CONSERVATION IN GALAPAGOS

Ecoventura welcomes Ecology Project International students aboard for a one week mentoring cruise

AUTHOR The Ecoventura Team

Every year since 2012, Ecoventura has sponsored students under our “Vocacion a bordo” (Careers on board) program. The program allows a handful of Ecology Project International (EPI) students from the Galapagos, selected by their instructors and EPI directors, to participate in a one week “career mentorship” cruise designed to offer them the chance to shadow our Ecoventura guides and crew. The aim is to help them learn more about these careers and so guide and inspire their own career choices and development.

The week is also designed to impart further knowledge with regards to the importance of preserving the wildlife and natural environment of the Galapagos, a home that they share with a multitude of endemic species and plants. Students tend to leave with a stronger appreciation for the land and a better understanding of the Islands’ history, not to mention a greater awareness for the care that has been taken, and ongoing efforts required, to preserve it.

“The most significant thing for us is to learn from our islands, to discover more about them, to know the history of each one” the students explain. “Although we are local people from the Galapagos, we do not know much about our environment and we do not know how to appreciate what we have – for that the most significant thing is the conservation of our beautiful islands.”

Guides serve as mentors to the students in the field during the week-long cruise aboard the Letty, Ecoventura’s first-class 20-passenger yacht. This, combined with the shadowing of crew members, gives the students the chance to learn first-hand what a professional naturalist guide, chef, engineer or Captain does during a typical working week on board our yachts. By observing the nature of the work and being able to ask questions of the mentors and crew, students can learn about a chosen career and acquire first-hand experiences and insights into specific potential roles. The program provides a valuable link to motivate and encourage local students to choose a career in sustainable tourism close to home, and a means to map out a path from their education through to a chosen career.

The students can also mix with the other passengers on the cruise, sharing their experiences of growing up in the Galapagos with other guests. Passengers love to talk about the Galapagos and hear about life on the islands, as Charles Goldman can attest after a week on board with the students.

“Our amazing trip on the Letty was enhanced by four Ecuadorian students from EPI. It was wonderful to hear about the ecological programs and activities that these students had participated in as part of their work with EPI, particularly their research projects that involved tracking the migration pathways of tortoises on Santa Cruz Island” he told us after his trip.

This year, four students were selected to take part – Priscila Bonilla, Leslie Casquete, Paul Castillo and Rafael Zapata – all from Santa Cruz. The students were accompanied by their teacher Martin Narvaez. Selected based on their demonstrated interest in tourism and commitment to conservation, the experience was clearly an inspiration to all the students.

“We were really excited and proud to be able to represent EPI and learn more about our Galapagos Islands” explains Priscila. “I really liked sharing experiences and talking with passengers and crew. Being able to get to know more places and islands in the Galapagos was a great privilege; few of us usually have such access to some of these locations.”

The cruise is a great way to show the students areas of the Galapagos they may not otherwise be able to travel to, and of course see more of the region’s remarkable wildlife. “In each place that we visited there were different and new species, each of which has a unique attraction. The only species we have seen in both Santa Cruz and the rest of the islands are sea lions and frigates – there are many more that we had never seen!”.

Following completion of the cruise, we asked them what advice they would give tourists visiting the Galapagos, and what they think about continuing efforts to preserve the Galapagos. “We would tell visitors about the wonderful species and landscapes they will find and appreciate in the islands. We would share with them a little about our experience, and would tell them about the love that we in EPI give to the islands and about the conservation projects that we try to undertake to improve the islands” they said.

“One initiative we think is needed is to support the protection of the islands and start a conversation about conservation, with the help of members of an experienced environmental group or foundation. We need to communicate to all new visitors to the islands how to take care of these islands and play an active role in conservation.”

The EPI cruise and hosting students on board is just one of the ways that we at Ecoventura aim to give back to the Galapagos and contribute to the ongoing conservation work required to protect this stunning environment and the wildlife that live here.

For more information about our conservation efforts, or to discuss future travel plans to visit the Galapagos to see them for yourself, feel free to visit our website or get in touch with the team: Telephone: (305) 262-6264 /Toll free: (800) 633-7972 / email: info@galapagosnetwork.com.