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Groundbreaking trip to Galapagos

Published Monday 13th of October 2014 02:15:21 PM

Trail-blazing students at Wisbech Grammar School have been treading in the steps of the naturalist, Charles Darwin, in an ambitious three-week expedition to Ecuador.

The tour party of 25 pupils aged 15 to 18, accompanied by two members of staff and two guide leaders, split into two teams, with one group hiking and camping in the Ecuadorian Andean Highlands and the other team scaling the extinct volcanic peak of Pasachoa, which, at 4200 metres, is three times the height of Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis.

The whole group spent a week on the Ecuadorian province of the Galapagos Islands, where Darwin's observations of the wildlife played a pivotal role in helping him to shape his evolutionary theory.

During their adventure expedition members discovered the archipelago's distinctive flora and fauna at close quarters, coming face to face with whales and tarantulas and enjoying hands-on encounters with sea lions and giant tortoises.

To round off the trip the intrepid students spent a week in primary rain forest working with the indigenous Amazonian Shuar people on community projects.

One team repaired and rebuilt a bridge across a large stream which floods in winter, hauling stone, dragging timber and hammering in the planks. The other work party built a shelter for children who have to catch a bus, carting leaves up a steep hillside.

In-between the three phases the group members were based in Ecuador's vibrant capital city, Quito. They also visited Otavalo, a large Andean town famed for its huge market.

One of the expedition leaders, Dr Stuart Miller, who is head of biology at the school, said: 'The purpose of the trip was to encourage students to consider global issues and to get them to step out of their comfort zone and, as a biologist, I wanted them to see the Galapagos Islands' unique flora and fauna.'

The students had all agreed that the trip was the best thing they had ever done. It had boosted their confidence and self-awareness and they were full of stories on their return.

Two more long-haul expeditions are in the pipeline at the school, with Dr Miller planning tours to Borneo in 2017 and Madagascar in 2019.

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