On the Galápagos Itinerary: Ocean Plastics to Upcycled Art

Tortoise sitting in green grass. Tortoise chilling in the grass. Wake up to eating tortoises eating in the Galápagos with The Travel Yogi.

On islands where sea lions visit the fish market, ancient-looking marine iguanas dot the beaches, and bird-lovers can spot everything from penguins and Darwin’s finches, it’s easy to feel like environmental threats are an ocean away. 

But even the spectacular Galápagos aren’t immune to pollution and climate change. 

When you visit the Galápagos Islands, ecotourism is always a good idea. 

Seriously… Setting foot in this place is a once-in-a-lifetime privilege. So when you’re not snorkeling or making friends with a tortoise, why not join forces with the locals that keep this special place clean?

On our adventurous Galápagos itinerary, you’ll do just that. You’ll visit a community-run initiative that collects plastic waste from the shores… and turns it into something unexpectedly beautiful.

Tides of Plastic Pollution in the Galápagos

Galapagos Bartolome Island

So, why’s it important to learn about plastic waste as a responsible eco-tourist in the Galápagos? It’s all about how the water flows… 

The Galápagos Islands lie at the intersection of 5 major ocean currents. They bring vital nutrients from the deep sea that nourish the island’s many animal species! But these life-giving currents don’t discriminate – they also wash tons of plastic waste onto Galápagos beaches every single year.

Scientists say most of that waste comes from the South American mainland as well as international fishing boats, causing a constant threat. While international cooperation could eventually stop the influx of plastic, today, the Galápagos’ beaches need regular care to stay clean for visitors and safe for animals.

Luckily, a network of volunteers have stepped up to take on the task.

According to the Galápagos Conservation Trust, local volunteers remove over 8 metric tonnes of plastic each year. This ongoing work that directly saves animal lives and protects habitats. Left alone, plastic can entangle birds, look like a tasty snack for a turtle, or simply degrade over time into the infamous ocean microplastics!

So, what happens to all that waste when it’s safely contained where it belongs – far from the beaches? 

For some of it, a surprisingly beautiful future awaits…

Upcycling Plastic Waste for Art & Education in the Galápagos

When you travel with us, your Galápagos itinerary includes a visit to Upcycling Galápagosa brilliant creative project and small business run by local artist, jewelry craftswoman, and environmental educator Mayra Hernández.

Jewelry by Mayra Hernandez from Upcycling Galapagos via Dropbox.

As a volunteer beach clean-up worker for local conservation organizations since 2017, Mayra soon got the brilliant idea to start transforming reclaimed plastics from the environment into beautiful things. 

Today, she crafts everything from colorful earrings to statement-making sculptures. (And before you ask, yes, you’ll have the chance to shop!).

Mayra at Upcycling Galapagos via Dropbox.

Upcycling Galápagos also makes upcycled arts and crafts supplies for local children, helping educate the next generation of creative and environmentally aware Galapagueños!

The circular economy, sustainable development, and multi-step plastic upcycling techniques are all topics of conversation, so come ready to learn (and be blown away by the creativity!). Yup, Upcycling Galápagos is an essential Galápagos Islands ecotourism pit stop.

Wildlife, Water, and Adventure: The Full Galápagos Itinerary

Blue-footed booby on a rock near the ocean. Here are 10 bucket list travel destinations with The Travel Yogi. Photo credit: Andy Brunner

The Galápagos Yoga Adventure is all about exploration, sustainability, exciting encounters with wildlife – all tied together with a daily yoga practice (of course!). 

You’ll stay at Montemar’s two eco-luxury villas, where you’ll dine daily on produce grown on-site. Our hosts are awesome and community focused – we have them to thank for our connection with Upcycling Galápagos!

Here’s what else is on the Galápagos itinerary!

  • Go for a stroll around the property and spot giant tortoises and wild horses (yes, really). 
  • Snorkel and swim with “the locals” – we’re talking sea turtles, penguins, and sea lions!
  • Kayak among mangroves and over sharks. 
  • Absorb as many wildlife facts as you possibly can from your group’s dedicated Certified Galápagos Naturalist.
  • Take a sunrise dip between lava cliffs in the gorgeous Las Grietas swimming hole.
  • Visit a wood carving shop and learn from a local artist.
  • Spot sea turtles, penguins, blue-footed boobies, and many more species on day-long excursions.

Just like the islands, this Galápagos activity is full of life and activity! Read all the details here.

Adventure, wellness, and a chance to give back await in the Galápagos

When you visit the Galápagos, the sea lions, tortoises, iguanas, and birds won’t let you forget that you’re in a truly special place – one that deserves to be explored, learned, and treated with an abundance of awe and respect!

And the islands’ people (like Mayra and Upcycling Galápagos!) will inspire you with the work, creativity, and love they put into keeping their home healthy for generations to come. 

Book your Galápagos Adventure