Exciting Changes are Underway at the Charles Darwin Research Station
Big changes are underway the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) in Puerto Ayora, which, when completed, should dramatically improve the quality of visitor experience there and provide a significant source of new revenue for the organization.
Each year, over 100,000 foreign and Ecuadorian visitors stop by the station, which is one of the best known and most important historical landmarks in the Galapagos Islands, due to its globally recognized and trusted reputation and for its important contributions to the conservation of the archipelagos's unique flora and fauna.
The improvements, which are scheduled to be completed in June, will include:
new interpretive materials in Spanish and English throughout the entire research station;
a renovated shade house installation;
an enlarged endemic garden;
a shaded area for visitors;
an observation deck;
a refurbished and expanded souvenir shop and food kiosk.
The total cost of the refurbishments, which started in 2013, will be $700,00, not an insignificant amount for an organization with a yearly operating budget of just $3.5 million.
According to Swen Lorenz, Executive Director of the Charles Darwin Foundation, which operates the station, the upgrade and expansion of the souvenir shop and food kiosk, which have been around for 25 years, is one of the most important changes. Lorenz went on to say, "The new visitor center will not only greatly improve the quality of visitor experience at the station with its spacious and comfortable facilities, it will also should provide a much needed source of additional revenue for the CDF, especially in light of the fluctuations we have experienced in international donations and the increasing difficulty of access to philanthropic funds, which is our main source of funding."
As before, revenue generated through the store and food kiosk will be used to finance the activities of the station and to provide scholarships for Ecuadorian students in the field of conservation. This program includes nationwide postgraduate scholarships and, for students from the Galapagos, long term financial support grants for higher education. No other organization in the Galapagos Islands has provided as much support to local students -- 1,300 Ecuadorians have benefited from this program, many of whom today are renowned professionals in their respective fields.
According to Lorenz, the changes to the visitor center should bring more guests to the station, which will allow the CDF to do a better job of educating visitors about the organization's mission to ensure the conservation of the environment and biodiversity of the Galapagos by providing knowledge and support through scientific research. He also predicts that the improvements will ultimately bring more visitors to the island of Santa Cruz, where the station is located, which will help the local economy.
As an organization dedicated to promoting the highest standards of tourism and visitor experience in the Galapagos, IGTOA commends the CDF for undertaking this ambitious and exciting new venture.