Part of Ecuador, yet distinctly different, the remarkable Galapagos Islands archipelago consists of 18 main and three smaller islands plus 107 rocks and islets. Some 650 miles west of mainland Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, no other spot quite compares to these volcanic islands when it comes to observing wildlife close up. Here, the wildlife does not run or fly away when humans approach. Indeed, they sometimes even interact with the human visitors. Life evolved on these islands in a vacuum, separate from the rest of the world. Distinctions exist even from one island to the next. For example, there are about 15 species of Darwin’s finches. Charles Darwin began to form his ideas around evolution during a voyage here in 1836. Today, the Galapagos are so popular as a destination that many groups and organizations are looking at avenues to insure the future of this priceless global treasure.
It was not that long ago that the Galapagos Islands were declared a World Heritage Site in Danger by UNESCO – due to a combination of factors including rapid growth in cruise tourism to the islands and lack of protected area regulations being enforced. The Ecuadorean Government was quick to respond and today the Galapagos is no longer listed as a World Heritage site in danger, the result of stronger management policies based on sustainable tourism guidelines and more conservation monitoring. Examples include travel companies joining together to create the Galapagos’ first waste recycling station, and the introduction of small ships operating environmentally-friendly boats using hybrid energy solar panel systems, among other sustainability initiatives.
Destination stewardship planning is underway at the national level with multiple stakeholders, including government, NGOs, private sector and communities, to increase understanding and awareness of sustainable tourism best practices.
Located some 650 miles off the western coast of Ecuador, the volcanic Galapagos islands have long beckoned visitors to their shores, starting with Darwin; until today, they still provide a glimpse of life that evolved in isolation, and led to the scientific theory of evolution. Protecting the natural heritage of these remote and fragile islands - a world treasure - remains an important imperative for the Government of Ecuador. With more and more travelers focused on making sure that they do not harm the places they visit, sustainable tourism is especially important to the survival of the Galapagos as a living laboratory of nature. Learn more about the galapagos.com values.Why the Finch Ranking?