STATE OF SUSTAINABLE GRACE

CHARLES DARWIN FOUNDATION

QUASAR EXPEDITIONS

GALAPAGOS CONSERVANCY

Photos: Quasar Expeditions
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The Galapagos archipelago is an awe-inspiring, one-of-a-kind destination. No other place on Earth offers travelers the opportunity to get so close to such a wide variety of wildlife, sea life, and gorgeous landscapes. 

Since the islands were first discovered in 1535, a large number of species have been introduced by humans – often before we understood the impact they would have on the natural ecosystem. Some were deliberately brought to the islands for agricultural and aesthetic purposes (such as chickens, cows, dogs, ornamental plants), while others were introduced unintentionally, including rats and various insects and pathogens. Today there are estimated to be almost 1,500 introduced species in the Galapagos Islands.

Quasar Expeditions – a UK-based luxury adventure outfit – is doing something about it.

Photo: M/Y Grace; Quasar Expeditions

While a trip to the Galapagos is certainly not just about the boat you take, that vessel can either detract from or enhance the experience of your adventure—which is why picking the right one is so important. Quasar Expeditions offers luxury cruises through the Galapagos Islands on their newly renovated yachts, the M/V Evolution and the M/Y Grace (formerly owned by Grace Kelly). 

Sleeping just 18 guests, the uber-chic M/Y Grace comes complete with 360-degree decks and panoramic windows. The cruises operate on seven-night itineraries, allowing guests to get up close and personal with the islands’ amazing scenery and animals through snorkeling, swimming and kayaking. Not stopping at sexy and sophisticated, Quasar is inspired by the sensitive ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands and proudly operates with an impressive commitment to responsible tourism. 

Photo: M/Y Grace Inner-Saloon; Quasar Expeditions

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

The Galapagos National Park system consists of approximately 95% of the 13 volcanic islands and associated islets west of Ecuador. Together they are home to one of the most evolutionarily significant environments in the world – one conservationists are working hard to protect. It’s a process that’s vital for the longevity of hundreds of exceptional species and one that’s managed together with the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS).

The company also supports the Galapagos Scouts, a group dedicated to the children of the Galapagos, providing them with the resources needed for conservation education, and it has begun working with scientists and activists in stopping the tragic sport of shark finning. 

Photo: Hot Tub Deck, M/Y Grace; Quasar Expeditions

INVASIVE SPECIES

One of Quasar’s key partners on the ground is Godfrey Merlen, a local biologist committed to the conservation of wildlife on the islands. Originally from the UK, he moved to the Galapagos more than 45 years ago to work as a volunteer researcher. Since then, he’s worked for the National Park Service and other conservation agencies to positively and dramatically affect the state of flora and fauna throughout the islands – including aiding in the creation of the Galapagos Whale Sanctuary, working to develop the Special Law for the Galapagos and fighting illegal fishing in the Galapagos. These days, Merlen is working with the Galapagos National Park to control, limit and eliminate the risk of any further invasive species entering the islands. Efforts range from scanning every visitor’s bag on arrival and departure from the islands, to capturing and removing existing invasive mammals and plants.

WASTE WATER

Most recently renovated in 2017, the Grace and Evolution now include the latest technology in water treatment plants to protect the waters of Galapagos. “White” waters like shower and sink runoff go to a treatment plant that removes residues and large particles. In addition, all amenities onboard are biodegradable and non-toxic. 

Photo: Quasar Expeditions

PLASTIC 

Quasar’s two yachts are also both single-use plastic free. They don’t use plastic straws and don’t serve any food or sweets in single-use wrappers.  Drinking water comes from a desalinization plant that then purifies the water and adds minerals to make it drinkable. Guests are given their own stainless steel water bottles to refill daily at the water purifiers for their excursions. 

WASTE 

Organic waste from the yachts is separated from non-organic by Quasar staff daily. The non-organic waste is partially recycled in Puerto Ayora’s recycling plant and the rest is stored to be returned to the mainland on one of the rubbish ships.

CARBON OFFSET

Quasar is currently compensating for 50% of the carbon emissions of its two ships with a reforestation effort in the Amazon of Brazil.

For more information visit https://www.quasarex.com/galapagos

https://www.galapagos.org/?gclid=CjwKCAjw36DpBRAYEiwAmVVDMMISEGwlvTKYg-F6ZypUxIwaCWzFCTOnLVKlB_48Id8Kqu4-K8SHGxoCVPUQAvD_BwE

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“Conscious travel is a catalyst for social change.” So declares the website for Sweet Bocas, a luxury eco-retreat in Panama that puts serving its surrounding community on par with serving its well-heeled guests.

Set off the shore of its own private island in the pristine Bocas Del Toro archipelago on Panama’s Caribbean coast, Sweet Bocas offers a 15-acre all-inclusive retreat that pays homage to nature, sustainability, relaxation and style. The 20,000-square-foot, 7-bedroom, 3-story handcrafted overwater villa is the vision of former Montreal restaurateur Annick Belanger, who blended first-class amenities with unbeatable seclusion. The villa houses seven suites, a fully-equipped kitchen with culinary team, an espresso bar, entertainment-driven den, living and lounging areas, state-of-the-art gym, infinity pool and yoga studio. Additionally, two lakeside bamboo accommodations provide a tropical “glamping” experience under the stars. 

An exclusive-use property available for one party at a time, it is ideal for those seeking a place to unwind with a group of family or friends. With virtually no neighbors in sight, guests of all ages can experience this private paradise independently or with assistance by the house concierge. That includes getting acquainted with the surrounding marine environment with full use of the 30-foot motor yacht and boats, as well as premium experiences like surfing with world-renowned pro Terry Simms. Of course, there’s plenty to do away from the water as well, including bat cave explorations, indigenous tribe encounters, shaman healing, and more. Speaking of the fruits of the land, the island’s own sustainable gardens, orchards and farms provide the bulk of the ingredients for meals prepared by a world-class in-house chef.[

Photo: Sweet Bocas

Born in Canada and raised in Africa, Annick Belanger created this eco-paradise in order to provide a space for socially conscious travelers to truly engage. Sweet Bocas is a self-sustaining natural ecosystem, known as a permaculture, where sustainability is not just a buzzword. Commitment to guests is matched only by the commitment to the natural environment that envelops every aspect of guests’ stay, from the crystalline water, to the handcrafted teak house, to the farm’s handpicked produce and pure rainwater that guests consume.

That includes opportunities to visit local communities, participate in culturally immersive activities and leave a positive imprint on those that have called these sacred lands home since the beginning of time. Following the footsteps of her father, a pioneer and founder of trade schools and educational vocational programs that impacted many lives, Belanger believes education to be at the core of the mission at Sweet Bocas. 

Under Belanger’s direction, Sweet Bocas operates its own Dreamcatcher Foundation, which works in partnership with local nonprofit Give & Surf to support education and sustainable empowerment for the indigenous community in Bocas del Toro. Prior to 2011, there was just one small primary school offering inadequate education in unsatisfactory facilities in the Bahia Honda region of Bocas del Toro.

Photo: Give & Surf

Today, Give & Surf serves over 1,000 students per week in five indigenous and two local communities. The organization builds schools, staffs teachers, provides transportation to school (especially helpful as kids live in remote mangroves) and funds secondary education and university. More than 40 community development projects have been completed to benefit the communities of Bocas del Toro, with upgrades that include enhanced school buildings and a new community center.

In addition to letting guests shadow Give & Surf professionals during their stay, a stay at Sweet Bocas automatically includes a donation to the Dreamcatcher Foundation. Through the Foundation, the property is able to donate a percentage of every booking directly to Give & Surf. 

All told, Sweet Bocas offers an out-of-this-world escape that packs a punch when it comes to positive social and environmental impact. Heaven? You bet!

Sources: Sweet Bocas; Give & Surf  
Photos: Many thanks to: Sweet Bocas; Give & Surf; Nicholas Giombi For Photographers Without Borders 2015

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