Galapagos Islands Frequently Asked Questions
The Galapagos Islands belong to the country of Ecuador. After the nations of South America achieved independence from Spain, the Republic of Ecuador claimed the islands in 1832. Travelers will pass through Ecuadorian customs and migration in the city of their first arrival to Ecuador, generally the capital city of Quito or the coastal city of Guayaquil.
If you need a visa to visit Ecuador, you will need a visa to visit Galapagos. Currently, visitors from the USA, UK and European Union countries do not need visas to enter Ecuador.
The Galapagos Islands are located about 600 miles (966 kilometers) west of South America in the Pacific Ocean. A flight from Guayaquil or Quito takes about an hour and a half or two hours respectively. All visitors to the islands must fly there, as there are no passenger ships from the mainland to the islands.
There are people whose families have been there for generations, since settlement efforts began in earnest in the nineteenth century, but there are no people who are indigenous to the islands. The Galapagos islands were first discovered by accident by a Spanish ship carrying Bishop of Panama Tomás de Berlanga in 1535: there is no evidence that any people visited the islands before that.
The first person thought to have lived in the Galapagos Islands full-time was Irishman Patrick Watkins, marooned on Floreana Island from 1807 to 1809. The Ecuadorian government established the first colony, also on Floreana Island, in 1832.
Weather in Galapagos is complex, varying from island to island and from season to season. The highlands of islands like Santa Cruz and Isabela can be quite cool at certain times of the year, while a walk across the lava fields of Fernandina in March can be absolutely scorching.
In general, the weather is warm without being unbearably hot: average temperatures year-round tend to be between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (21°-30° Celsius). The hottest months are February to April, and the coolest ones are from August to October. Also, from June to November is the garúa, or misty, season: this brings overcast skies and drizzle.
Quito is known as “The City of Eternal Spring” because of its beautiful climate that gets cool at night and warm during the day. There is always the possibility of an occasional light rain shower (45oF/7oC to 75oF/25oC)
Weather in the Galapagos is quite different from that of higher latitudes. Its location on the equator imparts a stabilizing influence on the climate, but the nearby ocean currents bring a unique seasonality. Only two seasons are evident: the warm, rainy season and the cool, garua season.
The garua season extends from July through November. Cool waters from the Humboldt Current (coming from the coast of South America) and the Cromwell Current (an equatorial countercurrent bringing cool water from deep in the ocean) bring a foggy overcast known in South America as “garua.” This overcast is widespread and quite moist.
The highlands of the islands receive most of their annual moisture from the fog-drip that accompanies the garua. In fact, this cool, garua season is actually the wet season relative to the rainy season!
Daytime temperatures during this season seldom exceed 75°F / 24°C and water temperatures range from the low 70s throughout most of the islands, down to about 60°F on the west side of Isabela.
These cooler waters also bring a distinct plankton bloom and a richer environment that supports the great seabird populations of the Galapagos.
The warm, rainy season (which is paradoxically the drier season) spans the months of January through June. It results from the slackening of the Humboldt and Cromwell Currents, and the disappearance of the garua.
During the rainy season, there are often warm, sunny periods interspersed by rain showers and occasional downpours. Generally, it is very pleasant.
The ocean is clearer and warms to the high 70s or even 80 degrees; air temperatures can reach the low 90s, and the garua is replaced with clouds that gather around the higher islands.
These clouds are formed from evaporation of the warmer waters and occasionally result in rain, often confined to the higher elevations of the islands. In some years, it is quite scarce.
El Nino is the annual slackening of the Humboldt Current; or more accurately, a seasonal reduction in the upwelling along the South American coast. It generally occurs around Christmas time, hence the name El Nino or “Christ Child.” Periods when this phenomenon occurs earlier or is more intense become known as “El Nino Years.”
The ocean is less productive because there are fewer nutrients available for the plankton to grow. Weather patterns can also be affected in unpredictable ways due to a strong El Nino. The months of December and June are transition months, and their climates can alternate between seasons from one year to the next.
Wildlife is always present, and birds breed at different times, so even within a single species, you can witness courting behavior or young in nests in any given month. The best time to see the waved albatross is April through mid-December.
The ocean starts to get a bit choppy in July and is at its roughest from August to October. The best time to view the pacific green sea turtle is November to January, when considerable mating activity can be observed in the water.
SATELLITE INTERNET AND PHONE
On board our luxury vessels Endemic and Elite, we offer 6G broad band Internet access for our passengers to check emails and browse your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).
This service might incur in additional charges, please approach our Cruise Service Officer for rates and service usage.
Rates (taxes not included):
- 8 day Cruise - $180 per person
- 6 day Cruise - $120 per person
- 5 day Cruise - $90 per person
- 4 day Cruise - $60 per person
Satellite Telephone Numbers:
Dialed within USA:
Dialed from outside the USA:
- 001 - 206-5363-744
- 001 - 206-5363-745
In the three major towns on the islands, yes. It’s sometimes a bit slow, but any halfway decent hotel should have working internet with wifi connection. On the ships, it’s a little harder. Establishing and maintaining an internet connection while sailing is very difficult and expensive.
Many ships will offer internet through satellite connections to their guests for a fee, which can be assessed per minute or per cruise. These can be somewhat expensive and inconsistent.
Each ship has a different policy and if you need internet on your Galapagos trip, it’s worth checking their policies before you book.
There are several flights a day (airlines TAME, Avianca and LATAM) from the Ecuadorian cities of Quito and Guayaquil to Galapagos and back. There are two major airports in Galapagos, on Baltra and San Cristóbal islands. From Baltra, it’s a short trip to Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the Islands.
If you booked any our yachts Endemic or Elite for your Galapagos cruise, Golden Galapagos Cruises will book your flights according to its operation and itinerary in Galapagos.
The flight takes about two hours from Quito or an hour and a half from Guayaquil. Currently, there is no way to reach Galapagos by sea unless you go on a private yacht.
The three towns are Puerto Villamil (Isabela Island), Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal Island) and Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island). Each of these towns and islands have things to see and do: all of them have nice beaches nearby and good day trips to see nearby visitor sites and excellent snorkeling spots. The Charles Darwin Research Station is in Puerto Ayora and that’s worth a visit, too. If you’re booking a cruise, bird lovers will not want to miss Genovesa Island, as there are many bird species nesting there. If you want to see land iguanas, make sure to go to North Seymour Island. Penguins can be seen near the western islands of Isabela and Fernandina as well as near Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé Island. Each island has its charms: it all depends on what you want to see.
In Ecuador in 2016, there were only a handful (fewer than 100) of confirmed cases of the Zika virus, some of which were in the Galapagos. Zika is not considered a real danger in Galapagos, as mosquitoes do not thrive in the extreme conditions on most of the islands.