The Galápagos Islands is a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. It’s considered one of the world’s foremost destinations for wildlife-viewing. A province of Ecuador, it lies about 1,000km off its coast. Its isolated terrain shelters a diversity of plant and animal species, many found nowhere else. Charles Darwin visited in 1835, and his observation of Galápagos’ species later inspired his theory of evolution.
In 1979, the Galapagos Islands became the world’s first UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site — an honor bestowed upon our planet’s most magnificent places. Following a few simple rules is all it takes to experience the magnificence of the Islands in a sustainable way. From respecting the wildlife to purchasing souvenirs wisely, your choices will make a difference. Please review the Galapagos National Park rules before you travel to the Islands.
When visiting the Galapagos Islands, a National Park and World Heritage Site, all visitors are expected to act responsibly and to treat the environment with respect. Below are 14 rules of the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) that all visitors are expected to abide by while in the Islands:
- Visitors to any protected areas within the Galapagos National Park must be accompanied by a naturalist guide authorized by the GNPD.
- Travel only with tour operators and/or boats authorized to work in the protected areas of Galapagos.
- Remain on marked trails at visitor sites and respect signs at all times for the protection of wildlife, and for your safety.
- Maintain a distance of at least six feet (two meters) from wildlife to avoid disturbing them, even if they approach you.
- Never feed wildlife, as this can cause health problems.
- Flash photography is not permitted when taking photos of wildlife. Professional photography and videos recorded for commercial purposes must be authorized by the GNPD.
- Camping is only allowed in a few authorized areas in the Islands. Request authorization to camp at the Galapagos National Park’s offices at least 48 hours in advance.
- It is your responsibility not to introduce food, animals, or plants into the Archipelago. Cooperate fully with all environmental inspection and quarantine officials during your visit.
- Do not take or buy any products or souvenirs made from banned substances, including black coral, shells, lava rock, animal parts, or any native wood or vegetation prior to leaving Galapagos. This is illegal and must be reported.
- Practice “leave-no-trace” principles in order to maintain the beauty of the environment.
- Pack out all trash and dispose of or recycle it in the populated areas or on your tour boat.
- Smoking and/or campfires are strictly prohibited within the Galapagos National Park, as fires poses a serious risk to the flora and fauna of Galapagos.
- Fishing is only permitted on recreational tour boats authorized by the GNPD.
- Motorized aquatic sports, mini-subs, and aerial tourism activities are not permitted in the Galapagos National Park or Marine Reserve.
Galapagos is to be giving yourself a once-in-a-lifetime gift. The nutrient-rich waters that surround these islands of Ecuador are densely populated with a huge variety of wonderful creatures.
Diving in Galapagos is fantastic all year round but there are two distinct seasons.
The warm season is December to May with water temperatures around 23-25°C/75-80°F. The conditions are calmer and currents are less at this time of year. It is a great time to see huge numbers hammerheads, silkys and Galapagos sharks.
The cooler season is June to November with water temperatures dropping to 16-18°/60-65°F. Rougher sea conditions and strong currents make the diving more challenging. The cool season is all about whale sharks which are around the islands of Darwin and Wolf at this time. There are still large schools of hammerheads and occasional silkys and Galapagos shark around the islands.
Visibility is generally between 10 and 21 meters (30 to 70 feet) and conditions can be challenging because of the surges and currents common in the area.