We’d highly recommend cruising the islands for as long as your schedule and budget permit, it’s a long way to travel from NZ, so make it worthwhile! You will typically overnight in either historic (and high!) Quito or the larger coastal city of Guayaquil, then fly out to the Islands from either. There are typically 3, 4 or 7 night cruises on offer, and a select few offer 10 night cruises or SCUBA diving as well. All will visit some of the Central islands, and then head either West, North or South-East as well.
Many of the motor yachts are now on 14 night itinerary cycles around the islands (ie 3 + 4 + 7 = 14 nights), as the newly implemented Galapagos environmental management plan means that yachts can’t visit the same place more than once within each fortnight.
Any Galapagos cruise is going to be a memorable experience, and it’s a year-round destination with just two main seasons – ‘warmer’ and ‘cooler’.
The warmer season runs from December through May. Both air and sea temperatures are warmer, and there is relatively little rain. Clear skies also make it a better time for photography. The alternate season is called Garua, which means light rain or mist. The Garua season is approximately June to November. The sky will generally be more overcast and both air and water temperatures will be cooler.
Many of the yachts carry a maximum of 16 guests as the prescribed ratio of guests to rangers on board is 16:1. There are a wide variety of yachts and motor cruises, ranging in comfort level from basic to luxurious, and in size from 16 to 100 passengers – we prefer the smaller vessels where possible, but some of the mid size ships can be very comfortable with excellent food and very nice accommodation and public areas. Talk to us so we can recommend the right yacht for your requirements!
If you have to choose one region, I’d head West to the actively volcanic islands of Isabela and Fernandina where the slightly cold currents create ideal conditions for a wide variety of marine life. We were fortunate to held North to Genovesa Island, home to huge numbers of seabirds, red footed boobies and uniquely, owls that hunt in the daytime!
If you prefer not to cruise, there are now also some excellent land based lodges like Finch Bay Eco Lodge that offer day trips to the Central Islands.
The Nitty Gritty – what you need to know:
- 7 night or longer cruises are best – stretch your budget as much as you can. Shorter cruises visit less remote areas and you have less wildlife. 3 or 4 days is just not long enough and it is a long (and expensive) way to go back!
- Be prepared for a very busy itinerary
- Snorkelling gear is provided (but if you are really keen and need glasses consider getting a prescription mask)
- ¾ Wetsuits are provided at a nominal cost (in April and May hardy swimmers could get away without one)
- On the smaller boats you need to be agile enough to easily get on and off the zodiac at the boat and on beaches. If you have mobility issues consider a larger boat (ie National Geographic or Santa Cruz)
- Take a few swimsuits as we often snorkelled/swam twice or more a day
- You don’t need to take a beach towel
- Take lots of sunscreen – you will need it, especially snorkeling.
- Dress code is very casual – mostly just shorts and t-shirts. Covered reef shoes were popular and you need some lightweight walking shoes for the lava fields. They do tell you in advance if you are getting your feet wet. Jandals are great on the boat.
Best time to go: April and May have the warmest water and weather but the cruises operate year round.