Hey beautiful souls, I hope you are having a wonderful day wherever
you are in the world. For my first ever post on the Lunamar blog, I wanted to
share with you a reflection that I had while visiting one of the most incredible
places in the world, the Galapagos Islands.
While I enjoyed my visit to the Galapagos Islands last January, I
couldn’t help but reflect about another side of Galapagos that the tourism
industry has unleashed. This other side of Galapagos that I am referring to is
the darker side of Ecuador’s crown jewel, the negative impact of tourism on
the islands. As a traveler staying on the islands for a week, I began to think
about how much we have contaminated one of the most important
ecosystems in the world. I am not saying that tourism is bad, because it is
good to have people visit and discover new places and different cultures.
However, just like everything else in the world, an excessive amount of
something will only do more harm than good. Tourism is no exception.
Arriving at the immigration desks of Seymour Airport on Baltra Island, I
paid the fees and received a brochure, which gave me an explanation of how
to become a “responsible tourist” during my stay in the archipelago. Just by
reading this brochure, I was aware that environmental state of the islands was
a priority to the people. However, how much of that was a priority for the
tourists coming in from different parts of the world? Also, how much of that is
a priority for locals who own businesses and gain their living from the tourism
During one of the tours I took, I was quite impressed by how everything
was organized. Our guide used to work as a local fisherman and was very
knowledgeable about the wildlife in Galapagos. However, my views about the
trip and the tour in general started to change when we had a snorkeling
activity to look at sea turtles. While I was excited about swimming with sea
turtles, I knew I didn’t want to swim too close because that would mean
invading their space. Sometimes I couldn’t help it because of the sea current,
but I tried as best as I could to stay away and not come in contact with them.
Unfortunately, not all of my fellow travelers shared my ideals. One of the
travelers that I was with decided to swim closer and touched the sea turtle. I
know this seems harmless and people might think I am overreacting, but this
is actually a big deal. Touching the animals and making physical contact with
them was actually prohibited, because as human beings, we also carry
bacteria and animals might react to it differently. It’s bad enough that a
number of people, including myself, were surrounding these sea creatures.
Again, tourism is not always bad, but if we are to take part of tourism, we
should at least be aware of these issues and explore these terrains
I remembered talking to my guides when I was taking a tour at the
turtle sanctuary and I asked him why there were so many flies in Galapagos.
My guide explained to me that the flies in Galapagos are not native to the
islands. Flies, like other non-native animal in Galapagos, were brought to the
islands by men from the colonial period. It seems that we have been bringing
so much change to the archipelago since centuries ago, thus the more reason
to be conscious and responsible when it comes to our actions today.
Once again, I am not writing this reflection to say that tourism is bad
and should be stopped. I love traveling and I love to see new parts of world.
However, I think it is our responsibility to be aware of our actions as tourist
and how it will impact the places that we visit. Let’s make sure that we leave
the Galapagos—and all other wonderful sites—preserved, so that future
generations can witness them too.
What do you think of the impacts of tourism? Should we be visiting
these places at all? Do you think responsible tourism is the solution to solving
these issues? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!
By Beth Sudibyo