Galapagos - Profile
- The Galapagos are known the world over for their tame and unique wildlife, sea lions, birds and iguanas, living amidst a barren volcanic scenery. Made famous by Charles Darwin who visited the archipelago with the ship “Beagle” in 1835, the Islands are today a national park, listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- The islands are volcanic and some of the volcanoes are still active. The highest peak is the volcano Wolf, some 1707 metres above sea level. The vegetation is sparse.
- The archipelago consists of 13 main islands and 6 smaller isles.
- The islands are one of the 20 provinces of Ecuador and the Ecuadorian authorities take their custody of this wildlife sanctuary seriously. This is the reason for the difficulty for yachts to get permission to cruise these islands. In the past some yachtsmen have abused the privilege, by stealing eggs, shooting birds and causing destruction of the environment.
- Formalities requirements here change on a daily basis, and the bureaucracy and inconsistent application of rules has got worse, not better, making the situation confronting visiting yachts very confusing. Much depends on the day and the person one encounters.
- To visit more than one island, an autographo is required. Due to the complications of obtaining an autographo, many cruisers choose instead to take the simpler solution and visit other islands as a passenger on a local excursion boat on a chosen itinerary.
- The authorities are very pedantic about the hull being totally clear of any marine growth. You will be inspected on arrival.
- Noonsite endevours to post details of the latest known situation. See Formalities for further details.
- The islands have a very strict waste management and disposal system, put in place by the WWF. To be sure you are properly preparing en-route any recyclable waste for disposal in the Galapagos, read this article before departing on passage.
- Getting work done: Basic repair work available to a do-it-yourself standard. The chandlery on Puerto Ayora is probably better than you would expect. No marine specialist, but very resourceful electricians, fibreglassers, welders and a metal machinist. A shoemaker also does sail repair.
- Provisioning: Supermarkets on Puerto Ayora have everything you would want and given its remoteness, prices are not bad (certainly better than French Polynesia so stock up). Fresh produce grown on the islands is plentiful and excellent quality. Getting stores back to the yacht can be troublesome here.
There have been several serious accidents in the Galapagos Islands involving boats operated by tour companies. You should ask about safety features before making a booking, and check that life boats and the life vests are provided before boarding. (advise from UK FCO).
The climate is equatorial, cooled by the Humboldt current. December to May is the better season when the weather is pleasantly warm and the winds are light. From June to November the weather is overcast and cool. The water around the islands is surprisingly cold and the meeting of the Humboldt current and the warm air sometimes causes mist over the islands. Occasionally the Humboldt current is replaced by the warm El Niño current, a phenomenon which can affect weather conditions throughout the South Pacific.
A useful guide to South Pacific weather resources complied by a Noonsite contributor, Rory Garland.
For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page