Travel Spotlight

How Quasar Expeditions Is Building a Future for Galápagos Locals

Through once-in-a-lifetime guided sailings aboard its safari-luxury yachts, Quasar Expeditions is a perennial favorite for Indagare members venturing to the Galápagos. (And our members aren’t the only ones who love Quasar: the company has landed atop Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards for small-ship cruising several years in a row.) Yet what really makes Quasar stand apart is its commitment to long-term environmental sustainability and community investment.

“The pandemic shifted Quasar’s vision to be the most sustainable, socially conscious and environmentally friendly company in the Galápagos,” says Quasar President and CEO Francisco Diaz. An impressive 60 percent of the price paid by guests is distributed among local communities, and the company has spearheaded a litany of initiatives specifically benefiting galapagueños. As Diaz says, “the locals are the ones who hold the future of the Galápagos in their hands.”

We sat down with Diaz to learn more about how Quasar Expeditions is ensuring that future is a bright one.

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to plan your own trip to the Galápagos, and to learn more about Indagare Impact and how we’re helping your travels have a positive impact on the places and communities you visit. 

What do you believe is the greatest challenge of overtourism in the Galápagos?

Anything that is done without regard to others and our planet while failing to take on a long-term perspective (as is the case with overtourism) inevitably leads to environmental and social instability. Walking on that thin line where balance is found marks Quasar’s path.

One of Quasar’s impact pillars is to help communities thrive economically and socially. Can you elaborate on how you do this and why you think it’s important?

It is foolish to ignore your neighbors. They are an essential part of the environment you live in, and you want that environment to be as healthy, positive and nurturing as it can be. Around 95 percent of Galápagos families have not set foot on the Galápagos National Park outside the islands where they reside, primarily because they don’t have the economic means to do so. The park comprises 97 percent of the archipelago, so that means they’re ignoring 97 percent of what the Galápagos is truly about. Ignorance is the real threat to Galápagos, so we have set out to educate the population through our Beagle School Onboard project.

Can you elaborate on that initiative?

Quasar has dedicated a sailboat called The Beagle to be the first experience-school for kids and adults that will couple as a floating hotel and restaurant. We have partnered with the public Galápagos school system so local kids can learn and experience firsthand from our own team and crew what it means to work on a cruise vessel. They learn seamanship, hospitality, engine operation and mechanics. They also serve special lunches and dinners to real paying guests. Guests are invited to donate to our cause as well. This is how the project raises funds to then take Galápagos families on cruises around the islands, where we show them the importance of living sustainably and conserving their unique environment through a powerful and meaningful experience.... We hope our initiative inspires other cruise operators to do the same, so that the legislation and regulatory changes the Galápagos needs come from the inside.

What does your partnership with the Charles Darwin Foundation look like?

We have worked with the Charles Darwin Foundation for many years now.... Getting to remote places within the Galápagos National Park is expensive, so we want to provide this service to foster research. Our newest yacht, the M/Y Conservation, which will launch in the summer of 2023, will have two cabins devoted for scientists and professors to use the boat free of charge as their home while we cruise through the islands. Our guests will be able to meet and interact with the scientists and professors through this intimate approach, which will often inspire them to donate to CDW’s cause.

You recently joined forces with Ecuador’s local chapter of the UN’s Global Compact Project to implement key sustainability principles across your entire operation. Can you tell us more this process?

We are in an evolutionary process to make Quasar 100 percent renewable energy-ready. This will happen as technology improves and renewable energy platforms are implemented to power Galápagos. Until that happens, we’re starting by making all of our ships hybrid within the next five years and decreasing our carbon emissions by 60 percent. The M/Y Conservation will be the first hybrid expedition vessel in the Galápagos. In addition, we’re building a new solar-powered operation center that will recycle fresh water—a scarce resource on the islands. The blueprints for our sustainable construction methods and systems behind our center will be openly shared with the public and local authorities, thereby giving them an example to follow.

How do you empower locals, specifically the children in the Galápagos?

The Galápagos Scouts Program, inspired by the Boy Scouts of America, is educating kids to be mindful of their environment both socially and ecologically through volunteer experiences such as helping at local nursing homes, cleaning beaches and supervised camping.

And at the end of 2021, we began the Christmas at Sea program to take children from the local school for disabled children and their parents on a day-long cruise aboard The Beagle. It was a huge success, so we will continue this program to serve those most in need in the local community.

What is the greatest challenge you face as an organization servicing tourism in the Galápagos?

We need the support of local authorities for our initiatives to have a long-term presence. It’s a slow process to get buy-in from the local authorities for projects that are new. We hope that our initiatives and the impact they create will inspire them to embrace our projects with a quicker resolve.

What are you most proud of now?

Positive and long-lasting impact is what we aim for. Our projects each contribute in their own special way. I’m proudest of the good hearted and dedicated people behind our initiatives—from our staff to the teachers to the kids and local authorities who share our vision for the future of Galápagos.

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to plan your own trip to the Galápagos, and to learn more about Indagare Impact and how we’re helping your travels have a positive impact on the places and communities you visit. 

Published onSeptember 28, 2022

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