Planning your dream cruise in the Galapagos can be challenging with a lot of yachts, islands, and itineraries to choose from. Here’s what we learned while onboard nearly a dozen yachts and exploring the islands of this archipelago to make your planning easy!
Why should I go to the Galapagos?
Wildlife and more! The wildlife of the Galapagos is simply incredible and allows for up-close encounters that will thrill any visitor. Whether you are hiking or snorkeling you’ll encounter species that you are not likely to see anywhere else. In fact, about 80% of the land birds you will see, 97% of the reptiles and land mammals, and more than 30% of the plants are endemic. Some of our favorites are the giant Galapagos tortoise, swimming marine iguanas, blue-footed booby, and the Galapagos penguin (the only penguin found in the Northern Hemisphere)!
Equally as interesting as the wildlife is learning about how the species of these islands helped Charles Darwin develop his theory of evolution through natural selection which is one of the great contributions in the history of science. Add in the amazing volcanic geology of the islands and you have a destination that fascinates at every turn and provides a unique opportunity to reflect on all of the wonders of the world and our place in it.
What islands of the Galapagos should we go to?
The Galapagos is an archipelago made up of 19 main islands and dozens of even smaller islets. You can't just create your own cruise itinerary because all commercial itineraries are set by the Galapagos National Park, not by the boat operators themselves. This minimizes environmental impacts, eliminates overcrowding, and ensures that each itinerary is carefully designed to give you maximum exposure to a variety of landscapes and endemic species. If there is something specific that you really want to see, talk to us so that we can make sure that you are on the right itinerary to do so.
When is the best time to visit the Galapagos?
Anytime! Situated on the Equator, the Galapagos Archipelago makes a great destination any time of year. Each season has its own subtle characteristics, but travelers can visit any month of the year and have an amazing experience. There are two seasons in the Galapagos. The "warm" season is from December through May. Skies are clear, blue and only experience sporadic rains or moderate mists. This season offers the most pleasant weather and calm seas, making it the best season for cruising if you're sensitive to seasickness. From June through November, the Humboldt ocean current predominates, cooling air temperatures and creating comfortable hiking weather. Although the sea is rarely rough, the trade winds do cause the ocean to be a little choppier this time of year and a misty "garua" fog may linger part of the day, particularly in the highlands. Despite this seasonal variance, the islands really are amazing year-round. One key exception here is for those wanting to see the giant waved albatross, you MUST visit between late April and early December, and you MUST be on an itinerary that includes Espanola Island.
How far in advance should I book a trip to the Galapagos?
Our cruises depart every week of the year which means there are a lot of dates to choose from. If you have specific travel dates or you're coordinating a big family trip you'll want to plan at least 9 - 12 months ahead. For any holiday travel or for a full charter of the boat this pushes out to 18 - 24 months or more. If you have flexible dates and a small group that can leave anytime, you might consider asking about last-minute space 1-2 months out which may even occasionally be discounted as yachts try to fill any remaining space.
What’s the best way to see and experience the Galapagos?
The best way, by far, to see the Galapagos is by boat. Since they can travel through the night while you're sleeping, boats allow you to wake up at a new site each day and see the most diversity the Galapagos has to offer. We recommend 20 person yachts which provide a great 10:1 guest to guide ratio, exceptional personal attention, and the highest quality guides. While bigger boats are generally easier on a budget, a lot is lost in the way of personal attention. Sailing vessels, while certainly aesthetically appealing, often offer much tighter quarters with only limited time under sail. The yachts we recommend are perfect for couples and for families and easily configured to offer interleading cabins. They include kayaks and snorkeling equipment in the cost, (others don't carry kayaks at all or charge a per-use fee). In general, you do get what you pay for in terms of hospitality, food, accommodations, guides, gear, and overall quality.
Do I need to worry about getting seasick on a Galapagos cruise?
Unless you are very sensitive to seasickness, don't allow it to put you off a voyage! Most of the time on the yacht is spent in calm protected waters or coves. There are steps you can take to alleviate the effects like choosing a calm weather period, choosing a cabin location that will lessen the effects of "sway," and even picking an itinerary that avoids the open ocean during more choppy times of the year. If a boat is simply out of the question - talk to us about a land-based itinerary where you’ll do day excursions on boats but sleep on land each night. This is also a great option for those with limited mobility or very small children.
How much does a Galapagos cruise cost?
Our cruise-based itinerary comes in at about $1,000 per person per day. This includes many costs that other operators tend to hide in an effort to make their costs appear cheaper (park entry fees, domestic flights, pre/post hotel nights in Quito, on-board activities, meals, drinks, equipment, laundry, etc.). This price range allows for a more intimate yacht that features attentive service and top naturalist guides. Much like Africa, a Galapagos adventure is something you should not skimp on. You'll want to make sure you have a quality experience, which means staying on a quality vessel with highly rated naturalists - the best guides really do work on the best boats!
How do you get to the Galapagos?
The Galapagos islands are 600 miles offshore of Ecuador in South America. Even though they are remote, it’s surprisingly easy to get there! Guests should plan on flying from the USA to Quito (or Guayaquil). This takes about 8-10 hours depending on your connections but since it's in the same hemisphere there is no jet lag. We include a hotel stay there before and after your cruise. No visas are required for US citizens to travel to Ecuador or the Galapagos and you don’t need any special vaccinations for the Galapagos although we always urge travelers to consult their personal physician for anything that may be specific to their own medical history. Talk to us about current COVID vaccination requirements.
Who should go to the Galapagos?
The Galapagos is perfect for the whole family! From couples and friends to the whole family, Galapagos has something for everyone. If you're traveling with kids we highly recommend you ask us about designated family departures that align with school holiday breaks. These special departures bring families together on the same vessels with kids around the same age. The naturalist guides will also be specially chosen for their rapport with kids, and their abilities to engage, entertain, and educate the entire family. These departures also feature special kid-friendly menus and movies, games and special activities.
How do I pick a guide in the Galapagos?
Along with accommodations, guides are one of the most important parts of your adventure since you will be with them at all times while off of the boat. They are critical not just for showing you wildlife but explaining all of the reasons why the wildlife of the islands is so special. A great guide is like having a private zoology instructor! We only work with yachts that use top guides, and that makes all the difference in our experience. These are women and men who have passed the required academic courses as well as intensive coursework required by the Galapagos National Park. They have mastered at least 2 languages, have years of experience, and continuously update their skills and license requirements through continuing education and recertification. This maxim holds true in Africa and the Galapagos: the best guides work on the best boats.
Why should I choose Moraway Adventures for my Galapagos cruise?
First, we’ve been there! We inspected and experienced firsthand several different yachts and explored many of the Galapagos Islands ourselves. This direct experience has informed our choice for our recommended itinerary. Our Galapagos cruise itinerary is unique in that we only work with an operator that has a longstanding history of sustainable field operations and conservation work in the Galapagos Islands. We work exclusively with their fleet of first-class, smaller yachts which offer our travelers the most personal, comfortable, safe and informed experience in Galapagos accompanied by the best-licensed naturalist guides in the archipelago. Although many other companies around the world sell the same yachts, most offer fewer departure dates with a more limited selection of small vessels, including undesirable tourist class boats. With Moraway, you’ll have one point of contact before, during and after your adventure and this personal attention assures that your individual questions are answered and needs met.
Ready to plan your adventure or have any questions? Ask me - I’ve been there!
Your friendly Galapagos and Africa expert,