“... we’ve expanded our Galapagos cruises to provide an even more comprehensive, all-inclusive package to satisfy the travel styles of every modern explorer. And we’re helping to ensure future generations have the same incredible Galapagos experience with our industry-leading stewardship and conservation efforts.” Celebrity cruise promotion.
The presentation was powerful ... the offerings enticing. My excitement grew as the wonders of the Galapagos Islands were revealed in this highly professional and well delivered presentation.
I originally attended this travel workshop to listen in and feed my passion for travel. I had already travelled to Peru and this corner of the world held a special fascination for me. As the presentation progressed travel agents were nearby ready to followup on any eager and prosperous travellers willing to take the plunge and enjoy an exotic cruise to Darwin’s paradise.
The promotional booklet was like a fix for me ... glossy photos of marine iguanas, seals and a favourite of the birder world ... the blue footed boobie (which I had never heard of before).
I rushed home converted from a passive observer at a travel presentation to a ready and able adventurer travelling from island to island. The Galapagos Islands consists of approximately twenty islands (some still forming).
I mentioned it to my wife with some restrained enthusiasm and eventually brought the booklet out for display.The price seemed somewhat reasonable (still quite expensive) and the agent was going to get back to me the very next day with a quote. I never did hear from her again but the allure of the Galapagos lingered on and gradually began to intrigue us more.
Then my travelling partner put on her research hat and discovered a last minute site with greatly reduced prices. The possibility of visiting the Galapagos was becoming a reality or so I thought.
Then she posed a question in its simplest form ...
Should we travel all that way to see a turtle (we both knew there was much more to the Galapagos) and impact on the environment to the extent that we would?
Hmmm ... what should we do?
At the same time, climate change headlines were dominating the news with Greta Thunberg presenting at the UN.
Polar Bear Experts Warn of Irreversible Ice Loss
Oceans Approach Climate Tipping Point
Climate Change Seen Posing Risk to Food Supply
How could we go in good conscience?
Carbon offsets were the answer! I was about to enter the world of carbon really knowing very little. There are sites that will calculate the amount of carbon your flight will create and the amount of money necessary to offset it. The funds generally go to a project of your choice. However, the more I read I began to realize it wasn’t just a straight forward trade off that would get me off the hook.
As with any purchase, buyers need to choose their offsets carefully, particularly as the voluntary offset market is largely unregulated. David Suzuki Foundation.
Tree planting is favoured by many sites but saplings have little effect on the level of CO2 and often are not permanent, while our flight’s CO2 emissions would have immediate impact.
At least this was a start. Both Air Canada and WestJet have offset sites and the David Suzuki foundation has great background information on carbon offsets.
I researched articles on ethical air travel from a host of sites and discovered an article from CBC titled Air travel emits a lot of carbon, but there are ways to fly more responsibly
1) flying direct creates less carbon (good there is a direct flight to Quito from Toronto); however we did require a short flight from Quito to the islands
2) pack lightly (we always do)
3) book economy (I liked that one)
4) fly in the daytime
We could check all those boxes.
I discovered that Seymour Airport on the island of Baltra (where we wanted to start our trip) was the first carbon neutral airport in Latin America and the Caribbean. GREAT! There are two starting points to begin your excursion in the Galapagos and Baltra is where we would begin ours.
Due to strict environmental regulations and the influx of tourists (now 250 000 annually), the Galapagos are in better shape now than a number of years ago. Feral animals on several islands have been eradicated and the turtle population is reaching a level of sustainability. Not to be naive, the islands still must resist tremendous pressure from overfishing to invasive plants and animals and the ever persistent climate change and overtourism.
There are over fifty various vessels that have charter rights to the Galapagos. After reviewing every one of them, we set our sights on the most environmentally friendly ones. With luck, there may be a last minute opening and we would be able to take advantage of it. At the top of our list, was a carbon neutral catarmaran ... fingers crossed.
Lastly, with strict environmental guidelines, tourists are not allowed to wander off designated trails. Bags are checked for each island and any adventurers must be accompanied by a naturalist. The economy of Ecuador relies on the influx of tourism to this gem in the Pacific. They are working to balance the monetary impact with the environmental consequences.
Although, maybe not a perfect solution we felt we were doing all that we could to minimize our footprint to enjoy the wonders of the Galapagos Islands, the central star in Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species.
Stay tuned ... will we go?
DK 2019 10 03
k here to edit.
Don is a former educator and having worked for a Canadian airline, he enjoys travel that is mildly