Responsible travel in the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are one of nature’s best-preserved ecosystems. Out of the 60+ land masses that comprise the Galapagos, only four of them are inhabited with humans, with a total population of only 25,000 residents.
Columbus Travel is dedicated to upholding high environmental standards to guarantee that these precious ecosystems remain in their pristine natural beauty, all without sacrificing any of the top-quality comfort and service that you should expect from your Galapagos hotel.
Even though Galapagos tourism business has exploded in the last 20 years, there are still only about 200,000 visitors to the Islands every year, carefully controlled by the National Park. In fact, each year the tourism industry generates over $400 million, much of which goes back into maintaining the Park.
If you are one of these lucky travelers who gets to witness the unique wonders of the Galapagos first-hand, you have a responsibility to travel conscientiously, respect your environment, and play your part in keeping it in such perfect condition. When you book with Columbus Travel, you are signing up for an experience that not only offers some of the most exciting land-based Galapagos adventures, but always ensures that they are done in a way that protects these fragile ecosystems.
When planning your trip
The best way to practice responsible travel in the Galapagos is by planning your trip with an eco-conscious tour provider. This will ensure that your tour has a minimum environmental impact, and you will leave your destination just as beautiful as when you arrived. When land-based tourism in the Galapagos Islands began gaining traction in the early 2000s, Columbus was quick to establish itself as an industry leader in sustainability.
According to the Rainforest Alliance’s “Frog Blog,” the best ways to make your vacation a “greener” experience all come down to good planning:
Book with certified, sustainable hotels that offer responsible tours
Choose non-stop flights on fuel efficient planes (like the Boeing 777 & 787 or the Airbus 345)
Pack lightly to save weight on the plane, and avoid products with tiny “travel-sized” bottles and microbeads that will eventually just end up in landfills.
This includes using rental equipment available via Columbus or other providers that would otherwise take up a lot of space in your suitcase, like wetsuits, diving or snorkeling equipment, or bicycle helmets.
Bring your own water bottle so you don’t end up throwing away plastic bottles.
Take advantage of group transportation to save fuel, like the public speedboats instead of the private charter planes to get between islands.
During your trip, it’s vital that you bear in mind some main points to respect the virgin Galapagos habitats.
- Respect the animals - you will see amazing endemic species, like the marine iguana and the different sea birds; for their safety and your own, keep your distance. Even minor interactions with them can change their lifestyle, in turn affecting the entire ecosystem.
- Helping a finch get food/ giving it food can handicap later generations when they are not taught how to get it for themselves.
- A mother sea lion will not return to her baby if it has the scent of a person who has touched it, and the baby will therefore be abandoned and die.
- These are just a few examples of the severe impact human interaction can have on the ecosystem.
- o When in doubt, stay out.
Leave no trace. This is the simplest guideline, but the most fundamental. At the heart of all conservation efforts is the idea that you should leave a natural environment as you found it. As you will discover on your trip to the Galapagos, part of what makes these Islands so amazing is how after years of tourism, they still look as pure as the day they emerged from the sea. Do your part in keeping them that way.
Don’t leave the trail or road. The National Park spends most of its time and energy maintaining tourist sites, so don’t deviate from the established path, and stick to the trail.
Buy local products to support the Galapagos economy.
Never ever remove anything from a natural environment in the Galapagos. In fact, it’s illegal and it will be confiscated at the airport if you are caught with something taken from the Islands.
Follow the National Park’s guidelines.
Conservation beyond your vacation
Once you’ve visited these sacred islands and seen the preciously fragile ecosystems, you have a responsibility to continue respecting the eco-friendly practices that you learn about during your experience.
At Columbus Travel, we believe that sustainability comes in two forms: Environmental conservation and Responsible economic practices. All of our trips are designed to comply with the highest global standards of conservation and social sustainability. After your Galapagos excursion, there are a couple things to keep in mind to extend your experience into your everyday life.
Environmentally, you should continue to buy “green” products and reduce your waste whenever possible. As you will see in the Galapagos ecosystems, water is a truly precious resource, and not wasting it is extremely important for our planet’s health. Responsible consumption of electricity is another way you can help protect ecosystems like the Galapagos - when carbon emissions rise and lead to global warming, the impact on the world’s most precariously balanced habitats are hardest-felt.
In terms of supporting the local economy, organic, locally produced or grown products, and especially those with the Fairtrade mark, are the best.