Located at the Southernmost part of South America, Patagonia covers an immense 260,000 square miles of area, spanning across the countries of Argentina and Chile. Known for its abundance of crystalline glaciers and dramatic snow-capped peaks, the vast area has gained large interest over the last few years with explorers, hikers and nature-lovers alike. Whale-watching, hiking and horseback riding are just some of the distinctive ways in which you can get acquainted with this striking region, yet the cultural importance and history of the region must also not be swept aside.
Our team at Ravel were delighted with the opportunity to interview Daniel Santín, the founder and director of OneSixth Expeditions, a destination management company providing specialized and exclusive experiences for conscious travelers wishing to visit Patagonia. Their one-of-a-kind expeditions have been heavily researched and organized by a dedicated team, combining their resources of local and professional knowledge, family legacies, old photographs, legends and travel stories from the region, in order to curate unforgettable experiences. Through their desire to raise awareness for the cultural identity of Patagonia, this article will aim to present and appreciate the efforts in which OneSixth Expeditions does this, whilst also remaining a carbon neutral and sustainable operator.
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Daniel conceptualized the project in 2021, whereby he wanted to create something that was completely unique and different for people, but something which would also have a long lasting impact on both the travelers and the local communities being visited. Straight from its inception, Onesixth Expeditions already had a large focus on the importance of sustaining and upkeeping the people, environment and cultural identity of a location. The opportunity to create unforgettable experiences was then catalyzed with the focus on fully immersing travelers with opportunities and aspects that would completely enrich their cultural experience of the location.
Daniel referred to the idea that many travelers come to visit Patagonia and there is a large demand to visit traditional/ typical tourist hotspots such as; Ushuaia, Puerto Madryn, the Blue Road, Tierra del Fuego, El Calafate, El Chaltén and Bahia Bustamante. Outside of these regions travelers lack confidence to venture further as due to lack of knowledge they may not be aware of the other outstanding locations and in many cases due to the isolated nature of some locations they can be difficult to reach. Onesixth Expeditions aimed to transform this occurrence by creating expeditions.
Furthermore, referring back to the main ideology that Onesixth Expeditions places a large focus on cultural identity, Daniel continued to explain the importance of this and how it is especially achieved through the elements of local people. During the expeditions it was designed that the travelers gain a lot of insights and contact with Argentinian nationals such as the guides, local experts, researchers and historians all of which will enhance their understanding of the area. For example, historians and local experts will contribute their professional expertise and knowledge to the travelers about the region, including the initial historical memoirs of explorers such as Charles Darwin and Robert FitzRoy, who courageously explored these unnavigated masses of land. Also encouraging interactions and connections with present-day families that have settled in Patagonia, the travelers are able to gain further understanding and insight into the history and changing of surroundings of the region over the centuries. This immersive and purposeful exploration is delivered through the ‘The Pioneers Routes in Patagonia’ expedition.
The Pioneers Routes in Patagonia
The unique opportunity to meet and interact with courageous families that are the descendants and grandchildren of the first settlers in Patagonia, is one aspect which makes this expedition a culturally immersive and unforgettable one. Through this, the travelers are able to gain some extra history and cultural awareness about the previous settlers, their lifestyles, occupations and experiences, within the region of Patagonia, to appreciate their efforts and dedication to create their lives and homes in this very inhospitable area of the country. The photos, letters, and stories of the families that will be met during this trip, in some cases, date back to over 150 years. The devotion to retain and pass on these stories and memories from generation to generation and now to eager travelers can allow us to appreciate their different lifestyles and how living in Patagonia shaped them.
One of the first families that the travelers have the chance to meet is the Peso Family located in The Glaciers Area.
Having immigrated from Croatia, the family line's history dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Since the family grew and the descendants all settled throughout different parts of Patagonia, we as travelers are able to appreciate stories, memoirs and photographs of the family that encapsulate their lives from all across the region.
The history and heritage of this unique family and their remarkable efforts throughout Patagonia can live on through our understanding and learning of this. The expedition proceeds further with a momentous drive across the length of Rio Chico Valley, to find shelter with an estancia belonging to descendants of the Lewis family, from the Falklands Islands. Greeting the travelers with traditional british tea and a multitude of fascinating stories, the stay with the Lewis family encapsulates stories and family legacies which they have collected and stored over years and years. The consecutive families also share their experiences allowing the travelers to fully engage with the cultural identity of Patagonia, through the people that have shaped it. These historical accounts are of course experienced alongside striking hikes, tours and activities, whereby the travelers can fully experience Patagonia.
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When we questioned Daniel about whether any family stood out in particular he referred to the fact that all the families are so unique and diverse from each other. All the way from Campamento Darwin to El Chaten, their stories range from family struggles and challenges to successes, achievements and general life experiences that they each have all uniquely experienced. Furthermore their reasons to choose Patagonia are all differing so it is unreasonable to state one family as more inspiring than another since all the families were carefully researched and found in order to share their fascinating experiences with the keen travelers.
Habitats, the power of the Patagonian ocean
The second expedition offered by Onesixth Expeditions places a keen focus on the habitats and environmental constituents that make up the territory. Rich with wildlife, Patagonia is the home to several species of animals and plants. Just some examples include: guanacos, penguins, sea lions, elephant seals, whales and dolphins. To gain a deeper appreciation of these animals and why it is necessary to protect their habitats, the travelers have a chance to learn and discuss with professional experts who have studied and analyzed these animals in the local area for over years. Due to their dedicated years of knowledge and professional expertise, the local experts are in the best position to explain about these animals, how they have adapted, their unique features and their habitats. Following these workshops the travelers have the opportunity to ask questions of their interest and learn more about the different animals, further immersing their engagement and understanding of the changing habitats of Patagonia.
With the efforts of these local experts it is clear to see their impact and dedication to sustain the habitats. Specifically, a local guide named Popi Borboroglu, has worked with the Penguin association ward for over the last 33 years. Due to his dedication and hard work he is even renowned worldwide which creates a great opportunity for travelers to learn from him. At the start of his conservation journey there were no more than 6 Penguin nests in the territory whereas compared to now there are over 3000! Learning from the expertise of these local guides, places the travelers are the best possible sources of knowledge income, whilst they also simultaneously get to admire and see these wonderful creatures. Furthermore the choice to utilize the expertise of local experts instead of international ones is a dedicated decision towards sustainability. By providing local guides and experts with the chance to work, Daniel explained that ‘we are giving local people voices, so they have the opportunity to promote and present what they are doing. These workers can continue to work and upkeep the habitats and environments for future generations and years to come.
With reference to sustainability Onesixth Expeditions is not only sustainable in terms of providing local income and opportunities for communities, but they also practice sustainable efforts in a variety of other ways. When asked about this Daniel first examined how there are a lot of increasing concerns within the travel industry surrounding ‘Greenwashing’. Under the terms of ‘Greenwashing’ it is constituted in the terms that companies practice their marketing efforts so they appear to be environmentally friendly/ sustainable when in reality they are not. This has been a rising issue within the travel industry that Daniel wanted to counteract with his project. Onesixth Expeditions is a proud member of the B lab corporation, which is a nonprofit network transforming the global economy to benefit the planet as a whole. With this initiative Onesixth Expeditions is compelled to analyze the way in which their business impacts the local economy, environment and the culture. By understanding this they can improve areas that are seeking improvement with regards to sustainability and any areas that they cannot improve can be mitigated through other methods.
As a travel company, it is inevitable that CO2 emissions will occur as people have to fly from one location to another. This negative impact can however be mitigated through Carbon Offsetting. Daniel explained the processes for this initiative whereby the CO2 emissions that the traveler emits both internationally and domestically are calculated and then offset through projects that positively impact the environments and local projects in Argentina. The project involves local communities and local people, where the local people are usually involved with environmental causes such as projects concerning the plantation of trees. The initiative then works with these communities to decide on the protected areas to plant trees, ensuring the importance that these trees will not be cut down, furthermore the trees planted are also native making sure the regeneration of the biodiversity is achieved. Each passenger will then receive a geolocation of the designated area, here they get to learn about where the trees have been planted and the regeneration of biodiversity that is to follow as a consequence of the tree plantations.
With a further endeavor to have no plastic on the expeditions, Onesixth Expeditions minimizes any waste produced. Instead of plastic containers for food, it is wrapped and packaged in starch bags, which are easily biodegradable. Moreover any waste food that is uneaten during the trips is packaged and brought back to the station, collected and weighted to be then placed in compostable bins. Consequentially, everything; including the waste and carbon emissions is calculated and logged with the aim to reduce and improve the figures for the following year! With this in mind Onesixth Expeditions dedicates a lot of effort and time to travel sustainably to and around Patagonia, therefore conscious travelers can have the confidence that their operator is doing its part for the planet.
With all this taken into consideration, it is clear to understand and appreciate Onesixth Expeditions’ dedication to travel deep and slowly. To not only engage with the striking beauty of Patagonia but to also gain a deeper understanding of the people that have shaped it over generations and also the natural ecosystems and wildlife that surround it. Their tailored expeditions have gained inspiration from a large multitude of sources and through a devoted team across both sides of the Atlantic, it is understandable that their efforts in providing expeditions around Patagonia have been thoroughly researched and planned out. By having the opportunity to meet wildlife, nature, environments, people, experts and listen to inspiring stories, the travelers have the deepest immersion into exploring this unique destination, both its past and present. Whilst also remaining a carbon neutral operator, there is clear focus and determination to remain sustainable and provide for future generations.
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