Peter Freire is the President of the Association of Guides in the Galapagos and is one of both Steppes, and our clients, favourite Galapagos guides. We are privileged to work with Peter on some of our exclusive Galapagos charters.
Peter was born and raised in the Galapagos and has spent the last 23 years guiding and educating people on this special archipelago. We asked Peter to share some thoughts and memories of life in the Galapagos Islands.
Who has inspired you to be a guide in the Galapagos Islands?
Since my childhood, I had admired my lifetime friend Felipe Cruz. Felipe was one of the first families to be born on Floreana Island and a passionate conservationist in the Galapagos. When I was a kid, Felipe was working with The Charles Darwin Research Station on the Galapagos petrel protection project. The petrel is an endemic bird that inhabits the highlands of the largest Galapagos islands, and on Floreana, where I was born and raised. Felipe, aside from being my idol, was my mentor and the one that gave me my first backpack and inspired me to study and work to protect our enchanted islands. Felipe has been a really great friend of mine, sadly he died in August, his ashes now remain on Floreana Island.
What do you think should be done to help preserve the Galápagos Islands?
I think that the Ecuadorian Government along with the Government of Galapagos should work in conjunction to improve the environmental awareness among the Galapagos inhabitants. Also, it’s important to improve the tourism and migration policies, in favour of the conservancy of the islands.
Do you have a favourite Galapagos creature?
I am a bird lover in general, I particularly like the Galapagos vermillion flycatcher, which is a new endemic bird species discovered thanks to genetic studies. I’m also a diving guide, and I really like sharks. But really, I love every bit of nature in the Galapagos.
Why do you think tourism is important to the future of the Galapagos?
Well-managed ecological tourism is very important for the islands because it helps to protect and fund conservation projects and improves the economy of the island dweller. It must be well managed and controlled otherwise it can be a catastrophe for the ecosystems and the species that inhabit the Islands. The Galapagos National Park has one of the best management plans worldwide for developing this activity and conserving the archipelago.
What is your most memorable experience in the Galapagos?
In January 2017, I had the opportunity to see a large school of stingrays feeding on the west side of the island of Santiago, it was amazing. I was guiding a group at the time, we sailed for about four nautical miles surrounded by manta ray and mobula ray feeding on plankton. It was just the most fantastic experience.
In what place are you happiest?
Whenever I submerge myself into nature and disconnect from the real world. Another of my favourite activities is explaining about the flora, the fauna, and geology of these special islands. I like it when the passengers relax, disconnect and feel they are at one with mother earth and its enchantments.
What is your best piece of travel advice for visiting the Galapagos?
I would have to say just to enjoy nature at its purest and to follow all the rules of the Galapagos National park. Travelling to the Galapagos is immersing into a dynamic world between humans and nature. The Enchanted Islands are the best place to forget about the outside world.