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.expeditions.com. 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.
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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