The park is strictly regulated. Outside of the towns visitors must be accompanied by guides, and visitors are only allowed on land from sunrise until sunset. Itineraries must be registered with the park prior to embarking on a trip, and animals should never be disturbed; while the wildlife in the Galapagos will usually ignore your presence, a general rule of thumb is that if an animal notices your presence then you are too close. Two meters is generally given as a minimum distance to keep away from animals; you will find that if you are calm and respectful that many animals will walk right up to investigate you.

One of the greatest dangers to the islands is introduced species. The park service is trying to eliminate goats, rats, cats, dogs, and introduced plant species on many of the islands, but it is a difficult battle; after evolving for thousands of years without predators, the Galapagos wildlife is not adapted to handle these new species. When traveling to the islands, do not bring any plant or animal life with you, and be sure to always clean your footwear when traveling between islands to avoid accidentally transferring seeds.

Illegal fishing is another threat to the park. Although park officials will deny it, illegal fishing for sharks and sea cucumbers occur on massive scale. Most of the fishers don’t have another option as the number of fishermen have increased rapidly the last few years while the number fish have plunged. The national park hardly takes any action against it.

Another big threat to the park is the growing population. Although new rules make it impossible for people arriving of the mainland to live and work on the islands, the rules are hardly enforced. Still lots of people come from the mainland to make quick money on the island.

According to local fishermen, corruption at the national park service is the main reason why nothing is undertaking to the treaths. Salaries of park guards are huge even for Galápagos standards. For visitors park rules are enforced to make a well-organized impression. Shiny buildings and visitors centers and guards in uniforms helps to keep up this impression. Meanwhile almost nothing is undertaken against illegal immigration, illegal fishing and the heaps of garbage on the beaches outside the visitor areas. The occasional news report about a fishing boat filled with shark fins and photos of heavy polluted beaches is better for the national park bank account than really solving these problems.

The codified park rules are:

  1. No plant, animal, or remains of such (including shells, bones, and pieces of wood), or other natural objects should be removed or disturbed.
  2. Be careful not to transport any live material to the islands, or from one island to another.
  3. Do not take any food to the uninhabited islands, for the same reason.
  4. Do not touch or handle the animals.
  5. Do not feed the animals. It can be dangerous to you, and in the long run would destroy the animals’ social structure and breeding habits.
  6. Do not startle or chase any animal from its resting or nesting spot.
  7. Stay within the areas designated as visitor sites.
  8. Do not leave any litter on the islands, or throw any off your boat.
  9. Do not deface the rocks.
  10. Do not buy souvenirs or objects made of plants or animals from the islands.
  11. Do not visit the islands unless accompanied by a licensed National Park Guide.
  12. Restrict your visits to officially approved areas.
  13. Show your conservationist attitude.
  14. Fishing on board tourist ships is not permitted.
  15. Fire or smoking is not permitted.
  16. Camping at authorized sites requires a permit
  17. Professional filming requires special authorization from the Park Director