Big news out of the Galapagos Islands:
The Park Service and other regulatory institutions have approved a proposed 15-day/2 week itinerary for cruise ships.
Taking effect in 2012, the change is designed to protect fragile Galapagos ecosystems by spreading out the island visitors to different sites.
Any measure taken to protect the Galapagos environment can only benefit the islands in the long run.
How It Works Now
Currently, most of the ships have a one-week cycle of visits with a break mid-week for passenger exchange.
Passengers may book a 4 day/3 night or 5 day/4 night cruise, or an 8 day/7 night cruise which is a combination of the first two.
This traditional itinerary had the advantages of allowing those who had booked a full week to see most of Galapagos.
How the New Itinerary Will Work
The New Itinerary will be a two-week cycle rather than one.
Travelers who want to experience the entire archipelago can book the whole 2 week cruise and not see the same place twice, while the cruises may divide the cycle into two or three chunks for those who do not want the full two week schedule.
Advantages of the New Itinerary
The new itinerary will bring several advantages for the Galapagos as well as travelers. Here are some of the more important ones:
- It’s Better for the Islands: This is the foremost concern of everyone involved. In the past few decades, visitor traffic has increased dramatically, and every year thousands of visitors trample through delicate ecosystems at a handful of designated visitor sites. Doubling the length of the itinerary essentially cuts the number of visitors to each site in half.
- It’s Better for the Marine Ecosystem, Too: On a longer cycle, ships will have more time to get from one place to another, and will spend more time on each island. This means that they will spend much less time chugging around Galapagos, polluting the marine environment and using gasoline.
- A Boon for Smaller Ships: Some smaller ships do not cruise as fast as larger ones, and this excludes them from certain sites which are considered remote. The new itinerary will allow all Galapagos ships access to all visitor sites.
- More Traveler Options: With a longer cycle, ships will see more islands that were not featured before. Visitors will be able to select from a variety of cruise options within the two week tour cycle to pick out the itinerary that best suits them.
- Better Cruise Lengths: One of the most frequent visitor complaints about the traditional itinerary has been that it is too long or too short. Four days is not nearly long enough in Galapagos, but eight is sometimes too much. The new itineraries will likely be cut into thirds, allowing for manageable five or six day trips.
- More Visitor Sites: The Park Service may be forced to identify and develop more visitor sites in order to fill the longer itineraries. This is good news for those who like to see animals, because it will provide more opportunities. For example, Red-Footed Boobies are common on most Galapagos Islands, but only visible at one or two visitor sites. Additional sites may have more chances to see this sort of animal.
Look for the new itinerary to be phased in beginning later this year and throughout the next couple of years as cruises finish existing obligations before switching over.