An Eco-Warrior looks at E-Motors for Expeditions in the Galapagos

Santiago Dunn

March 28, 2023

Santiago Dunn with Tara Russell, Photon's Chief Strategy Officer, on a sea trial in Miami: "I was able to speak without yelling due to the silence of the engine."

When you take travelers on an expedition in the Galapagos Islands, one of the original sites inducted into UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, you do so with care and conservation in mind.

Ecoventura first embarked on our green journey with the Rainforest Alliance in late 1999 (becoming pioneers – and test tubes! – for a green seal). Soon after we became the first recipient of the SmartVoyager Ecological Certification in 2000 and outfitted our (then) yacht, Eric, with solar panels and wind generators in the late 2000s.

I have been keen on technology to help us further reduce our emissions ever since.

We designed our new vessels with this in mind and ended up with ships almost twice the size (if you go by tonnage) while consuming the same or less fuel; however, engines (electro diesel) for small yachts are very expensive. Through the years we have toyed with various brands of e-motors, but the reliability needed for the tenders that we use, the torque required to maneuver in the open sea with guests aboard and to operate effectively in certain challenging sea conditions was lacking – until we spoke with Photon Marine.

My experience on a sea trial with Photon Marine in Miami in February was awesome. I had been exposed to electric motors for kayaks/canoes but not on the type of tender experienced in Miami (well, the Silverback Marine workboat with the Photon electric motor system was more than a tender). I was able to speak without yelling due to the silence of the engine. The speed/torque in which we sailed through the Miami bay on a windy and choppy day was great; it made me feel safe and I could also envision our guests traveling on our zodiacs with a Photon Marine motor system in the (I hope) near future.

I think Photon Marine is a great fit for expedition ships; this size of vessel is an ever-growing category and one that has yet to corner the correct size of e-motor. We operate yachts of 20 guests, so we use two or three tenders, and it would be easy to charge the engines once the right size is available.

Ecoventura (now a member of Abercrombie & Kent Travel Group) will also be entering river cruising with boats with no more than 24 guests and four tenders. So, again, I don’t foresee a problem in being able to use and charge electric motors.

We are waiting for Photon Marine to give us the greenlight on when the prototype engine of the size we need will be ready. We are willing to become (once more in the sustainability race) the guinea pigs and serve as the testing ground for them.

Santiago Dunn is the Executive President of Ecoventura. Born and raised in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Santiago studied finance at Boston College before earning a master’s from Montreal’s Concordia University. He’s an eco-warrior as he is an active member of the Charles Darwin Foundation and WWF’s National Council. His contributions to conservation led Rainforest Alliance to name him an Individual Sustainable Standard-Setter in 2005. He’s now back in Guayaquil, where he lives with his wife and four sons. Learn more about Ecoventura here: Galapagos Islands Luxury Cruises | Newest Luxury Yachts in Galapagos(