Tour leaders & naturalist guides

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Our Natural History Workshops and Photography Tours are all escorted by both a licensed Naturalist Guide and a Tour Leader.  The Galápagos National Park requires one Naturalist Guide for every 16 visitors.  We basically double that ration of leaders to tour participants.  The Naturalist Guide's role is to escort participants on shore, to provide interpretation of the flora and fauna you are seeing, and to make sure the rules of the National Park are enforced.  Our Guides go well beyond that, providing in-depth interpretation while ashore.

In addition we add an expert Tour Leader to the roster.   This Tour Leader will traditionally "bring up the rear" on shore excursions, keeping the group together while quietly lingering behind a bit with photographers as needed. Having a Tour Leader adds a serious educational orientation to the trip. Most of our Tour Leaders also have a Guide's license, allowing us to split a group if necessary.

We hand pick both our Tour Leaders and Naturalist Guides to be sure of providing everyone the richest Galápagos experience possible.  

Following is a sampling of the wonderful Naturalist Guides and Tour Leaders we work with:

Etienne & Elizabeth on the rim of the Sierra Negra volcano

Etienne & Elizabeth on the rim of the Sierra Negra volcano

Etienne De Backer
Armed with a doctorate in biology, and a subsequent decade of work experience in his native Belgium, Etienne set out (in his mid-30’s) to further explore the world.  His adventures took him through numerous countries and across the seven continents, with the Galápagos Islands ultimately becoming his new home (since 1985).  Since that time Etienne has been a licensed guide or expedition leader on nearly every yacht or ship in the Galápagos, in addition to lecturing and leading groups in both the Ecuadorian rainforest and on Antarctica.  He speaks 5 languages.  Both Etienne’s wife and son are also licensed Naturalist Guides in the Galápagos as well.  Etienne is a Class III Naturalist.  Together with his wife they recently published Galapagos Birdwatching – photographic Identification (the eBook is available on Amazon).  Future planned publications included ID guides to the plants and fish.

Elizabeth (Ely) and an Española Mockingbird

Elizabeth (Ely) and an Española Mockingbird

Elizabeth Coral De Backer
Ely was born and raised in Guayaquil, Ecuador.  In 1980, following college, she headed to the Galápagos Islands where she has made her home since that time.  Originally working with the Galápagos National Park in the introduced plant eradication programs, she later worked at the Charles Darwin Research Station accompanying herpetologists, ornithologist and botanists in their field work.  She began guiding in 1982.  She is fluent in 4 languages, and conversational in another 4.  She met her husband, also a naturalist, in 1985 and they live and work together in Galápagos.  Together they recently published an identification guide to the birds of Galapagos.  During holidays they venture off to myriad other places where nature calls. Elizabeth is a Class II Naturalist.

Martin Loyola
Martin was born and raised in the Galápagos Islands.  Following high school he moved to the mainland to continue his education at the Universidad de Guayaquil.  Fluent in Spanish, English and German, he began guiding in 1990, and is at this time one of our primary guides.  His travels outside of work have taken him from Antarctica to the High Arctic in search of exotic wildlife. His extraordinary knowledge of the Galápagos is surpassed only by his love of the islands and sharing them with visitors.  Nearly equally at home in the water, Martin is an excellent diver and snorkeler.  He is a Class II Naturalist guide.

Silvia at the Barrel Post office, Floreana Island

Silvia at the Barrel Post office, Floreana Island

Silvia Vargas
Silvia hails from Guayaquil, Ecuador.  Between living in Ecuador and Europe her studies included languages (she is fluent is Spanish, German and English), the hospitality industry, ecological design, and law.  An early trip to the Galápagos (in the mid-80’s) proved pivotal, sparking a great passion for the islands and their wildlife – a passion she enthusiastically shares with visitors today.  Her own dedication to learning led her to help create the first public library in Galápagos, with a special focus on natural history and childhood reading. She has a Class III Galápagos guide’s license (the highest rating) and is an enthusiastic snorkeler, kayaker and birder!

Joed Aguirre
Joed is the quintessential next-generation Galapagos guide – he’s young, enthusiastic, raised in the islands and takes obvious delight in sharing “his” islands with the visitor.  Adept in guiding on land, Joed is also a PADI diver.  Today he lives in mainland Ecuador, yet returns to Galápagos as often as possible.

Tui De Roy
A self-taught naturalist, Tui has spent most of her life in the Galápagos Islands (her family having moved there when she was two), leading a pioneering lifestyle. By her formative teenage years Tui was spending much time in the company of scientists in various fields of Galápagos research, both learning from them and sharing her own intimate knowledge of the islands. Later she became the first Galápagos National Park licensed naturalist to serve the budding tourist industry (in the mid-70’s). She is an active member of the Charles Darwin Foundation general assembly, and served on its board of directors.  Click here to read more about Tui's photography experience.

Daniel Fitter
Born and raised in the Galápagos, Daniel's higher education was mostly in the U.K.  Daniel possesses the same pioneering spirit, curiosity, and conservation ethic as his father - one of the early Galápagos settlers. Daniel is a professional photographer, author, Galápagos Naturalist Guide and Dive Master.  Click here to read more about Daniel's photography experience. 

Magdalena Terneus
Magda is a native Ecuadorian, educated in both the U.S. (B.S. in Natural Science/Biology from Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania) and Ecuador (M.S. in Human Nutrition and Community Health from the Universidad San Francisco de Quito).  She was a Naturalist Guide and Tour Conductor in the Galápagos from 1989 to 1999, and again starting in 2008. In between she stopped guiding to stay at home with her young sons.  Since 1997 Magdalena has also taught and coordinated programs at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (in fields relating to both the Galápagos Islands and also human nutrition).  Her husband is a yacht captain in Galápagos.

Enrique Silva
Enrique is a true Galápagos native, born on the island of San Cristobal.  His parents relocated from mainland Ecuador in the 1980’s to build a better life and start their family in Galápagos.  Enrique’s childhood in the islands was lived close to the ocean, accompanying his father on fishing trips, and later when he worked as crew on tourist yachts.  As he grew so did his understanding and appreciation for the amazing paradise that he was lucky to call home.  Since 2009 Enrique has been a licensed naturalist guide in the Galápagos.  When not working, or studying (he is currently working on his degree to teach English), he loves pretending to be a sea lion and slow down and enjoy life in his islands, surfing and reading.  

Andres Cadena
A native of mainland Ecuador Andres is passionate about travel and exploration.  With degrees in Ecotourism and Ecotourism Business from the Catholic University in Quito he has been guiding in mainland Ecuador for 15 years.   In 2008 is enthusiasm for wildlife and natural places led him to the Galapagos Islands; today he is not only a licensed naturalist guide, but also an open-water Scuba instructor.  In addition to Spanish he speaks English, French and German.