Six Senses Hotels are celebrating being the first to build a resort on the Galapagos island of San Cristobal, or Chatham's Island.

Ecuador's Galapagos Islands are a UNESCO world heritage site. The chain of 19 islands are famous for their splendid isolation, unique wildlife and were and an instrumental part of our understanding of life on earth.

After Charles Darwin drew on the island wildlife in his 1859 Origin of the Species, they have become synonymous with natural science and conservation.

Today they are still some of the most untouched parts of the planet.

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Natural selection: The proposed site is home to some of the most untouched and delicate ecosystems on the planet. Photo / Supplied, Hitesh Mehta
Natural selection: The proposed site is home to some of the most untouched and delicate ecosystems on the planet. Photo / Supplied, Hitesh Mehta

This makes the decision to allow the first resort to be built on the islands a monumental one. Due to the islands' designation as a "Biosphere Reserve" only 3 per cent of the total area is allowed for development.

In a statement the hotel chain said the project is being conducted in "accordance with strict local laws, and with strong involvement from the local community during the project's early design and visioning stages."

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The chosen location near Cerro Verde on San Cristobal's green north east is far from any current settlement on the island.

The site which translates literally as "verdant hill" was chosen for its "unspoiled views of the ocean and other topographical landmarks."

The proposed view from Six Senses Cierro Verde resort. Photo / Supplied
The proposed view from Six Senses Cierro Verde resort. Photo / Supplied

It is also an ideal site for nature watching, which is a key draw for Galapagos tourists.

The woods and nearby crater is a habitat for giant tortoises that roam freely, near a breeding centre for the animals. The nearby coast is also home to marine iguanas and sea lions.

The hotel chain described encounters with Galapagos wildlife as "a thrilling and emotional experience" and a "one-of-a-kind" experience.

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"Sustainability is at the core of our brand, influencing everything from ongoing community engagement and conservation efforts to the local, repurposed materials used in the development," said Neil Jacobs, CEO of Six Senses Hotels.

Arturo Kayser of local conservation group Orgal SA, says the project "represents a great alignment of visions" in it's joint commitment to sustainability and local social and economic benefits for the island.

The islands which are a territory of Ecuador has previously been cautious about accepting tourists into the delicate ecosystem.

Last year the Ecuadorian Minister for tourism Enrique Ponce de Leon described protection of the islands' ecosystem as a key priority.

Encounters with wildlife are a big draw to the islands: a Galapagos sea lion pup. Photo / Supplied, Hitesh Mehta
Encounters with wildlife are a big draw to the islands: a Galapagos sea lion pup. Photo / Supplied, Hitesh Mehta

"The Galapagos are the crown jewel, and as such, we have to protect them," he said. "We must be drastic in caring for the environment."

Tourist figures from last year show 245,000 visitations, with the islands being in the strange position of having to turn away visitors.

"The environmental, social and biological features of this place – which is like no other – forces us to set a limit, to manage tourism in terms of supply, rather than demand," Walter Bustos told the South China Morning Post, last year.

However tourism and hospitality is recognised as a growing area of importance for the islands' economy, one which conservation bodies will have to deal with.

"We must not view tourists as the devil," says Juan Carlos Garcia, director for conservation for the WWF in Ecuador. "The challenge is to manage tourism in a sustainable way, one that preserves the ecosystems and generates profits."

With the state-owned airline TAM announcing new flights to the islands, conservation groups will have to work more closely than ever to manage the impact of visitors on these islands.

Recognised as a founding site for the theory of "natural selection" in its UNESCO conservation status, the Galapagos as much as anywhere should know how fragile habitats can be.