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Sailing dates 2017-2018
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Frequently asqued questions Galapagos – FAQ
UCT (GMT) – 6 hours. The Ecuadorian mainland is -5 UCT (GMT).
You fly by plane to one of its two airports (Baltra or San Cristóbal) from either Guayaquil or Quito on mainland Ecuador. There are no flights from any other airport. Some people take their private yachts into the Marine Reserve and National Park, but it’s extremely rare and very expensive.
a) Endemism = many species are found here and nowhere else
b) Virtually unchanged, pristine natural environments, haunting volcanic landscapes
c) Inspiration for modern thinking: the islands’ biota inspired Charles Darwin to form his theories of modern evolutionary thinking
d) Disconnect from the world!
The entrance fee to the Galapagos National Park (www.galapagospark.org) is currently $100, and the Migration Control Card (to help regulate immigration to the islands) is $20 per person, subject to changes.
We would always encourage you to spend 7 days in the islands, to get a real feel for each island’s different character and to immerse yourself in their special magic. Four-day expedition cruises will give you an idea of the islands, but much of the first and last days are spent travelling, more so if you are on a small boat.
Very strong, because of the islands’ equatorial location. Sun protection recommended: SPF15 and above.
There is no best month to aim for in Galapagos. You can travel at any time and have a wonderful experience – due to the islands’ location on the Equator. But you can view our Calendar to get a better idea of what is going on climatically and with wildlife.
It depends on the time of year. There are two markedly different seasons in the islands, but the islands are visited all year round.
- The hot season from December to June when humidity is high and average temperatures are in the 80s F (26°-30° C). There may be an occasional shower (downpour), but days are generally hot and sunny. Water temperature ranges between 25°C-28°C (mid-high 70°Fs).
- From June to November, you can expect cool winds, occasionally bringing with them a light misty-type drizzle called “garúa”. Air temperature averages in the mid 70°Fs (22°-24° C) to the mid 80°Fs (26°C-28°C) during the day and a bit lower at night. It is all about dry heat, and the islands may resemble a subtropical weather pattern.
No, sports fishing is prohibited inside the Marine Reserve. However, local fishermen can practice fishing.
Yes, but due to the Galapagos’ remote location, internet connections are intermittent and low-bandwidth.
Of course! It’s part of the second-largest Marine Reserve in the world. It’s an amazing place to discover all that lives beneath the waves. Snorkelling and swimming make up an important part of the Galapagos experience. There are many beaches that offer plenty of swimming opportunities.
There is a quite a debate regarding this, and as the operator of three vessels in the islands, you would expect us to answer that live-aboards are best. Well, much depends on your personal tastes and predilections. But, we would say that most people will get the most out of the islands by taking a live-aboard expedition cruise. They will experience the islands as Charles Darwin did in 1835 (albeit more comfortably!) by spending more time relaxing and enjoying landscapes, as well as exploring more of the visitor sites themselves, rather than spending time travelling by boat, bus or car from one place to the next.
An expedition cruise will give travelers the chance of exploring that small 3% that is committed to tourist activities within the National Park. This reality does not apply to inhabited areas where island hopping tours take place, due to the nature of these operations. Hence, 97% remains untouched in the National Park. Now, what most travelers don’t really grasp before they come to the islands, is that the archipelago consists of several islands scattered over the Pacific Ocean, and covers a vast oceanic area of 138,000 Km2 (51,000 mi2). Here, you do need time to travel from one place to the other one, and expedition vessels do most of this motoring at night in order to maximize all daylight in island exploring. Many people now combine time on a live-aboard and time at one of the Islands’ towns, such as Puerto Ayora (staying at the Finch Bay Eco Hotel afterwards, for example), or Puerto Villamil. Island hopping trips offer very little access to the visitor sites within the National Park, since most activities are arranged in the populated islands. Travelers may wrongly think that once at such inhabited island, the whole island becomes explored.
This depends on personal taste and boating experience. Some people like traveling on expedition vessels with more people, others on small sailing boats of only 16 passengers. Expedition vessels ultimately can deliver more of an experience due to variables such as staff numbers, personal space, food creativity, internet connectivity, environmental impact, creative daily outings, and more amenities. There are a range of yachts between these two extremes.
The smaller are more intimate; La Pinta offers inter-connecting cabins. The Santa Cruz II, on the other hand, has larger and more varied social areas, and a more family-friendly infrastructure and feel. No large cruise liners are allowed in the Galapagos, so if your idea is that massive tourism happens here, please know this is not true. Fortunately, the protection efforts by both, the Ecuadorian Government and the Galapagos National Park have prevented big cruise liners from entering these island waters.
Things to consider when deciding the size of your Galapagos cruise vessels:
- It’s a myth that only smaller boats can visit certain islands or that smaller boats offer more private visits to the islands. True! All itineraries are fixed, strict, and designed by the Galapagos National Park, and then given to operators. Our vessels visit all the islands that smaller vessels visit! The difference, however, is that expedition vessels are usually all by themselves at a given location in order to minimize visitor impact. For example, the Isabela II will disembark with 2 or 3 groups ashore, and thus the true feeling of exclusivity since no other vessel is there at the same time. The next day, however, that same location will have 6 or 7 groups from 6 or 7 different vessels, where even the anchorage location may seem crowded.
- If you have different physical abilities from the average guest, an expedition vessel is able to plan different activities based on the different levels of fitness and overall agility. Multi-guide vessels can program an island outing with different activities. Small boats carry only one guide, and he/she must accompany the group at all times. There is no flexibility there.
- On expedition vessels, language division is the first criteria for creating small groups for exploration. Thus, the advantage of having several guides is that they can interpret the destination in one language at a time, eliminating the chance of multi-lingual guiding (which can certainly affect the overall experience).
Expedition vessels have Captains and Deck Officers who are either Ecuadorian Navy or Merchant Navy qualified, with at least 12 years’ experience.
Expedition vessels are required to have an MD Officer. All our ships have them, and consultations are free of charge. Most travelers find peace of mind once they know our vessels have an on board MD Officer.
Only expedition vessels have been designed to carry their own water-treatment plants with the intention of minimizing the footprint left by any traveler of such type of vessel.
All our vessels have a glass-bottom boat and sea kayaks, which enhance the value of exploring the Marine Reserve. These activities are easily coupled to our snorkeling programs for a full aquatic understanding of the Galapagos.
You should have good walking shoes/trainers, and a pair of Teva-type sandals for beach walks. Good traction is required due to the volcanic substrate of the islands.
We recommend using ‘shorty’ wetsuits from May to December, when the waters in Galapagos are cooler and it’s more comfortable for snorkelers to remain longer in the water. Our boats supply wetsuits (some charge for rental).
600 miles/1,000 km. About an hour-and-a-half flight from Guayaquil, 2 hours from Quito.
Very nearly, 97% of the archipelago’s islands is designated a national park. Human settlements are concentrated on the remaining 3%. There are strict rules about visiting the areas on islands that have been designated as visitor sites by the national park authorities. The Galapagos is also part of a huge Marine Reserve, which ranks among the largest in the world.
No, since this would imply that they had been tamed by humans, or domesticated, if you will. They are simply fearless because their ancestors did not have to face large carnivores because of the islands’ isolation from the mainland. Over time, the instinct of fear is lost. Also, wildlife does not perceive humans as a threat because the islands have remained protected since early in the 20th century.
No, although marine iguanas can get surprisingly big! Nor are giant tortoises endemic to the Galapagos. The elephantine sub-species developed in other parts of the planet, too. In Galapagos, the interesting aspect to note is the speciation of the tortoises once they arrived on the islands, evolving in time into different species – unable to reproduce between island species. Some plants up in the highlands, however, have developed gigantic proportions such as the Scalesia – a member of the sunflower family with of gigantic proportions.
From the medieval/Renaissance Spanish term for a type of saddle that was raised up at its front. The Spanish sailors who came across giant tortoises – of whom various subspecies have ‘saddle back’ shells – named them “galápago” after these saddles.
The finches on Galapagos are special because they are the bird species that have been used to illustrate Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. The work of the Grants on Daphne Major (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beak_of_the_Finch) is an excellent case study of finch populations and their variations over a short period of time clearly proves that – Darwin argued, “species are not immutable”, and that adaptations can occur rapidly in populations in order to exploit ecological niches. The contrasting annual weather pattern of the islands, and unique events such as El Niño or La Niña are great platforms to understand natural selection even better. There are 13 species of finch in all in Galapagos, some very similar in size and coloration: anyone who can identify all of them in the wild at a glance is a liar!