Alumna begins gap year in Ecuador

Recent graduate travels to take care for exotic animals


Kimberly Romero

Having decided to take a break for the next school year, 2017 AHS graduate Kimberly Romero travels alone to Yanachocha, Ecuador to help aid wild life recovery.

She gets up every morning to the sound of tropical birds outside her window. Lost in the chirps and the nature around her, she forgets where she is for a quick moment. This is how alumna Kimberly Romero begins her mornings in Yanacocha.

Romero, graduating from AHS in 2017 as an accomplished IB diploma candidate, had decided to take a gap year before the beginning her freshman year of college at the wildlife sanctuary in Yanacocha, Ecuador.

At the sanctuary, Romero gets to work hands-on with many of the native animals of Ecuador.

“We work with Coates, toucans, margays, capuchin monkeys, chichicos, chorongos, turtles, alligators, sloths, griffins, raccoons, and several different types of birds,” Romero said. “There are more animals there too but the veterinarians care for many of them.”

According to Romero, what makes Yanacocha distinct and unique is that the sanctuary allows many of the animals to roam free. Rather than being locked in cages or constrained in small areas, Yanacocha provides the animals with a sense of independence and freedom.

Every weekday, Romero is assigned to two shifts. She gets breakfast at 7:00 a.m and at 8:30 a.m, her morning shift starts. This shift lasts all the way until noon. Romero and her fellow workers at the sanctuary have sessions of different tasks and duties.

“We have rounds which consist of feeding the animals,” said Romero. “This includes mammals, monkeys, and birds and cleaning their areas.”

After her break, Romero’s afternoon shift consists of similar tasks. This shift starts at 2:30 p.m and will run until 5:00 p.m. When she has some down time after finishing her rounds around the sanctuary, Romero is tasked with extra work which can be activities like building homes for the animals or cleaning different areas. After the conclusion of her afternoon shift, the rest of the day is free time for Romero to explore do whatever she wishes.

Romero had been planning her trip to Ecuador for quite some time now. She decided to travel alone and experience adulthood to the fullest extent.

Having only been in Yanacocha for a week, Romero already feels a deep connection to both the people at the sanctuary and the locals as well.

“I’ve only been in Yanacocha for 4 days and I already feel like I’ve known the people here my whole life,” Romero said. “Everyone is really motivated to help out in any way possible and it’s just a great environment to be in.”

During her time in Ecuador, Romero will have the opportunity to explore the beautiful South American country first hand. Since Ecuador is located in the Amazon, the sanctuary that Romero works at even has its own reserve on the rainforest. Visiting the reserve, although having to overcome a long and arduous hike has become one of Romero’s most memorable adventures.

“My favorite experience so far was being fortunate enough to go to Tamandua,” Romero said. “It is about an hour drive from Puyo, Ecuador.”

On the reserve in Tamandua, the sanctuary releases any animals that have been fully recovered. Romero hopes to continue exploring places such as the Amazon and Yanacocha during her stay in Ecuador. She is ready to continue filling this gap year with irreplaceable memories and encounters.

“It’s really an awesome experience! I’ve met people from all over the world and traveling alone these past few days has really taught me a lot,” Romero said.