A sea lion beside a reef at the Galápagos Islands.
Cristina Mittermeier

One of the most biodiverse destinations on the planet has recently secured even more stringent environmental protection. Late last year, the leaders of Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Panama ratified the more than 20,000-sq.-mi. Hermandad Marine Reserve. The reserve extends the existing protected zone around Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands to encompass marine areas in several neighboring countries, including Cocos Island National Park in Costa Rica and the Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary in Colombia, creating a marine migratory corridor that will curb commercial fishing in that area. Overall, the new reserve expands the protected area of the Galápagos archipelago by more than 40%.

For visitors to see the flora and fauna of the territory, a couple of new cruises have launched this year. Luxe outfit Aqua Expeditions began operating the Aqua Mare, a 163-ft., three-passenger-deck, seven-suite superyacht in June. In February, Silversea christened the Silver Origin, a ship designed specifically to tour the Galápagos. The cruise line’s significant sustainability efforts on this innovative vessel include a 15% reduction in fuel consumption and a dynamic propulsion system designed to reduce damage to the seafloor.

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