Due to a misunderstanding created by a press release issued on 11 November (“Ecuador to Limit the Number of Visitors to the Galapagos”), Ecuador would like to clarify the new rules and regulations in regard to cruise routes and frequencies to and around the Galapagos Islands. These regulations come into effect on 1 February 2012.
Firstly, the new regulations do not affect visitors to the Galapagos Islands, but are aimed at the archipelago’s boat owners and operators. Visitors to the islands, however, must stay for a minimum of three days / four nights, but can stay as long as they like on the islands, or at least as long as their tourist visa permits.
The new regulations require that as of 1 February 2012 all tour companies that operate cruises in the Galápagos must implement itineraries for their boats that last for 15 days/14 nights. During that period the boat cannot visit the same site in the archipelago twice, the exception being the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island.
Operators can divide their boats’ 14-night itineraries into a maximum of four segments. Therefore the duration of cruise tours for visitors is not limited to four days, as the original release suggested, and tour operators can continue to offer visitors tours of more than four days. It is expected that operators will cut the 14-night schedules into two 7-night itineraries or two 6-day/5 night and one 5-day/4-night itineraries.
The new regulations also require cruise operators to include the airport on San Cristóbal Island into the 14-night cruise schedules. The aim being to take the pressure off the airport on Baltra Island and distribute the volume of visitors more evenly throughout the archipelago.
The purpose of the new regulations is to reduce visitor numbers at 15 of the current most visited sites, give equal access to all boats at sites, increase the use of underused sites, and reduce the total number of visitors by cutting out shorter itineraries. It is also hoped that the new regulations will result in a more intimate and enjoyable experience for all visitors to the Galapagos Islands.
The new regulations also aim to improve the zoning of activities on some of the islands; as well as re-assessing the size of boats that can visit certain locations; while improving the trails at several sites.
Through more intelligently designed itineraries, the new regulations should reduce the fuel consumption of cruise vessels, and result in a reduced carbon footprint created by tourism in the archipelago.