At SharkSky we are responsible and sustainable tourism operators. Protecting the environment and providing benefits to the local community are among the defining features of responsible ecotourism. For this reason, we strive to create programs that benefit both host and guest, that respect and protect natural and human environments, and that provide economic alternatives to the local community. Below are just a few ways that we are involved in helping out:
A) Conserving the environment
- We respect and abide by all Galapagos National Park rules and regulations.
- On all our tours, we have a clean-up policy that must be respected by all our employees – ‘take out what you take in.’
- We use eco-friendly motors on our boats (4 stroke motors).
- We avoid activities that threaten wildlife or that may be potentially damaging to our natural environment.
- We include a tree planting activity in our volunteer tour and support the re-planting of endemic species in the highland fincas.
- We organize regular beach cleaning sessions (in association with Surfrider Foundation).
- Try to promote cruises on ships certificated “SMART VOYAGER” by the Rainforest Alliance, or managed by local family businesses.
B) Helping the Local Community
Providing opportunities and economic alternatives for the local population ensures that tourism benefits the broader community of the Galapagos.
Whenever possible we try and include dinners at the home of local fishermen (especially during island hopping tours).
We also offer the experience of accommodation with local families. When opting for an island hopping tour, you ensure that direct profits reach the inhabitants of the islands, which directly supports small family businesses. At the same time, you help the local population become more aware of how precious their own environment is. We always encourage our staff to practice eco friendly behavior. For this reason, we use locally-owned transportation, restaurants and accommodations.
We employ local staff and pay them fair, legal wages.
Tourism is an important industry in Ecuador and Galapagos, and you, as the tourist, can ensure that it impacts the natural and human landscapes in a positive way. We have developed these guidelines to help make travel a culturally, economically, and environmentally sensitive activity. We follow these guidelines and hope that you will too:
Be culturally sensitive
Being aware of the feelings, values, customs, and beliefs of the host community can prevent what might be considered offensive behavior. Remember this especially concerning dress, photography, and religion. Be open-minded. Remember that differences that exist are not necessarily good or bad—just different!
Understand cultures in their own context
Cultivating the habit of listening and observing, and asking questions honors the host community’s knowledge of place. Approach new cultures with an open-mindedness, flexibility, and a willingness to learn and share.
Be environmentally friendly
Help preserve local wildlife and habitats by respecting rules and regulations, such as sticking to footpaths, and not buying products made from endangered plants or animals. Use energy, water, and other resources efficiently, and consistently with availability- this also lessens your impact on the environment. Participate in activities that help restore and preserve the environment. Recycling is extremely limited in Ecuador and Galapagos. Opt for drinks in glass bottles, as these tend to be re-used, and forgo use of a straw. And remember, batteries are often one of the most damaging products that are left behind.
Be economically beneficial
You can support the local economy and provide much needed economic alternatives to the local community simply by using services and staying in accommodations owned by members of the community. This includes eating in locally owned restaurants and buying local products and handicrafts.
Flash photography or close-up photos within Galapagos National Park, particularly in terms of wildlife, may be restricted or prohibited – please talk to your guide first to make sure photography is permitted before you begin shooting.
Don’t treat people as part of the landscape, as they may not want to have their picture taken. Put yourself in their shoes, ask first and respect their wishes. Most travelers want photos to remind them of their travels, but there are times when photography can offend and intrude. So how do you get the photos of a lifetime without offending the people you are visiting? Consider the feelings of local people and, if it’s inappropriate, don’t take it.
Other important tips for responsible tourism in Ecuador & Galapagos:
- Become familiar with the Galapagos National Park Rules before you arrive
- Read about the culture and the people before you come – this will prepare you for expected modes of behavior and dress and also give you an insight into the society before you arrive (see the Planning Your Trip” link for a selected list of recommended readings).
- Follow guidelines for eco-friendly packing and travel (refer to the link “Planning your trip” and the packing list provided for more information).
- Learn a few words of Spanish – your efforts to communicate will be warmly welcomed, and a few basic words will go a long way to improve the quality of your interaction with local people.
- Buy local – i.e. food/drink – rather than imported products whenever possible. In this way, you will taste a bit of authentic Ecuadorian cuisine while helping the local economy.
- If you are bargaining over an item, you should understand that a small monetary difference to you is probably a big one for the vendor. Pay a fair price and bargain less.
- Ask permission before you photograph local people.
- Respect the local traditions.
- Remember that lifestyle and time concepts are probably different than your own, not inferior – different!