AUTHOR Caroline Eaton
When you plan a trip to the Galapagos Islands, your mind races between the animals you will see and the waters you will snorkel through. Rarely do you question who will be leading the way on your trip, which we think is one of the most vital components to making your trip a success.
What is a Naturalist Guide?
Since 1975, all visitors to Galapagos must be accompanied by a certified naturalist guide.
Guides are trained in a variety of material to best prepare them to show you around the archipelago while educating you on the wildlife and land around you in addition to help conservation of the Galapagos. They take extensive courses in the History of Ecuador and Galapagos, Ecology and Conservation, Wildlife, Gelogoy and Volcanology, Environmental Interpretation, Managing a National Heritage of Natural Areas, Cartography, Camping Techniques, First Aid Survival and more.
Their jobs don’t end when they are done with your trip to the Galapagos, each guide has to submit a report the the park authorities after every tour they lead. The report contains feedback on the guides observations throughout the tour and any additional information that will help continue to improve and monitor the visitor sites.
Why do you need a Naturalist Guide?
The guide is your eyes and ears while you are exploring, spotting wildlife that you most likely wouldn’t notice. They are educated on the history of the archipelago and are able to share stories and personal experiences to enhance your trip. They will point out endemic flora and fauna and tell you fascinating stories about the unique species you find on the islands.
In addition to helping you travel through the Galapagos better informed, they help protect our ecosystem. They have completed training and are extremely knowledgeable in helping keep the ecosystem balanced… and they can be a whole lot of fun too!
What makes a good Naturalist Guide?
Naturalist guides could be guiding 26 – 35 weeks a year! You can see how it would be easy to lose your enthusiasm after awhile. It’s a tough job that demands a lot of dedication and is why we take such care in picking out the best for our groups.
A good guide should contain three important qualities:
1. Communication Skills
You want a guide with the ability to communicate well in English. All of the guides can speak Spanish fluently but “bilingual” is a bit of a relevant term. Not everyone is bilingual to the same degree. If you aren’t well versed in Spanish, you will want a guide that you can understand and ask questions with on your tour.
2. A Strong Knowledge Base
A good naturalist guide should have a solid knowledge base, including the history of the land, culture, wildlife and flora and fauna. This is one of the major benefits to having a local guide with you in the Galapagos, and we suggest you take full advantage. Ask your guide questions and use them as a resource so you can leave the trip with a better understanding of the unique environment you experienced.
3. Engaging Personality
You spend a lot of time with your naturalist guide, so you want to make sure they are someone you look forward to exploring with and feel comfortable interacting with. We look for guides who are friendly, patient, understanding and of course a sense of humour doesn’t hurt!
They need to be able to adapt to a variety of situations and be very aware of their surroundings for both the group dynamics and wildlife around them. While some guides look at this as a “job” or means to earn money, a great naturalist guide is passionate about the archipelago and has made this their profession.
A guide can make or break your cruise experience, which is why we always encourage you to ask questions and get to know your guide before you go.
Get to know Ecoventura’s guides:
Before you arrive, ask about your guides. We list bios about our guides on our site so even before you arrive you can know the personality that will be joining you on your trip! You will leave with not only forming great relationships with these guides, but your guide can make your trip that much more meaningful.
Naturalist Guide level 3 – licensed 1992
Ecuadorian born, “Ceci” spent 15 years living in Toronto Canada. It is here where she obtained her bachelor in Business Administration. After attending a training given by the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station, she obtained her license as a Level III Naturalist Guide, and guided until 2001. After having two children, Ceci came back in 2008 to Galápagos, to work in the place she loves the most. It is here where she enjoys her favorite activity while guiding; snorkeling. No doubt she also has a special interest in reptiles and a real enthusiasm for sharing this special place with our guests. “If you love wildlife, people and photography, this is the ideal job for you, I feel blessed and honored to work in one of the most pristine places on earth.”
Gustavo Andrade is part of a third generation of a local family from San Cristóbal. He was raised in Guayaquil, but always linked to the islands, because his father worked as a tour boat captain. Gustavo was blessed to get nature exposure experience since the age of seven. Gustavo is an Industrial Engineer, and became a naturalist guide of the Galapagos National Park in 2005 – one of the very best experiences of his life.
photo credits: Traveling9to5