Before leaving for a Galapagos holiday, becoming familiar with the rules of behaviour set in place by the Galapagos National Park Directorate will ensure that visitors are equipped with the necessary knowledge to enjoy an experience that’s both respectful and responsible.
There are 14 rules set out by the National Park that must be strictly adhered to at all times, which apply to researchers, scientists, photographers and eco-tourists on Galapagos holiday itineraries. And, while those who travel on an organised Galapagos holiday will be accompanied by an experienced naturalist, personal behaviour is always the individual’s responsibility.
The Rules of the Galapagos National Park Directory (GNPD)
â€¢Visiting the protected areas of the National Park can only be undertaken with an authorised naturalist guide. Guides must be authorised by the GNPD.
â€¢Visitors should ensure that they only travel with operators (including small boats) that have the express authority to work in the protected areas of the archipelago.
â€¢For safety reasons, visitors must stay on the marked trails and sites and follow the directions of any official signage.
â€¢If wildlife approaches, visitors are required to keep a distance of at least two metres at all times.
â€¢Feeding of the wildlife is not permitted, as this can upset the balance of the ecosystem.
â€¢Professional photography or videography must first be authorised by the GNPD. For general photography, a two-metre distance must be maintained and the use of flash is prohibited.
â€¢Visitors must comply with the strict quarantine inspections of the islands, and it is forbidden to bring any introduced plant, animal or food matter onto the archipelago.
â€¢Products made from native vegetation, wood, shells, lava rock, black coral or animal parts are absolutely forbidden. If visitors are offered or see any such illegal product on display, it is their responsibility to report this to the authorities.
â€¢It is requested and expected that visitors to the National Park comply with the principle of “leave no trace”, meaning that they maintain the pristine condition of the local environment and the safety of the flora and fauna.
â€¢Any generated rubbish must be taken out of the National Park (tour boats), or disposed of in the appropriate recycling stations around the islands.
â€¢Overnight camping is only permitted in designated authorised areas, for which express prior authority must be obtained. Authority must be requested 48 hours prior to an intended overnight stay.
â€¢In order to protect the flora and fauna, there is a strict “no smoking” policy within all areas of the National Park. Campfires are forbidden for overnight stays.
â€¢Any recreational fishing activities around the archipelago must be authorised by the GNPD.
â€¢Recreational tourism activities, including sightseeing flights, underwater mini-subs and motorised water sports, are not allowed throughout the park or in the waters of the surrounding Marine Reserve.
Respect the Rules of a Galapagos Holiday
The rules outlined by the GNPD are designed to ensure the on-going protection of the unique natural environment and wildlife of the archipelago. With the increasing popularity of eco-tourism to the region, it’s becoming even more important that visitors travel mindfully and respect the delicate balance of this most fascinating and significant part of the planet.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Marissa chooses the expert-led Galapagos holiday itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in one of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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