24/6/12 - 14.09pm
I have had the privilege of visiting the islands but there should be no automatic right for anyone to do so. Some tourism to t he Galapagos is necessary but too much will be devastating. Surely the commercial interests of travel and other companies must be curbed and an agreed limit put on the number of tourists per year, and this limit should be given legal force by the Ecuadorian government.
23/6/12 - 11.29am
I have been very priveliged to visit the Galapagos in 1994 and 1999 It is an amazing place When I visited there were strict controls on the number of visitors to each site on a daily basis I wonder are these controls are still enforced It was wonderful to arrive by boat and leave everything undisturbed at the end of the visit I think in 1999 there was a moratorium on the number of visitors allowed
Over the years I have been concerned about the increasing number of hotels which are opening on the islands and the impact on the environment and the wildlife I think further development should be very carefully controlled and limited
Like so many places in the world it is a difficult balancing act to protect the environment , provide employment for people and allow tourists to visit with minimal impact
The Galapagos are so special and every effort should be made to preserve them for future generations.
23/6/12 - 11.29am
The Galapagos needs low-key, sustainable tourism. I was there some 10 years ago on a boat that took only 16 passengers and had an unforgettable experience. What seems to be happening now is that more and more Ecuadoreans from the mainland are attracted to the Galapagos in search of the "tourist dollar". This is a never-ending downward spiral as it is self-evident that the islands cannot support an increased human presence without impacting on their wildlife. Ecuador is a poor country and one cannot blame its inhabitants for wanting to better their lot. I do not have an answer to the problem other than trying to lobby the government to place (and enforce) stricter rules on settlement in the islands. I would also like to see the size and number of tourist boats allowed in the islands to be reduced. The present "assembly line" system of one boatload after another being allowed ashore on an individual island does not give the wildlife much respite. In addition, I would like to see entrance fees to the park increased. This would deter mass tourism but would ensure that the money that is raised goes to the designated targets. Making it more expensive for tourists to visit the islands, would not, in my opinion, deter serious wildlife tourists. My trip was a "trip of a lifetime" that I had wanted to do since the age of seven. I found it expensive, but in actual fact, I would probably have paid double to realise my dream. It was quite saddening for me to find that many of the people who were there were just crossing another country off their list of places to visit. Of course, the other argument is that anyone who goes to the Galapagos, cannot but leave as an advocate of preserving the uniqueness of what is there.
It is a conundrum!
23/6/12 - 10.00am
Tourism is an important part of the Galapagos survival from an awareness, education and financial point of view. That said however I feel there should be even stricter rules and regulations regarding tourism to the islands.
We visited the Galapagos in 2008 and loved it but seeing the big cruise ships from our yacht filled us with a sense of disappointment that the area had become a trendy location, many of those visiting were not there for the love of the islands but to say they'd been.
A sensible plan for restricting the footfall to the islands is essential.
22/6/12 - 15.32pm
Galapagos needs tourism. Any Naturalist who reads about Galapagos or who has observed it through television always dream of going to this majestic place their selves. It is this dream of visiting such a place, and actually being able to go that keeps the flame alight. If it was not possible to visit anymore, people would have far less interest. I also believe their would be far less income through donations etc.
22/6/12 - 12.32pm
Unfortunately I don't think there is such a thing a sustainable tourism. All that happens if you restrict the number of travellers is that the very wealthy are the only ones who can then afford to travel to places. I worked in the Galapagos and found that the cruise ship travellers were either on a once in a life time trip or rich people with nothing to do. People like myself who actively want to contribute to conservation would be even more restricted. Not just the rich should be allowed to make a difference, sustainable tourism, should be for all those who want to learn about the wolrd whilst at the same time trying to leave as few footprints as possible.
22/6/12 - 11.59am
We visited the Galapagos 5 years ago as tourists. It was an unforgettable experience sailing from one island to another, each more stunning than the last, on board a small boat, The Beagle. The wildlife and the beauty of the varied landscapes never ceased to amaze. When we reached Floreana, a BBC film producer who was travelling with us asked if we had reached Paradise. We are now supporters of The Galapagos Conservation Trust. I once worked in Bolivia and Peru and understand the need of mankind to earn a decent living. I also have benefited from being a tourist. However, I do not think these considerations should not be at the cost of damage to such a rare and beautiful ecosystem. Tourism should be seriously controlled and once an annual quota has been reached there should be no more visitors to the islands. The cost of entrance to the conservation areas should be high in order to recompense local guides, hoteliers etc with possible bursaries for those unable to pay. A donation may need to be made to the Ecuadorian government to assist in tight controls.
22/6/12 - 10.50am
The population of the inhabited Galapagos Islands needs to be curtailed. The islands cannot support the burden of its own inhabitants without suffering adverse consequences for the flora and fauna.
The number of tourists too needs to be limited and charged more.
The politicians in charge of the islands are corrupt so it should be a priority to stamp that out.
Development should be halted and the islanders need to tackle their rubbish problem.
And it may just be necessary to close tourism for a period each year to allow some degree of recovery for the fragile ecosystems.
Absolute first degree effort should be made to eradicate all the invasive species, including mosquitoes.
22/6/12 - 10.20am
Everyone who wants to should have an opportunity to visit Galapagos once. No-one should go twice. That would reduce the pressure.
21/6/12 - 21.33pm
If Galapagos is to be preserved then stricter limits have to be put on man's effects on the fragile environment: both Ecuadorians & tourists: or it risks becoming just like any other ruined tropical island. I would challenge the right of yet more Ecuadorians to settle there & I would limit the number of tourists too.
21/6/12 - 21.33pm
Anyone who claims that settlers alone and not tourism cause direct damages doesn't understand the threats on the biodiversity of the islands hasn't spent any actual time on the islands. A large majority of the current threats were introduced by early settlers, not the current settlers (including but not limited to blackberry and guayaba, wild pigs and goats). If you spend time on the islands you will realize a large portion of Galapaguenos want to preserve their habitat and aren't taking on dangerous practices. If they keep animals like pigs or cows they keep them within the regulations and they do not pose a threat. Spend time with a school child and you will see their drawing thats largely are filled with the wildlife and point out a yearning to conserve their islands. Look at the regulations and how difficult it is to move to the islands and recent increased enforcement of deportation and you'll see that steps are being taken to decrease population growth. If you talk to locals you'll be surprised to hear of any families that want more than 2 childrens as they realize the impacts and costs. The reality is there is a population that exists and the best thing that we can do is ensure that they are employed in a way that supports sustaining and preserving the environment, and takes away from practices and financial gains from participating in negative/illegal activities. Prohibition is not a better means than enablement. We also should ensure that tourists come as invested citizens that respect the laws, not just pay a premium because all tourism even boat based places demands on the islands. Ideally tourists want to help preserve it for future generations.
21/6/12 - 21.32pm
Clearly, from recent articles in the press, the tourism on the Galapagos is not sustainable (a word I've come to detest because it's so misused).
I don't know nearly enough about the subject and have never visited the islands but I would have thought that preventing further immigration to Galapagos would be a start. Then being stricter on the number of visitors. Perhaps take each island (or most of them) in turn and leave them to nature (ie. no visitors at all) for say 10 years each, on a rotation basis.
21/6/12 - 19.21pm
Tourism and immigration to the islands must be managed by people who understand the needs of the environment and can persuade the Ecuadorian government that the goose that is currently laying the golden eggs will be killed unless they take drastic action to limit human encroachment.
Tourist numbers should be limited and the revenues raised used to manage the islands' environment & not simply creamed off by tour operators. Permanent settlement should be similarly limited. If incomes are so much higher than the mainland, then taxation should bring them into line.
Countries like Bhutan have limited the impact of tourism by raising prices, controlling numbers and investing in education, so the people understand their own unique and invaluable heritage.
21/6/12 - 16.45pm
I went to the Galapagos for 2 weeks and was struck by the contrast between the eastern and western islands in the archipelago, i.e. islands more and less influenced by tourism. However, I was very impressed with our guide's approach wherever we went. He was absolutely firm about imposing limits on our wanderings, so as to disturb the wildlife as little as possible. But we could see the contrast between him and other guides/groups - some exercised very little control over their groups. We heard that guide training is not as rigorous now as it was. I think two things need to happen to encourage responsible tourism: (1) numbers of tourists visiting any site must be limited to small parties (small enough to hear what the guide is saying at all times); and (2) guides must be trained to a high standard, and be spot-checked! Draconian, but hey! Galapagos is unique...
21/6/12 - 8.26am
The Observer article draws sensational conclusions after considering only a secondary aspect of Galapagos tourism. Settlers on the islands, not tourists, are causing the direct damage. My wife and I were privileged to visit the islands only once, almost ten years ago. We were extremely impressed by the measures taken to protect the environment. We were transported directly between the airport and our cruise boat that was our home for the week. With only one exception our island visits were rigidly controlled. The areas we were allowed to visit formed only a tiny part of each island. The wildlife we encountered was free to roam over the 99% plus of the island that was tourist free so was in that part by choice. The one exception was the island of Santa Cruz where the full time population of Puerto Ayora and its suburbs had been allowed to grow to what seemed to be way beyond the direct needs of the islands. Some kind of infrastructure is admittedly necessary to support the research station and to refuel, restock and maintain the cruise boats. However, there seems little need to allow anything more. Money generated by responsible tourism can continue to be the major source of funds that are necessary for protecting the islands. I believe there should be far stricter controls on settlement on the islands, ideally with a complete block on land based tourist accommodation and the infrastructure that surrounds it. Tourists want to go home with local souvenirs but why not restrict their sales to the research centre and the airport? Why do settlers need to be allowed to take domestic animals of any kind to the islands? In my opinion, every opportunity must be taken to convince the Government of Ecuador to severely restrict settlement and development on the islands.
21/6/12 - 8.11am
Have been once to the Galapagos and felt really priveliged to have been allowed to go there. Having said that also felt it was something that once you have been you feel that you should not be there and I will also say that I will never go back out of respect for that environment. Both me and my wife concluded that too many people were allowed there.
Also spend a week diving and from what I have heard they are now allowing more dive boats to go to Darwin and Wolf, which I think is crazy. That place is also unique and needs looking after properly.
Cornelis van Dijk
21/6/12 - 2.05am
I will put forward some of the facts and I hope that this may help focus the issues. Everyone realizes that the biodiversity of Galapagos is unique. From its cactus to its snails, from its finches to its iguanas. Other oceanic islands have two things in common with Galapagos, endemism and isolation. These two characteristics carry with them them other characteristics of the animals and plants, Tameness, susceptibility to disease. Lack of defences.
The Galapagos and these other islands are, or have suffered, loss of biodiversity due to the introduction of human habits and the accidental or puposeful introduction of animals, plants, and micro organisms. Diseases for example.
What has this to do with tourism?
As tourism has increased so has the air and sea traffic, both effective routes for the continuing arrival of introduced species, which is the case. Increasing tourism also demands more people to look after the visitors.
Visitors per se are not the problem. However the infrastructure is hard pushed to deal with the apparently ever increasing numbers. The Central government is well aware of the issue of introduced species and millions of $ have been invested over the last decade to come to terms with this issue. The Central government is also well aware of the issue of migration and has improved in a considerable way the control systems. Which other country has had the courage to stop its own citizens from living a part of its country for environmental reasons?
However the income from tourism is high and all countries want income.
The answer may lie in the following way.
It is essential to recreate the effect of the 1000km oceanic barrier between the Islands and the mainland. Also the barrier between the islands themselves. It is imperative that the local community recognizes the issues and actively supports the actions taken to secure the isolation of the islands. It is vital to work out solutions to the introduced species problems already within the Archipelago.
Work is being carried out to stem the tide of new invasions.
Work is being done with the local community.
Tourism should be limited and tourists should be VERY aware of the seeds on their trousers and boots and to be adaptable to living in an Archipelago whose biodiversity depends upon isolation and the care taken by ships agents, tour operators, airlines, hotels. This is the worlds finest place for Nature tours and it would be excellent to see tourism aimed this way.
Oh, maybe I forgot one thing.....It is not the head that will save Galapagos, but the heart.
20/6/12 - 22.00pm
If tourism was banned, it would merely cause visitor and tourist interest to become prey to unregulated operators offering 'clandestine' trips. Without tourism and the spotlight it brings to the Galapagos habitats, it is likely the habitat and the animals will be destroyed by human exploitation, pollution and uncontrolled invasive species.
It is not possible to stop tourism now and it at least keeps revenues coming in to protect the habitat and support local communities. But a real issue is the growth in the human resident population and this has to be managed in the same way in dialogue with all involved but particularly with local government support.
20/6/12 - 21.28pm
A difficult one! George is an icon, and like ny other celebrities, people want to meet him... problem is that we I don't think we shuld be encouraging too many to meet him in person.
His LoveGeorge website is a great way forward, and using this to promote him, and gain public interest/media interest should be the way forward. in these times if recession, not everyone can afford to visit, but build the public relationship through web and TV interaction seems a good way forward.
20/6/12 - 21.00pm
I researched carefully the options available to me before I went to the Galapagos, and found a specialist company that I was comfortable with using, that have small tours of a dozen people plus their own guide (as well as the ships local guide). I chose them because it was the wildlife and the islands that were important on their tours, and they hold what I consider to be high standards regarding the islands.
Whilst out in the islands I was however very aware of tourists that were there without much knowledge of the islands, or any wish to learn. Generally these had come from one of the bigger ships, and they seemed to have a very hurried timetable which left little or no time to stop and appreciate what was around them. Their insistence of "petting" the tortoises, both in the feeding coral at the CDRS and in the highlands was disturbing, and the tortoises didn't seem to appreciate it either. At one ranch, we spent a long time with the tortoises before returning to the hacienda for refreshments. As we sat down, a bus load of tourists arrived, and in the time it took us to drink our tea, they had done a quick tour of the tortoises, and got back on their bus and left. I don't want to generalise, but the majority of tourists that didn't seem to understand how special the islands are appeared to be American. I have to say that I did also meet some lovely American's out there.
Shortly after I returned, a friend went to the islands, and was on one of the larger ships. She found that in the evening briefings, a large number of the passengers didn't bother to attend, or were in the room, but talking amongst themselves.
I do feel that the larger ships are a big part of the problem, and would happily see them removed from the islands. Smaller ships of 20 or so people do not offer the comforts and luxurys that you get on the larger ships, and therefore you are more likely to get tourists that are genuinely interested rather than those that want to add it to their tick lists.
I like the fact that the people who control where ships can and cannot go do not have all the trails open all the time. Giving trails a year off, when no visitors are allowed is a brilliant idea, and gives a chance for areas to recover from any adverse tourist activity.
Holidays to the Galapagos should be a learning experience, and should encourage the tourists to remain involved once they return home. The crews on the smaller ships have a lot of contact with their guests, and the opportunity to impart their passion for the islands to those visiting. David Attenborough is right, without tourism, the islands would not be as protected as they are as they would lose their prominence in world wildlife and conservation circles, and whilst the land fauna may not be too badly affected, the sea fauna would be decimated, and very few people would care.
Tourism is necessary to keep the Galapagos in the spotlight, and to encourage new people to become involved in the islands protection and conservation. Also, when done responsibly, it should have little impact on the wildlife, or at least have an impact that is more than negated by the outcome of the tourists being there.
I first visited the islands in 2001, and returned for Darwin's 200th birthday in 2009. Should I have returned? Some people have told me that I was wrong to go back. That having been given the priviledge of visiting the islands once, I should have left it at that and just supported them from a distance. Yes, I do feel a little guilty about returning to the islands, when I had already been there, as it was a purely selfish action returning to the Galapagos. I had experienced what to me was heaven on earth, and I was desperate to return. Will I go back again? Yes, I suspect I will (although not for many years), and I will feel guilty about what I am doing, but I will try to have as little an impact as possible, and be a "responsible tourist". I can't keep away. The islands, their amazing geology and stunning wildlife and flora have captured my heart and won't let go.
20/6/12 - 20.30pm
I have been hugely fortunate and have visited the Galapagos. I wouldn't go again and think everyone should be restricted to one visit to limit the human footprint. It is a privilege to have visited once.
20/6/12 - 20.20pm
It is five or six years since I visited, but at that time I thought the balance between tourism & conservation was about right. Has it changed much since then?
20/6/12 - 20.12pm
Whilst I appreciate it is a complicated situation that faces us now and that it is always difficult to go back from where we stand at any given time, I do believe the only way to save Galapagos is to do exactly that. It cannot survive as it is at present and, indeed, the invasion of non-native species may be impossible to eradicate now, anyway. I have had the pleasure of visiting the islands, something I had wanted to do since I wasa child, but I am part of the problem. However well-intentioned, tourists do not help to quell the lure of the islands to others. Very restricted and controlled tourism may still work and provide funds for various projects but I am afraid it has been allowed to expand out of proportion to what the islands can sustain and to a point of no return.
I'm sorry to sound so pessimistic but, whilst I loved my visit and I am confident my tour company was a very responsible one, I saw and heard enough then (4 years ago) to leave me fearing for the future if the expansion of those living on and those visiting the islands was not drastically reduced.
20/6/12 - 18.47pm
I have been to the Galapagos twice (I have to admit) but this was because my first visit was very unsatisfactory and missed out most of the National Park Islands and many of the endemic species.
I feel that all tourists should spend at least a day on one of the inhabited islands, so that they can spend their money for the good of the local population. In return the local population should give something back, e.g. not having damaging farm animals (goats) or pets that harm the wildlife. Maybe the best way to ensure the number of tourists is limited is to make the entrance fee to the National Park more expensive.
20/6/12 - 18.18pm
I agree that tourism is essential to the survival of the Galapagos and that it must be rigidly controlled - both the numbers visiting and the way the tours are conducted. We went with Metropolitan Touring last year on La Pinta and the guides were incredibly responsible and knowledgeable. They read the rule-book at us right from the beginning and enforced it in the nicest possible way throughout the trip. The ship took about 45 people maximum and we went on shore in small groups always with a guide who watched us very closely. We noticed lots of much larger ships which I imagine would be harder to control. If this all means that the trip is expensive, I'm afraid so be it - that's the price of being able to visit such an amazing place. People wanting cheaper holidays have plenty of choice. Visitors need to feel that this is a special situation which needs extra thought and appreciation, and a high price will help do this. It's a once or twice in a lifetime (I want to go back!) and so you do it properly! Hope this is of some use. It's a wonderful place and I hope it carries on being that for generations to follow.
20/6/12 - 18.18pm
Managing people is difficult but the tension between people and conservation happens throughout the world. Tourism is a critical income stream for Ecuador. It provides a powerful economic reason for a poorer country to protect its environment. So the key is to work with the Ecuadorians to promote sustainable compromises.
Restricting tourist numbers is one part of the debate, but how tourism is managed has as much impact. So it is important to work with tour operators to find ways of minimising tourist impact - (for example, changing the kind of lighting used on ships reduces insect attraction and transfer and contributes to improving 'quarantine' measures against invasive species.)
There is also work going on to make life on the Galapagos more sustainable and to support local people in taking actions that help here. Projects include designing new housing that is more sustainable and more pleasant (the Princes Trust for the Built Environment is working with the municipalities); waste recycling projects (as mentioned in the article); native gardens (to minimise the risk of imported garden plants becoming the next invasive species); rewriting local school books to make sure the next generation understand the uniqueness and importance of their islands...
Its a constant and complex battle. But it is worth fighting.
20/6/12 - 18.18pm
The point about tourism in any country is that it should enrich that country and assist in its development, not cause destruction. There are so many instances of countries that have invested in low cost bad taste tourism that has actually cost them money (try Cyprus). That must not happen in the Galapagos. Going to the Galapagos should be seen as a privilege with a Tax of at least £1000.00 per person. There should be strict rules and restrictions on the boat trade which dump oil and endanger clean water. The facilities on shore should be limited, so that the number of tourists is capped. The population of the islands should equally be capped. The policy of the Ecuadorian Government is short sighted, allowing a hugely expanded low cost tourism which ispoorly policed, the damage of which is not repaired, for short term gain only. It is as if they don't care that they destroy this fragile ecostructure for short term gain.
The quote form David Attenborough was made before the massive increase in tourists of the past five years, and is not longer appropriate.
20/6/12 - 17.26pm
I would be inclined to close the Galapagos to tourists. In the digital mass media an network could be established (Google Galapagos view?) and people could pay for live-interactive access, per hour or day of connection!!!!
20/6/12 - 16.26pm
Unfortunately it is now 15 years since my visit to the Islands, and I am sure a lot has changed. It must be a difficult balancing act to allow tourists to see how wonderful Galapagos is without destroying the fragile ecosystem. There were very strict parameters originally, the number of boats allowed, the number of visitors ashore at any one time. The disinfecting of clothing etc before landing and the rangers ensuring no one strayed off the main paths. Hopefully all these are still in place - or should be. Revenue from tourism must not become a cash cow to the detriment and eventual destruction of such a wonderful place as the Galapagos Islands.
It was a wonderful way to spend my honeymoon on the Santa Cruz, swim with penguins, being divebombed by pelicans, and of course talking to George! Memories to last forever and. I felt honoured and privileged to have been there, and so should each visitor.
All three comments are correct, but if very strict controls are maintained, the balance of nature can be preserved.
20/6/12 - 15.37pm
Having visited Galapagos on the trip of a lifetime in 2004 I saw at first hand the importance to a fragile economy the income from tourism was. However, I vowed then that I would not return to the islands in the belief that the number of visitors should be strictly controlled and I had had my turn. I believe that in 2004 there was a limit on numbers, but that situation may have changed. I have no idea how to establish a level of tourism that provides a good income for local inhabitants, while at the same time ensuring the future of the islands' ecosystem, but there must be a way of doing so. I would wholy support continuing to limit the number of islands that can be visited and also the number of cruise ships allowed to sail round them. I would also hope that there are severe penalties for any cruise ships caught dumping waste into the waters around the islands.