Monday, 2 March 2015

Galapagos Islands Tighten Environmental Restrictions for Cruising Sailors

The Galapagos Islands, famous for its incredible natural wild life, and largely brought to the attention of the world by the research and writings of Charles Darwin, has long been a Mecca for cruisers on the Pacific route. 

The government of Ecuador in its efforts to preserve this state of nature under the ever increasing pressure of so called 'environmental tourism', has to continually tighten up restrictions on visiting vessels, which of course includes cruising yachts.

Galapagos Islands
Here is an article from Sail-World.com and Noonsite.com highlighting the latest move to hold back the possible introduction of foreign marine life into their fragile ecosystem:

The report explains that all yachts planning to visit the Galapagos Islands must have their hull professionally cleaned before leaving their previous port. On arrival in the islands, it will be inspected, possibly by a diver, to ensure there is no foreign marine life which can endanger the native ecosystem. 

Anchorage at Puerto Aroyo
If the inspection is not satisfactory, the yacht will be sent away from the National Park. This involves going 30 to 40 miles out to sea. Where, if conditions allow, further cleaning of the hull can take place. 

In addition, the yacht must be fumigated. Preferably before arrival, but it can be carried out on arrival. Ensure that an approved product is used and that you have a certificate. 

The new requirements also specify that two notices be posted on the yacht. 

One, on the outside stating ‘Do not throw garbage overboard’ and another on the inside by the engine compartment saying ‘Do not discharge Black waters into the sea’.

When I sailed into Puerto Ayoro, whilst similar restrictions were in place, the general administration of them was certainly more relaxed than it is today. We didn't have a 'Autographo' and therefore neither a 'National Zarpe', but being aware of the regulations figured we would not be allowed to stay much more than the 72hr. allowance.

Tere Moana at anchor looking very small
Here is an extract from my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' which tells what happened to us as a result of a visit to the then Port Captain first thing in the morning following our arrival:

"Dawn breaks a murky grey sheet over the town. The bugle blast of the navy reveille is the first sound to be heard, and her crew stumble into the cockpit. Peering into the mist they realise they are moored directly off the local navy base. Without a military vessel in sight, crisp white uniformed ratings line up in the quadrangle, and salute the Ecuador flag as it is hoisted up its staff. Our crew remind themselves that Ecuador is indeed a democracy and they have no need to worry – however, following on from what they saw the previous evening, the nagging doubts firmly lodged in the corner of their minds will not disperse. 

Seals (and others) on the beach, Galapagos
These islands are so unique, and classified ‘eco tourist’ by the Ecuadorian government, there are strong warnings and procedural advice for visiting yachtsmen. Visiting areas other than designated ports, is not allowed, and if caught will face immediate arrest and probable confiscation of vessel. Visits are only allowed for a maximum of forty eight hours on an emergency basis, repairs and/or provisioning, with visas issued to this effect. All printed material stresses this, so her crew are acutely aware of this protocol as they put ashore in the dinghy to visit the Puerto Capitano.

In their smartest casual gear they manage the tricky landing on the stone wall, stepping ashore with the minimum amount of mud and salt water stains on their clothing. Straightening their garments as best they can, and the captain, importantly carrying their waterproof doco/passport bag tucked under one arm, they set off down the quay. Arriving at the lovely old colonial stone building which is the Custom house, and Puerto Capitano’s office, all varnish and gloss inside, they are ushered into his office. A handsome fortyish officer, with a level gaze, stares at them bleakly from the other side of a huge desk. Varnish must be cheap in this country as this piece of furniture is positively glowing. 

Sea lions at play
Our crew are not easily intimidated, but with his cool, silent stare, and two matelots one each side standing to attention behind, this comes close. Our captain compliments him on his fine building, and his incredibly crisp and brilliant white uniform. He cocks his head slightly, breaks into a raffish grin and says:

‘And how long is it you would like to be staying in our country?’.
Our captain, momentarily taken aback, but having risen early, replies that ten days would be very nice indeed, thankyou.
‘Not a problem’, a now very relaxed Puerto Capitano replies.
Visas are produced, with passports being stamped accordingly, entry fees paid, and our crew shuffle backwards out of his office almost bowing as they go. Our captain is on the point of inviting the Port Captain to join them for a beer at some point at his convenience, but considers this might be pushing their new relationship a little too far! Instead, they march straight faced down the sea wall, eyes to the front, out of sight round the first corner and suddenly leap into the air, fist punching in their exhilaration. Ten days to explore these fabulous evolutionary islands. A local fruit seller looking out from his stall gives them a quizzical glance – crazy foreigners! Events as we shall see will extend this time to eleven days. Later, checking their entry fee dockets, our crew discover that it was somewhat less than they had calculated."

Visit the Noonsite website and you can find a wealth of information on the necessary documents, fees and restrictions that need to be complied with to legally sail amongst these fabulous islands. Here are two links that will help you : 

http://www.noonsite.com/Countries/Galapagos?rc=Formalities

http://www.noonsite.com/Countries/Galapagos/the-islands-fees-and-general-info-update

You can find out about the events that led to our stay being extended in my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' available from my website http://www.sailboat2adventure.com and much more about the cruising lifestyle on passage. 



1 comment:

Alessia Corella said...

Yes it seems that you are have great adventure at Galapagos island. I am also excited for enjoy that beauty. On coming month I will be there and now we are make a contact with a travel agency as "reachecuador".