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  Page updated:29.06.2009

Monitoring the visitor sites of the Galapagos Marine Reserve

For more information contact:
Eddy Araujo, Administración Turística, +593 (0)5 252 6189, earaujo@spng.org.ec

The Arc, adjacent to Darwin Island, north of the archipelago, is one of the most attractive dive sites in the world, which is why monitoring this visitor site is of special importance.

The Galapagos Islands are regularly cited as the best dive site in the world and like other forms of tourism, its popularity is increasing year after year. To ensure the conservation of marine ecosystems and avoid changing the behavior of the fauna, requires a strategic plan for monitoring the marine visitor sites.

To ensure the proper functioning of tourism in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park is enacting a number of legal processes, administrative, regulatory and monitorial to update the system, according to the increase in this activity.

The Galapagos marine life is no less fascinating than the life on the islands.

The Galapagos marine life is no less fascinating than the life on the islands.
In order to minimize the impact of marine ecotourism, and with the growing popularity of this type of tourism, the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park is updating the management and monitoring system of marine visitor sites.

At present there are 79 marine visitor sites, which allow one or more of the following activities, SCUBA diving, snorkeling, kayaking and "panga rides".

In practice, tourist activity is concentrated in about 15 visitor sites, while activities in 6 other sites are still being consulted by the Participatory Management Board. A better management of tourism activity can prevent overloading of existing tourist sites.

On the legal front, there is continuous monitoring of infractions that are found by either the Port Captaincy, the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park (directly or through their own naturalist guides or visitors), the Department of Tourism or the Public Defender of the town. Given the increased tourist activity, there is a need for an effective but simpler system of reporting violations to the Justice Department of the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park, the final entity, which determines the legal course to take. 

Diving tours will soon have some new regulations, a category of tourist quota and monitoring system.

In parallel, the legal framework for SCUBA diving is being strengthened; the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park is in the process of reviewing the proposed legislation for this activity.

Moreover, in 2008, a call was made for new places for tourist operations, creating a type of Navigable Dive Tour, effective since 2009.

This update of the administration of public use of the Galapagos Marine Reserve will provide better tools for the regulation of a growing tourism. 

Finally, in January 2008 the first Monitoring Plan for evaluating the impact of ecotourism in the Galapagos Islands, was published, conducted by Priscilla Cubero-Pardo from the INCOFISH Project, with technical assistance from the Charles Darwin Foundation.

This plan is specific to the Galapagos Marine Reserve and reveals the results of the analysis, evaluation and ratification of indicators. Furthermore, it presents the appropriate monitoring protocols for the implementation of each of the indicators.

The study includes a table of indicators for monitoring marine tourism. Although similar in principle to the indicators for monitoring land visitor sites, these indicators are adjusted for the characteristics of marine sites.

It is expected that implementation of this plan in a systematic way justifies, objectively, the proper organization of marine ecotourism in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, so that they are sustainable in the long term, both for marine resources as for the tourism business.

This program has counted on the support of:

The Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands (CDF) is an international non-profit research organization dedicated to providing scientific research, technical assistance and information in order to ensure the success of conservation in Galapagos.

International Strategic Research Project for resource recovery and marine ecosystems.


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Monitoring Indicators of the Galapagos Marine Public Use Sites (2008)

Source: Monitoring Plan for Impact Assessment of Marine Ecotourism in the Galápagos (PDF, 556 Kb)

Type Indicator Objective
Administrative and management 1.- Percentage of tourism industry infractions that are resolved annually To know the administrative capacity for processing illegal activities in the GMR
2.- Percentage of agreements regarding the management of tourism in the Participatory Management Board To know the degree of user participation in decision-making for tourism management
3.- Percentage of coincidences between authorized itineraries and tourist vessel routes To determine compliance with itineraries by operators in the GMR and measure respect to zoning
4.- Percentage of resources available for tourism management in the administration as per its Annual Operating Plan Measure the administrator's ability to plan and monitor the management of marine ecotourism in the area
5.- Percentage of sites that exceed its acceptable use load previously established by the administration Define the level of use of sites for boats and for tourists by type of activity
Conservation 6.- Percentage of sites with physical factors that create a low negative visual impact Determine aspects affecting the natural condition of the landscape, including physical damage on the habitat caused by tourism activities
7.- Percentage of variation in abundance, relative within focal species by site and years Evaluate changes in patterns of focal species presence in tourism activities
8.- Percentage of evasive responses or focal species alerts To know the effect of distance and tourist activities in the generation of behavioral disturbances in key species
9.- Frequency of adverse reactions in the whale shark and its relation to the number of encounters and divers To know the effect of the presence of tourists in the generation of behavioral disturbances in the whale shark
10.- Percentage of occurrence of contacts by divers or snorkelers Define breaking levels of substrate and sessile benthos due to handling by divers and snorkelers
Visitor Experience 11.- Percentage of sites with a frequency of encounters with other groups or activities that exceed the average considered uncomfortable by visitors Determine the degree of tolerance by visitors to other groups and other vessels at visitor sites
12.- Average accidents per trip per year and between years Assess the safety level of the operation
13.- Percentage of complaints per year from visitors To assess the degree of dissatisfaction of visitors and recognize the main factors that cause dissatisfaction
14.- Percentage of aspects evaluated by visitors whose average score is equal or greater than 3.5 Measure different parameters of satisfaction in relation to the experience to reveal the quality of operations and management of impacts
Socio-economic 15.- Percentage of positive and negative aspects evaluated by permanent residents that exceed average values considered Acceptable To identify the perceptions and opinions of Galapagos residents in relation to the impact of tourism in their communities
16.- Percentage of funds required by the administration for tourism management that is covered by contributions from the sector Measure the contributions on the part of operators in aspects of conservation of the AMP as well as the opportunities they offer to the local communities
17.- Percentage of permanent residents vs. temporary residents working in companies dedicated to ecotourism Determine the immigrant population which arrives to the protected area to work in tourism
18.- Percentage of jobs related to tourism at the local level with respect to national employment statistics


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