Why did you choose to study abroad in Ecuador? Why didn’t you pick some tropical place like Costa Rica? Before I came to Ecuador, I knew that it was a tropical country because of its location on the equator, but I never expected it to be as diverse as it is.
Ecuador is ranked as one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, and because of its small size it is probably one of the most diverse relative to size. So to that person who asked me why I picked Ecuador over Costa Rica: that is the reason why.
The country is divided into 4 different environmental regions: The Galapagos Islands (Galápagos), the Coast (La Costa), the Mountains (La Sierra), and the Amazon (El Oriente / Amazonía).
Because the climates in these environments are very different, there are tons of different species unique to each area. The mountains act as a barrier between the coast and the Amazon, making isolation of these species easier. The isolated species reproduce over and over again throughout generations which makes the species vary from a similar species found elsewhere in the country. Great examples of these evolutionary changes are found on the Galapagos Islands where the species have evolved to adapt to their environment over several hundred years.
I had the opportunity to visit the Guayllabamba Zoo just north of Quito. This zoo is unique in that most of the animals found there are actually animals of Ecuador. A few exceptions would be the African lion and the ostrich. There are many species of birds there that would typically be found in the Amazon.
Other animals I saw included monkeys, bears, wild cats, and the famous Galapagos tortoises.
Besides its wide array of species, Ecuador also has a variety of different plants. Because of it’s different types of ecosystems like the páramo, tropical rain-forest (the Amazon), cloud-forests, dry-forests of the coast, and Galapagos, to name a few, there are thousands of different plant species all over the country.
Going to the botanical gardens of Quito is a great way to become introduced to a variety of the plant species in Ecuador. I have taken two trips there and both times I was introduced to different types of plants; there are just too many to show in one day. Our guide showed us the different medicinal plants that some indigenous communities of Ecuador still use. She also showed us which plants were edible and which were definitely not. As a part of the tour, we explored the orchid exhibit which housed hundreds of orchid species native to Ecuador. Along with that, we were able to enter the carnivorous greenhouse where we were introduced to the carnivorous plants one could find in the tropical rain-forest.
I had a fun time exploring the different flora and fauna of this country and I hope you do too with these pictures! ¡Hasta luego, amigos! Stay tuned for other study abroad tips with me 🙂