With the announcement that more than 275,000 people visited the Galapagos Islands in 2018, the small chain of islands, 600 miles off of Ecuador’s coast, are seeing major growth in tourism.
The archipelago is a study in contrasts. Stark volcanic landscapes are home to a fantastic wealth of animals that welcome travelers seemingly without fear-making the islands one of the best remaining exotic wildlife destinations in the world.
Preserving this environment is and has been a priority and privilege for those who visit, work, and live in the Galapagos Islands. Ecuador has taken big steps towards conservation, and of all the debates that hold court, on the top of the list is how tourism affects the well-being of the islands. Keep reading for how visiting the Galapagos Islands is a positive way to influence the future of the fragile eco-system that has sustained a myriad of wildlife for millions of years.
Sir David Attenborough once said that ‘Tourism is a mixed blessing for the Galapagos but the fact is, if there was not tourism to the islands and the local people did not get any income from it, there would be nothing left there now.
Today, the adage of ‘Take only pictures, Leave only Footprints,’ is the way forward when planning for, and visiting the Galapagos Islands. The 3000 square miles of land is spread out over 17.000 square miles of sea containing more fauna and flora than entire continents and hosting thousands of visitors every day.
Discovering the natural beauty and seeing the Galapagos wildlife that lives within these borders sparks an awareness in people that seldom fails to leave an impression. Waking up early on Galapagos cruises to visit islands that stirred Darwin’s imagination is an active adventure. Galapagos land tours are equally as exciting and give you an opportunity to explore at your own pace while keeping both feet on the ground for most of the journey.
Traveling to the archipelago is conservation in action. Each person who enters the national park pays an entrance fee that goes toward ongoing projects that range from repopulating Galapagos wildlife like land iguanas and giant tortoises to removing invasive species that threatens the well-being of native plants and animals.
Both Galapagos cruises and Galapagos land tours visit uninhabited islands like North Seymour, Bartolome, and Santa Fe in the company of certified guides. These islands are incredible places where trails lead to amazing discoveries. Guides ensure that your experience includes being aware of the fragile eco-system as well as the Galapagos wildlife that makes the islands special.
In an article for National Geographic’s blog, Johanna Carrión of the Charles Darwin Research Station states that “the Galapagos Islands are one of the best examples of effective conservation in the world,” citing the management practices put in place by the Ecuadorian government.
With the steady increase in people visiting the islands, and people turning to Galapagos land tours in lieu of cruises, these practices are being put to new tests. Water, power, and waste are major elements that those who visit the islands need to be aware of when planning a trip.
Finding the right Galapagos cruise isn’t just a matter of boat size and where you visit. Ask about what measures are in place for preserving the islands. Many boats have equipment on board that produces fresh water using reverse osmosis desalinization units and take great care to lessen their footprint on the environment.
Motorized Sailboats Beagle and Mary Anne, and the Ecogalaxy II Catamaran have the Smart Voyager certification. The seal has only been given to a small group of boats that follow a strict set of guidelines revolving around 12 principles that not only consider conservation in the islands but take safety and the well-being of the community into account.
On Galapagos land tours, there are hotels that use solar panels instead of diesel generators, are proactive about recycling, and treat rainwater for non-potable amenities like showers and pools.
These considerations are voluntary and essential to the future of the islands for both the people and wildlife who live there. Choosing a Galapagos itinerary that takes measures like these into account makes a difference.