Travel widely, treading lightly

The Rocinante crew spends a lot of time exploring the Galapagos Islands. Source: Allabama Wyke

By LAURA-LEITH PETTIGREW

Australians love to travel almost as much as they love their country, with 11.1 million of them enjoying overseas trips last year alone. But at what cost?

Typically, travellers arrive in holiday destinations and not long after, depart without giving a second thought to the environmental, economic and social impacts of their holiday.

However, the preservation of these natural holiday destinations is one of the Rocinante crew’s top priorities.

The 27 crew members travel on board the superyacht, taking passengers to unique destinations all over the world including the Caribbean, Mediterranean, South Pacific and Maldives. The crew members have a passion for diving, and the abundance of marine life makes these destinations alluring.

But instead of using and abusing, the team do all they can to ensure the destinations’ longevity.

Rocinante stewardess Allabama Wyke got a job on the yacht after leaving Australia following her high school graduation.

Ms Wyke said the crew visits the destinations but also tries to leave it better than when they found it.

“Our aim is to travel to these beautiful places, just as any normal person would … and take advantage of what they have to offer diving wise,” Ms Wyke said.

“Our aim is to travel to these beautiful places, just as any normal person would … and take advantage of what they have to offer diving wise,” Ms Wyke said.

“[But] we aim to contribute back to the environment and community.”

Ms Wyke said being on board a 78-metre yacht allows the crew to do just that.

“Travelling … from one country to another or even small distances such as the mainland to smaller more remote islands, where they find it difficult to get supplies – we  have the capability to bring aid, supplies [and] food donations,” Ms Wyke said.

After hurricanes caused significant damage to the Caribbean islands and its local communities, the luxury yacht crew thought of a way to help those affected.

“Because the yacht was on its way there anyway, we filled the guest cabins to [the] brim with boxes and boxes of donations and offloaded them once we arrived,” she said.

The Rocinante can sometimes travel up to two weeks across the ocean. Source: Allabama Wyke

Translucent seawater kisses the pearly white sand and ragged rocky shores. Vibrant greenery contrasts with the golden-brown dirt that covers the island’s surface. The untouched beauty of the Galapagos Islands makes it a wildlife sanctuary above and below the water.

Although Rocinante’s crew currently calls the Galapagos Islands home, they share it with several animal species that are endemic to the islands including marine iguanas, Galápagos giant tortoise, Darwin’s finches, frigate birds, flightless cormorants and Sally Lightfoot crabs.

Ms Wyke said it is a very special place but introduced species “such as cats and rats have nearly destroyed [animal] populations from certain islands”.

There are numerous efforts in place tackling this problem. To contribute to sustainable tourism and secure the safety of animals such as the marine iguana, Rocinante’s crew delivered wood to Isla Floreana.

“We loaded huge amounts of wooden planks … that will be used to build paths & walkways so [Marine Iguana] nesting areas will not be disturbed by tourists and people,” Ms Wyke said.

Rocinante’s chief officer James Wigg said using an unsustainable method of transport like the yacht makes it even more important that the crew makes efforts in other ways.

“Because the yacht itself is not so environmentally friendly there needs to be a way to address the imbalance and providing assistance where needed is one way of doing that,” Mr Wigg said.

“Seeing the last scraps of ocean and landscape not yet 100 per cent trashed by human impact” motivates the crew to preserve wildlife and their habitats for future generations, he said.

Mr Wigg said the concept of sustainable tourism is simple.

“You take, you give, you use the resources, you put something back in,” he said.

But it can be more complicated, withresearch suggesting sustainable tourism rests the ecological pillar (conserving the natural environment), the economic pillar (supporting local businesses there) and the social pillar (supporting cultural projects there)

University of the Sunshine Coast senior lecturer in tourism, leisure and events Dr Vikki Schaffer said incorporating these pillars comes down to being “a responsible traveller”.

“Consider the communities and respect the local language, cultures and laws,” Dr Schaffer said. “Engage with the community in a respectful way, be responsible with resource use … and buy local.”

Passports. Bags. Excitement. Nervousness. Fight times. Confusing airports.

In the whirlwind of a holiday it’s not hard to see why or how some travellers forget about sustainability. But Dr Schaffer said younger travellers are more mindful and motivated to make sustainable changes.

“[Younger] generation[s] expect greener, more socially responsible practices and are more willing to pay for it,” Dr Schaffer said.

However, if you are lacking motivation to become a sustainable traveller Dr Shaffer said thinking about the consequences is plenty.

“It would be devastating to think they [kids] may not see what we see today,” Dr Schaffer said. “I heard last week that if we keep going as we are, one million species will become extinct in the coming decade – that’s motivation.”

How to leave only footprints while travelling

Mr Wiggs said the best way to be a sustainable traveller is to “stay at home and watch Blue Planet II on Blu-Ray while eating a salad”. 

But if that doesn’t cut it, you should take every step possible to mitigate the effects by:

  • Offsetting the miles with carbon credits
  • Never purchase single-use plastics such as water bottles or plastic packaging in general
  • Eat locally-sourced, sustainably caught and prepared food
  • While at the destination use the least impactful way of travel, such as walking, bike riding or public transport.
  • Support eco-friendly accommodation/tourism providers
  • Don’t get housekeeping during hotel stays
  • Take more trash from the location than what you brought.
  • Encourage the local communities to respect their environment by supporting local green initiatives
  • Spread knowledge and education about sustainability and environmentally sound practices to underprivileged communities 

 

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