If you’re thinking about visiting the Galapagos Islands, you’re in for a treat. Made famous by Charles Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle in the 19th century, the Islands lie 972 km west of mainland Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Undiscovered by mankind until relatively recently, you’ll see a fantastic range of flora and fauna in ecosystems that exist nowhere else on the planet.
However there are a couple of pitfalls to travelling to the Galapagos Islands and also while you are on your stay. Here are five things you are best avoiding.
1) Missing your plane from Ecuador
The vast majority of tourists arrive at Galapagos by plane. It is only possible to reach the islands by a flight from mainland Ecuador starting in either Quito or Guayaquil. International flights do not go directly to the Islands. If you are flying, make sure your seat doesn’t get given away to someone else by:
- Checking in more than an hour before take-off
- Planning your international arrival to Ecuador at least a day before your departure flights to the Galapagos to give yourself time between connections (If you miss the start of your cruise there is no way to catch up!)
2) Taking a tour with an unqualified guide
Conservation on the islands is of critical importance, and the best people to maintain standards are the tour guides. They should help keep you on the marked pathways and assist in communicating and enforcing conservation rules.
Visitors to the Galapagos Islands should be guided at all times by a qualified individual. There shouldn’t be any more that 16 people in your group, to allow for proper control and guidance of tourists. They should also provide information about general water safety and monitor all swimming and snorkeling.
3) Touching animals
It’s tempting, but visitors should not interact with animals on the Galapagos Islands. The majority of animals on the Galapagos have no reason to fear humans, and consequently will allow visitors to get very close without bolting.
However, you should go no closer than within two meters of animals, as in some cases they will follow you, leaving their nests uncovered, exposing eggs or chicks to the sun. Additionally, no animals should be fed or baited on water or land.
4) Introducing new species to the islands
Introducing any exotic organisms to Galapagos could have a devastating effect on the ecosystems that exist in a state of delicate balance. Any food, animal and vegetable products as well as seeds, plants or fresh flowers should be declared before leaving the airport at Quito or Guayaquil so that a trained inspector can deem if they are safe or not. Live animals in any form are also not permitted.
The same principles apply for inter-island trips; each island is its own unique ecosystem, so introductions between islands can be just as destructive to the natural process of things as items from the mainland.
5) Lighting fires
In 1985, Isabel Island suffered severe damage from negligence with smoking and fire lighting. Amazingly, the same thing happened again almost a decade later in 1994. Even though a beach fire seems like the perfect end to a day on an exotic island adventure, visitors should resist the urge to build a camp fire.
Are there any other things that visitors to the Galapagos Islands should avoid? What are your Galapagos vacation experiences?
Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America