"Watch your step!" our guide, Lorenzo Banchana, calls out, and the warning gets passed chain-style to each member of our small group. I soon understand the caution: A booby nest is set precariously just inches off the marked trail.
Trekking in the Galápagos Islands
is a practice in mindfulness. You need to stay hyperalert to each pace, lest your foot land on a bird egg or a black lava rock that turns out to be a marine iguana basking in the sun. It’s a delicate balance with being giddy as a schoolgirl as I watch sea lion pups dart around in the gentle surf or a male frigatebird puff out his crimson gular pouch and wrap his wing around his mate while another male dives in and out, vying for her attention.
As sustainable tourism takes root in our global consciousness, it’s only fitting that these remote islands that transformed how we see the world following Charles Darwin’s famous visit in 1835 are now leading this modern evolution.
Galápagos National Park
’s Ministry of Tourism have set strict rules for visitors, making the archipelago one of the world’s most highly protected wildlife areas and a model for low-impact tourism. Stringent limits are placed on the number of cruise-ship travelers (around 75,000 per year), the size of each tour group (16 or fewer visitors per guide), and the number of people exploring any one place at a time. Authorities also highly regulate what comes into the park, spraying the interior of every plane for pests and diligently scanning luggage for plastic bags and invasive species.
A number of local and international organizations further protect the UNESCO World Heritage site by conducting scientific research, supporting conservation efforts, and even reintroducing species to islands where they were previously erased. In early 2019, for example, the Galápagos National Park authority gathered more than 1,400 land iguanas from North Seymour Island and released them on nearby Santiago Island, where they had been wiped out by feral pigs. An earlier Galapagos Conservancy project had eradicated the last feral pigs from Santiago in 2000.