Wednesday, 8 October 2008

A Letter from an Environmentalist Who Works in the Galapagos


Ecoventura Executive President Santiago Dunn is a bright spot in today's global tourism arena. He's been working quietly in Ecuador on earth matters since 1990 from the Guayaquil headquarters of his family-owned company that ferries nature lovers into the fragile eco system of the Galapagos Islands on small, cutting-edge-green vessels.

While afloat and offshore the minutiae of human footprints, both foreign and indigenous, and their impacts are assessed by Dunn who believes it's possible to elevate consciousness levels around the world by allowing privileged travelers to see places like The Galapagos and in so doing learn how important it is to protect the environment.

In summer 2007 UNESCO put the Galapagos on its World Heritage sites risk list, citing alien species and pollution from tourists and immigrants as key issues.

Dunn views this as a positive step "because it will raise awareness so that corrective measures are taken."

Meanwhile he is modifying the engines on his fleet of four expedition yachts to create hybrid boats that will run by diesel and solar/wind energy. This ground-breaking technology will charge all electric/lights/appliances/bridge equipment and reduce fuel consumption by 10-20 percent. This conservation is in addition to the energy savings already realized though an operation policy that reduces engine RPMs.

"This very new technology has only been used to date on small private boats and not yet on commercial vessels," he says, noting that $100,000 was budgeted for a one year test/trial on one of his yachts before refitting his entire fleet. The target goal is to have full implementation by 2011.

This project and other work he has done offer a case study in best environmental practices. His mission for Ecoventura, that annually transports nearly 4,000 passengers, is to inspire others, including his passengers, to be part of the solution for the issues facing tourism in The Galapagos.

"We want to give our passengers the assurance that Ecoventura has taken every measure to ensure that they enjoy a safe, thrilling adventure without harming the unique wildlife or the fragile environment. We all live in this world and breath the same air; the least we can do is try to preserve it for our children and the generations to come," says Dunn.

Following is a brief chronology of Dunn's accomplishments:

- Since 1999, through a series of targeted projects, he has led Ecoventura to become the pacesetter in establishing the standard for responsible and sustainable environmental practices.

- In 2000 Ecoventura became one of the first recipients of SmartVoyager, a voluntary environmental certification developed by New York-based The Rainforest Alliance and Corporacion y Desarollo from Ecuador. The program gives a "green seal of approval" to tour boats that comply with requirements to tread lightly on the area's fragile eco-system.

- In 2005 he received the prestigious Individual Sustainable Standard-Setter award for making a significant contribution to environmental conservation and sustainability.

- In 2006 Ecoventura, in partnership with NativeEnergy, became the first Carbon Neutral operation in Galapagos (and Ecuador).

- In 2007 Ecoventura partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to create the Galapagos Marine Biodiversity Fund which targets environmental education and marine conservation by strengthening the local communities' ability to manage natural resources.

Megan Epler Wood of Burlington, VT, head of EplerWood International, a consulting company that advises regions around the world on sustainability issues, notes that Santiago Dunn has made Ecoventura one of the most environmentally conscious travel companies in Ecuador, one which is admired by its passengers and travel companies globally.

"By partnering with NativeEnergy to offset carbon emissions, he is investing in the future of our planet by bringing corporate travel industry dollars directly to the development of new wind turbines on native lands and other renewable energy sources," she says. "What is really significant," she adds, "is that Dunn is not waiting for his passengers to "opt-in" to an offset program; he is paying the full amount for offsets upfront to ensure his company is carbon neutral. "

To receive a copy of Ecoventura's 2009 catalog as well as information on tours to the Galapagos Islands, call toll-free 1.800.633.7972, or e-mail info@galapagosnetwork.com. To access current rates, schedules and itineraries you can log onto www.ecoventura.com/.