AdventureSmith Explorations, a small-ship cruise company, is offering six ecological guidelines for a trip to the Galapagos. According to Todd Smith, founder and president of AdventureSmith Explorations, vacationing to the Galapagos is becoming too popular and may harm the “fragile” ecosystems on the islands.
“This could lead to eroding the very ecosystems that support the bird life, flora and fauna that people travel here to experience,” he said.
As a result, Smith seeks to position his company and clients to be a part of the solution, keeping the region’s best ecological interests in mind and not adding to the problem of over saturation. Here are AdventureSmith Explorations’ guidelines on how to do the Galapagos right.
Go by Small Ship (12 to 100 Guests)
AdventureSmith Explorations says small ships are at the heart of a Galapagos Islands vacation because witnessing birds and other wildlife in their island environments is best accessed by small ship. Why? Covering more than 3,000 square miles with 13 major islands, the Galapagos archipelago is larger than some may think, and many visitor sites are only accessible by water. Sleeping aboard a ship each night allows a broader range of exploration as guests don’t have to travel back to a land-based accommodation each evening after day trips by boat.
Stay as Long as Possible
By allowing more time spent in the archipelago, guests are going to encounter the most wildlife possible and see a wider range of islands. Allotting more time to understand the ecological differences among the islands enhances the experience and assists conservation with fewer airline flights in and out.
Air traffic, along with increased cargo shipments, are two of the concerns identified by UNESCO in its 2016 State of Conservation Report on the Galapagos Islands, as these are primary vectors for the arrival of new invasive species. Longer stays also help support the local community with more opportunities for meaningful interaction. Smith recommends at least a seven-night/eight-day cruise.
Make Conservation a Priority
In advance of a Galapagos trip, Smith encourages people to learn about conservation organizations and community needs and to donate time or money to them. AdventureSmith Explorations offers an optional opportunity for its travelers to donate to the Galapagos Traveler Conservation Fund right on booking invoices. Plus, every AdventureSmith traveler in the Galapagos is sailing carbon neutral; AdventureSmith launched its carbon-free cruising campaign in 2005 and pays to offset each of its passengers’ cruise carbon footprint via MyClimate.
Plan Ahead, Do It Right Once
Travel to a place as fragile as the Galapagos should ideally be done once, so make the selection process fun for this once-in-a-lifetime trip. “Shop for the best experience and seek advice from an expert who has traveled to the Galapagos Islands,” Smith said.
Booking early provides more date and ship choices, plus special offers like early-bird discounts. Two deals travelers can take advantage of right now are 10 percent off on Origin Galapagos Cruises for departures from August to December, as well as 2018 rates for 2019 departures aboard Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic Islander or National Geographic Endeavour Galapagos Cruises.
“If you don’t get in the water, you are missing half of the wildlife in Galapagos,” said Smith. “There is no shortage of colorful fish, but encounters with charismatic megafauna, prehistoric-looking marine iguanas and the only penguin that lives north of the equator are what really sets Galapagos snorkeling apart.”
Snorkeling options range from deep-water to beginner-friendly shoreline excursions. Those who really don’t want to snorkel can opt for a ship with a glass-bottom boat.
“Remember You’re in South America”
AdventureSmith advises travelers not to rush the journey and miss out on what else Ecuador or other nearby regions, like the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, Peru, have to offer. Smith cautions against trying to combine Galapagos and Peru in just one week, thereby running out of time to fully explore the two destinations.
Smith said Machu Picchu was the company’s most popular extension, offering many experiences in the Incan site from lodge-to-lodge treks to boutique lodges in the Sacred Valley. In Ecuador, Smith’s crew recommends lodges in the cloud forest, complementary small ship cruises down the Amazon River, or haciendas in the highlands, and more.
Even if pressed for time, guests have to include a stopover. To access the Galapagos Islands some 600 miles west of mainland Ecuador, flying to other destinations is required. “As there are no direct international flights to the archipelago, you must route through either Quito in the Andean foothills or Guayaquil along the coast,” said Smith. AdventureSmith’s Galapagos Cruise Package takes care of the essentials of getting to the Galapagos and lets travelers explore these gateways efficiently with a guide.