The idea is that you keep your distance from the animals. Officially, Galapagos tour guides will speak of a 2-meter distance (upping the 1-meter distance previously requested), but this is sometimes the most difficult rule to abide by and enforce during Galapagos cruises.
Tourism in the Galapagos Islands has always tried to focus on respecting nature and as such conceiving the boundaries between the tourist and the wildlife he comes to visit has inherently been a tricky affair. Galapagos wildlife translates as temptation for any nature-lover, as ecologically sensitive as he may be, in many cases breaking all the boundaries that could feasibly separate the two.
A Red-footed Booby will ask you, the tourist, to give him a branch from the ground to build his nest. A Nazca Booby will sit on the path, conceived precisely to reduce the environmental footprint in the islands, forcing you, the tourist, to tread on human-free Galapagos territory. Baby sea lions will grab on to your flippers while snorkeling, Española mockingbirds will search your backpacks and plead for water, and marine iguanas can be so still and are so well camouphlaged that there is a danger that you the tourist step on him. Other animals will actually come to you.
What is the politically correct thing to do? Do I accept that Galapagos “hospitality”… is that the polite thing to do here? If we are to say that we know better, then no. Our duty would be to shy away from temptation and not give the bird the branch, not go closer than 2 meters from the friendly looking fur seal.