Amazonian Adventures

Amazonian Adventures

Jan 31, 2013|Higher Education| by administrator

When Dr. Eric Simon began brainstorming where he would take his students in January 2013, one place stood out in his mind. As an associate professor of biology at New England College, he was looking to take his students somewhere exotic; somewhere they had never been.

Simon wanted to bring his students to the tropical Amazon, and Lisa from Holbrook Travel knew just where to send him – Peru.

Why?

“…Because it is an ecosystem that is very different than where we live in New Hampshire. We like the students to be able to get out into the natural world and come into contact with the things they learn about,” he said.

A trip to the Peruvian Amazon was only one part of this two-credit course. During the fall semester, each student had to give two presentations, one on an organism and one on some aspect of Peruvian culture. While in Peru, the students were also required to keep a journal and write one blog entry. (To check out the blog entries visit Simon’s NEC Amazon blog here: http://necamazon.blogspot.com/2013/01/necamazon-student-blog-entries.html.)

Climbing Trees in Amazon     Photo by Eric J. Simon

Simon and his students wanted to experience the culture and biodiversity of the Amazon first hand. While in Peru, they visited two different villages and took daily boat rides and hikes through the jungle. The hikes were some of the most thrilling yet challenging parts of the trip. Though Simon is a frequent hiker, he wasn’t prepared for how “arduous” the hikes would be due to the jungle’s climate.

“The biggest challenge was the discomfort of being in the jungle. The facilities were very nice, but we would go out for a five-hour hike and by the end you were pretty nasty. A week and a half later we’re all comparing bug bites and rashes,” he said.

Out of the five international trips he has led in the past, this one was definitely the most adventurous. In May 2012, he brought his students to Cuba.

“Cuba was much more urban. We tended to go to large parks and places where there were a lot of people,” Simon said.

He also joked about the differences in his concerns for students during the trips. In Cuba, he was more worried about students being in an urban environment, but in Peru, he was more concerned about the diseases and animals.

Overall though, it was very exciting for the group to see animals they had never seen before such as sloths, monkeys and birds in their natural habitats. Zip lining through the upper canopy of the rainforest and canoeing through the rivers were some of the students’ favorite experiences.

Zipline     Photo by Eric J. Simon

Simon was especially pleased with the staff and guides who assisted them throughout the trip. He felt the staff at Tahuayo Lodge was one of the most significant factors in creating a positive experience for everyone. There were plenty of people there to look after the participants and make sure everyone was safe and comfortable.

This trip was definitely not the last for Simon. He one day hopes to travel to Antarctica, although he won’t be taking a group of students there. As of now, he plans to take a new group of students on a trip to Tanzania in 2015.

Zipline Group Shot     Photo by Eric J. Simon

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