Fascinating news from the Enchanted Isles! Scientists recently discovered a high-temperature hydrothermal vent field of around 50-foot-tall hot chimneys christened “Tortugas.” They also found 15 never-before-seen species, including a “living fossil” mollusk known as a monoplacophoran and a nursery with eggs of Pacific white rays—the second documented in the world (the first being in Canada).

The discovery in the Galapagos Marine Reserve comes thanks to high-resolution mapping technologies used during a recent 30-day research expedition. Scientists from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada boarded the research vessel Falkor (too) of the Schmidt Ocean Institute to conduct their research at the end of October 2023. They used two types of sonar technology to create detailed maps of the area using a remotely operated underwater vehicle. The same technology helped scientists discover two coral reefs in the same area a few months prior.

The hydrothermal vent field, located north of Pinta Island, extends more than 600 meters along the western edge of the ocean floor at depths between 1,600 and 2,400 meters. The sonar mapping tech also identified the chemicals the vents emit and the animals that inhabit them.

A deep-sea skate reminiscent of a stealth bomber glides through a cloud of diffused "smoke", i.e., mineral laden waters from hydrothermal vents.

A deep-sea skate glides through a cloud of diffused “smoke”, i.e., mineral-laden waters from hydrothermal vents near the Galapagos Rift. © NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

The Lure of the Galapagos

For many, a visit to this archipelago of volcanic islands—most of which is designated as protected lands by the Galapagos National Park Directorate—is a bucket-list travel destination. The unique natural landscape, the abundance of plant and animal species not seen elsewhere in the world, and the fact that the locale inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution are reasons enough for avid travelers to want to visit here.

Unfortunately, climate change, illegal hunting of wildlife, overtourism and other threats are causes for concern. But there is hope: Many organizations, in collaboration with the Galapagos National Park Directorate, are working to ensure that the area remains as close to pristine for generations to enjoy.

Conservation Efforts in the Enchanted Isles

Nat Hab supports several conservation initiatives in the Galapagos to ensure our presence there plays a positive role in helping communities safeguard their lands.

One of our efforts is adventure gear donations made to local community groups and schools. Giving them the tools they need to explore their natural surroundings helps them understand their environment and how to conserve local wildlife.

Sustainable construction and design take centerstage at Montemar, a model home with features such as energy-efficient lighting and temperature control to serve as an example of how going green and living sustainably can help the environment.

Nat Hab also supports the Andean Condor Huasi Project, a conservation and rehabilitation program that generates awareness and advocacy for the species.

An Andean condor soars above the Galapagos Islands.

Andean condor.

Nat Hab is also a member of the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association, an organization that ensures travel preserves rather than destroys these precious lands.

World Wildlife Fund, Nat Hab’s conservation travel partner, is also involved in several conservation efforts in the Enchanted Isles. One is the Charles Darwin Research Station, which has focused on critical conservation work on the islands for the past 50 years. Another is assisting the Galapagos with creating a new ecotourism-based model that includes ways to reduce the ecological footprint of travel and tourism. WWF keeps a check on illegal fishing activities and introduces innovative fisheries management techniques that are better for the industry and the community.

WWF has also established scholarships for local students to explore environmental management and tourism careers, helping create the next wave of conservation-minded individuals.

How You Can Help Protect the Galapagos: Sustainable Tourism

You can aid in conservation efforts in the Galapagos by only traveling with organizations that practice sustainable tourism. Luckily, you can rest assured that not only are our Nat Hab Galapagos tours run with the strictest attention paid to sustainability, but all of our adventures around the globe are 100% carbon neutral!

On our flagship Galapagos Discovery expedition, you’ll travel with a small group of travelers (no more than 16 total!) on an immersive exploration aboard a privately chartered yacht. Expect to encounter Galapagos wildlife like iguanas, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, fur seals, porpoises, penguins, sea turtles, whales and much more.

Guests also have the option to spend one night at our private Tortoise Camp in the Santa Cruz highlands, where you’ll enjoy intimate encounters with giant tortoises in their native habitat.

Giant Tortoises at Nat Hab's private Tortoise Camp in the Galapagos.

Giant Tortoises at Nat Hab’s private Tortoise Camp in the Galapagos. © Rashid Cruz

Other activities like snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding and rides on Zodiacs all get you up close to wildlife. All this in the company of trained naturalist guides to answer all your questions and educate you on your journey!

And although you won’t see the newly discovered species of the “Tortugas” hydrothermal vents, you can be sure that your trip to the Galapagos will help protect even these mysterious deep-sea critters!

Learn more about our green Galapagos adventures