Frequently Asked Questions
Can I extend my cruise and/or stay on the islands before/after my cruise?
Of course you can! Shorter cruises give an excellent impression of Galapagos if you are short on time or 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 to extend your cruise by asking for our combined itineraries every one of our yachts offer.
By extending your cruise, 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 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 Galapagos in two different ways: on a cruise 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 do 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/legal guardians are responsible for their children. They must take into account that children may not undertake longer or more difficult excursions/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 cruise?
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 as West Galapagos with hardly touristic infrastructure, as well as in Española, Genovesa and Tintoreras).
There may also be trouble while embarking and disembarking the inflatable dinghy. Especially when the tide is a bit rougher, but 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.
How far in advance should I book?
Galapagos has 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 cruise?)
What can never be guaranteed if I book a Galapagos cruise?
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:
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 cruise will go ahead without problem. There will be no risk of the cruise being overbooked (in case of circumstances of force majeure, we will offer you an adequate alternative).
How long before my cruise 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 cruise rate include and not include?
Is the airfare included?
The common way to get to 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 a cruise 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 cruise 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-yacht-airport transfers in Galapagos and airport assistance in Quito are only included if the flight has been booked with the local cruise 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 cruise yacht 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, NEVER PAY an additional single supplement fee, neither in case no roommate has booked. Males and females aren’t forced to share the cabin together. Galapagos Aqua offers 9 cabins for maximum 16 guests: The main deck and upper deck cabins have picture windows which 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 single upper bed (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 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?
Yes, we thoroughly recommend taking out travel insurance before departing on your holiday.
Should I purchase travel insurance?
Yes, we thoroughly recommend taking out travel insurance before departing on your holiday.
What happens if I cancel my cruise?
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.
Formalites & Services
Do I need a passport or visa to go to Galapagos?
A passport IS required. Your travel agency can advise you of any visa requirements when travelling to Ecuador.
Before checking-in to Quito or Guayaquil airport, every visitor that plans on going to Galapagos must purchase a Galapagos Transit Control Card (US$ 20 per person in cash, since March 1, 2015), apart from the Galapagos National Park entrance fee (for international passengers generally US$ 100 per person in cash). This visum-like ID card helps INGALA restricting migration and visits to the islands. Please carefully keep this ticket alongside your passport as you will need to show it again upon leaving Galapagos.
Are there any luggage restrictions?
Domestic airline regulations permit 20 kilos (44 lbs) per person for your luggage excluded small carry-on flight bags. See also the Packing list with our suggestions. We recommend not to bring access luggage. The storage space in these cabins is limited, but there is some additional storage room available on board.
What time zone is used in Galapagos?
Ecuador is in the Eastern Time Zone (GMT-5). Galapagos is one hour behind mainland Ecuador (GMT-6).
Can I pay the Galapagos National Park entrance fee with my credit card or travel checks?
Unfortunately, the payment can only be in cash.
Where does my Galapagos National Park entrance fee go?
The Park entry fee collected upon a visitor’s arrival to Galapagos is used to help fund Park management and community and conservation projects in the islands. The beneficiaries are as follows:
Galapagos National Park Service (40%)
Municipal Governments (25%)
Galapagos Provincial Board (20%)
Galapagos Marine Reserve (5%)
Quarantine and Inspection System (5%)
Ecuadorian Navy (5%).
How much should I tip?
Tips are not included. On the last day of your tour you will find two envelopes in your cabin. You can leave your tips/gratitude in one envelope for the guide and in the other for the crew.
We prefer that our guests reward the crew based on their effort and performance. The amount is personal and you are free to leave how much you think is appropriate. For those guests that would like to know an average, we suggest the following guidelines:
Crew: US$ 10-12 per day per guest
Guide: US$ 5-7 per day per guest
How can I pay my expenses on board?
Incidental expenses on board and suggested tipping fees can only be paid in cash US Dollars.
Are there ATMs in Galapagos?
Yes, there are cash machines in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz) in the harbour and 3 other sites and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal) in the harbour. However, these are very few. There are NO ATMs In Puerto Villamil (Isabela) and on Floreana. Until 2014. the airports did not count with ATM’s, but from December 2014 there is a cash machine in the check-in hall of the airport of Baltra.
Please don’t rely fully on them and also take your National Park Entrance fee in cash. Consider ATMs only for individual land-based extensions (before or after your cruise), or for emergency situations. These might be empty, or there might not be enough time during your land visit.
Is there WIFI or Internet on board, and can I make mobile phone-calls?
Galapagos is a remote destination, and mobile phone- and Internet-connections are still erratic and expensive. In and around Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz), Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal) and Puerto Villamil (Isabela) you can use your mobile devices to communicate with the outer world. These settlements also count with Internet cafes, which you might go to during a town visit.
A certain provider may have connection on one of the uninhabited islands (including Española), while others might not. Most remote islands such as Fernandina, northern Isabela and Genovesa are NOT covered by these communication networks.
We do not have WIFI or Internet on board, nor a satellite telephone. In emergency situations the crew can always communicate to the outer world by our HF radio or VHF radio (marine telephone).
Can I charge my batteries and equipment on board?
Yes you can. In your cabin are US-style electrical outlets of 110V/220V. Don’t forget to bring adapters when you come from a country where distinct outlets are used.
Do you have a dress-code on board?
No, we don’t have a special dress-code on board.
After the excursions you will have time to fresh-up and change your outdoor clothes for casual wear. The only thing we would much appreciate is for you to take your shoes off after boarding (you can bring indoor-shoes with rubber soles or slippers for yacht-use, if desired). In Galapagos, we have an extra reason for this policy: we have to do our utmost to avoid that seeds under our shoes get dispersed on other islands and introduce new species.
See the Packing list which clothing is practical during your cruise, for the different activities and climate zones.
Do you have laundry service on board?
No we don’t. But if needed, you can wash your clothes with biodegradable washing powder in your bathroom.
Are there smoking areas on board, or is it strictly forbidden?
For your own safety and health, a non-smoking policy is enforced in the interior areas aboard. Smoking is only allowed at the Sun Deck. It is prohibited on the islands.
How long does the flight take from Quito or Guayaquil to Galapagos?
The flight from Quito to Guayaquil takes 30 minutes, and the flight from Guayaquil to Galapagos takes one hour and a half. Flights to Galapagos are generally scheduled in the morning; return flights around noon
What is the best season to take the cruise?
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?
Due to sea currents and depending the winds, there will be light to moderate movement of the vessel while navigating (mainly at night). Galapagos internal waters are mostly calm, but open-ocean crossings can sometimes provoke discomfort during a ‘rough’ night, especially in August and 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 uncomfort will diminish.
Is the cruise itinerary subject to change?
On occasions Galapagos National Park commands 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 cruise 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 cruise day look like?
Before dinner, your on-board naturalist guide will present the next day’s programme. The hours and programme mentioned in the following time-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 – 6 AM: Arrival at the new anchorage while you are asleep.
6:00 – 6:30 AM: Wake-up call
6:30 – 7:00 AM: Call for the breakfast buffet.
8:00 AM: Call to gather at the landing area at the stern of the Main deck, and boarding the inflatable dinghies (or ‘Zodiacs’, or locally called ‘pangas’).
8:15 AM: 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.
10:00 PM: By this time the crew has cleaned your cabins, prepared your lunch and maintained the yacht, while the pilots that navigated at night have rested. Your naturalist guide order the dinghies by walkie-talkie, for the pick-up from the landing place.
10:30 PM: Extra activity (in case of a shorter island visit). For example: snorkelling or an alternative panga-ride.
11:30 PM: Return to the yacht by inflatable dinghy. Warm welcome with a juice and snack, and time to freshen up and get changed for lunch.
12:00 PM: 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
2:00 PM: Extra activity (in case of a shorter island visit; otherwise you will start your excursion about this time). For example: snorkelling or an alternative panga-ride.
3:00 PM: Return to the yacht by inflatable dinghy. Warm welcome with a juice and snack, and time to freshen up.
3:30 PM: Call to gather at the landing area at the stern of the Main deck and boarding the inflatable dinghies again for the afternoon-island visit.
3:15 PM: Dry or wet landing at the visitor’s site and start of the morning 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.
6:00 PM: Return to the yacht by inflatable 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).
6:45 PM: Call for briefing by the naturalist guide in the living room.
7:00 PM: Dinner buffet.
9 PM – 12 AM: The yacht raises the anchor after dinner and starts to navigate (time depends on the length of the stretch that has to be navigated tonight). Passengers leave one by one 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?
On board 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 24 hours in the Lounge for free.
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?
What is not included?
Please note that the flight rates and Entrance fees are subject to change.
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.
Before you check-in to your flights to and from the Galapagos your luggage is x-rayed and hand-controlled to check that you are not bringing or taking prohibited items that seriously threaten the unique ecosystem on and around the islands.
Besides forbidden items, 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).
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 & documents
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 on the islands.
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 whilst on-board comfortable, casual clothing will do, but 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.
Accessories (mostly optional)
Equipment (mostly optional)
Motion sickness & 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).
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, 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 south-eastern 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 south-eastern 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 till 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 (irregular) the tropical currents are more powerful and cause a climate phenomenon that is called ‘El Niño’, after the Christ-child, both born 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 proofed to be able to survive longer periods of considerably warmer waters and scarce food. Nevertheless especially 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 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 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 lack of fresh water, but for dramatic climate changes as El Niño as well.
Line charts (both in ˚F and ˚C)
National Park & Getting there
There are flights from Quito (stop over 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 Galapagos are generally scheduled in the morning; return flights around noon. Galapagos (GMT -6) has -1 hour time difference to mainland Ecuador (GMT -5).
When you leave from Quito our bilingual airport assistant will help you with the check-in procedure (if the flight has been booked together with the cruise operator).
Before check-in you have to pay your Ingala Galapagos Transit Control Card (US$ 20 per person in cash, since March 1, 2015).
Before check-in you have get checked your luggage whether it doesn’t contain fruits, vegetables, dairy products, which can threaten the ecosystem of Galapagos. Be sure that footwear you bring is clean as well. Your luggage will be sealed.
Next you check-in at the counter and leave your luggage. Domestic airline regulations permit 20 kilos (44 lbs) per person for your luggage, excluded small carry-on flight bags.
Last straightforward chance: Don’t forget to get enough cash money from the ATM at the airport of Quito or Guayaquil.
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.
Extra US$ 5 fee for shuttle-transfers Baltra (Tame only)
The shuttle-buses from Baltra airport (Galapagos) to the docks charge an additional US$ 5 tax (one-way) to Tame passengers since January 14, 2016. This extra fee does NOT apply to Avianca and LAN Airlines. We use Avianca Airlines for all ATC yachts. When flying with Tame Airlines ATC can prepay the shuttle-bus cost. Otherwise Tame passengers have to pay in cash at the Ecogal-desk upon arrival at Baltra.
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 a naturalist guide will meet you and escort you on a short bus ride and a inflatable dinghy-ride to the yacht.
National Park Rules
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