Marcelo Gallo joined Australis shortly after receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism Resources as an expedition guide, where he quickly caught everyone’s attention. He quickly became a part of the professional expedition team. Marcelo’s knowledge of the area and the history, paired with his outgoing nature and exceptional interest in both the activities and the passengers, have led him to become an excellent expedition guide. With over a decade of experience with Australis, Marcelo garnered the title of Expedition Team Leader. To learn more about Marcelo, and Australis, continue on to the interview below.
Travel Research Online (TRO): You got your start at Australis working as an Expedition Guide aboard the Mare Australis in 2005, after receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism Resources. What was it that inspired you to take on the role of Expedition Guide?
Marcelo Gallo (MG): Even though I really enjoyed my time at the university and everything I learned in that time, I realized I would prefer to spend more time outdoors than in an office. So, having heard of and seeing the Terra Australis when I was a kid, I decided to give it a try and applied to the company. Luckily for me they took me in and from then on it has been a kind of ongoing romance.
TRO: You quickly became a part of the close-knit Australis team, known for your wealth of knowledge and willingness and want to participate in activities with passengers. What about Tierra del Fuego peaked your interest, and caused you to learn as much as you could about the area? How does it feel to know you are helping others learn about a place unknown to most?
MG: To be honest, when I started Tierra del Fuego was like a “mysterious area” for me as it was for the first explorers. And through their writings, drawings and stories I started to become more and more interested in the explorations and what they had to say about this place hidden at the end of the world. And then learning about the dramatic geographical changes along millions of years, peaked by the action of the glaciers in the last thousands of years was another great discovery for me. These two topics opened up new gates, helping me to get to other subjects (everything here is connected in a way). The fact of showing this area to our guests who sometimes travel long distances is one of the most enriching aspects of my work. To know that they are coming only to visit us is already a great deal for me. Thus, I always encourage my team and myself to give our best so that our guests can have their expectations exceeded.
TRO: How do you plan your expeditions? What does a day as the Expedition Team Leader look like? How do you change up the expeditions?
MG: First of all, we organize the groups the day before so that we can have a better use of time on shore. When the moment arrives, we take our guests in the said order to begin the excursions. Before going ashore, I checked the safety conditions of the landing point so that the Captain can have all this information and later on we can begin our disembarkation.
Normally I start my day around 7:30 a.m., going through landings, presentations and spending time with our guests and maybe a meeting with the Captain. Expeditions are rarely changed though since they work smoothly. However, from time to time a rare bird or maybe a whale could make us change the way we lead the excursion or even our route.
The Expedition Team will spend more time with the guests than any other members of the crew, although all of us strive for the same goal: to provide the best experience in cruising the end of the world.
TRO: Has your interest in Patagonian history helped you in planning expeditions that are both exciting and educational? How has it helped you connect with the area?
MG: More than helping me in planning, it has helped me to understand the historical processes and local evolution in terms of population in Tierra del Fuego. But I truly believe that history is a unique and magnificent way to understand an area and this is not the exception. However, I believe that you must always look for every side of a story and be fair to those who “lived” history and wrote it.
TRO: What is your favorite aspect of your position with Australis? Is there any specific expedition you have planned that you consider a “favorite expedition?”
MG: Being able to spend a lot of time with people from different countries, sharing experiences, ways of life and tell them about Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and everything that involves is probably one of my favorite aspects of my job. And don’t forget to include the amazing landscapes that are constantly surrounding me and you will get the perfect combination!
Regarding what could be my “favorite excursion” I will definitely go with Cape Horn. I believe is one of the most amazing places to visit on Earth. The feeling you get when you get to the monument to the albatross and the lighthouse is something totally indescribable. An experience that I think everyone should live…
TRO: Is there anything you have learned throughout your career that helps you direct your team of guides? Any important tips you have learned that you pass down to them so that they can also be successful expedition guides?
MG: The most important thing for me is to lead by “doing” and not just “saying”, where the leader is another member of the team who is also responsible for it. What I always try to inculcate in the team is to be humble and that we are all important and crucial for the team to perform in its best way.
To be a guide in Australis and in general is something that requires constant study and learning about different topics like geology, archeology, history, glaciology, etc. There is a wide range of aspects to cover so that you can provide the most updated and wide information to our guests.
TRO: Is there anywhere you have always wanted to plan an expedition to that you have never visited? Do you have a favorite part of the southern end of the world to take guests of Australis to?
MG: There are a couple of places in Tierra del Fuego and Hoste Island that I hope one day we will visit. Places that are very important historically speaking. But Tierra del Fuego and its landscapes are such a wonderful place that no matter where you go, it’s going to be astonishing. I really enjoy the amount, size and beauty of the glaciers of the Darwin Mountain Range Ice Field. I feel small every time we are in front of one of them. And the force with which they calve is breathtaking. Is not hard to imagine them long ago carving through and creating the landscape that we can observe today.
TRO: Your experience and leadership skills, paired with your care and knowledge for the area have helped get you to the position you are in now, even with taking time off and pursuing a second degree. Are there any words of wisdom you can give to anyone considering a career in your field?
MG: My only advice would be to always follow your passion. It is that simple. If you love nature, being outdoors and a lifestyle that could be considered “unusual”, go for it. But if you are going to do it do your best. You’ll learn something new every day doesn’t matter if you have spent 5, 10 or 20 years on this field. Listen to the more experienced ones and take the best of them and learn from their mistakes as well. But always, always follow your passion.
TRO: What can we expect to see this upcoming year from Australis? Any exciting new tour opportunities you can tell us about?
MG: Next year is going to be a great year for Australis. We are starting the operation of our brand-new vessel, Ventus Australis, on January 2nd 2018. New year, new ship! And Ventus Australis is going to have a new route, “Explorers of Patagonia”, that will be visiting a whole new glacier: Condor. An exciting zodiac ride into a narrow fjord surrounded by birds and vegetation. But also, is going to have 7 landings in a 4-night cruise, including Condor glacier. As you can see we are very excited about the upcoming year!