The islands were declared a national park in 1959, and tourism began to increase. However, commercial fishing also increased dramatically and fish stocks dwindled. In 2001, UNESCO designated more than 100,000 square kilometers around the islands as a World Heritage Site. Tourism increased to the point that the sheer volume of visitors was overwhelming. In 2007, UNESCO placed the islands on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The government restricted immigration to the island, began to seriously enforce fishing limitations, and also imposed limits on tourism. In 2010, the islands were removed from the "in danger" list.
Dinghies were our daily mode of transport for our wet or dry landings. "Wet landings" involved stepping into the ocean and wading ashore, while we progressed directly onto rocks or a dock for "dry landings." We visited the islands of Santa Cruz, Santiago, Isabela, and Fernandina.
A land iguana didn't care how we arrived. He owned the path!
Writing prompt: what happened to the backpacker?
Majestic sea lion at sunset. One bull has a harem of females which he jealously protects from intrusive males.
Fauna is also very diverse, with several species of cacti in abundance.
A natural land bridge
Female at rest. We were allowed to approach as close as six feet to the animals, which have no fear of humans because no hunting or trapping has been allowed for years.
Whale skeleton on Bachas Beach
Each island has its own distinctive beauty, and the wildlife sightings are simply spectacular. Invasive species--primarily pigs, goats, and rats--wreaked havoc on the islands for years but efforts to control and eradicate these animals have seen significant success.