The Galápagos is one case where we can definitely say that we do NOT need a bigger boat. Or, indeed, another boat. Once thought of as the most ecologically sound way to bring tourists into the national park, it can be like rush hour at Heathrow Airport runway out there sometimes.
There has been a strong movement among eco commentators to discourage the use of big, high end cruise ships although thankfully the government intervened and the national park now restricts the size of the boats allowed to cruise the islands, with some islands such as Genovesa being limited to boats with no more than forty passengers. Though the maximum size of passengers to be carried is now a hundred passengers (a vast improvement when hundreds were allowed to roam the seas and land), that is still a lot of people landing on a highly protected beach, although they are then divided into small groups of sixteen, each accompanied by a guide.
Not only are these large boats pretty unsightly in such pristine environments (think giant motorhomes that roam the Lake District or La Provence), they also bring little or no money into the local economy. Most cannot access the landing points that other boats can, and there are actually only five licenced boats that can do that within the national park anyway. The boats are very strictly policed, with one operator having its operations stopped last year for having lobster in its freezer, outside of the lobster season. You can read more on that story in Travel Weekly. This same company was also the subject of investigative journalism programme Dispatches, which uncovered alleged unethical and illegal working conditions. The company denies the allegations , but just to say, the world is watching out for the suspicious appearance of bruises. The Galápagos cannot afford any environmental blows.
At Responsible Travel , however, we support slow, sustainable and safe as the way to go Galápagos. Aim for locally owned boats, but if they are super cheap ask all the right questions, as it often means something has been cut along the way, such as decent guide fees. Check out those certified by Rainforest Alliance, as you won’t spot many of the bleach white behemoths there.