As one of the pioneers in ecotourism in the Galapagos, Metropolitan Touring has always been involved with the community to help in any way possible to conserve the archipelago and all of its wonderful wildlife. Not to mention, it has always strived to share this remarkable and unique place with guests from all around the world in a responsible way.
Probably the biggest part of this ongoing effort is one key person in particular and an especially important figure in your visit to the Galapagos – the Naturalist Guide. As part of the rules of the Galapagos National Park, everyone who visits the Galapagos National Park must be in the company of a trained, naturalist guide at all times when visiting the islands. There are a couple of spots that are freely open to the public, but these are only in the populated islands and usually still maintain certain forms of controls or supervision. In the case of all the other islands that are not inhabited by humans, however, guests must go in the company of a licensed Naturalist Guides in the Galapagos.
He or she has the responsibility to follow and to enforce all the Galapagos National Park rules that not only keep all our guests safe but also ensure the protection and conservation of the endemic wildlife on the enchanted islands. This is all done to keep the Galapagos flora and fauna as pristine as possible.
The duty of your naturalist guide is to make sure that everyone follows the National Park rules at all times all while also sharing their knowledge with guests in order to make their visit more pleasant and fulfilling.
Some of these rules are actually pretty simple to follow. Take, for example, the fact that no food is allowed on the islands. Now, this might sound like an inconvenient thing at first, but…. since we are only at each visitor site for a relatively short period, and usually right after breakfast or lunch, this is one rule is one that the vast majority of guests respect.
On the other hand, there’s the rule of maintaining a minimum distance of at least six feet (two meters) away from the animals at all times. Now, this rule is a little bit harder to enforce. If there is a bird sitting on a rock, for example, then it is pretty easy not to try and get close to it. But if there are a bunch of sea lions sleeping on the same beach that we land on, it is almost impossible to keep everyone away from them. Guests are always very excited (who wouldn’t be with the iconic, BIG15 wildlife of the archipelago?) and want to get closer to take a better selfie while posing right next to a sea lion cub.
Don’t be surprised if, at times, Naturalist Guides in the Galapagos politely tell you to move away or keep a distance from the animals – they’re doing it simply because they see you either bending or breaking the rules, and it’s our duty to keep them safe from unintentional/accidental harm.
In order to become one, a Naturalist Guide in the Galapagos has to take a six-month course, pass a series of exams and get some hands-on practice to be able to get a license. This is the sole reason why, during this last month, we have sponsored and invited aspiring Naturalist Guides that have just finished their training courses to come and intern aboard the Santa Cruz II Galapagos Cruise. During the last 4 weeks, we have had something like 8 trainees aboard with us and it is quite amusing to see them experience the Galapagos while taking them “under our wing,” so to speak. Some of these aspiring Naturalist Guides are actually experiencing the Galapagos Islands for the very first time! So it’s a treat for both sides of the experiential coins, and our guests even!
Some are super young and excitable wanting to do it all at all times while some others are a bit more mature and actually concentrate on learning from our experience and “wisdom” as seasoned Naturalist Guides in the Galapagos. Nevertheless, all of them have shown an incredible passion to learn and guide, and they’ve all managed to have