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Thanks to the initiative of Laura Sebastianelli and her husband Mike Sieracki (Active Galapagos alumnus, Dec 2019 from Viriginia), CNH Tours is organizing a short fund-raising campaign in support of the Samba team in the time of COVID-19.  Over the years, this group of dedicated mariners, naturalist guides, with support from their logistics and admin colleagues have constistently received top marks from our guests.  Hard-working, their enthusiasm never waned, their good nature and eagerness to help was always on display. 

COVID-19 has made things quite a bit harder for them now and we're hoping you can lend a hand in this time of need.  Read on for more information.      

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COVID-19 has affected businesses all over the world.  Some of the worst affected, and likely to be affected for the longest time are tourism-related businesses.   While those fortunate enough to be based in the richer countries may be able to benefit from some type of social assistance, in low-income countries, this is not the case.  

Ecuador is particularly affected in this regard.   The country’s finances are among the worst in Latin America.   With the current situation, the government does not even have enough cash to pay its civil servants, let alone provide social assistance to unemployed people.  

Approximately 70% of the Galapagos economy is directly or indirectly linked to tourism.   No visitors have arrived in the islands since the middle of March.   While Galapagos is controlling COVID-19 fairly well (barely 100 cases – almost half of which are the crew members of the Celebrity Flora), the population has been in a strict lock-down mode since later in March. 

The Samba team members are among those that face a hard several months, and likely quite a few more.  While they were paid better than average salaries by the Samba owner (the ship is one of the few that has been formally recognized by the national park for its social responsibility), and while the crew enjoyed generous tips from our guests, they do not typically have large savings and will increasingly find themselves in a difficult situation. 

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Cost of living in Galapagos

The cost of living in Galapagos is significantly higher than on the mainland.  Almost all goods along with a large part of food requirements are imported from the continent, resulting in a significant premium on these items.   The central role of the tourism economy also pushes up prices, where foreigners with relatively more cash help prop them up.   For these reasons, the legal minimum wage in Galapagos is set at 80% more than its continental counterpart. 

Thankfully, most lower wage people in Galapagos do not take out bank loans for large projects such as building houses (which are built over several years as cash becomes available) and don't have credit cards on which they can build up debts.  This means that most residents are not under pressure to pay mortgages or credit card loans and can more easily “make do” with an income that covers the bare essentials.

According to the Samba owners, $500 / month is a reasonable amount to cover the basic food costs for a family of 5 (parents, 3 children).    Staples typically consist of rice, plantain, beans, onions/potatoes and fresh vegetables and fruit, fish and chicken.  Cooking oil, flour and sugar are also basic items typically purchased. 


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Fund-raising objective: US$96,000

Based on the calculations above, this would  provide for year's worth of food for the families of Samba crew (9 in all), office staff (4 people) and principle guides (3), all of whom are currently out of work.  

Since 2015, CNH Tours has helped approximately 1,100 people enjoy a wonderful Active Galapagos trip on the Samba.  We are also coordinating this effort with another travel company that also charters the Samba for a few weeks each year.  They have a roster of approximately 150 or so former guests they will reach out to.   If each were to contribute $77, we could meet our objective.   Of course, we understand that not all will be in a position to help, some will have other priorities, and some of our former guests are children.   For those of you in a position to help, we feel that a suggested amount of $200 -$250  / person would go a long way to meeting our objective.  

Of course, if you can, larger amounts will be most welcome, as will smaller amounts.  

Laura Sebastianelli and her husband Michael have started the effort with a contribution of $500.

If we raise more than our objective:  We will consult with the ship owner to determine how best to allocate the excess and inform you of our decision.  There are many needy people in Galapagos and there will be no shortage of efforts to support.  

If we raise less than our objective?   We will ensure that the funds are distributed to the crew as per the original plan, but the amount will be proportionately less. 


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How can I help?

We've established a GoFundMe page.  GoFundMe provides an easy and transparent way to support this kind of initiative.  You can contribute by credit card.  Your contributions can be anonymous, or you can leave your name and even a message if you like.   All messages will be collated and translated into Spanish and shared with the crew, staff and guides.  

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How will the funds be sent to the Samba team?

CNH Tours will ensure that funds are equitably distributed (according to family size) among the team members, seeking advice from the ship owner. 

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How can I be sure that the funds will be used as indicated?

CNH Tours will annouce the final results of our collective effort on our website news section.  We will have our chartered accountant review the details of all the financial transactions and have him produce an official statement.  That statement will be included in the news item.   Supporting paperwork will be available upon request. 



On behalf of the Samba team, thank you very much for your help!

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We have to comment on what a wonderful trip it was. The hotel in Quito took our breath away and the Samba crew and guide couldn’t have been better. We also enjoyed the 2 days of down time in Puerto Ayorra. 

I wanted to mention that we were surprised at the very small number of people we would run into on our tours. We thought it would be crowded everywhere we went. We think the Ecuadorian Government has done an amazing job on handling the tourists so that it feels like you are alone in the Galapagos. We thought we would be surrounded by people and instead found ourselves surrounded by Sea Lions and other wonderful creatures. We were able to view these amazing animals very close without (it appears) any bother to them but amazing for us. I can only say it blew us away!!! 

Thank you so much!!!

Karen Bruce

Calgary Alberta


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