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How does the Santa Cruz II give back to the local Galapagos community?

User Avatar Written by: Martín Barreiro
Santa Cruz II's guests hiking on Isabela Island.

People that inhabit the Galapagos archipelago live, for the most part, off of the (highly regulated) levels of tourism that come in through the islands. It’s interesting, then, to see how this dynamic plays out during the low season in Galapagos (which tends to be the period outside of summer months and Christmas break), when fewer tourists from around the world come to see the natural wonders that make Galapagos so unique and special. The best part: Metropolitan Touring makes a tremendous effort to make the lives of locals easier during this period.

How do Galapagos inhabitants make a living?

Fish market Galapagos islands

Fish market on Santa Cruz Island in Galapagos. Photo Credits: Michael Mc Cullough via Flickr.

The main source of income for the local population of the archipelago comes either directly from the tourism industry (via travel agencies, cruises, hotels, guided tours, restaurants, bars, etc.) or from other forms of commerce that are indirectly associated with tourism (fishing, agriculture and farming that provide raw material, food, and products for the aforementioned services). It is due to the latter economy that the people of the islands still manage to make a living during the low season in Galapagos when there is not that much tourism going on.

Worth noting is that on this particular occasion, we only had about 20 guests traveling aboard with us. Keep in mind that to operate our boat as smoothly as possible, a full-time crew of nearly 60 people is needed (regardless of how many guests are traveling with us). And did you know? Over 90% of our staff and crew are local inhabitants of the islands!

Hypothetically: Would the Santa Cruz II set sail even with zero guests onboard?

Not that it’s ever happened, but company policy states that this would indeed be the case: in the event that the ship finds itself completely devoid of guests for whatever reason, the Santa Cruz II would set sail and make the most of said journey by inviting either aspiring Naturalist Guides, local students and/or inhabitants of the islands, free of charge. More than a “financial loss,” we actually see this as an opportunity to give back to the Galapagos communities and offer them a proper and in-depth experience of the surrounding islands.

Keep in mind that Metropolitan Touring, the owner and operator of the Santa Cruz II, is a pioneer in the tourism industry that has always made it a point to strongly support environmentally and socially responsible tourism as well as green programs and projects in the Galapagos. We make it a point to not only look after the wellbeing of this special piece of Earth but also support and sponsor the local Galapagos community that lives throughout the islands. In doing so, we not only give its people the economical means to prosper – we also provide them with any and all tools necessary for them to appreciate and help maintain the beauty of the islands alongside us. There are several organizations currently operating in the Galapagos that have counted on the support of our company, and one of the most gratifying ones (especially in the case I’ll detail below) is a small organization that encourages kids to do well in school.

Filling the Gap (on this particular occasion)

Galapagos inhabitants aboard Santa Cruz II Cruise.

Galapagos inhabitants discovering the archipelago aboard our vessel.

As the Santa Cruz II only had about 20 passengers booked for this particular itinerary, Metropolitan Touring saw and seized the opportunity to invite local students and residents to come aboard our Expedition Vessel and discover other islands.

This group, in particular, came from lower-income families that live on the island of Isabela. These are families that, had we not given them the chance, would have most likely never counted on the economic means to afford a cruise to discover the wonders of many of the other islands, right here in a place that they are lucky enough to call home.

On this particular occasion, we had up to 26 sponsored guests, some of which happen to work for the Galapagos National Park, too! What’s more? Park Rangers came along with us on this special adventure in order to do some scouting and note-taking about the condition of some of the visitor sites (i.e. checking to see what features of the sites needed maintenance:  perhaps some of the markers of the trail have fallen or maybe some steps of stairs needed reinforcement or replacing).

After this particular cruise, we were left proud seeing as to how the Galapagos community, rangers, and our guests all headed back to their respective jobs and homes with a greater level of appreciation for what the islands have to offer. In the end: it is always nice to see everyone working together to help maintain and protect the beauty of this wonderful place.

Come along with us, and experience it today! We are here to start crafting the Galapagos cruise of your dreams!