Honduras was amazing - challenging physically but the boys were the best part of it, as ever. I was so impressed with the way they chatted to local guides, PHD students and professors easily and with genuine interest at all times of the trip, but most especially in the jungle. A number of them have had life changing experiences and rethinking their career options - diving with Tom Allen for example could not have been more of a pleasure as he constantly showed me coral formations and small fish that I would never have spotted under water. He also always went last even though I tried to let him go first - ever the gentleman and ever thinking of others in a way that I had not anticipated. He is seriously thinking about marine Biology/conservation in the future which is exciting.
One of my enduring memories was sitting around the camp fire after a 6 hour trek and seeing every member of staff or guide or PHD student being engaged in conversation by a boy. It made me very proud of them and of how natural they are at interacting with adults and those from different backgrounds. Some were chatting about the day and what they had seen, some were talking about the studies the PHD students were carrying out, some were playing 'verbal games' with the students and some were playing cards. The language barrier with the guides was never an issue as those whose Spanish was too weak used plenty of smiles and gestures as did I. Those who could speak Spanish conversed easily and included the others whenever possible.
On the science front the boys made a major contribution to the Conservation work of Operation Wallacea. They were one of the largest groups to visit Honduras and also one of the fittest physically. As a result they were allocated many of the toughest survey areas in Cusuco National Park, often climbing a vertical mile in a day and giving scientists who had been living in the jungle for 10 weeks at that point a run for their money in the process. A number of groups made it to the very top of mount Cusuco, sitting to rest on the spot where a wild Jaguar had been filmed on a camera trap only days before - close enough! Special mention must be made of James Parker and Freddie Marshall - in many ways they were as adept at finding wildlife as some of the top scientists - natural Attenboroughs! Operation Wallacea is currently in the process of securing $36million dollars of carbon credit funding to secure the future of this biodiversity hotspot and data collected by Radleians both currently and in the 2013 and 2015 expeditions is part of that. Our rest/fun week on the tropical paradise island of Uitila (scuba diving, mangrove kayaking and whale shark watching) was well-deserved.