walked up a long flight of dirt stairs up to the main office where we started our tour.

Our guide through the rescue centre was a student that just finished high school and was supposed to be on a school trip in Amsterdam, but instead she volunteered to work at Amazoonico.


We went through a windy path past cages full of exotic birds, and enclosures home to some unique animals. We saw toucans, macaws, parrots, pigs, anacondas, caimans, ocelots, and a few other weird animals. Our guide explained to us how these animals got injured, and why they needed to be looked after. Many birds and the ocelots were house pets, so they lost the ability to hunt and so if they were released into the wild, they would die. Other birds were traded around, so they had their wings smashed so they wouldn’t fly away. Some monkeys were orphans, and many other animals came with injuries that were created by something unknown. This was certainly a fun and amazing learning experience!









Amazon Region, Ecuador: White Waves – by Connor

How many of you have gone white water rafting? Well I have only gone once, and here I am in a car waiting to get on this little island of paradise called a raft. I haven’t had much experience; the biggest waves I’ve been on (in Costa Rica) were only level two+ and that still made me crouch on the floor of the raft. But this is my second time and the average wave is supposed to be three plus! The guide said that there were even some level four rapids. We have arrived and we are going through the safety procedures.



There are nine commands that we have to follow. Like, “left back” which means that the left side of the boat paddles backwards and the right paddles forwards. For “right back” it is the same procedure except reversed. After all of us are on the boat we practice the commands.



After practicing for a few minutes, our guide Alex hopped over all of us and then untied the rope holding the raft in place and hopped back in beside me in the back. We hurried down the river and followed his commands exactly as we were told.


Daddy got to jump out so we could practise rescuing him!

The first set of rapids came and I heard him yell, “Paddle! Paddle hard!” Before I knew it I was on my bum on the floor of the raft! A giant wave splashed over me, drenching all of us as we headed down the river.

For the next hour I continued to find myself on the floor of the raft again and again. The water felt like ice as it crashed over me. We spotted a small sandy area and our guide yelled again, “Paddle forward”.  We glided onto the smooth sand and were able to hop out of the boat and take a break for lunch.





After the lunch, we climbed aboard, setting out into the rapids once more. At one point the guide told us we were entering our last set of rapids. He asked if anyone wanted to do “the cowboy”. This is where you sit perched on the front of the raft, hold onto the safety line and swing one hand in the air, hollering “yeehaw!” as you ride the waves. Caleb chose to give this a go. At the end of the rapids, we met one giant wave that started to curl. Caleb held on as we headed head-first into this wave. I closed my eyes, held my breath, and crouched onto the ground. When I opened them again I was surprised to see Caleb sprawled out in front of me! Thankfully, he was not hurt and we arrived safely to our destination, without flipping.

Overall, if you’re new to rafting, it was a lot fun but you might want to try the smaller level 2 rapids first.

Amazon Region, Ecuador: Roaring Rapids – by Caleb

Today we went white water rafting on one of the many rivers in Ecuador, close to the Amazon Rainforest. I’ve gone rafting before, with friends on a school trip, and in Costa Rica with family, but this was something completely different. These rapids were 3+ on the water rapid scale, meaning these rapids sometimes got pretty extreme and the boat at points almost rolled over. We went with another family of three, and a guide resulting in there being eight of us in the raft.



The whole ride was really fun, but there were three points throughout the experience I remember specifically because I almost flipped out of the boat or just had the best time. My first favourite memory is close to the beginning. We went through a rapid that was about a number three, but at the end of the rapid was a HUGE wave. I was at the front of the raft, so I felt the impact the most alongside the lady sitting across from me at the front of the boat. The wave shot the nose of the boat upward with such speed but then quickly drove the raft back down onto the surface of the water. Well, when the raft suddenly plummeted back down to planet earth, I was catapulted into the air, so the nose of the raft went down, but I’m still going up! Finally I went back down and landed on the side of the raft a bit further back from where I was sitting before I was flung into the air, but that defiantly put a smile on my face for the rest of the trip. 



The second memory was a massive rapid that was class four, and I understand why too. Our guide was yelling, “PADDLE PADDLE!” while we were heading through these massive waves and then our raft passed over a huge wave, dropped down the other side of the wave, then went head first into an even bigger wave on the other side. Again, I was at the front of the raft and the impact was so hard, I flew back into my dad and he had to hold onto my life jacket so I didn’t fall out of the boat. That certainly was a great memory. 



Finally, the third and favourite of the top three. Our guide let one of us do something called, the cowboy, through the last rapid. The cowboy is where you sit strait on the nose of the boat, let your legs dangle over the edge of the boat, you hold the safety cord with your left hand in the centre of your legs, and then you can put your right hand into the air and make a cheering noise. I volunteered. After I got into the position the others in the boat started to paddle into the final rapid of the trip. It wasn’t a grand finale, just a small, class three rapid. After bobbing up and down over the waves, we went strait into a massive wave that was just curling. The water hit me so hard in the chest that I lost my grip on the safety cord, and went flying into the boat. After the wave had passed, the guide started to laugh at me because I was sprawled out on the floor of the boat, with my legs hanging over the side of the raft. That was the best experience rafting today. 





Overall, this was the best river rafting I have ever done. The company we went with was called Aqua X-treme and our guide was called Alex. This was something I loved a lot and is something I would certainly do again. 

Archidona, Ecuador: Demanding Monkey – by Caleb

I’ll make this blog short and sweet. When staying at Orchid Paradise in the amazon jungle, monkeys seemed to come and go throughout the dining area and outside the kitchen. We thought the staff fed the monkeys bananas because we kept seeing monkeys eating banana slices. We also saw one of the staff members giving a big fat monkey a banana. My dad got a picture of the monkey coming and sitting outside the kitchen waiting for its banana. But when it didn’t get it in a few seconds, it started to get demanding. 


Where’s my food?



Quito, Ecuador: Grateful for Friends – by Barb

Clay and I taught internationally for a number of years and thanks to social media, such as Facebook, I’ve been able to stay in touch with some of our friends from the various schools we worked at. Trae and Clay became good friends when we worked in Venezuela and they formed a band (along with another teacher) and performed in nightclubs around Caracas. We hadn’t seen Trae and his wife in 12 years, nor had we met their children, but when I got in touch with them, they invited us to stay at their home in Quito.

We were so excited to meet up with them but also a little apprehensive. What if we didn’t have anything to talk about? What if our kids didn’t get along? What if….?

But the moment we arrived at their home, we knew this visit would be one of the highlights of our entire trip. You know those friends you meet up with and you just pick up as though you’d seen them yesterday? That’s how it was! We sat up late chatting and our boys hit it off immediately with their two boys. We shared stories, swapped advice, and just thoroughly enjoyed each others’ company.



The boys “bonding” over a video game!



The Hollands – We miss you already!


Our last morning together.

It was another one of those moments when I realized just how truly blessed we are. No matter how many places you visit or things you see, it will be friends and family that bring you the greatest blessings and that was clearly evident with our visit to Quito. Thank you Trae and Eva for welcoming us into your home! We can’t wait to see you again.