Our expedition to Honduras involved seven students and two staff. We were very much looking forward to the trip, especially the jungle experience and spending time with the Scientists and learning about new species. We did many fundraising events ranging from weekly cake sales to music concerts. We had a Honduran food night and sold lots of raffle tickets. We had a Christmas festival which saw our Honduras stall fundraise a lot.
The application for the Murray foundation came as an email to Mrs Berry. We sat together in another meeting and collaboratively wrote a poem with ideas bouncing off each other. We were delighted to find out the poem had been chosen as one of the winning articles.
The expedition started with three flights: Manchester to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Atlanta (and an overnight stay) and Atlanta to San Pedro Sula (and an overnight stay). It was all very organised and the flights and connections were great. Our expedition started with a ride up the mountain to base camp. This was approximately 2 hours in an open top truck with the most beautiful views. At base camp we had our welcome lecture with other school students and sixth from students from all over the world. This lecture was based on the facilities at camp including accommodation, tents, toilets, DNA labs and kitchens, what to expect and safety (with particular notice taken to species to avoid).
After the welcome lecture we had a meal cooked for us by the local families and then we had to re-pack our large 50L bags into our smaller day bags as we were about to set off on our hike to a remote satellite camp, Guaneles. This walk usually takes about two and a half hours but we managed to get there in an hour and a half which the staff said was a record time. The was steep and uphill at the start and then downhill in the jungle. When we got to camp we were given a tour and were shown the hammocks, tents, toilets (hole in the ground), shower waterfall, communal area and finally the three-day schedule for each group. We were the only school there and were welcomed by the brilliant Scientists, camp manager and locals.
Our schedule involved many transects and activities ranging from light traps, bird mist nets, bat survey, tree analysis, herpetology, invertebrates, invert sorting and camp skills. Each transect had its challenges whether that was constantly being aware of your surrounding in the steep forest or looking out for potentially dangerous species, but the experiences gained were invaluable. We managed to see a lot of beautiful and rare species and learnt a lot about the importance of maintaining the biodiversity in the forest.
After our three-day stay in Guanales we made our hike back up to base camp and continued our walk to Buenos Aires Village. This walk was physically challenging as it was so steep, but one of the highlights of the trip was making it to the top and Greg pulling out a bar of Cadbury’s fruit and nut. We all had a piece along with the staff, scientists and guides. The village was a different experience to the jungle and we were so lucky to get the chance to stay here and meet the lovely locals. The local families were so welcoming and generous and we even got to experience a festival at the local school and made our own coffee with Doῆa Martinez. We had lectures in the day on the different organisms and on operation wallacea and whilst on transects managed to see glass frogs, toucan, coral snake and a Mexican jumping viper.
We then made our way back to San Pedro Sula before getting a boat to the Island of Roatan. After a week in the jungle this beautiful island was paradise. We were shown out dormitories and met up with another school from England. We were split into groups of five and over the course of five days completed out five shallow water dives and five open water dives with many skills learnt along the way. We were all faced with individual challenges ranging from ear troubles, problems with equalising and mental challenges being in the water. The amount we learnt about the importance of the coral reefs, the undersea cities filled with colourful fish, about how they are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. We had many lectures on health and safety and identifying fish whilst also completing our PADI open water course and theory tests.
Once we had completed our skills and theory we could dive and help to monitor the reef. We had clipboards and pencils and had to record the colour of the coral reef using a colour chart at different locations. One highlight described by everyone on our trip was the experience of swimming with turtles. This was incredible.
On the last day we got to do a fun dive where we swam with spotted eagle rays, saw lionfish and another turtle. This was a great but sad day. We had a final meal on take away pizzas with our friends, scientists and students from the other school. We then made our journey back to San Pedro Sula for our last stay overnight. This was a special evening as we sat down as our group of nine and all had a meal together. We took it in turns to say a little speech on what we had found challenging and what we had enjoyed and then thanked everybody for making it such a wonderful trip. We set off in the morning for our 26-hour journey home.
We learnt so much on this trip: how to be resilient, about diversity and culture, the importance of the forest and coral reefs and to do more to care for our surroundings as things are changing and we need to help in order to protect our areas of biodiversity. Many of us want to go back and help. Miss Norris and Mr Holmes hope to run more trips with Operation Wallacea and some of us want to study Ecology and Marine Biology at University with the intention of coming back and working with Opwall.
Thank you so much to Operation Wallacea for helping to organise this amazing trip and thank you to Murray Foundation for the £1000 that was spent on diving equipment for everybody, travel costs to and from the airport and all meals whilst making our six flights.