Smart Voyager Galapagos
Guaranteeing Eco-Conscious Cruises through the Galapagos
“The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and well deserves attention.” –Charles Darwin, 1845
This year some 60,000 tourists will visit the Galapagos Islands that lie 597 miles west of Ecuador’s coastline. Most will marvel benignly at the sea lions, seals, blue-footed boobies and giant tortoises, which, having evolved in isolation from natural predators, so captivated Charles Darwin. Others, either unwittingly or by intent, will contribute to the islands’ demise. Over the years, the influx of non-native species, fishing and poorly managed tourist boats – along with the tourists themselves – have disturbed and distressed the waters and wildlife of the Galapagos.
To protect these wondrous living laboratories, and the people that live and work on and around them, Conservación y Desarrollo –in collaboration with their partner Rainforest Alliance – developed Smart Voyager. The program awards its seal of approval to operators meeting a set of strict conservation standards for protecting the environment, wildlife and the well-being of workers and local communities.
For travelers, the Smart Voyager seal is a guarantee that they are traveling with an operator who cares about the conservation of the islands and has taken every precaution to give passengers a memorable, educational and thrilling adventure, without harming the wildlife of this special environment. For tour operators and travel agents, Smart Voyager ensures that the tour boats it represents are doing the utmost to minimize their environmental and social impact.
Smart Voyager’s standards were designed in collaboration with scientists, conservation experts and tour operators, and cover a host of environmental and social concerns. They protect against potential sources of pollution; set rules for the good management of docks, tour boats and the small craft that ferry passengers out to the boats; specify criteria for the procurement and management of supplies; and defend against opportunities for introducing alien species. For local people and workers, these standards require good living conditions and advanced training for the boat crew and guides.
- Improves the quality of life for local residents.
- Reduces the ecological impacts of tourism.
- Gives tour operators a way to directly contribute to both the economy and the environment.
- Offers travelers the chance to help people and the wildlife while visiting natural treasures.
After two years of research, Smart Voyager was introduced in May 2000. Today, five of the 20 large tour vessels – described as floating hotels – that travel through the Galapagos have been evaluated and certified as eco- friendly and socially responsible through the Smart Voyager program. All five certified tour vessels have made tangible changes that include the use of lead-free and TBT-free paint, the implementation of waste disposal systems, the production of fresh water with a desalinization plant on board, the careful management of fuels and improved conditions for workers.
In 2001, the Smart Voyager initiative was commended by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee “given the nature of tourism visitation to the Galapagos and the impacts of tourism on the fragile environment and in light of the proposed Marine Reserve. It believed that consideration should be given to promoting similar schemes in other World Heritage sites.”
Smart Voyager Certification Principals
Smart Voyager’s certification standards are organized into twelve principals:
The Company must have a management policy that includes compliance with national legislation and international agreements as well as Smart Voyager standards.
Conservation of Natural Ecosystems
The tourist operation must support and promote conservation of the Galapagos National Park and the Marine Reserve.
Lowering the Risk of Introduction and Dispersal of Exotic Species
The tourist operation must prevent the introduction of species from the continent to the islands and the dispersal of species between islands.
Just and Proper Treatment of Workers
The tourist operation must elevate the socioeconomic welfare and quality of life of workers and their families.
All personnel involved with the tourist operation must receive environmental education and training.
Community Relations and Local Welfare
The company must make a commitment to the welfare and socioeconomic development of the Galapagos Islands community.
Strict Control of Use, Supply and Storage of Materials
Boat operators must plan and control the consumption, supply and storage of materials, taking into consideration the well-being of tourists, workers, local communities and the conservation of natural ecosystems.
Integrated Waste Management
Boats must follow a waste-management plan, including the reduction, reuse, recycling and adequate final treatment of disposal of all wastes.
Commitment on the Part of the Tourist
Tourists must be guided in their involvement in protecting natural resources and local cultures, tread lightly and collaborate with the island conservation programs.
The Smart Voyager program does not guarantee safety, but certified boats must adhere to international safety standards and have all the appropriate licenses and approvals.
Planning and Monitoring
Tourism operations must be planned, monitored and evaluated, taking into consideration technical, economic, social and environmental factors.
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