|Galápagos Islands Nature tourism and nature conservation |
The Galápagos Islands comprise of circa 60 large and small islands. The largest island, Isabela, spans around 60 percent of the complete surface area. In all probability, the archipelago originated on a stationary, so called Hot Spot, from which volcanic material rose from the earth's mantel. On the Western Islands, Fernandina and Isabela, volcanic activity has ceased to this day.
Unique Flora and Fauna
A special characteristic of the Galápagos Islands which as a result also offers the potential for tourism lies in its unique flora and fauna. During the colonisation of the island, natural selection was largely determined by the survivability of a species. Since the 18th Century when whale and seal hunters frequented the islands, fauna was sharply diminished, not only because of the impact of humans but also because of the introduction of non-native animal and plant species. From an estimated several hundred thousand giant turtles, today only around 15,000 live on the island.
In 1959, the Galápagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation were founded. The national park comprises 92 percent of the island's total surface area. Agriculture is only practiced in elevations above 200 m. In 1978, the national park was declared a world heritage site.
The national park is divided into three protection zones with varying limits placed on usage .
Rate of Tourism
From the very beginning, the symbiosis of conservation and tourism was the founding concept of the national park. Therefore, cruise tourism was accorded much more importance because hotels did not have to be built, and no infrastructure had to be established. Most tourist's visit to the Galápagos islands is combined with other tour packages to Ecuador or Peru, and they only travel around the island for four to five days. Guidance and information for the visitors guides them to the 40 excursion sites via marked trails. A guide accompanies 1015 people at a time through the national park with a guide. Furthermore, on the sand beaches it is possible to go snorkelling or swimming.
The number of visitors to the Galápagos islands has risen from under 10,000 in the 1970s to over 160,000 in 2007. Circa 80 percent of the guests are foreigners. This scenario indicates that if conservation goals keep increasing at the same time as the expectations of tourists, that the observation of animals in their natural ecosystem will no longer be possible.
Additionally, the strong growth in population presents a problem for the island. As the usage of small diesel power plants have until recently presented difficulties (the disaster of the oil tanker, Jessica), in 2007 the first three turbine wind park was put into operation on San Cristóbal.
H. Kiegel; Ü: M. Dahl
Keywords: Ecuador Galápagos Islands
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