Intrigued by the elusive quality of the Galapagos Islands, 16th century Spanish soldiers christened them “Islas Encantadas”, meaning “Bewitched Islands”. A century later, Spaniards still had a hard time believing these islands had any physical shape at all, appearing and disappearing as they did in the mist and fog.
Fast forward four centuries and you find these islands have managed to retain a mysterious aura about them, causing David Attenborough to declare it “the most astonishing place on Earth”.
Today, the Galapagos Islands are still as enchanting as the time when Darwin landed on them in the 1830s. However, increased tourist activity has rendered the place quite vulnerable and the natural wonders of the island are under threat from human interference.
In 2010, the number of visitors coming to the island crossed 170,000, an increase of over 6 per cent from 2009. As you can imagine, these numbers are only predicted to go up.
Small Ship Cruises
How do you fulfill your desire to see the miracles of evolution roam freely on Galapagos Islands without the guilty burden of being party to an ecological crime?
Perhaps a solution can be presented by Ecoventura – a cruise company that recently earned the Rainforest Alliance verification “in recognition of its commitment to conserving the environment and supporting local communities”.
The first to have a fully carbon neutral operation, this family owned enterprise is no stranger to awards and accolades. It previously received the Conde Nast World Savers Award and Travel + Leisure’s 5th annual Global Vision Award for Green Cruising.
Ecoventura has also been honored with a SmartVoyager “green seal of approval” for being the first cruise ship company in Galapagos to offset carbon emissions and switch to alternative sources of energy.
Minimizing Tourist Impact
In operation since 1990, Ecoventura has a fleet of four vessels dedicated to expeditions to the Galapagos Islands and they transport around 4,000 passengers to the islands every year.
Unlike large cruise ships that impact the integrity of the shoreline, Ecoventura vessels accommodate only between 16-20 passengers each. Not only does this give visitors the luxury and privacy of a private yacht along with the facilities of a cruise, passengers can rest assured their impact on the fragile eco-system here is being kept to a minimum.
Besides, the size of the vessels is an advantage in that they are able to take you to places big ships cannot go, giving you a truly up close and personal look at far flung and remote locations.
With new regulations related to the number of landings a cruise ship is allowed to make on the islands and the number of days visitors can spend there, cruising the Galapagos is changing.
By choosing to visit the area on a small tour cruise travellers can help preserve the delicate balance of these islands without completely missing out on their hidden wonders.
Have you been to the Galapagos? What are your favourite memories?
Image Credits: Ecoventura / dagpeak