Galapagos National Park, Protected Areas, Tourist Attractions

The Galapagos National Park is one of the greatest natural treasures in the world. Virtually untouched for eons, this small archipelago is rich in natural flora and fauna. The some 1 714 000 acres of land (693 700 ha) that now make up the Galapagos National Park were first set aside for this purpose in 1959, but it took thirteen years of planning and development before the first park superintendent arrived to safeguard the area. The National Park is made up of 13 large islands, 17 small island and 40 rocks. All in all the park covers some 90% of the entire land surface area in this ocean region. Despite this there are only 54 different sites that are open to tourists. The Galapagos Marine Reserve is closely associated with the park and works hard at carefully preserving the amazing marine life that is visible through the brilliant blue waters that surround the islands.

The park is carefully monitored and managed and preserved through the joint efforts of the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station. Together these organizations have put certain park rules and regulations into place that serve to protect the area and its many delicate resources. One such rule is that a park certified guide accompanies each and every visitor to the area. These guides not only educate the various visitors, but help to enforce laws and protect the park environment. The park also approves the itineraries of all boats wishing to visit the island and in doing so they ensure that tourism is evenly distributed instead of being concentrated in one area, which might prove harmful to the environment. While many of these sights feature the many of the same things, each one has something that makes it unique. The Galapagos National Park is well known for its abundant wildlife and the opportunity of interacting with the wildlife on the islands. Iguanas, hawks, albatrosses and blue footed boobies are just some examples of the life you will find on the islands, while snorkeling adventures will have you meeting sea lions and giant tortoises.

For most foreigners the most unfortunate part of the visit is the payment of the park entrance fee. While this is usually not too expensive for locals, it can be quite high for visitors. Moreover, the money is collected for use by the Ecuadorian Government instead of by the park. The fee can be paid on arrival at the small Galapagos airport or it can be paid in advance by your tour operator. A remit, which grants access to the park, is given in return for this payment, so it is essential for a trip to the islands. The best way to travel around the islands is by yacht, though visitors might want to keep in mind that there is accommodation on the islands of Santa Cruz, Isabela, Floreana and San Cristobal. If you plan on spending more than one day at the reserve or need access to phones, faxes and computers, it is highly recommended that you stay on one of these islands between trips to the various islands. The beautiful turquoise blue waters of the sea and the crystal white beaches with their grass green jungle and beautiful mangrove lagoons should be the highlight of any trip to Ecuador. Make sure that you don’t miss this fantastic piece of paradise.

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