Summarising Ecuador and the Galapagos - Expedition Leader Update

Expedition Leader program - Blog Post #3- June 24th, 2019

By: The Expedition Leader Program Team


Blindfolded trust games to create inclusive space; breathlessness climbing the pastel streets of Ecuador’s high altitude capital; billowing smoke rising from vendors’ barbecued meat skewers; sunrise over the sprawling city brightening our intentions for the journey ahead; immersing ourselves in the political history of the country while traversing churches and parliament buildings; poring over mind-bending travel logistics; sharing stories and traits and vulnerabilities over 750ml cervezas and karaoke. Eleven global citizens blasted into a single trajectory for a memorable chunk of space and time. 

Bulging packs loaded in vehicles for a winding journey down the mountains to the Oriente. Whiteout mist and shooting waterfalls characterising the high Andes; squealing and swallowing fat grubs in food markets; settling only for hostels with numerous quality hammocks; long and difficult conversations critiquing international development; bartering and questionable taxi drivers all part of the learning journey of travelling 101; slippery hikes to dreamy waterfalls; basic dinners brought to life with laughter and inviting strangers to join our tight knit family.


We were gifted a unique volunteering opportunity in a jungle community at the confluence of two rivers; an Irish-Ecuadorian family introduced us to the community effort at tourism in Sinchi Pura; falling in love rapidly with the eager children and jungle atmosphere; basic community living complete with mud brick houses, subsistence farming and countless dogs; sleeping peacefully in cabañas sans mosquitos, the roaring of the raging river taking us to wild places in our dreams. Hauling logs through mud and sweat; hands in the dirt pulling weeds and placing rocks; sweeping and painting and concocting plans for the volunteer groups that follow; communicating with smiles and games and light touches; tearing open cocoa plants and sucking on their sweet flesh; digging lluca from the back garden with kitchen knives and sharing cooking and meals; space for reflection and connection; nighttime fires, competitive card games and even a regional fiesta. Swimming away our worries in the Illa Coline as an afternoon ritual. We came here to serve and learn; both parties got ample doses of each. 

We floated over the Pacific to another world where sea lions act like domestic dogs; marine iguanas can’t be ushered off the walking tracks; birds would let you push them out of the trees and gigantic land tortoises mate in front of you because humans are simply flies on the wall.


The Galapagos. The volcanic islands have a painful history of human and animal exploitation, yet the 30,000 Ecuadorian inhabitants have recognised the natural value and gained World Heritage Listing for Charles Darwin’s iconic playground. Following our charming, caramel skinned guide Danny through the days, we explored San Cristobal high and low; diving deep with Pacific green turtles around kicker rock; rocking one whole day on our personal catamaran; deserted, glaring white beaches daily; feasting on lip smacking lemony ceviches and the staple banana chips. Workshops on environmental awareness; calculating how many trees we would need to plant to dissolve our carbon footprint. Walking pristine beaches sans micro plastics that seem to be home to the majority of wildlife in our precious world; frigate birds with a bulging red ballon instead of a throat; majestic blue footed boobie parents hanging with their awkward and vulnerable fluffball teenage chicks; sea lions better described as obese otters with a prawn tail, dog whiskers and puss-in-boots liquid black eyes; it feels impossible to resist the pull of nature and succumb to your deeper ecological identity. There is hope for the world yet. 


We are a reflective unit of travellers; sharing insights and learnings from everything we do. Our group experienced a turbulent week of stomach bugs and fevers; unaccustomed bodies struggling to find an equilibrium under constant change and movement. We are supporting each other through it all; the highs are higher than that the lows. 

Back to the humdrum of airports and powerful technology, we are stopping in Quito for a final farewell to Ecuador before moving to our next project in Peru.


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15th July 2019

Who wants to hear more about our ELP's experience on the Asangate trek in Peru? We do! 🙋‍♂️ "54 km, 5 days, 3 course meals, spectacular views, alpacas for days, chilly nights, and very dry hot days. This is what the Ausangate trek is all about." ... Link's below, you know what to do!

8th July 2019

"PERU 🇵🇪A definite fav country of mine... we have just completed a volunteer project in the Cusco area helping regenerate native vegetation and then the Ausangate trek, a bitter / sweet reality of climate change. The melting of ice has allowed a trekking route through this volcanic landscape which has to be one of the best 5 day walks I’ve done. Expedition Leader Progamme #pureexploration" - repost from Keri Wingnut, one of our amazing Expedition Leaders for our current ELP.

30th June 2019

"We think real travel isn’t just about box-ticking guidebook recommendations or Instagram shots, it’s about authentic experiences spent with new friends who inspire you to think about the world and yourself in new ways."

26th June 2019

So we know the photos from our ELP look amazing, but we're sure you're keen to hear what daily life on the program is really like, right? Luckily for you our team on the ground are keeping busy writing us regular updates and it's our absolute pleasure to be able to share them with you. Enjoy!

24th June 2019

People say the views are always worth the climb here in New Zealand. But at Pure Exploration we think the climb itself is pretty special, the views are just an added bonus. Do you agree? Join us for some pretty phenomenal climbs, views and plenty more this November in Patagonia, we promise it'll be an experience like no other.

20th June 2019

Latest blog from our Expedition Leader Program is now live! Our amazing group (currently in the Galapagos) will be posting every week whilst on the program, and they're doing an incredible job of keeping us updated with their news. The latest blog is specifically about the community project they've recently been involved in - prepare to be truly inspired!

19th June 2019

Squad goals. Our Expedition Leader Program is in full swing as our group swaps rivers for oceans in the Galapagos Islands. We're stoked to see they've mastered the art of the ultimate human pyramid. (Note the helmet on the left - health and safety at its finest). Don't forget to follow us on instagram: @pureexploration to follow their journey.

18th June 2019

Warning: there will be an influx of photos and videos over the next couple of months which may result in you quitting your job and joining us for our next Expedition Leader Program.

11th June 2019

And they're off!! Over the next 12 weeks the students on our Expedition Leader program will be sharing their incredible journey with us..Check out blog #1 written by Chloe from Canada - filling us in on arriving into Ecuador and how things went for orientation week 🔥

8th June 2019

Day one of the Expedition Leader program 💥 Instructors Keri & Jess are taking the team through orientation to set everyone up mentally for the next three months of travel and experiential education. The crew range from 18-34yo, hailing from Aus, Canada, the US and Hungary 🙌 📷: Jessica Thomas

5th June 2019

Pure Exploration Instructors Keri & Jess have arrived in Quito, Ecuador - ready to welcome the crew to the start of the Expedition Leader Program in a couple of days..The new students will be learning about adventure travel management, group leadership, logistics, expedition style travel in developing regions, along with trekking in some of the world’s most famous and spectacular mountainous and remote regions. Have the best time guys, we can't wait for updates! 🔥 #expeditionleaderprogram #ELP #Pureexploration

18th April 2019

This exceptional bunch of humans have finished up their time with us on the Adventure Guide Program in NZ. Its been so fun having them join us, alongside their awesome instructor Rosey. Keep in touch guys! 😘

8th April 2019

This is Torres del Paine. No explanation required really. So rad. Is Patagonia on your bucket list yet? Go on...

6th April 2019

Our adventure programs take you to some amazing places around the world. The pic is the Tiger Leaping Gorge in Southern China. If you're a hiker, you need to get here. Learn more about where we travel here

4th April 2019

These guys are busy with their NZOIA assessments this week, the final step in our program to putting all the pieces together as far as skills and experiences go. Go team!

25th March 2019

Time to meet the team! This is John. He is one of our Program Instructors, currently leading a group completing the Adventure Guide Program in Queenstown, New Zealand. John grew up enjoying the outdoors of Florida. Having joined the military when he turned 18, he soon began traveling and seeing the world, thus instilling in him a passion for travel. In the military as a JTAC, he was responsible for directing the action of combat aircraft. He received training not only in his core job skills but also navigation, survival, and bushcraft. After the military, he moved to Bend, Oregon to pursue his helicopter pilots license. Climbing in the countless places available to him in Central Oregon, he soon developed a passion for the sport as well as a deeper appreciation for the outdoors. John is a legend with a heart of gold, and an even bigger appetite - for food and for the outdoors! It's awesome having him on our team

24th March 2019

Enjoying the long warm days of Autumn in New Zealand with a week in the glorious surrounds of Mt Cook National Park.

20th March 2019

Adventure Guide Program crew meeting some key adventure tourism industry employers from around New Zealand tonight at our networking event. It's so great to be able to make these connections and get CVs straight into the key recruiters hands.

19th March 2019

Step away from the desk job and join us for a few months of outdoor fun. Go on...

17th March 2019

Orientation week in New Zealand is a chance to settle in, get to know your new team mates and explore this new land which will become home for the next 12 weeks.

14th March 2019

What types of people come on our programs? People from all over the globe join us for adventure travel missions. Generally we see people who are between 19 - 32 years old - taking a break before college, taking a break for getting into the workplace, taking a break from their work desk! It's all about immersing yourself in the outdoors, forgetting the pressures of everyday and enjoying feeling fit, healthy and renews by visiting new places. Join the crew!

12th March 2019

A good spot for reflection (and a cup of tea) after a big week exploring the New Zealand back country.

10th March 2019

It's time to get the hiking backpack out of the cupboard and buy a ticket abroad. Go on....

8th March 2019

Our adventure travel programs are all about living life to the full, getting away from your work desk, putting down that phone and refreshing your soul. Fresh air, fascinating cultures, like minded mates, learning new skills. Join the crew and take some time to focus on you!