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Behind the Scenes: What You Don’t See on a Galapagos Tour

Have you imagined yourself enjoying a cold beer after a long day enjoying your Galapagos vacation? Relaxing in a nice comfortable bed?

Where did the beer and mattress come from? Hint: there are no beer and mattress factories in the Galapagos. Food, tours, and accommodations all cost twice as much as in mainland Ecuador.13-suite-mayor-hi

This week Elizabeth Mori (hotel manager of Red Mangrove Lodges in the Galapagos) gives us a little peek at why, and what goes on behind the scenes of a typical tour.

A Galapagos Behind the Scenes Interview

Where is food in the Galapagos sourced from?

There are unique logistical challenges with running a hotel in the Galapagos. Almost everything that you see in the Galapagos is shipped from the mainland. We ship mainly by boat. All the heavy things like water and food are shipped once a month by cargo boat. We ship perishables like vegetables, meat, and dairy each week by plane.


We purchase locally-grown beef, pork, chicken, eggs, and yogurt. In addition, much of the seafood served in our restaurant is fished right here in the archipelago.

Why is it so much more expensive?

We have to pay for the shipment by cargo boat, and then for people to bring the supplies to our hotel. On Isabela, things cost even more, because we then have to ship the supplies from Santa Cruz to Isabela. We are not the only ones who do that. Everyone has to do it.

What else goes into the planning and costs of a tour?

A lot of people are needed to plan a Galapagos tour. When you arrive at the airport, there is someone waiting for you. We hired them, and then there is the taxi drivers and van drivers that provide transportation. We hire boats to transport tourists between the islands.

If you book a diving tour, your dive instructor is hired from the Galapagos. Guides, personnel, logistics and operations all contribute to the cost of a tour. Our sales team is based in Cuenca, Ecuador on the mainland, but everyone else is based in the Galapagos.


In addition, visitors pay a park entrance fee of $100, and about $300-400 for a flight to the Galapagos from mainland Ecuador. Park fees go toward conservation of the national park. If you also think about the entirety of work that enables you to spot wild tortoises in the highlands of Santa Cruz on a Red Mangrove tour, then there is even more to consider in the area of conservation.

Slide Home 2

What work is being done toward conservation of the Galapagos?

A typical visitor may not be aware of the tremendous behind the scenes efforts of non-profit organizations and the Galapagos National Park service.

As a small example, lets talk about why were you able to enjoy seeing a giant tortoises in the wild. The population of giant tortoises has unfortunately been greatly reduced by introduced dogs, rats, and cats, which eat giant tortoise eggs and the young.

Now, volunteers hunt for tortoise eggs in the wild, and bring them to the Charles Darwin Research Station for protection, they stay until the young tortoises are big enough to fend for themselves. Volunteers also feed the tortoises and clean up the tortoise poop. That is just a small example of the incredible research and conservation efforts behind the scenes. Read more at the Galapagos Conservancy webpage.

cargo being unloaded on Isabela

cargo being unloaded on Isabela

How many bottles of beer on the (cargo) boat?

How many bottles of beer on the (cargo) boat?

I hope you enjoyed this small peek behind the curtain. If you have questions for Elizabeth let us know in comments.

About the author: Lisa Cho Lisa Cho is an expat living in Ecuador, originally from San Francisco, California. She writes about the Galapagos Islands on the Red Mangrove Galapagos Travel Blog and about her mainland Ecuador adventures on

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