As you most likely know, the Galapagos Islands is a unique destination with wildlife that you will find nowhere else on Earth. The islands offer a tremendous amount of beauty. Yet, some say that the waters around them contain the true treasures of the archipelago. Sea turtles, tropical fish, manta rays and even whale sharks; if you are lucky you will meet them while snorkeling or cruising around the Galapagos Islands.
Unfortunately, all this natural beauty needs to be protected from human activities. In 1959, the majority of the Galapagos Islands officially became a national park, but it took until 1968 to effectively manage the protected area. Protecting the waters around the archipelago efficiently took much longer: in 1998 an area of 133,000 square kilometers around the islands became the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR). Where before the Galapagos Islands were popular among industrial fisheries, from 1998 they were banned from this abundant area. Only fishermen from the islands are allowed to fish within the GMR, and even they are under strict regulations.
Recently, the Ecuadorian government created a new `no-take´ zone within the GMR, meaning nobody is allowed to fish in this area, including local fishermen. This new sanctuary has almost the size of Belgium and its main objective is the protection of the world´s greatest concentration of sharks, among which the Galapagos shark, hammerhead shark and whale shark.
Not only fisheries form a potential threat to the islands´ fragile ecosystems; also tourism is regulated in the archipelago. Only part of the GMR is accessible for snorkeling and diving, all with a maximum number of visitors per day. Tourists benefit from these regulations since they will always be guided by a professional, local guide and never be bothered by mass tourism during their tours.
The Galapagos Islands continue to be an exclusive destination. However, the last ten years it has become more accessible to visit them. Because nowadays tourists are also able to stay in a hotel on one of the three mayor islands and go on day tours from there, it is no longer a destination only for the elite. Today, this miracle of nature can be enjoyed by the many, thanks to the work of the Galapagos National Park rangers.
Do you want to experience the treasures of the Galapagos Islands yourself?