The culture of the Galápagos is defined more by the creatures that call the islands home and less by their human residents, yet cohabitation between man and beast—sometimes destructive and always tenuous—has given rise to some important cultural touchstones. Conservancy is the name of the modern Galápagos game, with the Charles Darwin Research Centre on Santa Cruz Island serving as the nerve center of Ecuador’s national park service. The park service and the government have the difficult task of providing for some 30,000 local residents while at the same time protecting one of the world’s most delicate biospheres—no easy task considering the damage already wrought on the islands by mankind. Every visit to the islands should include a stop at the research center, where guests can familiarize themselves with the CDRS’s core values, volunteer their time to a conservation initiative, and immerse themselves in natural history at the Interpretation Centre.
There are no Full Moon parties or grandiose carnivals on the islands, but people on the Galápagos observe many of the same calendar events as their mainland cousins, including Three Kings Day, Easter, and New Year’s Day. Galápagos Day is celebrated on February 12, but you’ll be too busy hooting and hollering when you spot your first albatross to notice. Celebrate!