New Galapagos Islands regulations will change 2012 tours

New regulations on travel for the Galapagos Islands go into effect in2012Over the past decade or so, the Galapagos Islands have become one of the more popular tourist attractions in the world. In fact, they’ve gotten so popular that the fragile ecosystem there has become threatened by the amount of tourist traffic that now visit the area each year. In 2012, a new set of regulations will go into effect that may help protect the Islands, and could have an effect on travelers as well.

Beginning February 1st of next year, no vessel will be permitted to visit the same site more than once in a given 14 day period. The hope is that this will keep the traffic dispersed throughout the islands, and prevent some of the more threatened areas from becoming too crowded. It should also help to make the overall Galapagos experience a better one too.

While these regulations sound like a great plan for protecting one of the planet’s best natural wonders, they will have a direct impact on travelers planning on going to the Islands in the future. For instance, many of the tour operators have already begun to drop their shorter 7 to 10 day itineraries in favor of longer 14+ day excursions. In fact, week long Galapagos trips may become a thing of the past, as ships wouldn’t be able to visit the same sites with the same regularity, making them very inefficient for tour operators.

That is not to say that shorter trips might not still be available in some form or another, but they will not offer the same level of coverage that the have in the past, and travelers might not get to experience everything they had hoped for.

Also keep in mind that a 14 day Galapagos trip will require 17 or 18 days when you factor in the travel time to Ecuador and the islands themselves. That may mean that those of us with fewer days to spare will be shut out from visiting the Islands as well.

If you’re visiting the Galapagos this year, your travel plans won’t be impacted, but if you’re planning on going in 2012 or beyond, you may want to reexamine your options.