Proudly Ecuadorean, the Galapagos Islands were declared a National Park in 1959. With an annual flow of approximately 200 000 visitors to the islands, there are rising concerns about destruction being caused to the archipelago´s sensitive ecosystems. Conservation on the Galapagos Islands and the need to reduce our ecological footprint is therefore always of paramount importance. Park regulations help protect against the detrimental effects of eco- footprints on the environment. To raise further awareness to its environmental cause, the Galapagos National Park provides guided visits, walking trails for exploring the islands, a Research Center and an Educational Center.
Top Experiences in the Galapagos Islands
Like a name out of a Pirate movie, Bahia Tortuga is most impressive. There are idyllic stretches of white-sandy beaches where countless Marine iguanas frolic and play. Fronting the stony landscape are deciduous forests of prickly-pear cactuses, a sight you are not likely to see anywhere else on the planet. Apparently, there is a village higher up where visitors can enjoy a breath-taking view of the bay and waves crashing onto its sandy shores.
Bellavista and Santa Rosa
Bellavista is popular for its underground lava tubes. Formed from cooling lava boring its way through the Earth’s crust, these long tunnels (some a mile long) are actually quite safe and fun to walk through.
Up in the highlands in Santa Rosa there are private farmlands which also offer lava tube walks (some with their own tunnel lights). It’s also quite usual to bump into the local natives (giant tortoises) roaming freely, undeterred by their curious human visitors.
Further up on Santa Rosa, a walk up to two volcanic craters called ‘Los Gemelos’ is always a must for the more adventurous.
Charles Darwin Research Station
Located in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, this research station informs tourists on island geology, weather and so on. Perhaps it is most famous for its Giant Tortoise breeding programs which, since their inception, have produced more than 8,000 tortoises.
Volcan Sierra Negra
Yes, it is possible to stand atop a 4,488 foot volcano. Visitors would, of course, require a certain level of fitness and stamina for the 5.5 mile hike that would take you there. Sierra Negra is like no other, touted to be the largest island crater in the world (6 miles across), it is also active. Its last eruption was in October 2005, but this gentle giant didn’t harm any life forms. Unlike other volcanoes Sierra Negra thrives with native plant species happy to call it home.
San Cristobal Interpretation Center
As an educational center, you will find a wealth of information here about the unique history and transformation of the Islands. The 3 exhibits: National History, Human History, Conservation on the Galapagos Islands and Development are constantly on display.
From the Interpretation Center you can stroll down to the beach for a swim or take a walk to Frigate Bird Hill which is a nesting site. Playa Punta Carola isn’t far away either- it´s a big hit with local surfers.
And, just to remind you that you are in a special place, scattered along the pathways are friendly, people-loving lava lizards, birds, other animals and even humans to keep you company.
While it may all be educationally overwhelming at first, the need to conserve our island’s biological diversity and historical heritage is always our first priority. Walking into a remote village in the highlands is like stepping back in time- houses still use the same wood salvaged from Baltra Island, which hosted a US military base during WWII.
El Progreso also boasts a bust of Charles Darwin in the village square, which most tourists come to take selfies with.
Getting to and around the islands – Conservation on the Galapagos Islands
The archipelago is a UNESCO heritage site, and the Ecuadorean Government strives on conservation on the Galapagos Islands and protect the Park to the best of its ability. Although the entire Islands are part of the National Park, only 3% of their geographical area is open to tourism. Park fees and other costs associated with visiting the islands go toward maintaining the diversity exposed to our footprint, it is therefore vital to conserve this heritage by following these simple guidelines:
- Avoid polluting waterways
- Place rubbish in the bins provided
- Making campfires and smoking cigarettes within the park is prohibited
- Removing organic vegetation and animals is a criminal offense
- Touching animals is not allowed
- Participate only in activities approved by Park Authorities
- Stay on marked paths
- Buy souvenirs from stores that are not made from organic Island materials
- Always ask for help when you are unsure of our guidelines
Are you ready to visit the Galapagos?
The Galapagos Islands are only a stone’s throw away. You have all the information at your disposal to make your holiday dreams come true.
Come to the islands and relax, live aboard a Galapagos cruise at sea (like Darwin), or enjoy the creature comforts of a hotel after a day of exploration is done. This certainly can’t and shouldn’t be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so we’d definitely love to have you back again.