I have never seen as many unique species as I did yesterday during our trip to Isla de la Plata. Our day started with an exciting boat ride from the town of Puerto López to the Plata Island. If you are someone who gets seasick, this boat ride would have been the bane of your existence. The boat cruised over sharp waves at top speeds, bouncing from crest to crest. The large waves had us bouncing out of our seats at some points! Towards the end of our hour-long ride, we saw dolphins. These majestic dolphins ephemerally slipped out of the water, sometimes in groups of two or three. Their shiny black skin glistened amongst the dark waves as they came closer to our boat. While I could have watched the beautiful dolphins forever, we had to continue driving to the island.
Upon our arrival at Isla de la Plata, we were greeted by a gaggle of fish and a few large sea turtles. We followed a baby sea turtle as it made its way from the top of a sand dune to the Pacific Ocean. It was a wholesome moment because it felt like we were sending it off to its new life under the sea. On the island itself, the list of species we saw only continued to grow. We saw blue-footed boobies, tropic birds, lizards, and a variety of fish such as a black-and-white pufferfish.
The hike we went on was certainly challenging, especially on such dry land under the harsh sun. Regardless, this hike was like a walk on the beach, at least compared to our past Amazonian hike endeavors. On our walk, we saw a myriad of unbothered blue-footed boobies. After observing the boobies, we learned about their gender differences. The males tend to have smaller pupils and make different sounds in their chests than the females. Also, the baby boobies do not have blue feet. Rather they have faded gray feet with fluffy white fur. I was surprised to see how big blue-footed babies typically grow. Even at two months old, a baby could look nearly as big as its mother!
After our hike, we went snorkeling. I learned that snorkeling in deep waters without a life jacket is a panic-inducing experience. Thankfully, the boat was nearby so I was able to grab a jacket to keep me afloat. Snorkeling next to the Isla de la Plata was a memorable, eye-opening experience. Looking only 3 inches under water and seeing an entirely new world was peaceful and fascinating. The colorful reefs and polished fish engulfed my peripheral vision. All of the world’s noise above the surface ceased and I felt like I was one with the ocean. Time seemed to pause and the only thing I could focus on was my heartbeat and the ocean’s majestic surroundings.
As our Ecuador Plus3 trip comes to an end, I am disheartened but grateful for all of the incredible memories and perspectives I have gained. I have also received newfound appreciation for the privileges I have typically taken for granted in my daily life. I am never going to overlook chocolate or roses again and I will always take the time to think about the supply chain processes behind different commodities. Lastly, I am pleased with the friendships I have made throughout these two weeks. While we might all be business students at the Univeristy of Pittsburgh, each one of us has come from a different environment. It is precisely these disparate backgrounds that helped unite us and teach one other in Ecuador.