Since the European discovery of the Galapagos Islands, humans have had a negative impact on the delicate life of the Galapagos. Over the years, the human population on the islands has risen dramatically, bringing problems of garbage, water pollution, habitat destruction, and introduced species from the smallest seeds to livestock. Today, annual visitors to the islands vastly outnumber residents. Thus, for the preservation of the islands, it is essential that every visitor treat the islands with care, ensuring that the impact of their visit is as close to zero as possible.
Many efforts are now underway to protect and restore the ecosystems of the islands. Several organizations, international and national, governmental and non-governmental, are recognizing the treasures held in the Galapagos and are working cooperatively to protect and restore the islands. Increasingly, organizations are recognizing that working in partnership with the residents of the islands to improve their way of life in a sustainable manner is essential to the long-term success of these efforts.
Tourism has played an important part in providing funding and incentive for these efforts. While it can also damage the islands, tight regulations on tourism have been created to minimize the impacts. The number of visitors to the islands each year is limited, and tourists are now limited to specific areas and must stay on designated trails.
At Eos, we hope each individual tourist visiting the Galapagos will be aware of the impact their visit can have on the islands, and through this awareness, take the actions necessary to minimize this impact. For example, tourists can unknowingly bring foreign species with them, and should use care to not bring any kind of produce, plants, meats, animal products, or wood products. Even something as simple as cleaning your shoes before you depart can reduce your impact. We also recommend that tourists take great care with any trash; discarded plastic items can be highly toxic to wildlife in the islands, and we suggest avoiding the purchase or use of disposable plastic items while in the Galapagos if possible.
When snorkeling or swimming, use care to never touch wildlife or the underwater rocks (avoid standing in the water); when hiking, avoid approaching wildlife too closely and do not stray from marked trails.
With this in mind, we ask all visitors to the islands to carefully read the park rules below, and follow them strictly while visiting the islands.
Remember…all you should leave behind are your footprints…and only on the marked trails.
Galapagos National Park Rules
- Nothing may be taken from the islands except photos. Because of the unique nature of the islands, the plants, animals and rocks must not be disturbed or removed from any island.
- Be sure you do not carry any foreign organisms, such as animals, seeds, plants or insects, with you to the islands or between the islands. Each island in the archipelago is a unique place because of its flora, fauna and scenery. Introduction of any kind of foreign organisms—even from other islands—can cause serious problems.
- Never touch or pet any animals on the Galapagos. The animals can quickly lose their tameness and change their behavior.
- When observing Galapagos birds, always maintain a distance of at least 2 meters (6 feet). Galapagos marine birds will leave their nests if they are disturbed at close range or followed. They will allow their eggs or chicks to fall on the ground, or abandon them to the full exposure of the sun.
- Feeding the animals is strictly prohibited. The endemic and native fauna of the Galapagos have their natural way of feeding. Giving any kind of food to the animals can cause serious harm.
- Never leave the designated paths on the islands for any reason. Visitors' sites at the Galapagos National Park are marked and indicated to guarantee your safety and minimize environmental damage.
- Fishing on board tourist ships is not permitted.
- LEAVE NOTHING EXCEPT YOUR FOOTPRINTS. Garbage of any type interferes with natural processes and takes away the enchantment of the unique island scenery. Do not leave any garbage at visitors' sites or throw anything in the ocean or on or near the islands. Sea lions injure their noses on cans found on the ocean bottom, and plastic can kill marine turtles from intestinal blockage.
- Avoid purchasing souvenirs made of black coral, marine turtle shells, sea lion teeth, or shells. Purchasing these items is contrary to basic principles of conservation. On the inhabited islands you can buy objects with Galapagos themes made of wood, ceramics, etc.
- Do not write names or phrases of any type on rocks, walls, etc. Not only is this a sign of bad manners and rudeness, but it damages the scenery. Your immortality is not more important than the natural beauty of the islands.
- Fire or smoking within the Park is not allowed. Fires can easily start with a match or a cigarette that is not put out completely. In 1985 and 1994 Isabela Island suffered great fires through such negligence.
- If you want to camp at authorized tourist sites you must request a permit from the Park Director.
- Professional filming requires special authorization from the Director of the Galapagos National Park.
- Before doing anything that might endanger a visitor’s safety or that of the National Park, please ask a Park Ranger, Police authorities, Ecuadorian Navy or CAPTURGAL.