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Making a Difference in the Galapagos

  • Date: 21 November 2013
  • Author: Sarah Fogel
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Roberto Plaza always dreamed of living in the Galapagos. Three years ago he finally made the leap and moved his family from the city of Quito to the Enchanted Isles. And they did it in a big way: Roberto and his family live totally off the grid.

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They use solar energy to power their home and rainwater to drink and bathe; waste water is treated and reused for agriculture needs, and their entire house was built using materials that leave the lightest ecological footprint.

Living this way comes with its share of challenges, but Roberto believes strongly that if you chose to make the Galapagos your home, it’s important to try and live as sustainably as possible.

It’s a philosophy he lives by both at home and at work. A naturalist guide for almost 20 years, the last 12 with Natural Habitat Adventures, Roberto says, “we not only run our tours in a responsible way that aim to have the least environmental impact, but we want our guests to experience pristine nature so they leave transformed. When they return home we hope they will see things from a different perspective and keep protection of the environment in mind wherever they go.”

Roberto’s always had a deep love for nature. He grew up in a city but every summer, his family would vacation by the ocean. “For three months I had total freedom growing up. I would spend my days with my snorkeling gear swimming around the bay, walking alone and exploring nature,” he recalls. “Nature for me was the most important thing and for it to be pristine was also the most important thing and I think it’s essential that everyone get to experience this.”

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Roberto's home in Santa Cruz: Off the grid

What’s kept Roberto guiding in the Galapagos for almost two decades? “It’s the magic that happens every day. Each day I see something new.

Roberto’s most memorable experience involves a rare, blue whale sighting. “When you’re out on the water and encounter the largest living mammal on the planet, and you have the chance to share that with people, it’s overwhelming. It’s incredible. The fact that these huge animals are endangered and we can still see them here makes you realize how untouched this place is.”

Roberto’s biggest dream for the Galapagos is that visitors will leave the islands with a deeper appreciation of how valuable nature is.

“Coming to the Galapagos is an awakening for people. You need to have these once-in-a-lifetime adventures to really understand how connected we all are and how important nature is for our survival.”

Travel with WWF to the Galápagos. 

  • Roberto aims to leave the lightest possible footprint so that vulnerable wildlife such as giant tortoises continue to thrive.

  • Plaza and his family use a cistern to collect rainwater in order to treat it for drinking. They also treat waste water to reuse for agricultural needs.

  • "Living here takes a lot of responsibility," says Roberto, "if we're going to live here we must do it the best way possible."

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