Category: Galapagos

GALAPAGOS NEW ENTRY REQUIREMENTS STARTING JULY 1st

GALAPAGOS NEW ENTRY REQUIREMENTS STARTING JULY 1st

(Quito, Pichincha).– The National Emergency Operations Committee (COE) through its resolution of June 10th, 2021, informed that the Health Ministry, the Foreign Affairs & Human Mobility Ministry, Tourism Ministry, and the Government´s Galapagos Special Council must issue the «Entry Guidelines by Airway to the Country and the Galapagos Archipelago.” This provision must be put in place by 23:59hrs on June 30th, 2021.

The guidelines will establish that travelers may submit any of the following requirements to enter continental Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands:

  1. A negative RT-PCR or antigen test, for Covid-19 detection, with a maximum validity of 72 hours prior to the trip, from sample collection day. This will not apply to children under two (2) years of age.
  2. Presenting a Covid-19 vaccination certificate or its equivalent, with complete immunization, issued at least 14 days prior to the flight.

Entry to Galapagos
In addition to complying with the two requirements, they must also present a traffic control card issued by the Galapagos Government Council. As of July, the tour operator or accommodation safe-passes, which used to be regulated by the Ministry of Tourism, will be eliminated; with the exception of the tour leader safe-pass established in the Tourist Guidance Regulations for the Government´s Galapagos Special Council.

Travelers from Brazil
Travelers arriving from Brazil, require a negative RT-PCR or antigen test result, with a maximum validity of 72 hours prior to their arrival to Ecuador. In addition, they must comply with a ten (10) day isolation period either at a residence, or at their choice of accommodation, covering their own expenses. The isolation period will not apply to those arriving from Brazil but presenting a Covid-19 vaccination certificate, with the same requirements mentioned in the above guidelines.

#EncontrémonosPorElTurismo

For more information go to:
https://www.gestionderiesgos.gob.ec/resoluciones-coe/

10 Surtrek Tips for an Awesome Galapagos Islands Vacation

10 Surtrek Tips for an Awesome Galapagos Islands Vacation

One “bucket-list” dream for many people is a trip to the Galapagos Islands. But, because it isn’t cheap, this usually means that it’s a once in a lifetime experience for those who decide to travel there. Therefore, it’s to work with an experienced tour operator capable of planning every detail before the journey to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Based on Surtrek’s experience over the past 25 years of organizing travel to the “enchanted islands,” here’s are 10 tips that will help you enjoy your stay.

1. Planning your flight

If you plan to stay a few days in the islands, it’s advisable to land on Baltra Island, as it’s just across from Santa Cruz, which is the busiest and most central island. The distance from Santa Cruz to the other inhabited islands (San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana) is approximately four hours. However, if you land on easternmost San Cristobal Island and want to visit Isabela and/or Floreana islands, you will have to travel through Santa Cruz anyway, thus increasing your travel time.

Another good option is to land at the airport on San Cristobal Island and finally leave the islands from Baltra (or vice versa). The airlines that travel to the Galapagos Islands have traditionally had daily flights from Quito and Guayaquil. It takes about a half an hour to fly from Quito to Guayaquil, and about an hour and a half from there to the islands.

2. Dress for success: Types of clothes to pack

To travel to the Galapagos, you should note that airlines only allow one piece checked-in luggage of up to 20 kg (44 lbs.) and carry-on luggage of up to 8 kg. (17 lbs.). However, remember that while in the Galapagos, you’ll have to get around mainly on ships, which can be a big hassle if you’re lugging around a heavy suitcase. Therefore, you should try to take lightweight clothing on your trip. Comfortable shorts and shirts, and short sleeve garments are ideal for excursions and tours of the islands. It’s very important not to forget a hat and a pair of sunglasses, with sunscreen completing your protective gear. Remember, you will be on the equator and directly under the sun. On some cruises, you may want to bring clothes that are a little more formal — but also light and cool — for the afternoon or dinner time. But that is something that is strictly up to you, because there are no dress codes on the various ships.

Also, don’t forget that to get to the Galapagos Islands, you will have to go through Quito or Guayaquil. For the first city, you will need some warmer clothes, possibly a light jacket or a raincoat, which will also come in handy for the islands’ afternoon and evening winds.

Footwear and swimwear: “Teva-style” sandals with straps are recommended for various activities during your trip in the islands. This type of footwear is perfect for volcanic rock and land excursions, as well as for “wet landings,” etc. You can also wear tennis shoes if you want to switch up. You will also need one or two bathing suits (depending on the number of days of your trip). If you have your own snorkel gear and prefer to use it, that’s fine. But if not, you can always rent this in the islands if it is not supplied by your ship. You can also buy or rent gear in Quito.

Say “cheese”: Your camera and accessories: The Galapagos Islands are ideal for getting close to — and in some cases interact with — unique wildlife species that can only be seen here. With volcanic landscapes, the vastness of the crystal clear sea, and sunsets from the deck of his ship – everything will present unique opportunities for taking outstanding photos. So don’t forget to carry a camera (better if it’s has a wide-angle lens) and/or a video camera that you already know how to operate. Likewise, don’t forget the respective recharging cables.

3. An apple a day: Medicine to bring along

If you take any specific medication, you had better bring it with you because it is sometimes difficult to find special medications in the islands. Otherwise, all boats carry basic first aid supplies and equipment.

4. Documents you’ll need (A bureaucratic heads up)

If you are a foreigner, you should always carry your passport or at least a photocopy of it. Nationals of the countries of the Andean Community (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia) are allowed to only carry their identity cards. To enter the islands you must acquire an immigration control card ($20) at the airport in Quito or Guayaquil. Please hang onto this card during your entire trip, as you will have to present it when you leave. Also, when entering the islands, you must pay the Galapagos National Park admissions fee in cash ($100 for adults, $50 for children under 12).

5. When to make your move

The Galapagos Islands are characterized by pleasant weather all year round. However, there are slight variations to be taken into account. For example, from June to December is a period known as the “dry season.” This condition reaches as far as the northern Galapagos Islands, driven by southerly winds of the cold Humboldt Current and its cool waters. Nonetheless, the afternoons are sunny during this period, though a layer of fog can be seen across the islands. Also during this time, mammals and land birds are very active, and visitors can observe the courtship rituals of many species.

6. Getting a good night’s sleep

The Galapagos Islands have a wide variety of accommodations, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. Most accommodations provide free breakfasts, which are usually varied. As the demand for accommodations in the inhabited islands is high, try looking ahead of time for a place to stay and be sure to reserve a room. You can also opt for a cruise, which is an excellent option for visiting several islands in a short time and also not having to worry about room reservations or meals – you can simply enjoy the islands.

7. Getting around between islands

When in the Galapagos, the best way to travel between the inhabited islands is by small boats (known as “fibras”), which head out every day. Most boats leave at dawn when the sea is calmer. When traveling on these boats, try taking a seasickness pill. Since the movement of the ocean can be strong, this can be physically upsetting if you’re not used to spending several hours at sea. If you want to avoid a long boat trip (it usually takes four hours to travel between islands), you can go by plane. The company that provides this service in the Galapagos Islands is EMETEBE. You also have the option of taking a cruise, which will even take you to those islands seldom visited by tourists.

8. Dinner time!

The islands have a host of restaurants, especially ones serving coastal cuisine and fast food. Most hotels have restaurants or dining rooms for guests. Also, you may find shops where you can buy a variety of food. Note that the food in the Galapagos Islands is a bit more expensive than on the mainland, but the prices don’t increase much. If you go on an organized excursion lasting several hours, you will be provided with a box lunch, which is usually a light and served cold. If you go on an excursion on your own, you should bring something light to eat – but don’ forget to also bring a small garbage bag.

9. The almighty dollar

The official currency of Ecuador is the U.S. dollar, although you can exchange other currencies in airports and on the islands. In any case, you should also bring some dollars with you in case you need to make some urgent purchase. Only San Cristobal and Santa Cruz islands have banks and ATMs. So, if you visit Floreana or Isabela, you’ll need to carry cash. While credit cards are accepted in most places, try to bring cash to avoid any inconveniences. Of this cash, carry denominations of no more than $20 bills, because larger banknotes are not accepted in some places.

10. Top-notch Guides

Most tours and excursions in the Galapagos cannot be undertaken without the company of a certified naturalist guide, which is especially important given that 97% of the land area of the archipelago is part of the Galapagos National Park. In fact, this is the institution that certifies guides and coordinates visits with operators. For each visit, there are marked trails that must be respected by visitors, but this doesn’t prevent tourists from witnessing many species of wildlife from close up, and in some cases even interacting with them.

The Best Times for Traveling to the Galapagos Islands

The Best Times for Traveling to the Galapagos Islands

Set in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and blessed by their temperate location right on the equator, the Galapagos Islands are beautiful all year round. So what’s the best time of year to visit these “enchanted islands”? Each month has its own pros and cons …it all depends on what you consider an ideal vacation.

Here we look at some of the factors that should keep in mind while deciding when you should visit the Galapagos Islands?

Peak vs. Non-peak tourist seasons

The peak seasons for Galapagos tourism tend to coincide with the general holiday and vacation months around the world. These run from the mid-December to January “Christmas vacation” and from the June to August “summer holidays” (for Europe and the USA). During these high-season periods, the availability of everything in the islands is stretched to the limit. Though the Galapagos National Park administration limits the number of tourists that can visit the islands at any given time, the high influx of travelers during peak season can make hotels and cruise docks especially cramped.

Likewise, Galapagos flights get particularly busy at these times, and, of course, the prices of cruises and accommodation are higher. During high seasons, it’s almost impossible to find a “last-minute deal,” and if by some miracle you do come across one, you’ll likely have to accept a boat that’s not your first choice. The low seasons in the Galapagos Islands are in springtime (May to June) and fall (September and October). During these periods, tourism in the Galapagos declines substantially and many cruises drop their prices to attract more passengers.

If you are planning your Galapagos getaway during the popular “vacation” months, we recommend that you book your trip at least six (6) months in advance of your desired travel date – or even sooner. Christmas cruises, for example, often book up more than a year in advance!

Alternatively, if you’re considering vacationing during the non-peak “shoulder” seasons, we advise you to keep a couple of factors in mind. The low tourist season is just that, so instead of enjoying the solitude of desolate beaches, you might just find yourself feeling a bit lonely and secluded. Hotel availability is usually not a problem during these times, though. Also, note that that the sea conditions are at their worst in late-August and September, which will increase your chances of getting seasick from the pitching and rolling of a cruise ship. In addition, because of those choppy waters, many cruise operators put their boats in dry dock for maintenance during this time. Therefore, you need to think twice before heading off to the islands in search of a “last-minute bargain” Galapagos cruise just because it’s low season.

Climate in the Galapagos Islands

Another factor that could influence your plans as to when to visit the Galapagos archipelago is the climate. Because the Galapagos are right on the equator, the air and water temperatures don’t vary much, though oceanic currents do influence the air and sea temperatures, sea conditions and rainfall across the islands.

Generally, the climate in the Galapagos Islands is divided into two seasons: the warm/rainy season (from January to May or June), and the cool/dryer season (from June or July to December). During the warm-wet season, temperatures reach up to 86°F (30°C), with sunny days interrupted by short but heavy cloudbursts. The sea is warm, 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C), and relatively calm. The warmer weather and calmer waters of the rainy season make this the best time to travel to the Galapagos if swimming and snorkeling are on your agenda. On the downside, though, there aren’t as many fish and seabirds to see as there are in the cooler parts of the year. The calm ocean waters of the January-June warm-wet season also reduce the chances of getting seasick on a cruise. But bear in mind that January to March is the doldrums on the equator, and there’s usually not enough wind for sailing yachts to truly set sail. In any case, all yachts can run by motor.

During the cool-dry June-through-November season, the Humboldt Current makes its way from the southern end of South America, bringing cold weather as well as nutrient- and plankton-rich waters that attract fish. It’s too chilly for casual snorkeling without a wet suit, but experienced divers claim that this is the best time for witnessing the wide variety of Galapagos underwater marine life … IF you’re willing to brave the cold water.

At around 72°F (22°C), the cool-dry season is more comfortable for trekking and exploring the volcanic origins of the Galapagos Islands, including its fascinating lava flows and other geological features.

Though the days are often grey and overcast, there’s usually not any rainfall down on the coast. In the highlands, though, the “garúa” fog sustains a constant dampness, which occasionally drops down to the coast.

Wildlife-watching opportunities

Wildlife is the main attraction for most visitors to the islands, and great wildlife viewing is guaranteed regardless of when you visit the archipelago. Almost all of the islands’ animal species spend the entire year in the Galapagos and do not migrate – including the tiny Galapagos penguin, the Giant Galapagos tortoise, the flightless cormorant, marine and land iguanas, the Red- and Blue-footed booby, the Galapagos hawk, the fur sea lion, and the California sea lion (one of the sole exceptions to this rule is the Waved albatross, which travel to the islands in the summer).

What do change during specific seasons are these animals’ behaviors (their mating, breeding, etc.). Therefore, you should take a look at a Galapagos wildlife activity calendar to get an idea of what you might see in each month. Similarly, there is some variation in the types of animals you’ll find on specific islands of the archipelago. If you are keen on seeing a particular animal or bird, talk with a Surtrek Galapagos travel coordinator to find the best cruise itinerary for this.

BON VOYAGE…!!

7 Top Luxury Yachts for Sailing the Galapagos Islands

7 Top Luxury Yachts for Sailing the Galapagos Islands

It’s easy to see why the Galapagos Islands are on savviest travelers’ “bucket-lists.” With the archipelago being one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, nothing can prepare you for a visit to this exotic masterpiece of Mother Nature.

Some travelers prefer to experience this once-in-a-lifetime experience on a land-based “land-hopping” tour – eating, sleeping, and resting in a hotel on solid earth. Others will choose to explore the Galapagos Islands on a water-based cruise, where you will eat, sleep and rest on board a luxury yacht, a catamaran, a sailboat, or a larger cruise ship.

Still, no one comes to the Galapagos just to lie out on deck all day. Luxury cruises serving the Galapagos Islands offer daily land excursions that include hiking ancient lava fields where you will encounter prehistoric reptiles such as the iconic giant Galapagos tortoise, as well as endemic land and marine iguanas. On these landings, you can also witness the courtship dance of Blue-footed boobies, and observe a host of Galapagos penguins, Flightless cormorants and massive Waved albatross – just to name a few of the comical sea birds found here.

While marveling at the diversity of the land and marine life found in these paradisiacal islands, you can also enjoy the maximum in comfort, style, service, and safety on board a luxury ship. We have selected seven of these top-end “floating boutique hotels” that boast everything from Jacuzzis to private balconies, as well as spacious cabins and all the big-city amenities.

Silver Origin

The newest ship to take to the waters of the Galapagos archipelago, the Silver Galapagos will not fail to delight. It was designed for those looking for a larger luxury-class cruise ship with an excellent range of facilities and personal service.

The Silver Galapagos has the capacity for 132 passengers, making it one of the largest and most luxurious ships sailing the Galapagos. However, due to the National Park regulations, it only carries 100 passengers in its 50 spacious air-conditioned outside cabins — all with spectacular ocean views, their own private bathrooms, and small sitting areas.

The Silver Galapagos offers an impressive list of amenities and social areas, including a first-class restaurant and grill, a Jacuzzi, a spacious dining room, an electronic elevator, the Explorer Lounge, a piano bar, a fitness center, and massage room, a beauty salon, a boutique, a snorkel area, a library, and a large briefing/conference room. This briefing room is used by the vessel’s six (6) naturalist guides, who lead daily shore excursions and offer nightly presentations and briefings to fully prepare passengers for the islands to be visited the following day.

In addition, Silver Galapagos offers karaoke, star gazing, massage therapy, Spanish lessons, and even cocktail-making classes. Indeed, you’ll be spoiled by all the choices. And on top of all the pampering, this vessel also has power. Navigating the Galapagos Islands at a cruising speed that enables passengers to see more of the Galapagos archipelago in less time.

La Pinta

One of the most up-to-date vessels for luxury cruising in the Galapagos Islands, La Pinta has an excellent reputation for great service while offering a variety of activities for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts.

With a capacity for 48 guests, this 209-foot (63-meter) yacht provides superior accommodations. La Pinta has 20 comfortable double or twin-bedded staterooms, plus four (4) triple cabins (the third person must be under 12), all with ocean views, private bathrooms, personal safes, and individually controlled air-conditioning. Besides floor-to-ceiling windows in all staterooms, the yacht’s cabins are among the largest of any Galapagos cruising vessel. And in addition to La Pinta’s standard staterooms, the ship has four extra-large connecting suites, which are popular with family groups all year round.

Spacious public areas in the boat deck include a large observation lounge and bar that can be used for outdoor dining, a smaller outside “Sky Bar” towards the stern, fore and aft observation decks, an exercise room, a Jacuzzi, and a well-stocked natural history library-conference room.

Through panoramic windows, these social areas provide almost permanent visual contact with the islands, while the outside deck areas are also superb havens for relaxation, including an observation deck for dolphin, shark and whale watching.

On the main deck is a window-lined dining room with open seating (though there are no formal dress requirements), the reception area, a boutique, and a doctor’s office.

To get the most out of such enriching wildlife encounters, you will be accompanied by expert guides on La Pinta, which is complemented by the ship’s faultless service, delicious cuisine, and plenty of comfort on board. The ship’s crew and staff embrace a spirit of adventure, while ensuring comfort and safety at all times during your Galapagos Islands vacation.

Integrity

Taking a cruise on this luxurious 16-passenger Galapagos Islands cruiser is a bit like staying in a fabulous boutique hotel, but with ever-changing scenery and mesmerizing animals appearing just off the deck. The 141-foot luxury Integrity yacht was designed with painstaking attention to detail and has been spotlessly maintained. Indeed, it has earned the reputation as one of the finest ships sailing the Galapagos archipelago.

The Integrity Motor yacht is customized to carry 16 adventurers in comfort, safety and style – something it has been doing in the waters of the Galapagos Islands since April 2005.

With the most comfortable staterooms and suite of any “enchanted islands” vessel – big ship or small – your stay on board the Integrity will be one of sheer delight. The decor is tasteful and simple, featuring hardwood that its owner hand-harvested, milled and cured for this special yacht. Each stateroom is a double accommodation cabin with comfortable seating, lots of storage, and large picture windows (no tiny portholes!). Cabin temperatures are individually controlled, and you’ll have a mini-refrigerator stocked with water and snacks in your room. Bathroom facilities are en suite with a full-sized shower, lavatory, toilet, and storage cabinet.

The cozy lounge/salon is the perfect place for viewing your day’s Galapagos Islands photos on a wide-screen in this media center, as well as for reading or listening to the daily natural history briefing from the onboard naturalist.

In the large, well-equipped galley, the chef and his cooking team strive to satisfy. Menus are varied, carefully executed and very healthy. Breakfast is buffet style with cereals, juices, fresh fruit, toast, muffins, hot items, and eggs cooked to order. Freshly brewed coffee, a selection of teas, milk, and cocoa are also served. Lunch and dinner are served in several, elegantly plated courses and often start with a soup, followed by safe-to-eat-salads and the main course of fish, chicken, beef, or seafood. And there’s always dessert, coffee, and tea. Special diets are readily accommodated, and there are plenty of kid-friendly dishes.

As for the ship itself, the Integrity’s state-of-the-art stability and anti-vibration systems guarantee “smooth sailing” all the way. The interior design of the motor vessel is impeccable, while the social areas are spacious and the services are some of the best to be found.

Ocean Spray

The Galapagos Ocean Spray is described as a “mega” catamaran; and — since it’s equipped with large staterooms and a huge sundeck with a Jacuzzi — it’s not hard to see why! The unrivaled spaciousness of the vessel’s design, also seen in the cabins and all other guest areas, is complemented by the equally unmatched stability and speed that only catamarans can provide. Indeed, her speed, comfort, and stability make the Galapagos Ocean Spray a perfect choice for your Galapagos Islands cruise adventure.

Built in 2011, the ultra-modern 16-passenger yacht has three passenger decks with a total of nine (9) elegantly appointed and spacious double cabins, all with private facilities – including balconies. Each cabin boasts individual climate controls, private bathrooms and ample space for storing luggage. The Ocean Spray boasts some of the largest cabins on any small yacht in the Galapagos, with her double cabins measuring at least 284 square feet.

A top-notch menu of Ecuadorian and international cuisine, and pure style all make the Galapagos Ocean Spray a great cruise ship for your Galapagos trip. The Galapagos Ocean Spray catamaran is equipped with two bars, a spacious sun deck, a Jacuzzi, a comfortable lounge, and indoor and al fresco dining. This means that guests will find it difficult not to relax and enjoy the exclusive atmosphere of this luxury-class catamaran.

The crew is made up of 10 members plus a certified naturalist guide who each deliver the highest standards of quality service to guests in a friendly and professional manner.

The Ocean Spray boasts the most advanced navigation and safety equipment, which enhances guests’ comfort and security. She fully complies with the highest national and international safety standards and regulations for passenger vessels. Galapagos Ocean Spray is a luxury-class catamaran offering the best performance and comfort in cruising the Galapagos Islands. Ideal for small groups, families or couples.

Origin

The Origin motor vessel, named for Charles Darwin’s insightful work The Origin of the Species, made its appearance in the Galapagos Islands in early 2016 as the most environmentally efficient and comfortable 20-passenger yacht sailing in the waters of the archipelago.

The ship possesses 10 different deluxe double staterooms to choose from, two of which able to accommodate up to three people. Measuring approximately 140 square feet, each cabin is brimming with amenities, which include nightstands, an ample sectional closet, a sitting area, modern décor with local art work, fine linens and towels, climate controls, satellite TV/DVD, iPod docking station, a safe deposit box, and a private bathroom. Each bathroom includes hot water, full facilities, and features such as hair-dryers, slippers, and robes, as well as soap and shampoo that are both biodegradable. Your spacious cabin will be located on the main “Beagle” deck, with a panoramic window so you can wake up and fall asleep to the stunning views of the ocean and the archipelago. As an additional note, all cabins are cleaned twice daily and laundry service is available.

Throughout the yacht, you will find great extras such as a fitness room equipped with cardio machines, spacious social areas, satellite TV, and a spacious sun deck equipped with a fully stocked open wet-bar, BBQ, lounges, and hammocks. On top of all this, you can enjoy the available kayaks, paddleboards, wet suits, and snorkeling equipment for your own use when permitted. Masseuses are available on charters (only) for an additional charge.

In addition, the ship possesses semi-private nooks for you to escape to and relax on the boat, or you can mingle with other guests in one of the Origin’s three lounge areas, its library, computer station, or in the social area equipped with satellite TV.

The yacht runs two basic 8-day itineraries, a southern/central route, and a western/northern route. During these times, every need of the guests will be catered to cater to by the ship’s two expert naturalist guides, a concierge, a well-trained experienced crew, and a highly-qualified captain. The naturalist guides and captain are hand-picked to provide you with an educational experience and exceptional service while you tour each island.

The Origin combines modern sophistication and a high level of comfort and service, with indoor and al-fresco gourmet dining experiences (including Ecuadorian and Peruvian specialties), exciting physical activities, and a dose of intellectual science providing guests a life-enriching experience.

Petrel

One of the newest ships sailing the Galapagos Islands, the 16-passenger Petrel Luxury Galapagos Catamaran offers a luxury-class way to visit this magical archipelago.

This luxury cruise vessel is one of the best ways to see the Galapagos Islands.

Named after a sea bird common to the Galapagos, the “Petrel” is like its namesake: elegant, swift and silent at sea. Guests will travel in comfort to different islands where they can have up-close encounters with Blue-footed boobies, iguanas, giant tortoises, sea lions, and more.

A motorized catamaran, the Petrel is designed for comfort and stability and is outfitted with spacious cabins with private balconies, a comfortable lounge, and ample relaxation areas. The huge sundeck features the Jacuzzi, the perfect spot for dolphin- and whale-watching, or for simply unwinding and soaking up the sun between island excursions. In the evenings there is no better place for stargazing. Enjoy dining in the ship’s elegant restaurant, or dine al fresco on the deck while taking in the views over the islands. Order a drink at the bar in time for sunset.

On the Petrel, the emphasis is placed on the remarkable natural history of the Galapagos Islands, selecting naturalist land-tour guides who are knowledgeable about biology and ecology, in addition to having excellent language skills and client reviews.

Stella Maris

Touting itself as the “only luxury yacht based in the Galapagos Islands,” the M/Y Stella Maris has the facilities in place for serving the most demanding and discerning clientele. Accommodating up to 14 guests in ultimate of style, the ship is available for private charter groups, offering fully customized charters, complemented by complete pre-established 8-day cruise itineraries in which you and your party will thoroughly explore the Galapagos from end-to-end.

Her interior boasts a clean and inviting contemporary décor, the well-appointed panoramic windows allowing for natural light. Luxurious accommodations, the likes of which have never been seen in the Galapagos Islands, set the tone for the M/Y Stella Maris. This lavish motor yacht features a total of seven (7) suites: four (4) expansive suites on the aft/lower deck, two (2) suites on the front main deck, as well as one (1) master suite on the second aft deck, with the master suite featuring its own private access to an outdoor lounge. All suites are fully air-conditioned and offer private en-suite facilities. Note: Each of these spacious suites has its own private balcony.

On the main deck, the Stella Maris motor yacht features a beautiful central staircase that provides separation from the luxurious formal dining room and the ample living room with TV entertainment. These grand appointments and an attentive crew are important aspects contributing to the overall experience aboard the yacht; however, the savory cuisine available is its crowning jewel. The M/Y Stella Maris’ food and liquor service is available 24 hours a day, and the ship features a full stock of excellent quality wines and spirits. Among the crew some of the most qualified local chefs.

With whichever yacht you choose, it’s not uncommon for a Galapagos cruise vessel to be sold out six of nine months in advance – particularly for holiday periods like Christmas and New Year’s. This means that if you have a specific vacation date in mind, you and your Surtrek travel coordinator will have to book your trip well in advance to ensure the availability of your cruise ship.

10 Reasons to Visit the Galapagos Islands | Surtrek Travel

10 Reasons to Visit the Galapagos Islands | Surtrek Travel

As the Galapagos Islands is the ideal place for an unforgettable vacation, this archipelago is one of the most relished destinations for many travelers worldwide. Here we present our top-10 list of reasons to enjoy these “enchanted islands,” so that you might select them as your own vacation destination in 2021.

1. Still-Pristine Islands

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most valued and important national parks in the world. (Not everyone knows this, but the archipelago is part of Ecuador, a country located in South America and on the equator. Located at 600 miles (1,000 km.) from mainland Ecuador, the Galapagos are composed of 13 islands and more than 100 islets and minor volcanic islands).

Despite being a tourist destination, the isolation of the islands has allowed them to retain their pristine state. When walking along its trails and beaches, including in the inhabited islands, you feel like you’re in a newborn world where the power and generosity of nature are manifest at every turn. This is because only 3% of the archipelago is inhabited, while 97% of the area belongs to the Galapagos National Park.

Adding to this is the fact that the archipelago is home to endemic wildlife such as iguanas, Giant tortoises, Galapagos penguins, and a variety of species of finches.

2. A Living Laboratory of Natural Wonders

The Galapagos Islands are considered a natural laboratory for several reasons. One is that — being comprised of volcanic islands of differing ages — they clearly show examples of various stages of the earth’s geological formation. Similarly, varying types of endemic flora thrive on the different islands, including plants that grow in the middle of lava fields.

However, it’s the diverse and unique wildlife of the archipelago that is the star attraction to the islands. As the animals there have adapted to different climatic environments, in the islands you can find iguanas that have become accustomed to desert climates, sea lions that frolic on the beaches, tropical fish, all kinds of birds, giant tortoises, and more. One of the most representative species is the finch, a bird that allowed Darwin to observe the adaptation strategies of this species and then develop his theory of evolution.

One advantage is that the Galapagos Islands offer visitors the opportunity to observe from up close how life on the planet has evolved. As each island has its own particular species, the Galapagos archipelago is the best place for scientists wanting to learn more about evolution and nature. The Charles Darwin Foundation, along with the Galapagos National Park and other foundations, carry out scientific activities on the islands, always under the banner of conserving nature there.

3. Endemic Birdwatching

Ecuador is a paradise for bird lovers While Ecuador covers only 1.5% of South America, it is home to more than 50% of all species inhabiting the continent. Moreover, 18% of the nearly 9,700 species of birds known in the world live in this tiny country.

In the archipelago can be found 24 endemic species that can be observed from almost an arm’s length, and when armed with a pair of binoculars, tourists can observe precious species that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world. Magnificent frigates, Blue-footed boobies, pelicans, and even penguins can be seen in the islands. Living there are more than 10 species of Galapagos finches, in addition to Flightless cormorants, albatrosses, herons, three species of boobies, terns, and more.

When touring the Galapagos Islands, you need to also look up at the trees, cactuses, and the sky, because up above you’ll certainly spot birds that you’ve never seen before.

Note: The best islands for bird watching are Espanola and Genovesa (with this latter one known as La Isla de los Pajaros, or “Bird Island”).

4. An amazing Marine Reserve

The Galapagos Islands possesses the world’s second-largest marine reserve and the first in a developing country. The Galapagos Marine Reserve, created in 1988, is a protected area located 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) from mainland Ecuador, and 40 nautical miles from the baseline of the outermost islands.

The reserve covers 51,000 square miles (133,000 sq. km.), of which about 27,000 sq. miles (70,000 sq. km.) are inland waters of the archipelago. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is one of the richest and most diverse ecosystems in the world.

By going to the Galapagos Marine Reserve, it will make you feel like you are in a huge aquarium where life unfolds in special colors and at its own pace. Diving with benign sharks, whales, manta rays, turtles, sea lions and thousands of tropical fish of various sizes and colors is an experience that will leave you speechless.

5. Unique landscapes

On the thirteen principal islands of the Ecuadorian archipelago, declared a Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978, one can find all types of unique species coexisting within stunning natural landscapes crowned by erupting volcanoes.

Imagine walking through lava tunnels formed just below the surface of the islands or under the sea. Similarly, try to picture yourself swimming in the turquoise water of caverns in which the sunlight forms mysteriously colored shapes beneath the water. Think of standing on the rim of one of the world’s largest craters or trying to figure how far away one of the closer islands really is. Here, you can marvel at the contrasts of red beaches, turquoise sea, lush green landscapes, and rich brown cliffs. Or, you can observe amazing (seemingly impossible) rock formations jutting out of the middle of the ocean. Witness the coexistence of different species in a unique environment and end your day enjoying inspiring sunsets on a sandy beach. This is a small sample of a few of the sights that will surprise you during every moment of a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

6. Incomparable Beaches

Each beach in the Galapagos Islands is amazing. On these long stretches of white sand, you’ll find everything from comically shuffling sea lions to prehistoric iguanas that are more than content to simply bask in the sun. Many beaches are oases in which you can submerge in their water as if in a giant outdoor swimming pool. In addition, while walking through these spots you’ll feel the immense power of the sea and its relaxing breezes.

Some of the beaches you just can’t miss are found in the following locations:

  • Tortuga Bay: Located in the archipelago’s southwestern of the town of Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island, you’ll discover a beautiful white-sand beach that is home to sea turtles, iguanas, pelicans, seagulls, and flamingos. Getting here is an hour’s walk from Puerto Ayora following a well-signed road that is easy to travel. For many people, this is the most beautiful Galapagos beach – one that’s perfect for swimming, surfing, and watching the sun set.
  • Gardner Bay: The beach here is known for its population of playful sea lions calmly stretching out in the sand to sunbathe. This is a great place for snorkeling and an ideal locale for admiring dive-bombing pelicans, brilliantly colored tropical fish, and sleepy Galapagos reef sharks.
  • Conway Bay: Located on Santa Cruz Island, on this bay’s Bachas Beach one can also observe colonies of sea lions as well as groups of land iguanas from close up. Though not very well known, this beach is located on the northeastern coast of Santa Cruz Island. Meaning “barge,” this beach is another good place for spotting migratory birds, sea turtles, and flamingos. Its crystal clear waters invite you in for a dip and some sunbathing.

7. Lush Island Highlands

The beaches of the Galapagos Islands are not the only magical spectacles. The highland areas of each island have their own magic. In these zones, you can find the volcanic craters of the islands, many located in volcanic depressions. On Isabela Island, for example, you walk up and peer inside the crater of the Sierra Negra Volcano, the world’s second-largest shield crater. You’ll also notice lakes like El Junco, in San Cristobal, and solidified lava tunnels in Santa Cruz. From the highlands, it’s even possible to see the nearby islands across the straits.

These are a few of the highlands that you can’t afford to miss:

  • The Highlands of San Cristobal Island: On San Cristobal Island — the location of the provincial capital of the Galapagos Islands, the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno — in the highlands you will find Lake El Junco at an altitude of 700 meters above sea level. The archipelago’s largest freshwater lake, it has a depth of six meters and a diameter of 300 meters. Located in the mountains on the south of the island, Lake El Junco is surrounded by ferns, making it great for a scenic stroll. On a clear day, the view of the lake is nothing less than spectacular. Here one can see Darwin’s finches, gulls, and boobies. Before reaching the lake, you can stop at the Galapaguera Tortoise Breeding Center, where you can come to appreciate the growth process of the famous Galapagos giant tortoises.
  • Santa Cruz Island: The highlands of Santa Cruz Island offer are a host of fascinating sights. For example, you can visit Los Gemelos (“The Twins”), two mountainous depressions surrounded by abundant scalesia-tree vegetation. Undoubtedly you’ll sight some Short-eared owls and Darwin’s finches. And near the towns of Santa Rosa and Bellavista, you will come upon solidified lava tunnels. Plus, nearby is the El Chato reserve, where you can see humongous Galapagos tortoises in their natural habitat. The highest point of the island is the Croker or Puntudo Hill, rising a half-mile (860 meters) above sea level. This is where you’ll come across several species of birds and miconia forests. On a clear day in the of Santa Cruz highlands, you can even see some of the nearby islands.
  • The Highlands of Isabela Island: The largest island in the archipelago, Isabela Island has a grand total of six volcanoes. Its Sierra Negra Volcano is the highest but most accessible. From there, the more adventurous can trek for an hour to the Chico Volcano and be astounded by the petrified lava cones along the way. Inside the volcanoes themselves are their own worlds of lush vegetation and varieties of birds. Note that access is restricted to the other volcanoes on the island.

8. Year-round pleasant climate

Galapagos has great weather year-round, so these islands can be visited at any time. From December to May is the warmest season; this is when the sky is clear and the sun beams down the strongest. But, if you’re looking to scuba dive in some amazing places, the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands is between June and November. The weather might be a bit cool during these months, but this is when you can enjoy the best of the islands’ famous marine reserve.

The two seasons in the Galapagos Islands clearly mark the beginning and end of the reproduction of many species. There is a transition period between the hot season and the dry season (April to June), followed by a transition period between the dry and hot season (November to January).

These are six months of the year in which the climate of the Galapagos Islands is conducive to a mixture of natural events that occur at the same time. Some of the happenings that you can witness in these transitional seasons are:

  • Marine iguanas beginning their nest building
  • Blue-footed boobies commencing their “wedding parties”
  • Northern whales starting to migrate south
  • Sea lions marking off their territory
  • Magnificent frigates inflating their brilliantly colored throat pouches for courting
  • Currents of warm waters circulate in, ideal for snorkeling
  • Albatrosses return to the Espanola Island
  • Southern migratory birds leave for the north

But during all seasons of the year, it’s possible to tour the islands and enjoy their unique natural events.

9. Laid-back Surfing

Its well-formed waves and pleasant year-round temperatures make the Galapagos one of the best destinations for surfing. San Cristobal Island is perfect for this sport, with its Tongo Reef and Carola Point, though other islands such as Santa Cruz and Isabela aren’t far behind.

10. World-class Diving

Because of the great diversity of marine life and underwater geological formations that can be found in the marine reserve, scuba diving is one of the principal activities in the Galapagos Islands. There are even several cruise ships exclusively for diving, and on these one can go diving four to five times daily in different parts of the archipelago to discover all its richness. Likewise, for those people who want to learn to dive, courses are available on the inhabited islands.

Five Top Sites for Diving-Cruises in the Galapagos Islands

Five Top Sites for Diving-Cruises in the Galapagos Islands

There are diving vacations… and there are diving vacations; and one of these amazing underwater adventures can be found in the legendary Galapagos Islands. In this archipelago, each diving cruise promises extraordinary sightings, making it nothing short of a “must do once-in-a-lifetime experience” – whether you’re a beginning snorkeler swimming alongside playful sea lions or an advanced diver surrounded by a squadron of manta rays. Where else can you discover massive whale sharks patrolling the deep blue while schools of hammerhead shark block out the sun?

But in addition to offering some of the world’s best diving, what makes a Galapagos diving cruise even more of an attraction is that they also give travelers a chance to come ashore and find themselves face-to-face with Giant tortoises, endemic birds and a host of other land creatures. Adventurers can literally walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, the great naturalist who changed the way we think about life.

If you’re interested in this bucket-list destination, here are just five Galapagos diving cruise sites that you can experience while visiting these “Enchanted Islands.”

1. Darwin Island

Named in honor of the 19th-century naturalist, this extinct volcano is situated in the northwest corner of the archipelago. Though no land visits are permitted here, around the island are diving sites like “Darwin’s Arch,” which promises amazing drift dives at an average depth of just 9 meters. Medium to strong currents are to be expected (making this site best for advanced divers), but these waters bring with them hammerheads, as well as Blacktip-, Silky- and Galapagos sharks – all in impressively large numbers! Plus, Whale sharks may also be seen between May – November.

2. Wolf Island

Together with nearby Darwin Island, Wolf Island is the focal point of any Galapagos diving cruise, and no high-quality Ecuadorian diving charter will overlook this area. Like Darwin Island, no land visits are permitted here, though birds such as Red-footed boobies and vampire finches may be spotted from your boat. Schooling pelagics are the main draw, with sightings of hammerheads, Whitetip, and Galapagos sharks common. Like with Darwin Island, whale sharks may also be seen here during the May-November diving season. Divers should also be on the lookout for Red-lipped batfish, barracudas, Moray eels, and dolphins!

3. Cousins Rock

This is one of the most photographically fruitful Galapagos diving cruise spots. So be prepared, as it is likely to provide some of the best fish and macro opportunities for your whole trip. Located about 2-1/2 hours by boat from central Santa Cruz Island’s northern dock, Cousins Rock’s wall and slope are nicely covered with black coral, small hard coral, sea fans, hydroid bushes, and red sponges.

Because of the many ledges and overhangs, mariene creatures can hide well – including giant Galapagos sea horses, Longnose hawkfish, and even frogfish. Out in the blue, you might even spot a mobula ray, mantas, Whitetip reef sharks and hammerhead sharks, or a large school of Pelican barracuda. Cousin’s Rock is also known for the large groups of spotted eagle rays that patrol these waters, in addition to the many sea lions that like to chase the schools of Salema.

4. Bartolome Island

For a beginner’s snorkeling experience, think Bartolome Island´s “Pinnacle Rock” – probably the most photographed volcanic formation in the archipelago. Though a tiny islet has a total land surface of just one half square miles (1.2 square kilometers), the area around the large dark Pinnacle Rock lava formation is great for swimming and snorkeling side-by-side with sea lions, rays, reef fish, docile Whitetip reef sharks and …penguins? Imagine …penguins living on the equator? These little birds use their wings as flippers and really look like they’re flying through the water.

5. Floreana Island

Located directly south of central Santa Cruz Island, Floreana’s “Devil’s Crown” diving site is one where you are sure to experience sea lions, turtles, and thousands of exotic tropical fish, as well as a likely barracuda, black coral, sea horses, Whitetip and Galapagos sharks, moray eels, and possible a hammerhead shark or eagle ray. During the boat trip to and from Floreana, you’ll have an excellent opportunity for dolphin watching – not to mention the local marine and birdlife, such as Blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds, penguins and marine iguanas. In addition to Devil’s Crown,

Floreana Island contains numerous dive sites, all of which usually have calm water. Therefore, should the current become strong at one site, you can easily head on to another one such as Enderby Islet, Punta Ayora or Champion Islet. The easy diving and the area’s flexibility make Floreana an ideal Galapagos site for all levels of divers.

It is best to plan your diving trip carefully to enjoy a hassle-free trip of a lifetime. Doing a bit of research on your own – or working with one of Surtrek’s experienced travel coordinators – will enable you to find out what the various Galapagos diving cruise charters and programs have to offer and to plan your dives in advance. Just make your booking as far in advance as possible (as much as 12 months), to avoid any disappointment.

Choosing the Best Galapagos Islands Luxury Cruise for 2021

Choosing the Best Galapagos Islands Luxury Cruise for 2021

Choosing the right Galapagos Islands luxury cruise ship is a crucial aspect for any such trip. However, this choice itself can pose an overwhelming challenge because of the dozens of boats and tour companies offering similar services and information.

To work your way through this labyrinth — and depending on your preferences, your budget, and your preferred travel style — a number of factors have to be considered, such as the size of the vessel you require, the duration of your voyage, and when you to plan to take your island vacation. Travel to the Galapagos Islands can be an experience of a lifetime, but you and your Surtrek travel coordinator have to anticipate a lot of details to make this dream come true. The following are the main concerns you’ll want to keep in mind when deciding on your Galapagos luxury cruise.

Think of what you want from your luxury cruise

Many people have the idea that a Galapagos luxury cruise consists of lying out on the ship’s deck while drifting past scenic islands. The reality though is much richer. Tours to these islands come with itineraries that involve challenging treks and a number of excursions daily. So if you think you’re not going to walk a lot every day, you may be missing out on what a Galapagos tour is really about. Fascinating daily land and water excursions are led by trained naturalist guides, who lead small groups of no more than 16 people – which is in line with the environmentally-friendly regulations of the Galapagos National Park.

Though the various itineraries take travelers to the same islands, programs may differ according to the particular ship. Some vessels focus on the ecology or natural science of the islands, for example, while others emphasize adventure tourism by providing more opportunities for kayaking and snorkeling. Still, other ships specialize in scuba-diving oriented cruises at prime diving sites. Think about what you want to do.

What to see on each island

All Galapagos ships have fixed itineraries; therefore, your route will be defined, giving you a good idea of what’s likely to be seen. Therefore, if there are particular wildlife or geological formations you want to see, then you’ll need to select an itinerary that will take you to the island where these can be seen. This will mean doing a little research or asking your Surtrek tour operator for the details for each island and their visitor sites. “Blue-footed boobies are seen all over the islands, but migratory waved albatrosses – for example – have only one or two breeding colonies in the islands,” as one expert has pointed out.

Galapagos travel seasons

Though the Galapagos Islands are a year-round destination, certain times of the year are even better for traveling to the islands than others.

In terms of weather, if you prefer the warm season, this extends from December through April, at which time you’ll experience hot sunny days, sporadic rains and calm seas. During this season, average temperatures range from the 70s to the upper 80s with water temperatures in the mid-70s. The cooler season extends from May to December, when you’ll have comfortable hiking weather and little rain. Also, try to avoid holiday seasons and school breaks, as prices increase and cabin availability decreases.

If you are one of those people who are particularly interested in wildlife, you’ll want to time your vacation to correspond with the breeding and migratory patterns of some of the Galapagos Islands’ residents. Whales, penguins and the hundreds of other species breed and/or nest at different times of the year in the Galapagos.

Make your reservation well in advance

For environmental reasons, the Galapagos Park authorities limit the sizes of the vessels sailing through the islands, which means these ships are small and fill up fast. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a Galapagos luxury cruise vessel to be sold out six of nine months in advance – particularly for holiday periods like Christmas and New Year’s. This means that if you have a specific vacation date in mind for your trip, you’ll have to book your trip well in advance to ensure the availability of the ship for your cruise.

How long is your trip?

Related to when you book your trip, you’ll need to consider how long your Galapagos luxury cruise vacation will be. Be aware that there are 3-, 4-, 7-, 10- and even 14-night cruising options available – with the 7-night/8-day) cruise being the most popular. A 3-night cruise will give you only a taste of the Galapagos Islands, while a 4-night cruise will at least allow you to see the main highlights of the islands without feeling rushed.  Remember, the longer the length of cruise, the more islands you’ll be able to visit. The longest cruises explore the outer islands, which are more remote and offer some of the best scuba diving in the archipelago.

Choosing your ship

Once you’ve decided on when to travel and what you want to do (your program), you’ll need to select the ship size appropriate to your needs – whether a small Galapagos luxury cruise yacht, a relatively large cruise ship, or anything in between. (Note: Because of the national park’s environmentally sensitive restrictions, you won’t find any mega floating hotels here).

The smaller Galapagos luxury cruise vessels consist of yachts and sailboats carrying 12- 32 guests. These offer the most active and intimate experiences with the most time ashore, as they can visit a wide range of landing sites with no restrictions brought about by vessel size. On the downside, these tend to have smaller cabins, bathrooms, dining room and deck space, and there aren’t as many places for relishing a private moment on deck. Nonetheless, travelers aboard small yachts and sailboats are more likely to bond with their fellow passengers and crew.

A next step up in terms of size are the mid-sized Galapagos luxury cruise ships, which carry 40-60 passengers. Offering the efficiency and intimacy of a small yacht, at the same time these vessels possess the space and amenities typically found on larger Galapagos ships (i.e. spacious bathrooms and ample deck space, as well as delicious cuisine, a high crew-to-passenger ratio and excellent guides). With multiple decks, you can always find a moment to watch the sunset and enjoy the solitude. Also, as these vessels tend to be more powerful, they can cover greater distances over a given time, making them very versatile with respect to the destinations you can visit within a week’s itinerary.

A third option is the larger Galapagos luxury cruise ships, carrying 80-100 passengers. These relatively large vessels have the advantage of more facilities, with a choice of restaurants and bars, fitness, beauty and massage centers, and even medical centers. Usually these ships have multiple decks and salons where you can mingle with other guests or find space for yourself. These vessels are the most stable and appeal to travelers concerned about seasickness. They are also very appealing for families with small children, in that some offer adjoining cabins as well as their additional space.

Select the best cabin experience

Don’t be so quick to accept any cabin that you’re assigned. Ask about your cabin’s location. Will it be on the top deck or the bottom? Those with sensitive stomachs should consider lower decks if they’re worried about rocking and becoming seasick.

Also, look for cabins with large-view windows or even balconies rather than being limited to small “porthole” windows. And you’ll likely want a view of the sea instead of an interior view of a passageway.

Creature comforts

Though larger Galapagos luxury cruise ships typically offer more creature comforts than smaller ships, don’t think that smaller ships are necessarily more rudimentary. You’ll find several luxury yachts with a full complement of amenities, as well as larger cruise ships with more basic amenity packages. Try to match your essential amenities with the ships that provide these.

Don´t forget to ask about the food

You won’t have too many chances to slip off to a local restaurant while on a Galapagos luxury cruise, which means you’ll have no choice but to eat the food available on your ship. Typically, though, breakfasts consist of fresh fruit and juices, lunches usually have salad options, and dinners often feature some fresh catches. To help make sure that your meals meet your expectations, go online to find ship reviews to get a feel for each’s overall dining experience.

Your guide is vital

The Galapagos is the place for learning about this unique living laboratory. Because of this, a knowledgeable, interesting, and personable guide is vitally important. The capability and character your Galapagos guide will therefore impact greatly on your overall travel experience.

The Galapagos National Park trains and strictly regulates guides in the islands, with all ships required to have one or more on board. Each of these guides is rated from level 1 to 5 according to their experience. Nonetheless, a guide’s personality can be just as important to their knowledge level. Again, you may want to read several online reviews from past passengers to learn about their experiences with guides on particular ships.

While you are in Ecuador…

Since you’ll have to travel to mainland Ecuador to then fly to the Galapagos Islands, why not consider spending some quality time on the Ecuadorian mainland, either in the Andean highlands, the nearby Amazon Rainforest, or even Machu Picchu in neighboring Peru? These and several other amazing South American highlights are just a short flight away from the Galapagos Islands and your Galapagos luxury cruise.

Start planning your Galapagos trip

These basic tips will go far in helping you select a memorable Galapagos luxury cruise without blowing your budget. Of course, it can still be difficult trying to choose a Galapagos cruise that will be perfect for you and your family.

Specialized Surtrek travel coordinators will be more than happy to help guide you in making your selection. Just give them a call to start planning your Galapagos Islands cruise and they’ll work with you to take care of all the details.