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National Park Rules

The Galapagos Islands are one of the few places in the world that remain relatively untouched by human exploitation. The preservation of the environment is everybody’s responsibility. You can help, by following some simple rules which will help to maintain the archipelago’s fragile ecosystem intact. The future depends on you.

  • Be careful not to transport any live material to the islands, or from island to island (insects, seeds, soil) . You are not allowed to bring pets to the islands.
  • No plants, rocks, animals or their remains, such as bones, pieces of wood, coral, shells, or other natural objects should be removed or disturbed. Yo may damage the islands ecological conditions.
  • Animal should no be touched or handled. A sea lion pup will be abandoned by its mother, for example, is she smells the scent of a human on her young. The same applies to chicks of birds.
  • Animals may not be fed. It may alter their life cycle, their social structure an affect their reproduction.
  • Do not disturb or pursue any animal from its resting or nesting spot. This is especially true for birds such as boobies, cormorants, gulls and frigates. The nests should be approached carefully, keeping a distance or at least 1 o 2 mts. If disturbed, the bird will flee and abandon its egg or chick, which could be predated or die under the strong sun within a few minutes.
  • All groups that visit the national park must be accompanied by a qualified guide approved by the national park. The visitor must follow the trails, marked with small black-and-white posts, and never leave it. If you do so, you may destroy nests without being conscious of it (marine iguanas nest in the sand).
  • Follow the guide, stay with him/her for information or advice. He or she is responsible for you. If the guide behave badly or does not follow the rules himself, report him or her to the National Park.
  • Litter of all types must be kept off the islands. Disposal at sea must be limited to certain types of garbage, only to be thrown overboard in selected areas. Keep all rubbish: film wrappers, cigarette butts, chewing gum, tin cans, bottles, etc. in a bag or pocket, to be disposed of on your boat. Do not throw anything on the islands or overboard. It could end up at the coast or the beach, or be eaten by sea turtles or sea lions. A sea lion may play with a tin can found on the bottom and cut its sensitive muzzle. Sea turtles may die from swallowing a plastic bag.
  • Do not paint names or graffiti on rocks. It is against the law, and you will be fined for it.
  • Do not buy souvenirs or objects made from plants or animals of the islands (with the exception for articles made from wood). Among such article are turtle shells, sea lion teeth, and black coral. This is the best way to discourage such a trade.
  • To camp, you need a permit from the national Park Service (Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela). Do not make fires, but use a gas stove instead
  • Do not hesitate to show your conservationist attitude. Explain these rules to others, and help to enforce them.


Found at the confluence of warm and cold surface currents and deep cold upwelling waters, the waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands are home to a fascinating ecological system. These waters were unprotected until recently and became vulnerable to the pressures of increased human presence, fishing and tourism.

Marine life in the Galapagos waters is closely related to the life on the islands. Island animals depend on the ocean. Birds and animals existing near the water has a variety of distinctive habitats and endemic species including the world's only sea-going lizard, the marine iguana. Other notable wildlife includes the sea lion, fur seal, Galapagos Penguin, flightless cormorant, waved albatross, lava gull and swallow-tailed gull.

The waters surrounding the Galapagos are home to 3000 species of marine plants and animals. Diving in the Galapagos is quickly expanding; divers seek the experience of spectacular marine life including Whale Sharks, Galapagos Sharks, hammerheads, manta rays and leopard rays.

In the past few years fishing in the Galapagos has boomed. Fishermen come with lines and nets hunting for tuna. Divers seek lobsters and sea cucumbers. During the 1990's fishing for sea cucumber to supply the Asian market greatly depleted that resource. Now even though illegal the fishing continues. Another lucrative and controversial practice is fishing for shark fins. These fishermen hunt the sharks merely for their fins, leaving the rest of the animal. This depletes the area of this important predator and the attraction of divers.

In 1992 a management plan was created for the Galapagos Marine Reserve, but due to lack of organization and involvement it went basically ignored. In 1997 renewed effort have brought about dramatic changes to the preserving the marine environment. All of the local sectors (fishing, tourism and conservation) have been brought together to negotiate protecting these resources. Finally in 1998 The Galapagos Marine Reserve was created. Designed to protect the waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands and the resources they contain.


* The incorporation of the Marine Reserve into the national system of protected areas
* The Marine Reserve area is increased from 15 - 40 miles (24-64 km) from the base line
* The Galapagos National Park Service is established as the authority in charge of administration, management and control of the marine reserve, as well as coordinating control with the fisheries ministry and the navy.
* Establishing a multi-sector management board consisting of the Galapagos National Park Service and the users of the Galapagos Marine Reserve.


Whether you charter a boat or bring your own, all visitors to the Galapagos National Park are required to travel with a certified guide. These naturalist guides are trained in conservation and natural sciences by the Charles Darwin Foundation and licensed by the Galapagos National Park Service. The guides work as the first line of defense protecting the park's natural resources through education. They accompany visitors ashore interpreting the natural wonders of the islands while enforcing the park rules and regulations.

The guides have become the eyes and ears of both national park and Darwin Station. They are out everyday in every area of the archipelago the guides are among the first to observe fires, eruptions, and introduced animals. Naturalist guides have also been responsible for identifying iguanas and tortoises in areas where they were thought to be extinct.

Traditional top-level guides held a class III license. These held a university degree in the natural sciences, were fluent in English, trained at the Darwin Station and certified. Most of the luxury boats and first class boats offer class III guides where as moderate and budget boats offer a new generation of bilingual national class I and class II guide who have received training at the national park by the Charles Darwin Research Station yet may or may not have a university degree and do not have the same degree of experience as the level III guides.

Special interest trips including photography and birding often have a tour leader accompanying the guide. Tour leaders are not necessarily trained at the Darwin Station nor holders of an appropriate license. Instead they are experts in the field and have come to the Galapagos to hold a seminar or seminars on their subject of expertise.

Trips featuring dive itineraries have dive guides. These guides hold both a naturalist guide license and a separate dive license. Many of the boats that take diving seriously will have a dive leader on board as well. This person may not have the naturalist guide license, but often has had much more experience running dive trips abroad, often in the Caribbean.


What to take: Cameras… Galapagos is one of the very best places in the world to photograph not only wildlife but also plants, landscapes and lava patterns. For many people this could well be a once in a lifetime visit, so it’s worth making the effort to obtain as good a photographic record as possible. The choice of cameras available today is vast.

  • It should always be remembered that the welfare of the welfare of the subject is more important than the photograph.
  • Do not go too close.
  • Do not leave the trail.
  • Do not use flash if it might disturb the subject.
  • Do not make lots of noise.
  • Do not discard any form of litter.
  • Do not smoke on the islands.
  • Take only pictures leave only memories.

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