Central / South America, Feature Destination

Taking Care of the Galápagos

The Galápagos Islands are home to a wide variety of tropical species, including the Red-footed Booby  | Photo credit: Steven Bedard

In 1978, the Galápagos Islands, a province of Ecuador, were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the City of Quito, Ecuador’s capital. The Galápagos Islands were chosen by UNESCO as a natural World Heritage Site owing mostly to its pristine ecosystem and unique biodiversity.

In 2007, when the Galápagos Islands were added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger, the government and many in the travel and tourism industry in Ecuador increased their efforts to preserve the pristine environment.

A meeting point of three ocean currents, the Islands possess an astounding range of marine life, and its volcanic formation and activity give the islands a striking variety of landscapes. The Galápagos Islands are a very popular tourism destination, and tour operators in the region are extremely sensitive to the environment and protecting this world treasure.

A source of pride for Ecuadorians, the Galápagos Islands’ unusual ecosystem represents a natural purity that must not be destroyed.

Metropolitan Touring, a prominent tour and travel company that operates its own ship-based expeditions in the Galápagos Islands, has taken a very pro-active position in an attempt to be particularly environmentally sensitive and responsible to ensure the region is as protected and guarded as possible – in fact even establishing a foundation to provide for ongoing cleanup efforts coastal maintenance.

One of the sustainability projects at Fundación Galápagos-Ecuador is the coastal cleanup of the islands’ coastlines. Since 1998, Metropolitan Touring has collected some to 55,000 Kg (120,000 pounds) of solid debris. For the past five years, an initiative started by Ocean Conservancy took global proportions, and in a short period of time a local effort turned into a world event. Now, every September, the world gets involved and cleans its coasts. This event is called the International Coastal Cleanup Day.

Metropolitan Touring supports these initiatives which root from its Environmental Policy, and translate into actions, thanks to the work of Fundación Galápagos-Ecuador, and its sustainability partner Fundación Coca Cola-Ecuador. The initiative continues, and in fact, ships owned and operated by Metropolitan Touring became involved and collected solid debris on their regular itineraries. The campaign certainly improves the environmental condition of the islands, and this benefits the community as well as the ecosystems of the National Park and Marine Reserve.

As well, and at a substantial financial cost, Metropolitan Touring even removes debris from the bottom of the ocean; which they call a submarine cleanup. Coastlines are not the only areas that capture rubbish, and in fact, a great deal sinks down to the bottom generating environmental impact.

All efforts in sustainability have a lot of common ground, and this environmental and social vision is, indeed, a summary of integral solutions in a fragile and emblematic place like the Galápagos Islands.

The efforts paid off, and in 2010 the archipelago was removed from the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. That is not to say, however, that the work on the islands is done. The Galápagos National Park works hard to continue preserving the unique biodiversity that merits the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ecuador has also received two more World Heritage Site inscriptions: Sangay National Park and the Historic Center of Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca have been added UNESCOS’s list of World Heritage Sites.

Metropolitan Touring, founded in 1953 and located in Ecuador, is a leading Travel and Tour Corporation in South America, with ground-handling operations in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Brazil Argentina and Columbia. The company owns and operates a fleet of ships (M/V Santa Cruz, Yacht Isabela II and Yacht La Pinta) for passenger expedition cruises in the Galápagos Islands.

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