Galápagos Islands Rules: What is Allowed and Prohibited in the Islands

Galapagos Islands rules creative display

Visiting the Galapagos Islands is fun and exciting, but as tourists, we should also remember to be responsible.

Galapagos Islands is a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Travelers are encouraged to treat nature and wildlife with respect. 

This post will guide you through Galapagos National Park’s rules and regulations. Learn the do’s and don’ts in the islands before your trip.

Keep Your Distance From the Wildlife

I am standing 2 meters away of sealion at Galapagos

Do not get near the animals on the islands. Some of them can get rowdy, particularly the sea lions, during mating season. Maintain at least six feet or two meters distance from the animals to avoid disturbing them.

While we enjoyed wildlife encounters, we ensured we did not disturb the animals inhabiting the archipelago. It was a great experience to snorkel and meet them face-to-face, but keeping our distance is a must.

Feeding the Animals is Not Allowed

Playa Baquerizo beach San Cristobal, Galapagos

Staying away from the animals also means you are not allowed to feed them. Animals in the Galapagos are well-fed, so there is no need to provide food for them.

Feeding the wildlife may cause them health problems. Animals are only supposed to eat what they naturally eat within their habitat. Thus, we should not cause a disturbance in their eating habits.

We avoid bringing any kind of food with us during our tours. This method is the best way to prevent feeding and to attract the animals in Galapagos.

Take Photos Responsibly

Turtle while snorkelling on Pinzon Island, Galapagos

The GNPD (Galapagos National Park Directorate) does not permit flash photography within the islands. Commercial photography and videography should have GNPD’s permission before your trip.

We only have our mobile phones to take photos during our trip. We saw some tourists who had DSLRs with them. As long as you are not into commercial photography and video coverage, capturing your vacation memories is not a problem in Galapagos. Drones are not allowed as well.

Do Not Take Anything From Nature

Sally Lightfoot Crabs On Galapagos Islands

Avoid taking corals, lava rocks, flowers, native wood, or any part of nature as souvenirs. Selling and buying these kinds of souvenirs are also prohibited. If you find someone who transacts such illegal activities, report it to GNPD immediately.

Camping, Smoking, and Drinking are Only Allowed in Specific Areas

Drinking in the restaurant in the Galapagos

There are only specific areas on the islands where you can do activities like camping, smoking, and drinking.

Drinking alcohol and smoking is only possible in areas like bars and restaurants, but it is strictly prohibited while on tour in the visitor sites. 

Your tour guide knows the areas where you can camp. Camping also required permission from the GNPD. GNPD limits camping because wood fires can disturb wildlife and cause fires on the islands.

Walk Only on Marked Pathways and Trails

Trail to Laguna de los Flamingos in Isabela Island, Galapagos

A few locations in the Galápagos can be visited without a licensed guide, e.g. Las Grietas or Charles Darwin Research Station. Make sure you never leave the trails that the Galapagos government has previously marked for a purpose in such areas.

Walking during Tintoreras Tour on Galapagos Islands, Ecuador (Isabela Island)

Most of the time, we are taken away from the moment while exploring in Galapagos. It is easy to get lost without paying attention to markers and trails. While we were amazed by the scenery, we did not forget to be vigilant and followed our tour guide’s instructions.

Hike to Tortuga Bay on Galapagos Islands

Galápagos is so breathtaking that you can easily forget where you are walking, but paths are marked for a reason. Ensure that you only follow marked trails to avoid accidents and disturbing wildlife.

Avoid Introducing Outside Factors into the Ecosystem

Tortuga Bay pathway through cacti

Some items in your suitcase may seem harmless but may cause actual harm to the Galápagos. Certain prohibited items in the Galápagos, like seeds and fruit, can be found under your shoes or other possessions without your knowledge.

Check your belongings for any possible debris. Make sure to adhere to the Galápagos entrance criteria, check the complete list of items you cannot bring, and avoid wasting time at the airport having to change your luggage.

Fishing is Allowed On Authorized Boats and Vessels Only

Getting to Pinzon Island Galapagos

Fishing is an excellent activity in Galapagos as the islands have diverse and rich aquatic life. However, you can only do this on specific tours, with licensed guides, and on authorized vessels only. You cannot go fishing on your own, so make sure to set plans if you are considering fishing during your trip to Galapagos. The captain allowed me to fish during the Pinzon Island tour. 

Book Tours with Authorized Operators Only

Tour 360 banner on Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands is a well-preserved site. The Ecuadorean government is doing its best to maintain the archipelago’s balanced nature. Thus, all activities are regulated, and tours must be only booked through authorized operators and agencies.

We did our research well before our trip. Make sure to plan yours, too, to ensure a hassle-free vacation. You can also book them in advance with Viator which we highly recommend to do:

Leave No Trace

While everything in Galapagos is fantastic and may be tempting to bring home, you mustn’t take anything from nature.

Do not leave and take anything from the islands. Do your part as a responsible tourist and preserve nature.

The future generation must see and enjoy the Galapagos as much as we did. The wildlife on the islands also deserves a stress-free environment, away from the chaos of humans.

About the author

Oleg Galeev

I'm Oleg, and together with my wife, we've explored Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, journeying through more than 20 cities (Quito, Cuenca, Banos, Tena, Puyo, Guayaquil, Riobamba, Otavalo, Mindo and more) and nearly every island in the Galapagos (including iconic ones such as Bartolome Island, San Cristobal Island, Isabela Island, Santa Cruz Island and more). In this blog, I give you my real thoughts about each place we visited. This info can help anyone planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands or mainland Ecuador. I'm just a traveler, not a tour company, so I'm not trying to sell anything. That means I'll tell you the truth—both the good and the bad — about traveling in Ecuador based on what we experienced.

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