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Visit the Galapagos Islands responsibly
The Galapagos Islands can be paradise for travelers and locals alike -- let's keep it that way. There are a number of eco-friendly tours and hotels available, so read this before you plan your next trip.
According to Wikipedia:
"In 1990 the archipelago became a whale sanctuary. In 1978 UNESCO recognised the islands as a World Heritage Site, and in 1985 a Biosphere Reserve. This was later extended in December 2001 to include the marine reserve."
Some of the species that live there include land and marine iguanas, freaking huge turtles (Latin name: Turtlus Frakhugolous), tropical albatrosses, sea cucumbers, four different types of mockingbirds, hawks, penguins, and one of my all-time favorite animals, the blue-footed booby (left).
The main ecological threat to the the islands is introduced species; so don't bring any plants or animals with you when you go -- that's a no-brainer. Other notable threats: Over-fishing and over-tourism.
Don't be an over-tourist; leave Galapagos better than you found it. Here are some ways:
Responsible Travel has a number of low-impact tours around the world, and Galapagos is no exception. For about $1229.32, excluding flights, you can explore Quito and San Cristobal for two weeks, and even engage in some voluntourism: "Depending on the station's needs, you could help plant new crops, assist in light building activities, or help maintain the trails around the island." ... "You will work on both the habitat restoration and agricultural components while at the reserve. In addition, foundation staff will lead you on various hikes to a nearby lagoon, native forests, beaches, and local villages to explain the ecological and human dynamics of Galapagos."
Ecoventura is a Galapagos-based cruise and tour company who is "the first company to earn and maintain the ecological certification, SmartVoyager since 2000, the first Galapagos cruise ship company to offset carbon emissions and to install alternative energy sources." We like that, but the proof's in the pudding: Check out their 10 Reasons to Book with Ecoventura. I'd go tomorrow.
Some eco-friendly hotel options:
Finch Bay Hotel - 4 Days, 3 Nights from $1,053.00; a bunch of adventure trips available.
Black Sheep Inn - Shared bathroom and bunkroom from $32.50 per person per night.
Red Mangrove Galapagos Lodges - located on three separate islands from around $177 per night.
The Royal Palm Hotel - 5 Star accommodation from $375.00 per night.
Click here for a list of Smart Voyager certified hotels, which meet their criteria to "guarantee a decrease in the environmental impacts that a tourist operation may generate, ensuring direct benefits to the local population and an active participation by the tourist in the conservation of natural resources."
As they say in Ecuador, "buen viaje!"