Galapagos Island trips open up the eyes to new aspects of the natural world and create moments that redefine travel-waking up the senses and adding an element of awe to time spent in one of the most exotic places in the world.It’s a place where the normal rules of travel are upended-while there are a variety of ways to see the archipelago, Galapagos Islands trips revolve around the mandates of the Galapagos National Park. This can be a bit encumbering when trying to plan a trip, these regulations are the bare minimum from which many other conservation efforts are founded. Keep reading for a few of the efforts in place to protect the islands and what that means for you as a traveler.
The Galapagos Marine Reserve is the second largest of its kind on Earth. The fertile waters are home to a thriving eco-system that attracts a record number of sharks, a yearly migration of whales, and a kaleidoscope of tropical reef fish moving in clouds-while sea lions and turtles mix and mingle with snorkelers and divers.
The GMR helps to keep the natural balance beneath the sea, commercial fishing is a thing of the past- many of those who once maintained their livelihood from the water now have turned to tourism for a sustainable living.
Galapagos Island trips to the uninhabited regions of the archipelago have caveats placed on them by the Galapagos National Park. One group can visit any given site at a time. While this often means waiting, the upside is you and your group can explore on your own.
These sites have stood the test of time for centuries and have bounced back after fires caused by ship crews hunting for food, volcanic eruptions, the U.S. Army using landmarks for target practice, and decades of wear and tear from curious travelers traversing fragile volcanic landscapes.
Visitors rely on trained guides at each place-giving animals their space and sticking to trails, boardwalks, and sometimes wooden and rock steps to reach lookouts, colonies of endemic birds like the blue-footed booby, and areas where marine iguanas and sea lions rest.
Introduced species in the Galapagos have wreaked havoc on the eco-system. Wild plants have overgrown areas and choke out native species. Wild dogs and cats are responsible for depleting animals including iguanas. Despite the past efforts to eradicate the intruders, the endeavor is ongoing and at times takes extreme measures to control.
Preventative measures to counter the introduction of new threats are everywhere. Cargo ships are rigorously screened before unloading food from the mainland, and bags are inspected before departing from the mainland and after landing in the islands.
While these regulations may seem like overkill, the islands are slowly recovering from centuries of decline caused by invasive species as simple as the blackberry.
Aside from the inconvenience when traveling, how this affects you trickles down to food. There are few farms in the archipelago, a limited supply of cattle and meat, and ingredients typically found around the world aren’t available. Most resorts and cruises import food from the mainland to take up the slack-but all produce and cargo is strictly screened before being allowed on land. For most, this isn’t an issue as there are a good assortment of international and Ecuadorian restaurants on the main inhabited islands, but a head’s up is warranted for those with specific dietary requirements.
Galapagos Island trips bring new life to the phrase, “Once in a Lifetime,” and live up their promise as a natural playground that takes the breath away.