00°44′ 24,65″ N – 090°18′ 49,68″ W (UTC-6)
Dear Pacific sailors,
Many of you will sail to New Zealand for the Americas cup, directly after the Caribbean season through the Panama Canal or on your way up from the Southern Latitudes, and possibly will want to stop in the Galapagos islands. Between 2013/2014, I have lived one year on these islands where I was running two liveaboard vessels for divers. In the last months I got some requests from colleagues and hereby share some information to help out. The below information is from my personal experience and has been checked in January 2020.
The world-famous archipelago, province of Ecuador, is well known since Darwin’s book ‘The Voyage of the Beagle’ and has ever since been a hub for nature lovers. For sure tourism have capitalized interests and the islands are known to be an expensive destination. Just as other South American countries, Ecuador has a reputation for corruption too. These islands are populated by sharks, just as the waters surrounding them. This affirmation is surely more relevant for foreigners trying to do business over there than as a visitor. SV Lammer Law, SV Rembrandt van Rijn, MV Wolf Buddy and MV Darwin Buddy are just some of the vessels who closed operations.
The “Parque Natural de Galapagos” (PNG) clearly overrules all local and national administrations. Strict regulations and procedures are to be followed by the book; whose initiatives, by all means, are necessary. It’s obvious you cannot fish or use jet-skis like in any other marine park in the world, but in the park rules of the NPG its a long list of prohibitions and obligations for you to study. An interesting one, for example, is that all (pork, lamb, beef) will be bonded by the quarantine system whose seals will be broken before you leave. If you break the seals while in Galapagos, there is a $11.000 fine. You can use your dinghies from yacht to dock only, and alternatively water-taxi is available on CH14 “Taxi Marino”.
Overpopulation and growth of human infrastructure is an issue which seems very difficult to keep under control. One gets the impression that quantity is overruling quality. Personally, I believe these islands are in urge of downgrading through even stricter regulations opposing the expansion of administration and services ruled by economic interests. As a visitor, one should not end up in line when experiencing nature of such singularity and diversity. Precaution, planning, and knowing the right people is needed nowadays. This is not only valid for the Galapagos of course, but unfortunately has become a global trend. Operators and NPG-guides are generally quite random compared to the uniqueness of the destination, with exception of some truly passionate people who want to do things the right way and understand the efforts undertaken by visitors to get there.
My volatile answer given to crew, not knowing how many times I crossed the equator will make sense when looking at the coordinates mentioned below. In the Galapagos you cross the equator daily by foot, boat, plane or car… So, if you have not yet been judged by the “Court of Neptune” and been initiated to convert yourself from a slimy Polliwog to a Shellback…you have nowhere to hide anymore!
Because of my passion for diving, I somehow believe these islands to be more worth visiting for diving then for a land exploration. If you can reach the islands of Wolf and Darwin the probability to encounter large schools of hammerheads, whale-sharks, marine mammals will be higher. On San Cristobal I did not recommended any particular dive business, but definitely recommend dive site “Leon Dormido”.
PNG requisites, bunkering permits, and all the rest are dramatically slow, complex and sometimes difficult to understand if you have no experience in merchant vessels or yachts over 500GT. For you to deal with local administration it is highly recommended to handle these matters through a maritime agent at least two months prior. Your first port of call is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno by law. The usual itinerary for yachts is to transit from San Cristóbal to Isabela and then Santa Cruz prior departure. If you want to cruise through protected area of the NPG, you will have to ask for more information to your agent which will require more time and money to get organized. Make sure your hull is clean before you land in the Galapagos, as a biosecurity diver will check and put the vessel in quarantine till fumigation. An option for you to consider, departing from the Panama Canal, would be to get organized at Flamenco Marina. To jump in the water in Gatun Lake, is not such a good idea if you don’t want to scare the many alligators away. You will have to present a “clean hull certificate” (ask you agent for details and requirements) Smaller yachts may bunker in Pto. Ayora, whereas larger yachts only will be allowed bunkering in Baltra.
Last Updates indicate, separately from agency fees:
- Port fees: about $6,70/ ton
- Park fees: $100 pp. on board
- Park inspection fee: $50 pp arriving on board
- Quarantine inspection fee: $100 for small sailboats and $200 for large yachts
- Galapagos Government entry permit: $142
- Galapagos transit card: $20 pp. on board
- Immigration fee: total IN/OUT $30
The archipelago has 5 of the 18 islands inhabited, where over 25.000 people are resident.
- Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora): With the largest population and available services. The most beautiful beach, for me, is “Tortuga Bay” where one can spend the day without an NPG-guide, unless you want to know more.
- San Cristobal (Puerto Baquerizo Moreno): Second populated island and actual administrative capital of the archipelago. My favourite beach is “Puerto Chino “, where at some time of the year we enjoyed sitting in the sand next to a huge herd of sea lions with their new-born cubs.
- Isabela (Puerto Villamil): Largest island, not so densely populated, but worth the visit if you want to see these mini-penguins living there.
- Baltra (or South Seymour): An island you most probably will visit as Baltra is where the fuel dock and the airport are located. The small channel, North of Santa Cruz, has a ferry service and road transport to Pto. Ayora available.
- Floreana (Pto. Velasco Ibarra): You will get away from the crowd on this little jewel.
- Baquerizo Moreno Radio: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno: (00°54,00’S – 089°37,00’W)
Name: HCW – Tel: +593/52520346 – e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
MMSI: 007354758 – VHF: CH 16/70
- Puerto Ayora Radio: Santa Cruz (00°44,50’S – 090°18,45’W)
Name: HCY – Tel: +593/52527473 – e-mail: email@example.com
Inmarsat-C: 473575713 – MMSI: 007354757 – VHF: CH 16/70
- Just in case…MRCC Ecuador:
www.coguar.dirnea.org, +593/42480812 or +593/42321602
Natural Park Rangers/ Tour Operators:
- Galapagos Luxury Charters (Mrs. Stephanie Saman): +593/997360287
Renowned tour operator and charter broker focused on eco-friendly and high-quality tourism
- Nicolas Schiess Vera (naturalist guide and marine reserve ranger). For sure one of the most professional dive guides on these islands and passionate about what he does. He deeply cherishes the islands and is concerned with their future. Over time Nicolas was able to get a license for a small vessel which can be chartered for big-game fishing, snorkelling or freediving. If you decide to go off the anchorage or need scuba advise, he is to be contacted.
- Peter Freire Salgado (naturalist guide and marine reserve ranger). Peter was also part of our diving team in 2013/2014 and is a very knowledgeable and a top professional NPG guide. Peter also runs a family owned business offering tours on the islands. I am sure they can guide you through activities available on the several islands.
Recommended Maritime Agencies:
- Sea Masters Galapagos Yacht Agency (Mr. Antonio Moreano): +593/999116066
Specialized in cruising permits and yacht logistics
- GSE Galapagos Special Expeditions (Mr. Luis Rodriguez): +593/998700108
Yacht agent specialized in custom made expeditions
Diving (Pto. Ayora, Santa Cruz):
- Macarron Scubadiver (Macarron): +593/997898087
Maritime Businesses (Santa Cruz):
Realise that many local operators own fully coded passenger vessels and maritime legislation is followed accordingly. Most of them haul-out every second year on mainland and therefore the island of Santa Cruz is equipped with the minimum to fulfil inspections, some services and minor repairs. Hereby the list of those I thought were doing a good job:
- Electronautica: ( Juan Schiess)
The only professional marine electronic service company/shop on the island. Juan normally has some spare parts and new equipment available. He has the necessary knowledge to service your electronic navigation equipment without a doubt and will tell you if not too.
- Gorgomar (Mrs. Maria Dolores Villacreses)
The only trustable lifesaving appliances company on the island, who can service and certify your life-rafts and extinguishers. firstname.lastname@example.org, +593/52524074
- Bodega Blanca (Mr. Jason Gallardo):
Jason studied in the US and speaks perfect English. It is the only chandlery shop, as others are small local “fishing buoy” selling stores. You might be surprised to see the amount of equipment and tools available in his little shop far away from mainland. This is your last chance to buy some chandlery before your Pacific crossing.
- Galapagos Provisioning ( Conchita Coello)
- Logisgalap (Carlos Anchundia):
Carlos speaks Spanish only and never had another job than transporting stuff from Guayaquil to the islands and back. I consider him to work hard and be totally transparent on what is. If you need to fly-in fresh provisions or have an urgent spare-part that needs to be flown in; he can help you out. You don’t want to know about import and customs procedures in that country… so that’s his business. If it is too complicated, you just can ask your agent to help you out. www.logisgalap.com – email@example.com, +593/999480135
REPORTING IN THE GALAPAGOS
The Galapagos Archipelago is considered a “particularly sensitive sea area” (PSSA) by the IMO. This basically means that when entering the PSSA of the Galapagos (GALREP) you report accordingly.
Let your agent do the communication for you… They will report your movements to the authorities when you entering the reporting area, immediately after leaving port or anchorage, when deviation from the route heading to port of destination or anchorage, when it is necessary to deviate from planned route due to weather, damaged equipment, and finally when finally leaving the reporting area. If you decide to go without agent, make sure you have and updated IMO GMDSS manual and a Ships Routeing publication. Meanwhile you can plot the area in your chart.
GALREP reporting system area: (A) 02°30’N – 092°21’W / (D1) 01°26’N – 089°03’W / (E1) 00°01’S – 088°06’W / (F1) 00°12’S – 088°01’W / (G1) 00°35’S – 087°54’W / (H1) 01°02’S – 087°53’W / (I1) 02°34’S – 088°48’W / (J1) 02°46’S – 089°30’W / (K1) 02°42’S – 090°42’W / (L1) 02°05’S – 092°18’W / (M1) 01°32’S – 092°44’W / (L) 01°49’N – 092°40’W
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
The urge to slow down the inevitable destruction of our natural habitat due to overpopulation and pollution is now more than ever a fact, particularly for Chinese and Indian eco-systems.
I am absolutely convinced that the protection of natural habitat should partly be obtained by the creation of nature reserves and the support to local communities. In many remote areas, foreigners had great ideas to change things lasting only too short time after spending lots of energy and money. Initiatives with a long-term vision for local organisations are the solution, and only then the support and collaboration of international entities is of value to sustainability.
The “Colonos”, as the native inhabitants of the Galapagos are called, have plenty to deal with, but are right at the top of the creation of such methodical measures. It has been a great experience to have worked together and hope to get the opportunity to use these gained skills to help others around the world who are willing to protect their natural habitat. I wish the dear “Galapaguitos” all the best with protecting one of worlds treasures, on behalf of humanity.
Fair winds and happy diving!
Capt. Dominique Geysen
PS: Feel free to share at your convenience