Last month, the Galapagos National Park Service announced they are closing visitor access to two of the tortoise corrals at Santa Cruz’s Fausto Llerena Tortoise center — due to some irresponsible behaviors by, reportedly, both some select travelers and naturalist guides. Behaviors reported include littering and violating the park’s rules against touching and coming within two meters of the animals. It was also reported that visitors were observed walking on the tortoises’ feeding platforms. At this time the park has not decided whether the closure will be permanent or temporary. Visitors to the center will continue to have plenty of opportunities to view the tortoises from observation platforms. The Galapagos Conservancy offers additional information on the closing of the tortoise corrals.
The closure — rather the reasons behind this closure — is of course disheartening. The Giant Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Center has been operating for over 40 years. It is not only and important place for tortoise research and rearing (it currently holds 925 juvenile tortoises and 70 adult tortoises), it is also an educating tool to thousands of visitors who come to learn about the islands’ intriguing flora and fauna. The closure, however, does inspire me to get the word out and remind visitors that there are simple rules to being a responsible traveler on a Galapagos tour. A little refresher can do us all a bit of good.
The Galapagos National Park created the following rules for all visitors to the Galapagos:
1. To visit the National park you must always be accompanied by a certified Galapagos National Park guide.
2. Galapagos is unique and fragile environment. Take only photographs and video. Professional shooting needs authorization from the National Park.
3. Please stay within the limits of the walking trails for your safety and that of the flora and fauna.
4. To avoid affecting the wildlife’s natural behavior please avoid getting closer than two meters (6.5 feet) to the animals.
5. Camping is only allowed in specific sites. If you wish to camp, you must first obtain a permit from the Galapagos National Park.
6. Help conservation by cooperating with the authorities in their inspection, monitoring and control duties. Report any anomalies to the National Park.
7. Do not introduce foreign organisms to the islands, as these can have a negative impact on the ecosystem.
8. Please do not buy souvenirs which are made from black coral, sea shells, sea lion teeth, tortoise shell, volcanic rock or endemic woods.
9. Galapagos animals have their own feeding behaviors. Never feed the animals. Feeding them can be detrimental to their health.
10. Galapagos landscapes are beautiful and unique. Do not spoil them by writing or etching rocks or trees.
11. Do not litter while on the islands. Always dispose of rubbish in a safe and appropriate way.
12. Smoking or making camp fires in the national park areas is forbidden and can cause devastating fires.
13. Fishing is strictly forbidden, except on those boats specifically authorized by the Galapagos National Park for that purpose only.
14. Jet skiing, submarines, water skiing, and aerial tourism are all forbidden.
For more information on responsible Galapagos travel, this video from our friends at the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA) makes a nice visual.
Show your conservation attitude … and travel well.