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?)
- 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 see certain particular animals.
- 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 at a preferred deck) is still available; and also that special requests (such as a certain cabin, for example on the upper deck) can be granted (if applicable).
- 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:
- Whether you will get the opportunity to see certain species (specifically rare or seasonal animals)
- The weather
- The tide of the sea (rough/smooth)
- Departure and arrival times of your flights
- The followed route (subject to change due to weather/legal actions)
- 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 on-board (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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
3:00 – 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 boarding the inflatable dinghies (or ‘Zodiacs’, or locally called ‘pangas’).
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 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.
Extra activity (in case of a shorter island visit). For example: snorkelling or an alternative panga-ride.
Return to the yacht by inflatable 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; otherwise you will start your excursion about this time). For example: snorkelling or an alternative panga-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 boarding the inflatable dinghies again for the afternoon-island visit.
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.
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).
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 (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?
- Lodging on board in cabin with private facilities.
- All meals, water, coffee and tea.
- English speaking
- Shared shuttle transfer to Quito or Guayaquil airport *only departure transfer (included only if the Galapagos flight has been booked through us on our scheduled departure cruise dates).
- All transfers in Galapagos (airport-yacht-airport transfers are only guaranteed if the flight has been booked through us).
- What is not included?
- Roundtrip flight to Galapagos Islands
- Galapagos National Park entrance fee (USD 100 pp); Transit Control Card (USD 20 pp)
- Soft and alcoholic drinks; Tips; Travel insurance (Medical coverage, Trip cancellation & 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-controlled to check that you are not bringing or taking prohibited items that seriously threaten the unique ecosystem on and around the islands.
- Butter, cheese and other dairy products
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).
- Soap (We provide ecological soap on-board).
- Shampoo (We provide ecological shampoo on-board).
- 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 & documents
- Copy of passport
- Sufficient cash – US$ (low denomination bills US$5 to US$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 on the islands.
- Sports shoes with rubber soles
- Sturdy, but comfortable walking boots/shoes (mud-resistant for Sierra Negra)
- Sandals with thongs, Tevas 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 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.
- 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 & 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 stoma acids).
- Candied ginger or 500 mg ginger tablets (start treatment some days/hours before)
- Aloe vera cream or aftersun gel
- Bandaging aids
- Antibiotic cream
- Tylenol or other mild pain relief
- Pepto Bismol or Kaopectate for stomach upset
- 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, tele-zoom, (polarising) filter
- 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 in the inflatable dinghy
- Maintenance (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 take their own equipment – except for tanks, weights and weight belts – including at least 6mm 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 mid-week/daily)
- 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 (dry climate; Vaseline also useful for better fit 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, 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
- 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).
- Check-in procedure
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.
- 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.
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
- 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 ship from the shore.
- Do not touch the animals.
- Do not feed the animals.
- Always remain on the path where designated.
- 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.