For all of us, the pandemic meant the cancellation of travel plans and putting a pause on overseas adventures. For me personally, it meant a year’s worth of planning for a journey through Central and South America was put on the back-burner. An area I’d been desperate to explore for years – known for its amazing history, diversity, and warm hospitality, was off-limits. Dreams of exploring the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru, wandering through the lush rainforests of Ecuador, and basking in the ‘pura vida’ lifestyle of Costa Rica had to be put on hold – temporarily I hoped.
Fast forward three years, and a lot of Zoom calling behind me, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to embark on a journey to Central and South America, fulfilling a lifelong dream. Stepping foot in this part of the world, this time as a Group Travel Coordinator for Infuse Travel, opened my eyes to the amazing hospitality and life changing experiences available to student travellers in the region, and allowed me the chance to connect with the culture and the people in a deeper and more meaningful way.
Costa Rica was the first stop on my journey. With its lush rainforests, pristine beaches and an overall commitment to sustainability – an cause close to my heart – I was excited to see what the country had to offer.
Infuse’s programs in Costa Rica immerse students in the natural environment and support local NGOs on causes that are important to the communities. These range from sea turtle conservation, to working with an indigenous tribe in the Caribbean, to exploring the jungle in Corcovado National Park.
A few of my personal highlights were zip lining through the dense jungle canopy of Monteverde rainforest (a true joy) and walking along the black-sand beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park, all whilst keeping an eye out for jaguar prints in the sand. Seeing how the locals care for and nurture the natural environment was truly inspiring, and something that will have me returning.
Ecuador was up next. Having watched one too many documentaries on the Galapagos, I was keen to check it out first hand. Infuse Travel takes students to all corners of this beautiful country. From the Amazon rainforest, to the Andean highlands and the Galápagos Islands. I was excited to explore them all.
Delving into the heart of the Amazon was astounding and something I’d always dreamed of. An incredible Infuse Travel program I tagged along with involved spending three nights immersed in the Amazon Jungle in Cuyabeno. We paddled up and down the magnificent river and went on epic jungle walks, spotting pink river dolphins and otters, seven different types of monkey, sloths and over 50 varieties of brightly coloured birds! Mind officially blown.
Later in the trip, walking the cobble-stoned streets of Quito and learning about the region’s history was like going back in time.
My final stop in Ecuador, was the Galápagos Islands. This living laboratory of evolution was everything I could have hoped for! My time here was spent island hopping, exploring volcanic otherworldly landscapes and marvelling at the giant tortoises and marine iguanas of Isabela Island. Taking to the water to swim with turtles, manta rays and tropical fish on a full-day island adventure was also a highlight.
My final destination was Peru, a bucket list destination whose incredible landscapes and cultural diversity had always called to me. Here, my wife and I pulled together our last remaining energy to hike the insanely beautiful ruins of Machu Picchu – a moment in the middle of the pandemic, I thought might not ever be possible. An unbeatable Kodak moment.
Infuse Travel programs to Peru combine exploration of the historic streets of Cusco with time in the stunning high-altitude landscapes of Machu Picchu. Time is also spent within local villages working on service projects that benefit rural communities.
I was fortunate enough during my time in Peru to meet with one of Infuse Travel’s community partners in Ollantaytambo. This incredible local organisation makes it possible for girls from remote communities in the Andes to receive their high school degree and begin pursuing their dreams. Their work focuses on girls because of the unequal access afforded to girls to pursue their secondary education.
Here, I tagged along with a school group in action as they helped support this program. I learnt more about how Infuse partners with community and was able to watch the group complete their service work for the afternoon – which involved helping the local farmers tend to the field to provide nutritious food for the Andean students. I was inspired to continue this important work, seeing first hand the impact it had on both the students and community.
My personal story of returning to Central and South America post-Covid is not just a story of a dream fulfilled, but a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the joy of rediscovery. Infuse Travel’s program in Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru offer students the opportunity to immerse themselves in a diverse culture, to live within rural communities, experience stunning natural landscapes and taste the vibrancy of Latin America.