- Can I extend my time aboard and/or stay on the islands before/after my expedition?
Of course you can! Shorter itineraries give an excellent impression of the Galapagos if you have limited time or are on a budget. However, you won’t be able to see all the highlights. If you want to get the maximum out of your visit, we suggest extending your expedition by asking for the combined itineraries every one of our yachts offer.
By extending your expedition, you can explore nearly all the islands and wildlife existent in almost every corner of the archipelago. For example, longer cruises are the only way to see albatrosses in Española, land iguanas in South Plaza, red-footed boobies in Genovesa, and penguins in the western archipelago. A trip to Galapagos is a once in a lifetime visit. Every island is different and is definitely worth seeing!
We will kindly help you with organizing hotel bookings, hotel-based packages and day tours, including diving if you prefer a hotel-based island extension. This way, you can experience the Galapagos in two different ways: on an expedition boat to visit some of the more exclusive remote islands, and a land-based tour to explore the surroundings of the inhabited islands.
- Are families with children welcome on board?
Families with children are very welcome on board! However, we suggest that your children are at least 3-4 years old. This way, they can enjoy the experience and be able to endure the cruise. We highly recommend to consider waiting a few years until they realize how special the Galapagos Islands are. Although we don’t offer special children’s programs, they will love being nearby animals, and activities such as swimming, snorkelling and sea kayaking
Please, remember that parents or legal guardians are responsible for their children. They must take into account that children may not undertake longer or more difficult activities.
We have special discounts for children younger than 12 years (-20% for 1 child per 2 parents), as well as reduced entrances fees to the Galapagos National Park.
- What physical condition is required for the expedition?
We highly recommend that our passengers have a reasonably good physical condition. Our programs are well-filled, but you can always skip a more demanding activity and take a rest on board.
We would like to point out some problems that elderly or disabled people may encounter:
Some trails are long and/or more difficult than others. Some have sharp lava rocks or light scrambling (especially in unspoiled remote areas like the western Galapagos islands that hardly have any touristic infrastructure, as well as in Española, Genovesa and Tintoreras).
There may also be trouble while embarking and disembarking the inflatable boat, especially when the tide is a bit rough. However, our crew will always be there to help you in and out safely.
Please check also in our yacht design whether the steps on board are suitable for you.
ABOUT THE BOOKINGS
- How far in advance should I book?
The Galapagos have become a popular destination with many visitors. We recommend you to book your trip at least 6 months prior to your planned date of departure, and even a year ahead for holiday seasons (Easter, Christmas and New Year, and May-July); particularly when you have special wishes.
Simply put: you have more options, more preferences and guarantees, although not everything can be guaranteed. (For more information see: What can never be guaranteed if you book a Galapagos expedition boat?)
- You stand a better chance that you will follow that special route and visit those islands that are most interesting to you, and that you will see certain animals in particular.
- You stand a better chance that the yacht of your choice will be available on your preferred dates (especially for charters).
- You stand a better chance that your favorite cabin on the yacht (such as a single or matrimonial, or on a preferred deck) will be available, and also that special requests, such as a certain cabin, can be granted (if applicable).
- What can never be guaranteed if I book a Galapagos expedition boat?
Even if you book well in advance and we try to organize everything smoothly, there will always be certain aspects of your visit that never can be guaranteed, such as:
- Whether you will get the opportunity to see certain species (specifically rare or seasonal animals)
- The weather
- The conditions of the sea (rough/smooth)
- Departure and arrival times of your flights
- The followed route (subject to change due to weather or the authorities)
- Which guide or cook are on your tour (both work freelance)
- The number of passengers on the yacht
- The composition of the group of passengers aboard (unless you charter the yacht)
- Is there a minimum number of passengers required?
We do not require a minimum number of passengers. Once you have booked you can be sure that your expedition will go ahead without problem. There will be no risk of the boat being overbooked. In case of circumstances of force majeure, we will offer you an adequate alternative.
- How long before my expedition do I have to pay, and is my payment guaranteed?
Please consult your agency. Every agent and country have their own policies.
- What does my rate include and not include?
- Is the airfare included?
The only way to get to the Galapagos is by air. The ticket is not included, but we can issue the tickets. Your flight space to the Galapagos is automatically guaranteed for all bookings made one month prior to departure or earlier. For an expedition booked at shorter notice we will reserve the flights as well. The airfare is subject to change, but we will provide you with the rate the moment you book.
We strongly recommend you to book your flight and your expedition boat together to be sure that you will arrive at the same time as the other passengers. This way, you won’t miss the transfer to the yacht and/or part of the program (even when delayed). Airport-boat-airport transfers in the Galapagos and airport assistance in Quito are only included if the flight has been booked with the local operator. Otherwise, an additional airport transfer will have to be booked. If a flight delay occurs, an additional speedboat may have to be hired at your own expense – in cash – to bring you to our yacht.
- Can we charter a Galapagos expedition boat with just our family or group?
Of course you can, but it must be on time! Please consult with your agency for rates and dates that have not been blocked yet.
- Can I book a single cabin or suite?
Of course you can, but we will have to charge an additional fee to cover the operational costs. Single passengers that are willing to share their cabin with another person of the same sex will not have to pay an additional single supplement fee, even in the case that no roommate has booked. Males and females aren’t forced to share the cabin together. Aqua offers 9 cabins for a maximum of 16 guests: The main deck and upper deck cabins have picture windows that can be opened. Lower deck cabins have portholes only.
On the lower deck you will find 3 cabins with a double size lower bed and a single upper bed (for double or triple use). On the main deck you will find 1 cabin with a double size lower bed, and on the upper deck you will find 5 cabins with a single lower and a single upper bed.
- Can I request a specific cabin?
In the Galapagos it is still common that your cabin will be assigned upon arrival on board. With us, you can request a specific cabin on our yacht if available; so please book well in advance. Individual travelers share their cabin with someone of the same sex, unless they have booked a single supplement for a single cabin.
- Does the kitchen offer special food if I have any food restriction?
Special meals (vegetarian or other dietary requirements) are available upon previous request at no extra cost. It is also very important that we are informed of any allergies and food restrictions. This way, we will work around them to offer meals that are delicious and safe.
- What happens if I cancel my booking?
Cancellations up to 61 days prior to departure, 30% of the total amount paid will be retained as a penalty fee. 60 days or less days prior to departure, means that 100% of the total tour rate is forfeited. If you cancel up to 121 days prior to departure we will charge you a non-refundable fee of US$ 100 pp.
ABOUT THE EXPEDITIONS
- How long does the flight take from Quito or Guayaquil to the Galapagos?
The flight from Quito to Guayaquil takes 30 minutes, the flight from Guayaquil to the Galapagos takes one hour and a half. Flights to the Galapagos are generally scheduled in the morning, and return flights around noon.
- What is the best season to take the expedition boat?
In case you don’t prefer fully booked yachts, your best choice is probably June and in between the last week of August until the first week of November. The first two weeks of December may also apply. The busiest seasons are generally Christmas and New Year departures.
No matter what time of year you visit the islands, you will always find nice holiday weather and wildlife activity.
During the “hot” season the islands are generally much greener and sunnier, and land birds are most active (nesting and nurturing). It is also during this period that the ocean is calmer and water temperature is warmer for swimming and snorkelling.
During the “cool” season, seabirds and sea mammals are most active. This is best time for observing courtship displays, breeding, and nurturing of sea birds.
- May I encounter rough seas or bad weather?
Depending on the sea currents and winds, there will be light to moderate movement of the vessel while navigating (mainly at night). The Galapagos internal waters are mostly calm, but open ocean crossings can sometimes provoke discomfort during a “rough” night, especially from August to September. Seas generally are at their calmest from January to April.
Most passengers are not affected. If they are, it’s lasts a short time. However, if you are prone to seasickness, we recommend you to use a patch (these work very well) or take a pill before the anchor is lifted. Consult your doctor which medicine works best for you. Sooner or later, your body will adapt to the motion of the ship and the discomfort will diminish.
- Is the expedition itinerary subject to change?
On occasions, the Galapagos National Park authorities can oblige the yacht to vary the itinerary. For example, when certain species need a resting period, a landing site is temporarily closed to visitors, or when trails or facilities are under maintenance. The captain can also decide to change the itinerary for weather, safety or unforeseen reasons.
- Do you navigate between islands in the daytime or at night?
The days are normally spent anchored at one of the islands, although there are times when you will sail short distances between islands during the day. See our itinerary map and day-to-day descriptions for average navigation times.
- What does the day-to-day programme of a typical expedition day look like?
Before dinner, your naturalist guide will present the next day’s programme. The hours and programme mentioned in the following schedule are just indicative, but you can be sure that the programme is always varied and well thought out, without rushing, and with time to recover as well.
3:00 – 6:00 AM
Arrival at the new anchorage while you are asleep.
6:00 – 6:30 AM
6:30 – 7:00 AM
Call for the breakfast buffet.
Call to gather at the landing area at the stern of the main deck, and board the inflatable boats (also called dinghies).
Dry or wet landing at the visitor’s site and start of the morning activity, generally a guided nature walk, which lasts 1-3.5 hours. A guide will always be with you, frequently making stops to explain or show you things, the pace is gentle and never rushed. Sometimes 2 shorter activities are combined.
By this time, the crew will have cleaned your cabins, prepared your lunch and maintained the yacht, while the pilots that navigated at night have rested. Your naturalist guide will call the dinghies by walkie-talkie, for a pick-up from the landing place.
Extra activity (in case of a shorter island visit). For example, snorkelling or an alternative dinghy ride.
Return to the yacht by dinghy. Warm welcome with a juice and snack, and time to freshen up and get changed for lunch.
Call for the warm lunch buffet. After lunch, siesta or sunbathing during the hottest hours of the day, while the yacht navigates to the anchorage of the afternoon visitor’s site
Extra activity (in case of a shorter island visit). For example, snorkelling or an alternative dinghy ride.
Return to the yacht by inflatable dinghy. Warm welcome with a juice and snack, and time to freshen up.
Call to gather at the landing area at the stern of the main deck and board the dinghies again for the afternoon island visit.
Dry or wet landing at the visitor’s site and start of the afternoon activity, generally a guided nature walk, which lasts 1-2.5 hours. A guide will always be with you, frequently making stops to explain or show you things, the pace is gentle and never rushed. Sometimes 2 shorter activities are combined.
Return to the yacht by dinghy. Warm welcome with (for example) a juice and a snack, and time to freshen up and get changed for the cocktail hour (or to archive your pictures).
Call for briefing by the naturalist guide in the living room.
9 PM – 12 AM
The yacht raises the anchor after dinner and starts to navigate (the duration depends on the length of the stretch that has to be navigated on that night). The passengers can leave to their cabins for a well-deserved sleep.
* The time schedule depends on many variables. Every visitor’s site is different, with different hikes and activities. Besides that it depends on the wildlife you meet, the season, the weather, water temperature, high/low tide, the type of activity, the group, the guide, and so forth.
- What is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Our cook will pamper you with our exquisite cuisine, generally a combination of international and Ecuadorian dishes, served in buffet style.
In case you require vegetarian, dietary food or special meals, we will be happy to prepare them for you, at no extra cost. Please, let us know in advance so we can take care of it. In case you have booked last-minute (or if you have forgotten to let us know one month before departure), we cannot guarantee this service, but our chef will do what he can with the present ingredients aboard.
- Can I drink the water on board?
We convert salt water into fresh water on board (desalination). The desalinated water from the taps aboard (and in your cabin) is NOT suitable for drinking. Please fill your water bottle with the bottled water that is provided in the lounge for free and at all times.
Water conservation is always a concern of ours, because fresh water is scarce on the Galapagos Islands. The desalination process uses valuable natural resources, so we ask you to please help us save water while taking a shower and washing your hands.
INCLUDED AND NOT INCLUDED
- What is included?
- Lodging on board in cabin with private facilities.
- All meals, water, coffee and tea.
- All diving and visits as mentioned in the itinerary (please note that the itinerary is subject to change).
- English-speaking dive instructor
- Shared shuttle transfer to Quito or Guayaquil airport for the departure flight (included only if the Galapagos flight has been booked through us on our scheduled departure cruise dates).
- All transfers in the Galapagos (airport-yacht-airport). These transfers are only guaranteed if the flight has been booked through us.
- For our diving liveaboards: 12 L tanks for enriched air, weights, belts, and scuba safety equipment (personal marine rescue GPS, storm whistle, diving beacon, and surface marker tube).
- What is not included?
- Roundtrip flight to Galapagos Islands.
- Galapagos National Park entrance fee (USD 100 pp) and Transit Control Card (USD 20 pp).
- Full diving equipment rental (BCD, regulator, mask, fins, 7 mm wetsuits, hoods, gloves, boots, dive computer, and torch) and nitrox (USD 150 pp).
- Soft and alcoholic drinks, tips, travel insurance (medical coverage, trip cancellation and dive accident insurance) and other items of personal nature.
Please note that the flight rates and entrance fees are subject to change.
- Packing List
What you should bring varies according to each individual, the length of your visit and even the season. We have provided a non-exhaustive list.
The airlines allow you to check-in 20 kg (44 lbs) for your flight to the Galapagos (plus carry-on hand luggage). The crew helps to carry your luggage safely on-board and to your cabin. One of the few complications of a cruise is that the planned route seldom passes by a shop where you can buy something you have forgotten…Remember, less weight means less hassle, and is more ecological as well.
- Don’t bring
Before you check-in to your flights to and from the Galapagos your luggage is x-rayed and hand-checked to ensure that you are not bringing or taking prohibited items that can threaten the unique ecosystem on and around the islands, such as:
- Butter, cheese and other dairy products
Additionally, more luxury yachts provide items that you don’t need to bring either (unless you prefer your own items, brands, or have booked an island extension and will stay longer), such as:
- Soap (We provide ecological soap aboard).
- Shampoo (We provide ecological shampoo aboard).
- Bathroom towels
- Beach towels
- Hair dryer
Photographers can leave their flashguns at home as well, because it is not permitted to take flash pictures of wildlife (unless they want to take interior pictures during the cruise, of course)
- Money and documents
- Copy of passport
- Enough cash, especially low denomination bills (USD 5 to USD 20). See also “What is included?
- Travel insurance documentation and emergency numbers
- Credit card or bank card (not accepted on board, but for emergency situations or ATMs)
- Scuba divers: PADI/NAUI/CMAS licence/certification
Please bring clean sporting shoes with rubber soles for on board use when you don’t want to walk barefoot. Walks over rough lava fields require sturdy hiking boots, while you will probably prefer to walk on beaches barefoot or with light airy sandals, which also serve for wet landings. During your quest for Galapagos giant tortoises in the often muddy highlands you should wear rubber boots, which are provided by the tortoise farm you visit.
For ecological reasons we recommend you wash your footwear thoroughly before departure, to prevent introducing undesired plant seeds to the islands.
- Sport shoes with rubber soles
- Sturdy but comfortable walking boots or shoes (mud-resistant for Sierra Negra)
- Sandals with straps or water shoes
- Flip flops
You should be prepared for all kinds of weather; from intense sunshine (especially in the hot season), drizzle and mist in the highlands, to fresh morning and evening sea breezes (especially in the evenings, or in the second half of the year). Shorts or bermudas are very practical for hot days and wet landings, as well as an old t-shirt to avoid sunburn during snorkelling without a wetsuit (the salty seawater may affect the material).
We don’t have a dress code, so comfortable casual clothing will do whilst on board. However, if you want to spend time on the outside decks we suggest you bring some extra trousers and jumpers. We don’t have laundry service aboard.
- Light cotton socks
- Shorts or bermudas
- (Lightweight) long trousers
- Skirt, dress
- Long-sleeved cotton shirts (or jumpers)
- T-shirts, casual dress shirts
- Light cotton scarf, buff or bandana to protect your head/neck
- Wide-brim hat
- Bathing suit (plus a spare one), vest tops
- Lightweight rain jacket or windbreaker
- Accessories (mostly optional)
- Small backpack
- Plastic water bottle
- Waterproof watch and/or alarm clock
- Extra glasses/ extra contact lenses with lens solution
- Earplugs for reducing engine noise
- Plastic bags
- Field guide book
- Galapagos map
- Reading book
- Notebook and pen
- Pocket torch/flashlight
- Swiss army knife
- Motion sickness and first aid
You should consult your doctor to find out which medicine best suits your personal situation (especially in combination with other medications. Moreover, some medicines are prescription-only in most countries).
- Motion sickness medication. You can take Gravol or Dramamine, sold in Ecuador under the brand name Anautin (dimenhydrinate; makes you a bit drowsy) or Bonine (meclizine). Others prefer stronger Scopoderm (scopolamine) patches (prescription-only).
- Salted crackers, pantoprazol or omeprazol (to absorb stomach acids).
- Candied ginger or 500 mg ginger tablets (start treatment some days/hours before)
- Aloe vera cream or aftersun gel
- adhesive bandage (like Band-Aid)
- Antibiotic cream
- Tylenol or other mild pain relief
- Pepto Bismol or Kaopectate for an upset stomach
- Equipment (mostly optional)
- Tablet or e-book reader
- Pocket camera (ideal if also suitable for underwater photography)
- Full photographic camera equipment with extra lenses: wide angle and telephoto lenses, and polarising filters
- Underwater camera or single-use underwater cameras (to take photos while snorkelling)
- Underwater case/hull (check well before you leave home, because not all makes are reliable)
- Video camera and lightweight tripod
- Enough video tapes, flash memory, mobile hard disks, image tanks or laptop
- Charging devices, with adaptor to US-style electrical outlets, and enough spare batteries
- Waterproof camera bag or case, and plastic (self-sealing) bags to protect equipment against splashing water while on the inflatable boat
- Maintenance equipment (dust brush, sensor cleaning set, lens cleaning, cloth to remove sand and salt)
- Personal snorkelling gear (your own mask generally fits best)
- A thicker wetsuit than a standard 3 mm when you are chilly or when want to stay longer in the water
- Scuba divers that plan several days of diving should bring their own equipment – except for tanks, weights and weight belts – including at least a 6 mm wetsuit, hood and gloves. Don’t forget your PADI/NAUI/CMAS license as well!
- Personal care
- Personal medication
- Biodegradable soap, shampoo, conditioner (not necessary when you only stay on our yacht without island extension)
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss
- Shaving gear (also helps to improve the fit of your snorkelling mask)
- Towel (if you desire your own; towels on the yacht are replaced often)
- Biodegradable washing powder
- Sunscreen (depending on skin type. At least SPF 30)
- Lip salve (depending on skin type. At least SPF 30)
- Skin creams or Vaseline (the climate can be dry). Vaseline is also useful for a better fit of the snorkeling mask
- Insect repellent (just in case for highlands and wet season)
- Galapagos climate
The Galapagos Islands are a year-round destination with perfect holiday weather; wildlife is bustling all over the year, and each season has its own charm. The overall climate is quiet and warm, and unusual dry for the tropics, saving local micro-climates in the moist highlands. The weather is calm as well; the islands aren’t located on the path of cyclones or tropical storms.
Although this archipelago is situated on the equator, actually the climate can only be characterized as tropical in the first half of the year. This “hot season” never gets excessively hot, but counts with a very intense equatorial sun with blue skies, alternated with some rain or even an occasional shower. From about June onwards to the end of the year is the cooler, dryer and overcast “garúa season”. Although called “cool season”, these months still count most of the time with nice summer weather, and give the opportunity to avoid the most intense sunshine.
- Interplay of ocean currents
The overall climate of these Pacific islands is regulated by an interplay of no less than five ocean currents that meet. Most influential players are the cold Humboldt Current, arriving from the Antarctic, and the tropical Panama and Equatorial Counter Currents.
In the cool season, roughly between June and November, the southeastern trade winds boost dominant cold waters from the south to Galapagos, chilling air and water temperatures. These rich waters also bring large quantities of food for sea birds and their chicks. Condensation at an altitude of just 300-600 m (1000-2000 ft) forms a light overcast (especially in July and August) that usually is broken open by the burning afternoon sun. In the southeastern highlands these clouds appear as a fine drizzling fog, locally known as garúa. In August and September the sea becomes somewhat rougher as well. In the hot season, from December until about April, the trade winds calm and the Humboldt Current is no longer strong enough to invade the tropical waters of the Pacific currents. Supported by prevailing eastern winds, warmer waters enter the archipelago (comfortable for snorkelling). Moist air can evaporate freely and clear the overcast, but form higher rain clouds while day temperatures rise. Highest temperatures are in March (sometimes over 30 ˚C or 86 ˚F). Seas generally are at their calmest as well from January to April.
During the transitional months weather is changeable, and shows the characteristics of both seasons. The start of each season tends to vary yearly and the change can take over a month.
Every few years (irregularly), the tropical currents are more powerful and cause a climate phenomenon that is called “El Niño”, after the Christ-child, both born at end of December (last occurrences in 1997-1998, 2002-2003, 2004-2005, 2006-2007 and 2015-2016). The causes are not fully understood yet and serious matter of scientific investigation. But the consequences may be severe for human, marine and sea bird life, although present Galapagos species proved to be able to survive longer periods of considerably warmer waters and scarce food. Nevertheless, especially the Galapagos penguins and flightless cormorants are very vulnerable to this phenomenon, while the bigger populations of Galapagos sea lions and blue-footed boobies suffer as well. Land birds, on the other hand, thrive during “El Niño” years.
Within this general climate story, the Galapagos owes its wealth and variety mainly to its diverging micro climates. It counts no less than 7 different climate zones, contributing to Ecuador’s amazing biodiversity! While the south-eastern highlands receive most rain and are covered by dense escalesia cloud forests, the northern slopes lie in the rain shadow and have a completely different look.
The same applies to sea water temperatures. These tend to vary strongly locally, ranging from 16 ˚C-28 ˚C (60 ˚F-82 ˚F) at the surface, depending on the season, the depth of the water, currents, among other factors. West from Isabela, where the Cromwell Current wells up from the deep sea, snorkelling waters are coldest and a wetsuit is recommended to be able to stay longer in the water (and for divers: Darwin and Wolf are surrounded by very cold waters).
Although the Galapagos may have calm and perfect holiday weather, the hard reality is that its climate is tough for species that have to cope with it, and it is a critical element for natural selection. Not only because of the lack of fresh water, but for the dramatic climate changes like El Niño as well.
Line charts (both in ˚F and ˚C)
NATIONAL PARK AND GETTING THERE
- National park and getting there
There are flights from Quito (with a stopover in Guayaquil) and Guayaquil to the airports of Baltra or San Cristobal, where your cruise will begin. Your flight will take 30 minutes to get from Quito to Guayaquil and about one hour and a half from Guayaquil to Galapagos. Flights to the Galapagos are generally scheduled in the morning and return flights around noon. Galapagos (GMT -6) has a -1 hour time difference to mainland Ecuador (GMT -5).
- Check-in procedure
If the flight was booked together with the expedition, our airport assistant will help you with the check-in procedure when you leave from Quito.
Before the check-in, you have to pay your Galapagos Transit Control Card (USD 20 per person, in cash.
Before the check-in, you will have to get your luggage checked. This is to make sure that it doesn’t contain fruits, vegetables or dairy products, which can threaten the ecosystem of the Galapagos. Be sure that the footwear you bring is clean as well. Your luggage will then be sealed.
Next, you will check-in at the counter and leave your luggage. Domestic airline regulations permit 20 kg (44 lb) per person for your luggage, excluding small carry-on bags.
Lastly, don’t forget to get enough cash from the ATMs at the airport of Quito or Guayaquil.
- Arrival procedure
Upon arrival, you will first pass some disinfectant mats.
You will proceed through an airport inspection point where your TCT (Transit Control Card) will be checked and stamped (please keep this carefully with your passport as you will need to show it again when you leave Galapagos).
At the counter you also have to pay the Galapagos National Park entrance fee in cash. There are no ATMs in this section of the arrival airports.
To ensure that no foreign plants or animals are introduced to the islands, your hand luggage will be inspected as well (your main luggage already has been X-rayed before check-in).
Next, you can pick-up your luggage.
At the arrival hall, your guide will meet you and escort you on a short bus ride and an inflatable boat ride to the boat.
- National park rules
- Do not remove or disturb any plant, rock or animal on the islands.
- Be careful not to transport any organic material to the islands or from island to island. Each island sustains unique species and cross-invasions may alter that uniqueness.
- Check your clothing for seeds and insects before disembarking the dinghy from the shore.
- Do not touch the animals.
- Do not feed the animals.
- Always remain on the designated path.
- Always remain with your guide where required.
- Do not startle or chase any animal from its nest or resting place. Be extremely careful in and around breeding colonies.
- Do not litter on land or from the vessel whilst at sea.
- Do not buy any souvenirs made from any native animal part, coral or plant.
- Do not write graffiti or deface rocks and plants on the islands.
- Do not hesitate to show your conservationist attitude and explain the rules to others.