The Galapagos Islands were made famous by British naturalist Charles Darwin, who visited the islands on his expedition to understand more about the diversity of life. His writings and drawings of the tortoises and finches on the islands brought them into the public eye more than 100 years ago. Since then, this remote archipelago has become one of the world’s foremost vacation destinations. When you are taking a tour, keep these wildlife viewing rules in the Galapagos Islands.
Mind These Wildlife Viewing Rules in the Galapagos Islands
Certified Travel Guides Are Required
Guests visiting the Galapagos Islands must be under the supervision of a licensed guide at all times, no matter which activity you are doing. Guides can lead up to 16 guests at any given time. They will not only guide and inform you about the amazing archipelago wildlife and geology, but will also ensure that you follow the park rules in the Galapagos at all times. All ships with permit to cruise in Galapagos have certified guides on board.
Remain on the Trails
The Galapagos Islands have carefully marked trails for travelers to use while exploring. These trails have been designed to provide visitors with great views of the plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals of the islands, while limiting the effect of human presence along animal colonies. It is important to the health of the wildlife and the islands’ environment that all guests remain on the trails. The rules in the Galapagos and the trails are also designed for the safety of guests. Pay attention to seasonal adjustments and/ or temporary changes on trails. These are enforced by your guide.
These signs are there to help keep you and the wildlife safe and healthy.
Keep a Distance
Because there are so many visitors to the Galapagos Islands, some of the wildlife have become habituated to the presence of humans. Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from all animals. Even if the animals approach you, move away from them in order to maintain a safe distance, as long as you remain on the trail. The behavior of wildlife is unpredictable, and this distance is designed to help keep you safe.
Do Not Feed the Animals
Do not try to feed the birds, tortoises or other animals while you are taking one of the Galapagos tours. People food is not safe or healthy for the animals. Feeding the animals also encourages them to approach people, which could endanger their safety and the safety of the visitors. Guests are not allowed to bring food from the Galapagos cruise onto the trails.
No Flash Photography
No flash photography is allowed on the Galapagos Islands. This is because the bright flashes of light may disturb or frighten the wildlife. Professional filming or photography in Galapagos require special permits by the National Park Authorities.
Cell phones with cameras must be on airplane mode in the national park. According to the rules in the Galapagos Islands, only on board the vessels and in towns can the cellular service be activated.
Camp in Designated Areas
If you plan to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and stay overnight on the islands, you will need to be sure that your campsite is located in a designated camping area. Visitors must request authorization to camp from the Galapagos National Park Directorate. Based on the rules in the Galapagos Islands, your request must be made at least 48 hours before the time that you want to camp.
Do Not Introduce New Species
When you arrive on the Galapagos Islands, your bags and person may be inspected by quarantine officials. It is important to cooperate fully with this inspection and all the rules in the Galapagos Islands. The inspection is performed so that no plants, animals, eggs or seeds are purposely or accidentally brought onto the island. Bringing even one caterpillar egg or plant seed onto the islands could result in the introduction of an invasive species that could harm the native plants and animals.
Take Care When Buying Souvenirs
It is natural to want to take a part of the beauty of the Galapagos home with you. If someone tries to sell you a souvenir, be wary of the product. It is illegal to buy or sell an item made out of banned materials such as black coral, shells, lava rocks, or animal parts from the islands. This is because such activities can be harmful to the environment and wildlife. If you see any such activity, be sure to report it to the park authorities or your naturalist guide.
Leave Nothing But Footprints
During your vacation to the Galapagos Islands, leave nothing behind but your footprints. Don’t drop so much as a crumb or candy wrapper on the ground. Leaving nothing behind from your stay helps to maintain the natural beauty of the islands so that the next visitors can enjoy their tour as much as you did. If you see any trash, pick it up and place it into the proper receptacle on board or hold onto it until you are able to responsibly dispose of it. These rules in the Galapagos Islands are very important.
No Smoking or Fires
The Galapagos National Park Directorate has banned all smoking, including cigars, cigarettes and pipes. Campfires are also prohibited on the islands. This is because a few embers or hot ashes could cause a wildfire, thus harming the native plants and animals.
No Water Sports
Motorized water sports and mini submarines are not allowed on or around the Galapagos Islands. These activities are prohibited due to the loud noise and the potential for damaging the marine environments. Aerial tours are also not allowed, as these activities could disturb the birds. No drones are allowed.
Photo credits: Francisco Dousdebes