One spot on earth where people work hard to maintain an environmentally safe and unspoiled atmosphere is the Galapagos Island chain off the Pacific coast of Ecuador. About 97% of the archipelago is organized into the Galapagos National Park. The park, established in 1959, is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is carefully managed by the Ecuadorian government. The four primary objectives of the park are:
- Protecting ecosystems and biodiversity
- Promoting scientific research
- Promoting sustainable development, and
- Involving inhabitants and visitors in conservation work.
Tourism is the major economic activity in the islands. In 2008 over 170,000 visitors came to the islands, over double the number from eight years earlier. Since the permanent population is about 14,000 people, the volume of visitors can be overwhelming. The Directorate of the National Park has authority over tourist activity, including the issuing or revoking of permits.
The park is meant to be enjoyed, but since conservation is its core mission, rules are strict. They include no smoking, no littering, sticking closely to marked trails, careful cleaning to avoid transporting invasive species, no feeding of animals and no souvenirs from native species. Rules violations are subject to legal action. Regular inspection of tourist boats is required. Certified guides must accompany all tourists who visit the islands on a cruise or take daily tours out to the islands.
Tourist entry fees for protected areas range up to $100 (U.S.) for foreign visitors. The funds support the conservation and sustainability work carried out in the islands. In 2010 and 2011 about $10.8 million (U.S.) per year was collected from this source.
Visitors reach Galapagos by air from the Ecuador mainland. A most popular attraction is the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island. Throughout the islands visitors enjoy swimming, snorkeling, small boat rides, observing wildlife, hiking and photography.
Galapagos cruises, both luxury and mid-range, enable visitors to see several islands over periods of up to eight days. Groups may sail on Galapagos yachts originating on or near Santa Cruz Island. Private groups celebrating a special event also have a variety of Galapagos yacht charters to choose from.
Galapagos National Park welcomes nature-minded visitors who will appreciate its unmatched beauty and diversity while promoting the respect for nature that will keep the park pristine for generations to come.
For more information about the Galapagos you can visit: www.galapagosluxurycharters.com