Galapagos News

Emergency Evacuation Insurance for All

Starting in 2022, all guests travelling with CNH Tours will be automatically covered by a US$200,000 medical evacuation insurance.   The insurance will be included in the price of your trip.  

While very rarely required, medical evacuation coverage can come in handy when a guest requires medical attention not accessible where he/she may be at a given time.   The emergency may be due to an accident or to sudden medical problem.  

As our trips take our guests to remote destinations, medical evacuation could include ambulance / helicopter / flight costs, taking a guest from a remote island to the nearest hospital equipped to deal with the emergency - and then home if warranted. 

 

You won't find snow in Galapagos - but starting in 2023, CNH Tours is offering trips to Antarctica.

 

 

When is a Species not a Species?

Superficially, it's an easy question. Lions, horses, hammerhead sharks, giant tortoises, pine trees are different species.
But what REALLY divides one species from another?

In Galapagos, the giant tortoises living on different islands have at times been considered one species, and at other times, 13 (or so) different species.  

In that change of status lies the crux of the matter. Who decides? On what basis? Read the article that appeared in The Economist last week to learn more - and be prepared to ask tough questions of your naturalist guide in Galapagos.  

To read the article, click here.  

Vaccine AND PCR test required for Galapagos Entry 1st Sept

Due to the detection of three Delta variant cases in Galapagos recently, national authorities are imposing stricter health measures for entry into Galapagos, starting 1st September. 

ADULTS OVER 16 YEARS OF AGE:

- Proof of full vaccination, with the last shot taken no less than 14 days prior to arrival in Galapagos

- Proof of negative PCR test, taken no longer than 72 hours prior to arrival in Galapagos

CHILDREN 2-16 YEARS OF AGE:

- Proof of negative PCR test, taken no longer than 72 hours prior to arrival in Galapagos

Children under 2 years of age are exempt from any measures.

IMPLICATIONS:

For many, it will be difficult to arrange for a negative PCR test at home, prior to international travel, and to time it so that it meets the maximum 72 hour limit on arrival in Galapagos.  Should that apply to you, it will be necessary to plan for some time on the continent, with a PCR test being administered as soon as possible on your arrival.   

The system for getting tested on the continent is well-oiled.  They need to be done through certified labs.  Tests can be booked in advance, and results take about 24 hours.   Lab technicians can often come to your hotel room for the testing.  

Contact for more guidance on this matter. 

 

 

 

 

Ecuador considers debt swap for expanded Galapagos marine reserve

(this is an edited version of the Google Translated article that appeared in the "La Republica" newspaper on 20 August)

Editor's preamble:  "Debt for nature" swaps are not uncommon.  International holders of a national government's debt may agree to more lenient terms in exchange for social / environmental investments in that country.  Under the terms of such agreements, some or all of the cash-flow thus liberated can be committed to achieving social/environmental objectives. 

 

Ecuador is analyzing an environmental debt swap to create a new reserve around the Galapagos archipelago that will expand the limits to fishing through a negotiation between all the parties involved, the Minister of the Environment, Water and Ecological Transition, Gustavo Manrique.

"Without a doubt, we are considering evaluating a debt swap for the creation of a new reserve," said the head of the environmental portfolio, recognizing that, "indeed, there is a proposal for a very important amount."

The current Galapagos Marine Reserve is the center of an initiative that puts at odds the Ecuadorian fishing sector and conservationists, who have proposed a sovereign debt swap of one billion dollars in exchange for expanding the current protected area around the archipelago by 312,000 square kilometers .

The proposal, which was presented to the previous government of Lenín Moreno and is currently being negotiated by that of Guillermo Lasso, had the initial intention of expanding the protected area from the current 133,000 to 445,000 square kilometers.

"When the current Government assumed the Administration a few months ago, there were two positions: one was 450,000 square kilometers of marine reserve of the conservationists, and that of fisheries and industrialists was zero," said Manrique, an agronomist and former president of the Latin America Green Awards at the Foundation of the same name.

But as the new administration approaches its 90 days in office, Manrique explains that the new president has managed to bring positions closer together.

«We are in a situation where the conservationists are proposing a hundred thousand kilometers and the fishing industry that doesn’t oppose an agreement to protect the Galapagos marine corridor – which extends from Galapagos to Coiba Island (Panama) Cocos Island (Costa Rica) and Malpelo Island (Colombia) », Manrique specified.

The Eastern Tropical Pacific (CMAR) Marine Corridor which forms a migratory route for species that are not targeted by fishing, such as sharks, sea lions, turtles and whales. [ed. Note:  I was involved in the early stages of establishing this corridor when I worked at UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre],

Debt-for-nature swap

Ecuador closed 2020 with a public debt of 63,163 million dollars, which then represented 65.3% of GDP, according to data from the Ministry of Finance.

The environmental project promotes a “debt for nature” swap and is based on the purchase of 2030 debt bonds from Ecuador with an approximate 40% discount on amortization, which would guarantee the supervision of the expanded maritime area, according to the proposal put forward by a coalition of NGOs, including the local Más Galapagos.

 

This includes resources for the Ecuadorian Navy to patrol and control an eventual expanded protected area.

Manrique appreciated that more than being a swap, it would be a “swap” or financial exchange agreement on the international debt acquired by Ecuador, and that conversations are being developed in that line so that, for example, “the amortization term is doubled and thus releases more cash flow to the state ».

On the other hand, the bondholders of this type of green investments have assured the Government that a proportion equivalent to around 30% of the debt will be exempt from interest within the framework of a financial solution that starts with the creation of a trust in exchange for the protection of the reserve.

The Environment minister stated that the creation of the new marine reserve has an impact on conservation, but also on the social and economic side and implies a millionaire investment for the Ecuadorian State: «It is a new child and you have to have the resources to carry it forward ».

But at the same time he expressed his optimism regarding conversations "in which we already agree that we have to expand" and in which it is analyzed "how much, how and what fishing gear" will be banned.

Seasickness in Galapagos: Stay off Day Trip Boats and Stick to Cruise Ships

Quite a number of our prospective guests express some concern over how being seasick might not let them enjoy an expedition cruise in Galapagos.   They will relate stories of having felt queasy, or worse, having been ill while on a boat at one point in their lives.   

In response, we usually show them the statistics we gather from our returning guests.  One question we ask is:  “Please rate the extent to which motion sickness prevented you from enjoying your trip”, with a 1 = not in the least and a 5 = I wanted to get off the ship as soon as possible.

91.4% of our guests rated seasickness as not having affected their enjoyment of the trip at all, or having been a minor inconvenience, with another 6 % indicating that it had been an issue, but not terribly so.  No one rated seasickness as having been so bad that they just wanted to get off the ship.   Only 2.6% indicated that it had been a significant issue.    

Over concerns of getting seasick, quite a few people ask us if taking a land-based trip might be better option for them.   What many people don’t understand is that day trips in Galapagos involve quite a bit of moving about on smaller speedboats.  Galapagos is, after an, an archipelago and getting to various visitor sites does require moving around in boats. 

Yesterday, on the TripAdvisor Galapagos forum, someone (user name:  mrc282, from Washington D.C.) who had just spent a few weeks in Galapagos shared his impressions on various aspects of his trip.  He included a note on seasickness, and how it had affected him both on a small ship expedition cruise and on speedboats taking him to day trip destinations.  It's important to note that seas tend to be choppier from about July to November, and tend to be at their calmest from January to May (though you can get calm seas / choppy seas any time of year - there are never any storms in Galapagos).

Here are his words: 

 Re: Logistics: Galapagos Cruise vs Land Tours

Aug 16, 2021, 1:02 AM

  1. Seasickness

I can proclaim myself an expert in this, considering the number of years I spent throwing up on boats before discovering the magic potion called scopolamine patch. I would classify my seasickness as rather severe. While I don't get carsick or airsick, I am someone who is very sensitive to motions and can't tolerate watching a 3D movie or playing most FPS games for more than 10 minutes before feeling nauseous.

So this is what I experienced in August 2021

- The passage to far flung islands like Genovesa, Floreana and Espanola are rough. At times, the waves are high enough to hit the second upper deck of the boat. I took both sco patch and meclizine pills to survive through them. I am absolutely sure that without sco patch I would be bedridden.

- The passage through Western Isabela and Fernandina are calm in comparison. I believe it is because most of the time we are sailing close to the shore and also it is not really an "open sea" for the most part. And also, I suspect, by then I am slightly accustomed to being on the boat, and actually was off my meds though I remain vigilant at all times at the slightest hint of sickness.

- The 360 day trip around San Cristobal island on a fishing boat was rough. A few people threw up within the first 45 minutes of trip despite taking motion sickness pill beforehand. One completely passed out for the rest of the day, while another lost it and puked on the passenger across from him (fortunately it was a family member) and continued vomiting from time to time throughout the day. And that's when I knew I am absolutely not taking the inter-island ferry to Santa Cruz. I really dislike being on a boat where it continuously chop on the waves - it is like being on a never ending rollercoaster. And I certainly have no desire in smelling vomits for hours... As someone who has vomited before and been vomited on in a boat, I would kindly suggest people to please be considerate and prepare a barf bag regardless of whether you think you will get sick or not when you get on one of these boats. Nobody appreciated being vomited on by a stranger, more so in sensitive covid times.

Olympic Gold to Ecuador for men's cycling

Eighteen year old Richard Carapaz took the gold today in the Olympic men's road race.  With that accomplishment, Carapaz brings the first ever Olympic gold medal to Ecuador. 

The young man had recently finished the Tour de France, coming in third there, while having come in first in the 2019 Gira d'Italia.  

At CNH Tours, we've seen the jubilant and boisterous celebrations that follow national victories in sports.  We fully anticipate that Galapagos cyclists, and many other Galapagueños will be out in full force in the streets today, shouting "CA-RA-PAZ!" and "E-CUA-DOR!".  

In Galapagos, there has been a growing "cyclism" movement.   As most people live within 2-3km from just about all they need, most destinations are within a 4-5 minute bike ride.  Recently, public funds were made available to put in several kilometres of dedicated bicycle paths both in town and on the road to the highlands.  The very clement climate, the relatively flat land on which the town is built, and the desire to reduce noise and pollution from vehicles provide for a good rationale for that kind of investment. 

 

 

United Nations to Ecuador: “Stop Runaway Tourism in Galapagos”

While it may be counterintuitive during these COVID-19 times, the intergovernmental World Heritage (WH) Committee, operating under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), admonished the government of Ecuador today.  It expressed its “utmost concern” to Ecuador for not having followed through on an earlier commitment to promote a “zero-growth” tourism policy for Galapagos, to address runaway tourism numbers there.

To be clear, the decision is based on trends before the pandemic struck and assumes that, post-pandemic, they are likely going to resume.  

The State of Conservation Report[1] produced by the WH Committee’s technical advisors (IUCN), explains:

“The continued growth of tourism to the property is a significant concern, with an approximate 25% increase reported in tourism between 2016 and 2018 and a substantial increase in commercial flights in 2017-2018. The [government of Ecuador], in its previous report, committed to adopt measures that promote a zero growth model for tourism, as recommended by the 2017 [state of conservation monitoring] mission. In view of this, it is also recommended that the [World Heritage] Committee request the [government of Ecuador] to develop and implement a clear action plan with urgent measures to limit the number of tourists and flights to the property to achieve the zero growth model in line with its commitment.”

In response to this report, the WH Committee responded to the government of Ecuador as follows:   

“[the World Heritage Committee notes with serious concern] the continued growth of tourism and commercial flights to [Galapagos], despite the commitment made by the [government of Ecuador] to promote a zero growth model for tourism, reiterates its requests to the [government of Ecuador] to develop and implement a clear tourism strategy that ensures that suitable measures are sustained in the long term as permanent regulations, with a clear action plan with urgent measures to achieve the zero growth model, including maintaining the moratorium on construction of new tourism projects and the limits on the number of flights, and to submit this strategy and action plan to the World Heritage Centre for review.”

The WH Committee went on to request the government of Ecuador to report back by 1 December 2022 on measures it will have take to address this issue.

As a former employee of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, as a former employee of the Charles Darwin Research Station, and as the owner of a Galapagos tourism business, I have been well-placed to observe the very rapid growth in Galapagos tourism over the years, particularly since 2000 and  I have regularly shared my concerns over this growth with my former colleagues at UNESCO and with the WH Convention’s technical advisor, IUCN.   

SHIP VS LAND BASED TOURISM:  NOT THE SAME

In raising concerns over runaway tourism growth, it is critical to make a distinction between ship-based and land-based visitors.    Tourism in Galapagos started in the 1960’s and was exclusively ship-based.   Over the next 25 years, ship-based tourism grew very quickly at it became obvious to all concerned that if no limits were imposed, not only the quality of the visitor experience, but the long term conservation of the archipelago’s biodiversity would be put at risk.   For this reason, the government of Ecuador placed a firm cap on the size of the expedition cruise ship fleet.  As a result, in what is considered a success story for sustainable tourism, the fleet’s capacity has not increased for nearly 25 years and ship-based tourism in Galapagos has plateaued at about 70,000 – 75,000 people / year.  Ships based tourist have access to many visitor sites not accessible to land-based tourists.  Ship schedules are finely coordinated to ensure that sites remain very lightly visited overall.  As a result, the overall Galapagos visitor experience continues to be among the best on the planet.  

Meanwhile, starting in the year 2000, land-based tourism numbers started to explode going from fewer than 5,000 / year to over 200,000 / year in less than 20 years – with no end in sight.  Projecting growth number using pre-pandemic trends had the number of land-based visitors surpass 1,000,000 by 2040.

Based on the these numbers, it is clear that those who visit Galapagos by ship are not part of the tourism growth problem.  

CNH Tours agrees with the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on this matter.  The rationale for having imposed strict limits to the expedition cruise ship fleet is sound and should be applied to land-based tourism as well.  

 

[1] Available at page 305 here: https://whc.unesco.org/archive/2021/whc21-44com-7B-en.pdf

"We were swimming in the middle of a fish ball"

Here's another in our (very occasional) series on candid notes we receive from guests recently having disembarked from their Galapagos cruise.   Cheryl McNerney, her husband and their 2 adult sons were on the 14 passenger Samba last week.   She wrote us this note:

Heather,

Mark and I just wanted to thank you again for all of your help setting up our Galapagos and Amazon Vacation.  I cc’d Jimmy [editor: Jimmy was the naturalist guide on the Samba] on this, because he was a large part of why our family had such an amazing time.

From the moment we landed in Guayaquil, everything went perfectly.  The folks in Guayaquil were so accommodating and we had so much fun exploring the area along the river.  We had several amazing dinners at local restaurants and were happy to feel so safe there.

Quito was also a great place to see.  We climbed the towers of the Basilica and walked many many miles exploring the city and several nearby little towns.  I would not worry at at all about tourists going there.  There was a large police presence and they were so friendly and helpful to us with directions.  The food there was also extraordinary and it was the cleanest big city we have visited.  We especially had fun exploring some of the small handicraft markets.

The Galapagos portion exceeded our expectations in every way.  The Samba family was wonderful and we felt like part of the team from the minute we walked on board.  Our guide Jimmy was the best guide we have ever had.  His energy, enthusiasm and knowledge about the Galapagos made him an exceptional guide.  We were up before dawn every day and were able to photograph the amazing wildlife in the best light of the day.  The snorkeling can only be described as the most fantastic we have ever seen.  We felt like we were swimming in the middle of a fish ball with turtles, rays, sharks and sea lions on the perimeter.  Everyday we would see something unique and Jimmy’s adventurous spirit kept us following him to find more and more beautiful creatures.    Our kids have also snorkeled in many places and both remarked that it was the most amazing snorkeling and free diving they had ever done.  Did I mention we saw Hammerhead sharks four times!  

Jeffrey is going to be sending you the videos Jimmy took of our trip, as well as some footage from the trip before us.  He will be putting them on a Google drive.  Once I have some time if you like I can send you a few of my still pictures.  Mark and I took around twenty one thousand pictures, so it will take me a bit to get through them.

Thank you also for switching us to the Napo Wildlife Center.  What a great location with an amazing group of people.  We had a fantastic time there and absolutely loved the room, food, scenery and of course the people.  We were fortunate to see numerous birds, monkeys, caimans, bugs, etc....  such an interesting place to visit and we are so thankful that you recommended it.

With many many thanks for all of your hard work and love for the Galapagos!  Thank you for making our trip so special.  If there is anything we can do for you and CNH tours, please do not hesitate to ask.

Best wishes to you and your staff,

Cheryl and Mark McNerney

Washington, USA

Introducing the Ocean Safari on the 16 Passenger "Integrity"

BOOKINGS NOW OPEN

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO BOOK YOUR SPOT, CLICK HERE.

After a careful review of several 12-20 passenger luxury ships in Galapagos, taking into consideration their itineraries, their ownerships, on-board "feel", value-for-money, we've chosen to team up with the 16 passenger INTEGRITY for our Ocean Safari trips.   

Designed for adventurous, inquisitive and reasonably fit travellers who want to experience the absolute most out of their limited time in Galapagos, guests on our Ocean Safari trip will be happy to spend their down time on board our very comfortable ship, to debrief, decompress and relax after their day's many adventures, both above and below the sea. 

We will be operating 4 departures (10 days / 9 nights) in 2023:  

February 2-11   /   April 13-22 /  June 29 - July 8  /  July 13-22  


Price is US$8,995 / person, double occupancy and includes:  

  • 2 nights at a boutique Quito hotel pre-cruise (breakfast)
  • Quito World Heritage City private tour (lunch)
  • Domestic flight to Galapagos (return)
  • 7 nights aboard the Integrity (meals, snorkeling gear, wine/beer and more)
  • 2 top quality naturalist guides 
  • Carbon emissions offset

Above:  The Integrity - a very comfortable 16 passenger ship. Owned and operated by a long time Galapagos family. 

 

WHY DID WE CHOOSE THE INTEGRITY?

The Integrity scores very high on all criteria mentioned above - specifically:

ITINERARY:  The Integrity follows a very logically planned 7 night / 8 day uninterrupted course, ensuring you experience a maximum number of visitor sites for a minimum amount of navigation and disturbance.  There is no back-tracking, allowing the ship to follow a more relaxed agenda, to linger at visitor sites, and to veer off course to sail alongside a mega-pod of dolphins, or simply to cut the engines at sea and observe a group of orcas feeding nearby.  

Above:  The "Born of Fire" itinerary. Well-designed, no needless backtracking. 

 

OWNERSHIP:  The Integrity is wholly owned and fully managed and operated by the 2nd and 3rd generations of a Galapagos family, having immigrated from Germany nearly 75 years ago.  Being on site, they lead the day to day operation and maintenance of the ship, ensuring that work is carried out to perfection.  Their's is a labour of love - no corners are cut.  It's for good reason they decided to give the ship the name INTEGRITY.

ON-BOARD FEEL:  Looking at the new luxury ship additions to the Galapagos fleet, one could be excused for thinking that these were designed to cruise around in Miami waters. Stainless steel, designer furniture, pastel colours, plenty of fiberglass - all combine to inadvertently transport guests to a place far removed from Galapagos.  The Integrity's design focuses on tranquility and simplicity, resulting in an understated elegance that exudes peace and a zen atmosphere - all the better for nurturing the mind-trip that should be part of any Galapagos experience.  

Above: The lounge with the dining area in the background.  Large windows, generous use of hand-crafted tropical cedar fixtures, resulting in a warm, bright and calm atmosphere.

Above:  A standard cabin on board.  Spacious, with large windows.  Warm and inviting.  

VALUE-FOR-MONEY:   Many luxury ships are managed and/or owned by third parties and/or are under sales contracts with high end marketing partners. The usual global cruise brands operate the highest priced luxury ships in Galapagos.  These factors contribute to inflating the price of a trip on these ships, without any perceived benefit while on board.   The Integrity's owners have chosen to run a modest business operation, keeping overhead costs down, making it one of the smartest "value-for-money" luxury ships in Galapagos.  

 

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO BOOK YOUR SPOT, CLICK HERE.
  

 

CNH Tours launches a new signature trip to complement its very successful "Active Galapagos" on the 14 passenger Samba. The "Ocean Safari", on the luxury 16 passenger Integrity, will begin operating in 2023. We are accepting expressions of interest now.

From 1 July: Proof of Vaccination OK for Galapagos Entry

Following on our news item dated 3 June, tonight, the Emergency Operations Committee requested the Ministries of Public Health, of Foreign Affairs and of Migration to standardize entry requirements for both Galapagos and mainland Ecuador. 

As of 1 July, proof of full vaccination completed at leas 14 days prior to arrival will be acceptable for entry into Galapagos. 

While a negative PCR test will also be acceptable, the timeframe has been shortened from 96 to 72 hours.  This will make it nearly impossible to time a PCR test back home and make it into Galapagos within that time frame. 

The requirement for a "salvoconducto" (safe passage) will also be dropped on 1 July.   

Under the Microscope: International Community to Evaluate Galapagos Conservation

All World Heritage (WH) sites are subjected to international scrutiny, ensuring that the commitment to conserve the values for which they were allowed onto the World Heritage List is upheld.

The UNESCO WH Convention came into force in 1976 – it’s the only UN Convention to our knowledge under which countries give up a little bit of their sovereignty in exchange for having their most outstanding natural and cultural heritage sites formally recognized.   

To get a site recognized under the Convention, a country must formally submit a very detailed proposal in which they must present the case for inscription.   Only sites that meet strict technical criteria and demonstrate the “outstanding universal values” recognized by the Convention can be considered for the list.   Proposals and their justifying documentation often run at over 1,000 pages.   The process for developing and formally submitting such a proposal can take several years.  

Every year, UNESCO’s WH Committee (comprised of 21 elected representatives from among the nearly 200 countries that have ratified the Convention) will review these proposals, and guided by advice from technical experts, will decide on which new sites may be allowed onto the list.   The yearly event, usually in July, generates a tremendous amount of press coverage around the world.   A country having its site recognized by UNESCO is like winning a gold medal in the Olympics.   Local, regional and national politicians rejoice when a site is inscribed under their watch.

Above: World Heritage Committee meeting in St Petersburg


MINIMUM CONSERVATION STANDARDS MUST BE MAINTAINED... OR ELSE

But things don’t stop there.  Once having had their site admitted into the exclusive WH club, governments commit to maintaining minimum conservation standards.  To that end, the WH Convention secretariat in Paris (where I worked for 11 years) carries out on-going monitoring of a site’s state of conservation.  Through a variety of direct and indirect means, it gathers information / intelligence and assesses if a particular site risks falling afoul of WH Convention requirements. 

At its annual meeting, the WH Committee will also take several days to review “State of Conservation Reports” for up to 200 WH sites that, for one reason or another, elicit concerns in regards to their conservation status. 

GALAPAGOS UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

This July, the state of conservation of Galapagos will be subjected to the WH Committee’s review.  I used to lead that effort at the WH Convention’s secretariat (the WH Centre) and would produce, with support from technical advisors, the “Galapagos State of Conservation Report”.  The report described the latest information on conservation threats to the site, along with a summary of the Ecuadorian government’s own report on its efforts at dealing with them.   It concludes with a “draft decision” for the WH Committee to adopt, or amend.   Once completed, the State of Conservation report would be sent to the 21 members of the WH Committee for their review several weeks before the annual meeting.  At the meeting, I would present the content of the report, along with our technical advisors, and we would field questions from the Committee. 

WH Committee decisions usually call for the government to take specific actions on specific issues.  In the worst case scenario, should the WH Committee determine that a country is not assuming its responsibilities in the conservation of a site, it could decide to remove that site from the list (this has happened only twice in the history of the Convention).

The 2021 WH Committee meeting will be held on-line, from the 16th to the 31st of July.  The Galapagos State of Conservation report has recently been made public and can be consulted here (I have extracted the relevant 6 pages from the 492 page document). 

For those keen on understanding the mechanics of international conservation efforts through the WH Convention, it’s a good opportunity to be appraised of those issues that raise concerns.   In brief, as summarized in the report, these are: 

  • Fishing/collecting aquatic resources (illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing / collection of aquatic resources)
  • Legal framework (inadequate implementation of the Special Law on Galápagos)
  • Governance
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community (high immigration rate)
  • Illegal activities
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Invasive Alien Species / biosecurity (inadequate and ineffective quarantine measures)
  • Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure

Again, for the full 6 page report, click here


CNH TOURS' PERSPECTIVE

From our perspective, having followed Galapagos conservation matters closely for nearly 25 years, the main underlying threat will always be the risk of introduction, establishment and spread of alien invasive species harmful to Galapagos biodiversity.  This threat exists only because there is a constant movement of people and goods between the mainland and the islands.  The greater this movement, the greater the threat, as species end up being introduced accidentally through food shipments, in people's luggage or by other means. 

While Ecuador has implemented excellent phytosanitary protocols designed to keep alien species out, more can always be done, and the system will never be perfect.  It is almost always overhwelmed by the volume of work it has to carry out. 

Tourism is the mainstay of the Galapagos economy, and growth in tourism is almost exclusively responsible for the increasing movement of good and people between the mainland and the continent.   While ship-based tourism numbers have been strictly capped for over 20 years and don't contribute to increased movement of goods and people with the mainland, land-based tourism remains open-ended.  It has been groing at double digit rates for 15 years (notwithstanding COVID years).  There is no limit to how many land-based visitors can come to Galapagos beyond what current infrastructure can accommodate.  Until this issue is addressed, it will be hard to manage the arrival of alien invasive species.  

Beyond the fact that an expedition cruise is by far the superior way to experience the best of what Galapagos has to offer, it's also the best way to keep a lid on the threat of introduction of alien invasive species as a visitor.  

Charter your own ship this summer - great deals on offer

Some very well-managed small ships have charter availabilities this summer (July - August).  These 14-16 passenger ships usually charter in the $56,000 - $70,000 range.  They are available for up to 50% off the usual price.  It's even a great deal for a group of 6-8 people.  

All adults in Galapagos will have been fully vaccinated by mid-June.   Ship's crew are fully vaccinated and strict health and safety protocols have been in place for months.  With proof of vaccination, you won't be needing to take a PCR test to travel to Galapagos starting later in June. 

 

It's an ideal time to travel with your intimate group - family / extended family, or friends. Contact us to explore options. 

 

Vaccinated? Red Carpet Entry into Galapagos

You should very soon be able to enter Galapagos simply by showing proof of vaccination.

For the time being, you can only get into Galapagos by showing evidence of a negative PCR test taken no more than 96 hours (4 days) prior to your arrival, while proof of full vaccination was acceptable only for entry into mainland Ecuador.   Last night, the Minister of Tourism, Niels Olsen, announced that this difference would be eliminated, and that proof of vaccination will be accepted for Galapagos entry “in June”.

Timing your international travel to Ecuador with a PCR test can be a bit tight.  For some, it meant taking two PCR tests, one at home before leaving, and another on the mainland in Ecuador before heading off to Galapagos.  That added to the cost of a vacation both in terms of extra days needing to be spent away, and in the added costs of PCR tests. 

For a lot of people, this requirement represented a barrier to Galapagos travel.   Now that it will be removed, it will be a lot easier for (fully vaccinated) people to plan and take their trip.  The Minister of Tourism seemed hopeful that the new measure will result in increased arrivals.  

The minister (newly appointed by the incoming administration in Ecuador) made his announcement at the end of Emergency Operation’s Committee (COE) – a body set up under the presidency.  The formal resolution from the COE consisted of a request to the Ministry of Public Health to update and standardize the entry requirements into Ecuador.

So, it appears that technically, we await the final word from the Ministry of Public Health before the measure is formally in place.

For those not vaccinated, you will be required to show proof of a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to your arrival into Ecuador.   There is no word on how many hours of a delay will now be allowed for Galapagos.   It currently stands at 96, but if measures are to be standardized, perhaps that will change.    

Below: Niels Olsen, the recently appointed Minister of Tourism

9 million Ecuadoreans to be vaccinated in next 100 days

The following is a Google translation of a press release published today by the office of the vice-president of Ecuador:

VACCINATION PLAN 9/100 STARTS THIS MONDAY

Quito, Pichincha.- The 9/100 Vaccination Plan against Covid-19, prepared by the Government, starts this Monday, May 31, with the purpose of inoculating 9 million Ecuadorians in the first hundred days, through three fundamental strategies: fixed points of vaccination, mass vaccinations and inoculation brigades.

To refine details of the stages that are part of the plan, this Thursday, the President of the Republic, Guillermo Lasso, met with Vice President Alfredo Borrero; the Minister of Health, Ximena Garzón; the Government Advisor Ad Honórem for public vaccination policies for COVID-19, Carlos Cueva, among other authorities of the Government.

It is expected that this Saturday, May 29, 700 thousand doses of the Sinovac vaccine will arrive; 500 thousand are pending of the previous agreements and 200 thousand donated by the triumph of President Lasso in the last presidential elections. "The remaining, 500 thousand doses, will arrive in June," added the president.

Likewise, the Minister of Health assured that "citizens are pre-scheduled, without the need for prior registration", through the new digital platform, developed with the support of the National Electoral Council, Ecuadorians will have the facility to know the day and the time of your vaccination.

The Vice President of the Republic, on behalf of the President, will lead the implementation of the Vaccination Plan 9/100 together with the Ministry of Public Health.

Arches to Pillars: Geological Evolution in Progress

The iconic Darwin's Arch,  a geological formation located at Darwin Island in the extreme north of the archipelago... is no more!  The central portion of the arch gave way earlier today, leaving behind a new geological wonder, Darwin's Pillars!  It had to happen one day.   The site is accessible only to scuba divers on a full 7 night / 8 day live-aboard trip.  

 

BEFORE: 


AFTER:

"Samba Northwest Itinerary April 13-20, 2021 BEST TRIP EVER!!"

We are copy-pasting this review that was posted on TripAdvisor yesterday.  Working hand in hand with the ship owner, we have been chartering the Samba for 22-25 weeks per year and started doing so 15 years ago for a good reason.  
Samba Northwest Itinerary April 13-20, 2021 BEST TRIP EVER!!
My husband and I recently spent 5 weeks in the Galapagos and tried to see almost everything that there is to see there. During this time we did a scuba liveaboard, stayed on Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal doing day trips, and spent a week aboard the Samba for a naturalist cruise. Out of all of the incredible experiences we had in the Galapagos, Samba was our absolute favorite. In fact, Samba was the best excursion we have done, in any country, ever. 

We were extremely lucky to get booked with Samba after a different boat canceled us twice. Samba’s itinerary is unmatched by any other vessel in the Galapagos. We were able to go to Genovesa, Marchena (no other naturalist boats can go here), Fernandina, the west side of Isabela, and Floreana, all in one 8-day trip.

In my work life, I guide nature walks and teach kids about ecology and environmental science. I know how difficult it is to explain things to people in a way that is interesting and understandable. A lot of knowledge, charisma, and passion are needed to keep people engaged. Our guide, Juan Salcedo, was absolutely perfect for the job. He was by far the most passionate, knowledgeable, and well-spoken guide we have had anywhere. We learned more from Juan than from anyone else in the Galapagos. If you have a question about a plant, animal, ecosystem, geology, history, or anything else, Juan had an educated answer. He made sure we arrived early so that we could spend ample time at each site and everyone could get what they wanted. The photographers on board got amazing photos, and I learned A LOT. I especially love birds, which is one of the main reasons I wanted to come to the Galapagos. We got to see nesting boobies, flamingoes, petrels, flightless cormorants, and many others. We even got to swim with penguins! Juan made sure that we were never bored by allowing us to do additional activities such as waking up at 5am to swim with dolphins, or having a costumed equator-crossing party (complete with complimentary piña coladas!). Juan went above and beyond the duties of a guide. Even between locations, Juan and the crew were on the lookout for dolphins and whales, and we often would change course to get a closer look.

In addition to our excellent guide, the crew went above and beyond to keep us safe and comfortable. The boat was kept very clean and in good working order by the crew. The food was fantastic, and everyone was given excellent meals despite many different dietary restrictions among the passengers, including vegans, vegetarians, and people with food allergies. From the pangas, the crew kept a careful watch on the passengers as we snorkeled and kayaked. The voyages between different locations in the Galapagos were smooth, with most of them taking place during the night so that we didn’t waste any daylight. On board, we felt like one big family, so much so that we even lost a game of fútbol to the crew! They were all very friendly and professional, making our experience on board unforgettable.

The Samba is a very safe, comfortable boat. There are lots of areas to hang out, including the sun deck on the bow, a cool giant couch on the second deck at the stern, a seating area on the main deck at the stern, and an indoor seating area. Cabins were well-equipped with air conditioning and a private bathroom with ample hot water. Cabins were cleaned daily. Snorkeling equipment and wetsuits were provided, and there was an area to dry out equipment and clothing after snorkeling. There were also lots of kayaks available to use during our excursions, or you could choose to ride in the panga. All equipment was of high-quality and in excellent shape. 

We do not typically return to a location that we have traveled to, but we plan on returning to the Samba. We would highly recommend this trip to anyone that wants to get the most out of their time in the Galapagos. We saw everything that we wanted to see and much, much more! Thank you, Samba crew, for the best trip we’ve ever had!



Carbon Neutral in '22

Starting in 2022, all of our guests' activities in Ecuador will be carbon neutral.   We've worked out an average CO2 emissions from a typical trip (762kg or 1,672lbs), covering those emitted from your domestic return flight to Galapagos, and an 8 day cruise.   We will be working with Gold Standard.  According to its website (www.goldstandard.org), Gold Standard: 

...sets requirements to design projects for maximum positive impact in climate and development -- and to measure and report outcomes in the most credible and efficient way. 

Gold Standard is based in Switzerland.  It was established in 2003 by WWF and other international NGOs to ensure projects that reduced carbon emissions featured the highest levels of environmental integrity and also contributed to sustainable development.  It receives operational financial support from the United Nations and the World Bank, from the governments of Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Luxembourg, from the World Wildlife Fund and from many other similarly reputable sources.

The average price / tonne for carbon offsets at Gold Standard is US$18.   By supporting Gold Standard projects to the amount of $13.72 / guest ($18/tonne x 0.762 tonnes), we will ensure that your Ecuadorian carbon emissions are offset.   

CNH Tours encourages all other travel companies to do the same.   As for our guests, you might want to purchase offsets for the emissions generated from your international travel.  Most commercial airline websites will provide mechanisms to facilitate doing so.  

If you'd like to know more about carbon offsets and how they work, please consult our "ALL YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT CARBON OFFSETS" document by clicking here.  

USA supports Ecuador's anti-poaching work

Wildlife trafficking is a massive issue on a global scale.  From shark fins to ebony, pangolin scales to ivory - the wildlife trade mafia is very well-organized and in many cases, its work is driving species to extinction.  All efforts to control this trade need to be supported.  The article below appeared in Ecuador's "El Comercio" newspaper on Earth Day last week.   

(original article in Spanish by Isabel Alarcón, translated by Google with minor edits by CNH Tours)

The fight against wildlife trafficking, illegal fishing and unauthorized felling of trees will be reinforced in the country.  The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on April 22, 2020 that it will collaborate with the State Attorney General's Office in the fight against this type of activity that endangers the flora and fauna of Ecuador.

To address these issues, a specialized unit will be designed and implemented in the Office of the Prosecutor for wildlife crimes. USAID will provide technical assistance, as part of the project Strengthening the Governance of Natural Resources in Ecuador, and the World Wide Fund for Nature Ecuador (WWF) will support this work. Through this unit, the aim is to stop activities such as the trafficking of Galapagos tortoises or to contain the massive export of shark fins.

(above: Over 100 baby giant tortoises were discovered in a suitcase earlier this year)

Another initiative is to strengthen its IT infrastructure. Michael J. Fitzpatrick, United States Ambassador to Ecuador, says that the protection of the environment has become a central issue in the public policy, both internal and external, of the United States Government. In addition, he affirmed that President Joe Biden is committed to the fight against climate change. Among the initiatives carried out by the United States Embassy and Consulate in Ecuador is the training of 10 prosecutors. Two of these participated in environmental crime management issues and eight in the fight against wildlife trafficking.

 

This content has been originally published by Diario EL COMERCIO at the following address:

https://www.elcomercio.com/tendencia/ecuador-eeuu-trafico-vida-silvestre.html

18 and older in Galapagos? You'll be vaccinated by 31 May

The vice-president of Galapagos, Maria Alejandra Muñoz, announced yesterday that through an agreement with Pfizer, all Galapagos residents 18 years old and above will be vaccinated by the end of May.  

Galapagos is the most iconic wildlife tourist destination in Ecuador, if not amont the top on the planet.  By vaccinating its adult population, the govenment of Ecuador is telling the world that Galapagos is open for tourism. 

CNH Tours recommends that you travel only if you've been fully vaccinated.   Entry into Ecuador requires proof of vaccination, or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival.  Entry in Galapagos requires a negative PCR test taken within 96 hours of arrival.

Ecuadorians choose a new government tomorrow

The 2nd and final round of national elections takes place tomorrow, 11 April.   The choice facing Ecuadorians is between Guillermo Lasso, a former presidential candidate and senior figure in the finance sector, and Andres Arauz, the young former finance minister under the populist government of Rafael Correa.  

The country faces massive headwinds.  Beyond the obvious challenges posed by COVID-19, Ecuador defaulted on its loans last year.  Built up over several years of very high oil prices, the oil exporting nation's national budget grew very rapidly.  It reached levels no longer sustainable now that oil prices have dropped by nearly 50%.  

You know things are going badly when even the left-wing Arauz's campaign promise is to "reduce national expenditures more slowly than what the other candidate promises".    

Ecuadorians have seen quite a revolving door of governments over the past 25 years.   From the impeached Abdala Bucaran (popularly known as the loving madman), to the chaos of dollarization in 2000, when the country abandoned is rapidly devaluating national currency, the Sucre, to the short-lived triumvirate following a military coup in 2000, and then the flight to Brazil of president Lucio Guttierez on 20 April 2005 (I was actually meeting with him in the presidential office on the 18th of April - and our meeting took place with the background chants of "Fuera! Lucio" [get out! Lucio!])... 

It came as no surprise that strong (and very handsome and charming) man, Rafael Correa, with a Ph.D. in economics, was welcomed by the majority of Ecuadorians as president in 2007.  Supported by high oil prices and generous loans from China, he spent liberally.  But his efforts to extend term limits for presidents were thwarted.  He was ousted in 2017, to be replaced by his right-hand mand, Lenin Morales.  Morales, faced with catastrophic fall in oil prices did an about-face on his predecessor's populist policies and even had him impeached.   

The new president will assume power on May 24th.  

Just before the 1st round back in February, we asked our Ecuadorian friend, Fernando Ortiz, to share his thoughts.  We posted them here

 

 

 

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