When is the best time to go to the Galapagos?
The answer depends on what you are most interested in seeing. Times of year when birds mate, nest, migrate, etc. vary by species so if you're particularly interested in observing birds, it's best to research and plan your tour accordingly. The same may be said for any of the other animal species. Our staff has traveled to the Galapagos almost every time of year. From our experience, any time is a good time to visit the Galapagos. [Back to Top]
How far in advance should I book?
We recommend that you book your Galapagos cruise six to nine month in advance. We recommend booking your tour before your international flight. [Back to Top]
How do I get there?
Passengers fly into Quito or Guayaquil and then on to the Galapagos to begin their cruise. Flights from the mainland fly into one of two Galapagos airports, either on Baltra Island or San Cristóbal Island. The Baltra Airport is near the main town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island reached via ferry and bus. After arrival formalities, passengers are usually shuttled immediately to their vessel. Those flying into San Cristóbal take a short five minute bus trip to the harbor to begin their Galapagos cruise. [Back to Top]
Does the guide accompany us on each island?
Yes. By law, all Galapagos cruises are guided by a National Park Service-certified guide. On Galapagos cruises, the guide holds an information meeting each evening in the lounge area to discuss the itinerary for the next day. During this meeting he/she will describe the flora and fauna that passengers may observe on the island. Questions concerning biological, geological and human history are always welcome. The guide accompanies the group on all shore excursions. On land-based tours are also guided. Our Galapagos guides are licensed by the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora and most have a university degree in biology, or related discipline. They are classified as Level II or Level III Guides, meaning they are fluent in Spanish and English. [Back to Top]
What is the difference between the 3 night/4 day, 4 night/5 day and 7 night/8 day tours?
Longer tours visit more islands. Since at least part of the first and last day of the tour will be spent in Quito and getting to the Galapagos Islands, the shorter tours also spend less time sailing around the islands. [Back to Top]
What is a typical day of sightseeing like on a Galapagos cruise?
The vessels anchor offshore at two visitor sites or islands per day. Passengers are ferried to the landing point in an eight-person flat-bottomed boat called a panga, that is designed to land on beaches. The landings are either wet (where one must step into ankle to knee-deep water and wade to shore) or dry (where one steps from the panga directly on to a solid landing surface). The guide and panga driver assist passengers with a steady hand at all landings. On the islands, one follows marked trails established by the National Park Service, walking at a leisurely pace as the guides interpret and explain the unusual sights. Three to four hours is usually spent at each site, allowing plenty of time to explore and photograph the abundant wildlife. There are opportunities to swim and snorkel daily. [Back to Top]
What are the accommodations like?
Those traveling on a tourist superior cruise stay at a comfortable three star hotel. First class cruises stay at a four star hotel. Luxury cruises and cruise ships stay at a five star hotel.
We personally inspect the rooms and amenities of all potential hotels and lodges in each tour location and select only those that meet our rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort, convenient location, safety, customer service and ambiance. [Back to Top]
What are the meals like?
Breakfast, lunch and dinner served daily in the dining room during the sailing portion of the tour are nutritious and plentiful. The menu generally includes a variety of seafood, fish, beef, fresh salads and soups as well as dessert and hot drinks. On land-based tours meals generally include a variety of seafood, fish, beef, fresh salads and soups as well as dessert and hot drinks. For dinners, our land-based passengers are on their own to explore the local restaurants. Our guide recommends the best restaurants on each island. [Back to Top]
What type of aircraft is used in the Galapagos Islands?
Domestic carriers use Boeing 737s to fly to the islands from mainland Ecuador. These planes accommodate 150 - 350 people. [Back to Top]
How common are wildlife sightings in the Galapagos?
The Galapagos Islands are teeming with wildlife, offering many opportunities to see animals up close in the wild. Sixty-three percent of the species breed exclusively in this archipelago, and the lack of predation has fostered an environment where they are not afraid of humans. [Back to Top]
Are the Galapagos boats equipped with snorkeling equipment?
Yes. The Galapagos is a paradise for snorkelers. Boats have masks, snorkel tubes and swim fins that you'll be able to rent and pay for directly on board. Since a mask and snorkel tube do not take up much room or weigh much, you may choose to bring your own for added comfort and familiarity. Please for more details. [Back to Top]
Can I scuba dive from the boat?
The Galapagos were named one of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the world (CEDAM International). Scuba diving is possible on most of our Galapagos Cruises. There are so many different species here in such profusion and so close up that scuba divers don't mind the water's moderate visibility. Please refer to the description of each boat on our website for the specific price per dive. [Back to Top]
Do you cruise between islands in the daytime or at night?
The days are normally spent anchored at one of the islands. Although there are times when you will sail short distances between islands during the day, longer distances are cruised at night to maximize daytime explorations and wildlife observations. [Back to Top]
How physically fit do you have to be to enjoy a Galapagos trip?
Passengers able to walk a few hours a day unassisted will be able to fully enjoy the Galapagos Islands. Some of the excursions require more physical activity than others, involving short steep climbs or long walks in hot weather. However, most excursions require moderate activity. To enter and exit the dinghies, one must be reasonably fit, sure-footed and in good health. Passengers who are concerned about their ability to do any particular day hike can discuss the situation in advance with on-board the naturalist beforehand. [Back to Top]
Are these trips suitable for children?
Children under 12 years old are offered a child discount. Children must be accompanied by an adult at a ratio of one adult per child. [Back to Top]
Are the boats equipped with life vests?
Cabins are equipped with a life preserver for each passenger. Comfortable lightweight life vests are provided for panga excursions. [Back to Top]
What if I have a medical emergency on the cruise ship?
All boats are equipped with a basic first aid kit for minor ailments, however most boats cannot handle serious medical conditions. Passengers are advised to obtain medical or travel insurance that covers medical evacuation. [Back to Top]
Can I extend my stay?
Yes. We offer an array of trip extensions both in the Galapagos Islands and to many interesting destinations on mainland Ecuador to suit the individual needs and interests of our passengers. If you would like to discuss the options or arrange a trip extension on either end of your trip, please contact us. [Back to Top]
How much should I budget for a trip to the Galapagos Island beyond the tour fee and international airfare?
Meals/beverages not included in trip price (cruise passengers) $100US
Meals/beverages not included in trip price (land-based tours) $20US - $25US per day
Cruise passengers $100US
Departure tax: $42US
Park entrance fee: $100
Tips, depending on activities and length of trip $60US - $150US
On Galapagos cruises, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and bottled water are provided free of charge. There is a bar on board, with juice and soft drinks, wine, beer and a basic selection of liquor where passengers may run a tab until the end of the cruise. Cash as well as Visa and MasterCard are accepted on most boats. Beer and alcoholic beverages range from $2US to $3US, a bottle of wine is $15US to $20US, and soft drinks/juices are $1US to $2US. However, some boats only accept Traveler's Checks and/or US dollars. [Back to Top]
Why is the National Park Service fee so expensive?
The Galapagos Islands are part of the Ecuador National Park system and a $100US per adult, $50US per child (12 and under), entrance fee is charged. The fee must be paid in cash upon entry at the airport. The fee helps protect and preserve the Galapagos Islands, supporting park staff, educational programs and ongoing conservation efforts. Preserving the biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands is a worldwide endeavor. Southern Explorations is a member of the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA) that supports the complete and lasting protection of the Galapagos marine and terrestrial ecosystems and their endemic species. Southern Explorations donates $5US per passenger to the IGTOA. [Back to Top]
Is seasickness common?
Due to ocean currents, there will be moderate movement of the Galapagos vessels while navigating. We recommend that passengers who are prone to motion sickness consult their doctor to obtain some type of preventative medication suited to their individual needs. [Back to Top]
Are there luggage limits on domestic flights or on the boats?
For the flights to the Galapagos, the airline allows one checked suitcase (44 pounds) and one carry-on bag per person. If your luggage exceeds the limit, you can pay an excess baggage fee at the counter. The less you pack, the more carefree your trip will be. It's best to pack your clothes in two bags, one with warmer and city clothes that can be left in your hotel in Quito, and a separate bag for your Galapagos gear. [Back to Top]
How are the cruise ships equipped for electricity?
There are 220 & 110-Volt electrical outlets on most boats. Passengers should contact Southern Explorations to double check what electricity voltage a particular boat has. Some boats have hair dryers for guest use, but most do not. [Back to Top]
How will I do laundry during on a cruise ship?
Some of the eight-day cruises offer laundry services, and hotels do laundry. The five-day cruises don't offer laundry services. [Back to Top]
What phone service is there on the cruise ships?
Cell phone coverage is very limited in the Galapagos. All of the cruises carry radios for emergencies, and some are equipped with satellite phones. [Back to Top]
Do the cruise ships have smoking policies?
Smoking is prohibited in enclosed areas aboard all vessels and on the Islands. Smoking is only allowed on the outer decks in designated areas. [Back to Top]