Galapagos-Cocos Swimway Challenge

Please note that this challenge has now finished – thank you to everyone who took part and donated. If you would like to donate to GCT, you can do so here

The Galapagos-Cocos Swimway is a vital migration highway that follows the Cocos Ridge connecting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador with Cocos island, Costa Rica. Galapagos Conservation Trust has been supporting the creation of the proposed Galapagos-Cocos Swimway protected area since 2018 by helping our science partners gather important evidence needed to drive forward the creation of this 240,000 km2 route, which is critical for conserving endangered Galapagos marine species.

La información en Español

The event launched at the start of our 2021 Galapagos-Cocos Swimway expedition on 5 May 2021 where our science partner Dr Alex Hearn, founder of MigraMar and professor at the University of San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador, and an expert team of scientists gathered evidence to support the protection of this vital Swimway. They started in Costa Rica, travelled down to Cocos Island National Park and then along the Swimway to the Galapagos Islands. They then followed the same route we set for the challenge back to Cocos Island National Park, before disembarking in Costa Rica. 

The challenge

We’re challenged you to swim, walk, run, cycle, or wheelchair the length of the proposed Galapagos-Cocos Swimway route – 1,125km or 700 miles – to raise money towards our vital work.

If 700 miles was a little too much of a challenge for this year, then people could form a small group with family, friends or colleagues and share out the miles. If the challenge seemed easy, we asked you to race the research boat and complete the challenge in two weeks – or do the full shark migration, there and back in the full three months.

Sponsor GCT

The Galapagos Conservation Trust team also completed the challenge as a team – if you’d like to sponsor our team, please donate here.

Keep up to date on social media using the hashtag #GCTSwimwayChallenge and via the Galapagos-Cocos Swimway Challenge Virtual Mission Page.

Ways to get involved:

  1. Participate in the challenge as an individual or team
  2. Sponsor the GCT team as we compete in the challenge
  3. Encourage the participants by donating directly to the challenge event and help us raise £10,000 towards our vital work
  4. Share your updates on social media using the hashtag #GCTSwimwayChallenge and via the MyVirtualMission page.
  5. Follow the Swimway trip updates and challenge updates on our social media channels. 

Guidelines and how to get involved:

  • You can start at any time after 5 May 2021
  • You must pay a £10 participation fee per person to join the virtual challenge to cover the platform and administrative costs. You will then receive a password and a link to the mission page where you can log your progress
  • You can participate as an individual or as a team – there is no maximum number of people
  • If you need to set up a team, please email with your team name, who will be joining, and a team photo. Then one of the GCT team will assist you (within regular office hours).
  • There is no sponsorship commitment, but we’re trying to raise £10,000 towards our vital work so every little helps
  • Download a sponsorship form here and, if possible, we strongly encourage you to donate this sponsorship via our challenge donation page here
  • To set up a personal fundraiser for yourself or your team please click here
  • You don’t have to stick to one type of sport, you can mix it up and run, walk, swim, cycle or wheelchair throughout the challenge
  • Race at your own risk
  • Make sure you sign up to our eNewsletter to receive updates
  • You must finish and submit all your activity by midnight on 5 August 2021
  • The most important thing is to have fun!

Why is it important?

Every year, 100 million sharks are killed by humans. Endangered sharks such as scalloped hammerheads and whale sharks are under threat from overfishing, bycatch and ocean pollution. The Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) is home to the highest concentration of sharks in the world. It is a crucial location for critically endangered scalloped hammerheads and is one of the only places globally where large numbers still reside. Many of the sharks found in the GMR are migratory, including whale and hammerhead sharks.

Whale shark swimming with a fin mounted tag © Galapagos Whale Shark Project

Recent studies by GCT’s project partner, MigraMar, have found that at least five endangered marine species – whale sharks, leatherback turtles, green turtles, silky sharks and scalloped hammerhead sharks – travel between Galapagos and Cocos island, Costa Rica, along the Galapagos-Cocos Swimway. It follows the Cocos Ridge, an underwater mountain range that species follow to migrate between the two UNESCO World Heritage sites. “The Galapagos-Cocos Swimway is a vital artery in the network of biodiversity hotspots that we are fortunate enough to share here in the Eastern Pacific,” said Dr Alex Hearn. Once these marine species move outside of the protected waters of the GMR, they are extremely vulnerable to industrial and illegal fishing. As part of Galapagos Conservation Trust’s Endangered Sharks of Galapagos programme, we have been supporting the need to protect the proposed Swimway since 2018. We are helping our science partners gather essential evidence needed to drive forward the creation of this 240,000 km2 protected area.

The wildlife using the Swimway also face threats from plastic pollution, with 8 million tons of plastic entering our ocean each year, and climate change, which is causing ocean temperatures to rise, currents to become disrupted and weather systems to change.

We want to use this challenge to raise awareness of the threats facing marine life in the Eastern Pacific, as well as raise money to help to protect them.