The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT -

Lind­blad-Na­tional Ge­o­graphic of­fers a 10day trip on Na­tional Ge­o­graphic En­deav­our II from $8700 a per­son, twin-share, ex­clud­ing flights; de­par­tures year­round. Most Gala­pa­gos de­par­tures on Na­tional Ge­o­graphic En­deav­our II and Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Is­lan­der un­til De­cem­ber 9 in­clude a com­pli­men­tary flight be­tween Guayaquil, Ecuador, and Gala­pa­gos and a $500 sav­ing. Book by De­cem­ber 31 this year for 2019 de­par­tures at guar­an­teed 2018 prices. More: au.ex­pe­di­ ago is sub­ject to ever-tight­en­ing reg­u­la­tions. “Peo­ple re­mem­ber how it was be­fore,” En­rique tells me wist­fully. “You could go to this beach or to that beach, no prob­lem. Now the na­tional park tells us where to go.”

While En­rique sounds nos­tal­gic for old free­doms, Xi­mena, one of the nat­u­ral­ists on Na­tional Ge­o­graphic En­deav­our II, fully sup­ports reg­u­la­tion. “A driver who killed a land iguana on Bal­tra was fined $US15,000,” she says. “This is the way it should go, so lo­cal peo­ple who don’t un­der­stand the unique­ness of the place start be­ing care­ful.” Xi­mena has seen in­hab­i­tants of Is­abela eat­ing gi­ant tor­toises “in front of ev­ery­body”. Her prin­ci­pal fear, though, is that Ecuador, hit by the oil price slump, is go­ing to fo­cus more on tourism, with Gala­pa­gos as the main sell­ing point. “Sooner or later, es­pe­cially on the in­hab­ited is­lands, the in­cred­i­ble, naive crea­tures are go­ing to be­come ex­tinct,” she reck­ons.

It’s hap­pen­ing al­ready. When the gi­ant tor­toise Lone­some Ge­orge died in 2012, his Pinta Is­land sub­species was pro­nounced ex­tinct. En­rique, mean­while, doesn’t see his long-term fu­ture here. “We have about 40,000 peo­ple on the is­lands now,” he says. “Within a gen­er­a­tion, it’s go­ing to be 100,000. The tourism will in­crease sim­i­larly. You’ll see boats here, boats there. We don’t have the re­sources, the water.” An in­crease in boats will lead in turn to a greater risk of in­tro­duced species and of dis­ease. In Gala­pa­gos, the strug­gle for life goes on.


Left to right from main: pas­sen­gers from Na­tional Ge­o­graphic En­deav­our II travel to Flore­ana Is­land; a Gala­pa­gos gi­ant tor­toise; red­footed boo­bies; Ta­gus Cove on Is­abela Is­land; Gala­pa­gos sea lions

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