In the first of our series ‘Meet the Member’, we say hi to Hacienda Tranquila in the Galapagos.

How / why did it all begin?

The Hacienda Tranquila began in 2007 with the collaboration of David Essoyan and Geovanny Sarigu. David oversees the project from the United States while Geovanny runs operation on the island. The two were surf buddies who decided one afternoon to buy a plot of land in La Soleadad, the community where Hacienda Tranquila is. They both wanted a place where people could go to rejuvenate, connect with the environment, and help the community. With the oil spill of the Jessica boat had recently happened, the environment was a big concern in the Galapagos. They decided to focus on protecting native and endemic species as well as help the community through organic farming. What David and Geovanny wanted the most, is that the volunteers who come to the site leave with a greater grasp of the world around them.

Who makes up the Hacienda team?

David and Geovanny are the two who founded Hacienda Tranquila, having met through surfing. David has lived all over the world, and currently resides in the US, while Geovanny is Ecuadorian, and has lived in the Galapagos since he was 12. Geovanny has worked in sustainability and tourism for over 10 years.

Also in the team are Carlos Simbana, who has lived in the community where the Hacienda is based all his life, who manages the hacienda and its livestock, and Paul Alarcon who leads the native and endemic species restorations projects.

What are the main issues you are dealing with?

The Galpagos Islands have an environment that is full of native and endemic plants and animals. This unique environment is what draws attention from all over the world for tourism and scientific research. With increasing migration and tourism on the islands, the fragile environment is in danger. Many invasive species of plants have been introduced to the islands; this threatens the native and endemic forests that use to be present. The people of Galpagos also rely much on importation, with food and water being shipped here every few days. Improving the agriculture production on the islands could decrease these importations. Much of the economy of the Galpagos is based on tourism. However, the communities in the highlands do not see much of this money. We work to help the communities through improving their agriculture production.

How do your trips help tackle these issues?

The volunteers that come to the Hacienda help to restore the native and endemic environment through two main methods. First the volunteers work to remove the invasive species from the highlands. Secondly, the Hacienda has a nursery full of native and endemic plants. Once the plants have grown to maturity they are transplanted to their respected natural habitats on the island. The Hacienda also works to improve the economy of the community through achieving sustainable agriculture with organic methods. For instance, our volunteers recently planted 1300 pineapple plants in one of the farmers farms, which the Hacienda is involved with. In 5 months these plants will be ready to sell and this farmer will receive 1 dollar for every plant, earning him 1300 dollars. This not only works to contribute to the economy of the whole island, but also to the micro-economy of the community.

What does the future hold for your organization and the areas you work in?

The future of the Hacienda lies in the hands of the volunteers. The come from all over the world, and we cannot survive without them, and value their work greatly. We would like to continue working with organic farming methods in the community to make agriculture more sustainable on the islands. We plan to continue to reforest the native and endemic plants of the islands to preserve its unique environment. We would like to work with the community that we work in to further education about conservation and the specialness of the environment they live in. The children of the community are a focal point; involving them and raising their excitement is the future of the community. Hacienda Tranquila is not an organization that will stay the same, we are always moving forward and the community is continuing to become involved shaping the projects carried out.

What is your favorite local food or drink?

Boln de verde hands down. It is a typical dish here and on the coast of Ecuador that consists of mashed plantains (verde) mixed with cheese usually and then rolled into a ball and fried. It goes wonderful with a homemade passion fruit, papaya juice with ice.

What is the view from your office window?

Trees, I like to see something green with flowers. Most of the plants outside are local plants. The office use to be facing the ocean and over-looking the port; however, it was too distracting.

If you would like to volunteer or holiday with Hacienda Tranquila, you can see their holidays here.

Click here if you would like to see our range of muchbetter holidays and accommodations in the Galapagos.

  1. Anonymous Anonymous
    Dec 26, 2012

    This is the place to go if you’re looking to work with machetes all day, everyday for 5 hours a day. The “manager”, Geovanny, writes a schedule on the board every week, though it changes. Terribly disorganized, he gives different names for the work you will do that week, but in the end, it’s all cutting down trees or shaving grass with a machete – completely meaningless work. It makes the volunteer feel unvalued and wonder why they even went in the first place. For example, the schedule would say “pasto” (grass) and the next day would be “trabajo communitario” (community work). Well, both days, you would be shaving grass with a machete. The second day, you would just be doing it for your neighbours. There is NO community work here whatsoever. Everything is strictly for them and this is very misleading on their website.

    The staff, Carlos and Edgar, are completely unwelcoming. It’s as if they don’t even want volunteers there, as they get frustrated explaining what you have to do, and get upset if you do it wrong. Geovanny is also inconsistent with his “house rules”. He likes to dictate the way people sit on the sofas (if you have your feet on), but Carlos and Edgar put their feet on the table and sofas until someone sees them.

    Geovanny is also very irresponsible. I had set up a meeting to talk to him and CONFIRMED this meeting. He purposely did not show up at the meeting spot as he didn’t want any confrontation.

    The last thing is Geovanny is ALL about your money. He doesn’t care if you like it, hate it, or anything. If you want to volunteer here, you need to wire the money upfront (which often has an additional fee) so that he knows he has it, and you can’t back out. He suggested to some people that he might refund some of your money if you leave early but its just a tease. He decided not to refund my money because of what someone else told him. SERIOUSLY? So, Geovanny has no backbone and is basing this on what other people say? If only the world functioned like that. But, he loves to brag about his “degrees” and how he worked all over the world, which makes him worldly. This is pretty much all he talks about, no matter what. The discussion always leads back to how he knows about cultural differences and how he did a thesis. Big whoop. Many of us are very well educated too.

    Honestly, the only appeal of this place is that it’s in the Galapagos. Even the locals know it’s not a good volunteer project. When I told them I was volunteering here, they gave me a look of disgust. Save your money. Save your time. If you want to see the Galapagos, just do a tour or come on your own. Don’t sign up for either “haciendas” here because they are run by the same group of people. (The other is run by Carlos’ brother.)

    A LOT can be done to improve. First of all, ADAPT YOUR WORK FOR YOUR VOLUNTEERS. The same thing cannot be done day after day. If so many of your volunteers are leaving early, IT’S A SIGN THAT IT IS NOT WORKING.