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Galapagos: The Islands, Fees and General Info. Update

By Marie Dufour of SY Domino — last modified Oct 25, 2013 12:35 PM
While I’ve posted details on the 4 islands we visited, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Floreana and Isabella, I wanted to add some general info. on the archipelago. The rules and fees keep changing, so make sure to check with Noonsite and your agent before you leave.

Published: 2013-10-22 00:00:00
Countries: Galapagos

Galapagos: The Islands, Fees and General Info. Update

© MV Domino

October 20, 2013 - Isla Isabella, Galapagos

I - GENERALITIES

ü      Country: Ecuador

ü      Currency: U.S. Dollar

ü      Time: UTC – 6 hrs

ü      Location: 620NM west of mainland Ecuador; 900 NM SW of Panama City.

ü      Archipelago: 13 main islands, 6 smaller isles.

ü      Permitted anchorages: San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Baltra, Floreana, Isabella. Any one to five of the inhabited ports.  Absolutely NO other anchorage allowed without special cruising permit and authorization.  The number of ports allowed to visit is not listed on the autografo and seems to be left to the discretion of the Port Captain.  There are talks of taking Floreana off the list.

ü      National Park area: extends 40 miles out of a line drawn between the outermost point of each island.

ü      Fishing: absolutely no fishing within the National Park boundaries.  The National Park Services patrols at night and has very sophisticated equipment.

ü      Cruising: the National Park cruising permit that comes with the “Autografo” allows ONE day of cruising within the park.  This is a muddled issue since you’re going to cruise within the park any time you move from one anchorage to the other.

ü      Water taxis: we found water taxis in every port, from $.60 in Santa Cruz to $1 in other towns during the day, up to $2/person at night (Isabella.)

ü      Guide to the Galapagos: the office of tourism and most shops offer a free Info guide, very well done, with maps of each major island and list of point of interests and activities, tour operators, shopping.

ü      Internet and WiFi: can be found everywhere.

ü      Laundry: excellent in San Cristobal and Santa Cruz ($1.25/kg), none at Floreana, small and expensive in Isabella ($1/pound = $2.20/kg).

ü      Dentist: Francisco (everyone knows him) on Isabella, trained in Spain, gave JP excellent service on quick notice.

ü      Rumors: single handlers may no longer be allowed to cruise the Galapagos without a crew.  I heard yesterday from our tour guide that all boats within the boundaries of the park had to have 2 crew on board.  If you’re a single handler, check with the National Park Services and Port Captain before booking your trip.  You can always hire a local “marinero.”

II - SEASONS and WEATHER

In our opinion, the best time to visit the Galapagos is November-December.  Although the water is still cold (20-22c), the days are warm (low of 16c at night, high 28c during the day) but not hot yet and the crowd has not arrived.

ü      Mid-December to March is “winter,” hot but rainy.  It’s the season for sailors to arrive, pushed by the Northerlies that blow from Panama.  It’s also the season for the Panama Current to warm up the local waters.

ü      March-April is the short season of “Summer,” hot, when flowers bloom all over the islands.

ü      May starts the “Garua” season, when the cold Humboldt Current has returned and the warm Panama Current has receded, the islands cool off and once again get shrouded in mist and drizzle (“Garua”.)  Coldest months: June to September.

III - AGENT

Some yachts come to the Galapagos without using an agent and without an “Autografo.”  They are at the risk of being refused a cruising permit and asked to leave the island within 72 hours.  The Port Captain at San Cristobal stressed to us that ALL yacht business had to be conducted by the agent.  When our agent failed to serve us in San Cristobal, we were not allowed to take care of business on our own and had to request the help of another agent.

At this time, it is highly recommended to have a pre-authorized “Autografo” obtained by an agent, since Park Service is trying to limit the number of visitors to the archipelago and their environmental impact.

We agonized over the selection of our agent.  In the end, our agent came through, but not without giving me serious anxiety attacks.  I’m not used to casual business practices but it seems that agents are, most of the time, on top of things.

ü      Whom we didn’t use:  Bolivar Pesante.  Our first email (4 months before cruising, as recommended) remained unanswered.  Our second email (2 months before cruising) was answered after a 1-week delay.  Unacceptable.

ü      Whom we used: Johnny Romero from Yacht Gala.  Johnny acknowledged our email immediately, but it took some 3 weeks to hammer out the details of the transaction.  We left Panama without knowing if our Autografo had been granted or not.  Bumps in the road appeared, messes were cleaned up by Johnny’s competitor, but in the end, Johnny got us our permit for Floreana and our zarpe for Santa Cruz.  He’s a busy boy who means well, no harm done.

ü      Whom we might have used and would use in the future: Ricardo Arenas from Sail’n Galapagos Yacht Services.  Not only is he recommended by Noonsite and takes care of the ARC, but he is also the fuel agent for Clipper Oil and seems to be the most reputable agent in the Galapagos.  His agent in Santa Cruz picked up the pieces for us and his goodwill allowed us to continue our cruising.  Highly recommended (Ricardo@arenas.bz)

IV - THE AUTOGRAFO

(This is an excerpt from our agent’s instructions)

  • If you would like to cruise within the Galapagos Islands (National Park areas), then by law we must request a cruising permit for your yacht.

 

  • If you just want to sail your yacht from inhabited port to inhabited port, then you also have to have a cruising permit.  Note that in Galapagos we only have five inhabited ports, and the rest of the islands are a National Park.  Also please be aware that you are supposed to cruise at least for one day in the Park due that you are getting a cruising permit.

 

  • If you just want to stay in one of the inhabited ports then you do not need to have a cruising permit (Applicable when the yacht has no more than 10 people on board). If your yacht has more than 10 people then it is again necessary to get a cruising permit. You can leave your yacht in the harbor (Academy Bay) or any other inhabited port while taking a tour on one of the locally based charter yachts.  If so, only the National Park entry fee of $100.00 per adult and $50.00 per child under 12 years of age applies.  The cost of the tour will need to be paid separately.  [Ergo, some yachts elect to just get into Santa Cruz without a cruising permit, see how long they are authorized to stay--anywhere from 72 hours to 20 days—remain at anchor for the entire period, and book all their activities through tour operators in Santa Cruz.]

 

  • Emergency arrival & Bunkering purposes do not need a cruising permit.  In this case a special arrival permit will be necessary and can only stop in the port assigned in the permit

 

  • In order to get a cruising permit for your yacht the following documents will be required.

    1. Copy Yacht registration, Paper work indicating (beam, draft, length, Gross/net tonnage, Flag nationality, official number and name of your yacht)
    2. Copy Crew & Guest list + passports numbers + nationalities
    3. ETA in Galapagos
    4. Approximate length of stay in the Islands
    5. Fumigation Certificate from the last port.  (We obtained ours from Health Authorities in Panama, at the hefty cost of $150.)

 

Note: We highly recommend that you start the cruising permit’s application process at least two months prior to your arrival.

[We requested—and obtained—a 2-month permit.  Really, in the colder months, a one-month permit is quite sufficient, but there is no difference in cost.  The duration of the stay accorded is entirely up to the Ecuadorian authorities.]

V - GALAPAGOS FEES:

If you are a couple cruising on a 33-Ton ship, be ready to shell out $1,000.

1) International Port Captain Fee (2011)

The following detailed fees have to be multiplied by the Gross Tonnage of your yacht.

Inward clearance (ARRIVAL)

 

 

$0,43

X GT OF YOUR VESSEL

CHANNEL ACCESS FEE

 

 

$0,41

X GT OF YOUR VESSEL

ANCHORAGE FEE

 

 

$2,59

X GT OF YOUR VESSEL

LIGHTS & BUOYS FEES

 

 

$3,00

X GT OF YOUR VESSEL

outward clearance (Departure)

 

 

$0,44

X GT OF YOUR VESSEL

RADIO FREQUENCY FEE

 

 

$14,03

FLAT FEE

POLLUTION CERTIFICATE

 

 

$16,02

FLAT FEE

RE-CYCLING FEE

 

 

$0,80

FLAT FEE

Note: In the case that your yacht arrives or departs on weekends or holidays, the fee for arrival and departure will be $0.030 multiplied by the GT of your yacht. [We did arrive and leave on weekends, no such fees were assessed, we were just told to come back on Monday.]

The following flat fees are to be paid once:

Radio Frequency: $10.94
Pollution: $15.00
Receipt: $ 0.34

2) Port Captain Fees at each island you visit:

Local  Arrival ($4.95)

Local  Departure ($4.95 within the islands; $15 for International departure)

3) Immigration 2011 fees

- Immigration:  $15.00 check-in and $15.00 check-out per yacht

- Galapagos Migratory card $10 each per person and per crew

4) Galapagos National Park Fees

$100.00 per each (Crew/Guests)

$50.00 per child under 12 years of age

Cruising Fees, applicable only when your yacht is cruising within the National Park areas.

- $200 daily per each crew/guest who cruise the Islands (Maximum time to cruise within the Park area will be for 15 days only one time per year)

- $350 per day for on-board Park Services guide

- $50 per guest for Park Services Inspection

Note:  The government fees are subject to change without previous notice.

5) Quarantine Fee

$200 inspection fee (Note: we were warned of this fee, but were not sure if we actually were charged, in the end.) Fumigation fee may or not come in addition.

6) Agent Fee

Count $200-250 for your yacht

VI - FUEL and WATER

ü      Big motoryachts are only allowed to refuel at Baltra Island.  Moreover, the amount of fuel to be loaded in Baltra MUST be declared to the Port Captain of the port of entry (usually San Cristobal or Santa Cruz.)

Current price of Diesel fuel in Baltra: $5.50/gallon

ü      Small sailboats have been known to jerry-jug at lower cost when arranging with local “entrepreneurs.”  Cruiseship crews are quite willing to let go of a few gallons of water… at the right price.

ü      The official word is to arrange all your water and fuel purchases through your agent.

VII - SSB net: Panama Cruisers Net – 8143 KHZ – 1400 UTC

VIII - Interesting reads before cruising the islands

- Charles Darwin – “On the Origin of the Species”

- Charles Darwin – “The Autobiography of Chares Darwin”

- Carol Ann Bassett – “Galapagos at the Crossroads”

- Lundh – “Galapagos”  (pdf document)

- Yachtpals.com – S/V Carina’s “Galapagos Cruising Guide” (2009)

- Noonsite.com

IX – To do and see on the Islands

1) San Cristobal

- Interpretation Center & Cerro Las Tijeretas– Nice views of the bay and many Frigate birds - Free

- La Loberia / Sea Lions Beach – 40-mn walk from town, snorkel with the animals; marine iguanas – Free

- Galapaguera, El Junco, Puerto Chino, Hacienda El Progreso, tomb of manuel Cobos – A 3-hour taxi tour and lunch – $30

- Snorkel at Leon Dormido ($90/person) or scuba dive it ($160/person) with a stop at Isla Lobos

- Punta Pitt – One of the only 2 places in the archipelago where Red-footed boobies can be found.  $40 panga trip.

2) Santa Cruz

Many tours can be booked from Santa Cruz, not only for Santa Cruz and its immediate surrounding islands, but also for Isla Floreana and Isla Isabella.

- Las Grietas / The grottos – Marvelous hike through beaches, salt flats and to fjords created between lava cliffs.  Bring your swimsuits and snorkels, stop at the environmental center.  Free

- Tortuga Bay& Garrapatero– A 45-mn walk through the coastal forest leads to one of the largest beaches in the archipelago, talcum-powder white, home to many land iguanas, turtle reproduction site (jan-may) and continuing to a mangrove where one can picnic and kayak on the bay.  Surfing at Tortuga Bay. Free

- El Chato Reserve, Los Gemelos, Lava Tunnels – A 2-to 3-hour tour by taxi to see giant tortoises in their natural habitat, see the lava tunnels (Chato Dos is better) and climb up to twin lava craters.  About $30 for the taxi

- Center Charles Darwin and Playa ECD – Land tortoises, land iguanas, and snorkel with marine iguanas.  Free

- Cerro Crocker – The tallest point on the island, reached by taxi, only on nice days.

- Seymour Norte – Great diving, marine fossils, Frigate bird rookery.  Book tour.

- Isla Bartolome – The “Galapagos Postcard” with the picture-perfect Pinnacle Rock.  Book tour.

3) Isla Floreana

- The Loberia, off the main beach – More sea lions – Free

- Cerro Allieri, Asilo de la Paz, Las Palmas – 3-hour tour. Some can be done by bus, walking the 7 km up and down, or renting a local driver ($40 to $50)

- Panga trip to Corona del Diablo, Mirador La Baronesa, Bahia Post Office, Punta Cormorant – A 2-3 hour tour and snorkel trip where you are likely to see penguins and swim with sharks.  Well worth the $130/couple.

4) Isla Isabella

- Sierra Negra and Volcan Chico – A fantastic 16-km walk along the Sierra Negra Crater, walk though lava fields at Volcan Chico, and enjoy stunning views of Bahia Elizabeth and Isla Fernandina.  Lots of endemic flora.  $30 by foot, $160 on horseback.  Guide mandatory – Book tour in town.

- Las Tintoreras – In Puerto Villamil anchorage, but must be booked with a guide-  Likely to see lots of Frigates and boobies, white tip sharks swimming in a clear lagoon, and perhaps some penguins.  $40 – Book tour in town.

- Mirador El Mango, The Triplets, Cueva Sucre, and Finca Trojan – A 3-hour tour by taxi, with good views of the island on a nice day and finish with provisioning for fresh fruits and vegetables.  Taxi: $10/hour.

- Muro de las Lagrimas, Complejo Humedales & Pozos de las Diablas (5km), Laguna Flamincos (in town), Breeding center (1.2 km walk).   Several free trails lead from the center of town to various pleasant sites.  Free

- Concha y Perla – Small beach by the embarcadero where you might sight a few penguins and even snorkel with them. Free

- Dive Isla Tortuga – Excellent diving site for hammerhead sharks, turtles and seahorses.  $150/person, 2 immersions

- Los Tuneles – The BEST to do in all the Galapagos.  Spectacular site of bridges and lava tunnels in, above and under water.  Snorkel with white-fin sharks, manta rays, turtles.  $70 to $80/person.

X – DOMINO’s Top List

  • Best Anchorage – Puerto Villamil
  • Sweetest taxi/tour operator on Isabella – Milton (“Isaturex”) who took care of our fresh produce provisioning
  • Best Guided Tour – “Los Tuneles” with Fabricio on Isabella mowglitourgalapacos@hotmail.com
  • Favorite animals – Manta Ray (JP) and Boobies (Marie)
  • Favorite Flora – Galapagos Cactus
  • “Almuerzos” restaurant lunch menus (from $3 to $5)
  • Favorite Food – Parillada de Mariscos at La Playa, San Cristobal (Marie), Langosta a la Plancha in Santa Cruz (JP)

FINALLY – If money is no object, park your yacht somewhere and hop on one of the big charter catamarans, of the luxury type, and cruise where your yacht will never be allowed to.   Let the Captain travel at night.  Wake up in a secluded anchorage where no private yacht is allowed, and Guided by the licensed NPS Guide on board, tour all day without a worry.  There are several of those 8-cabin luxury catamarans around.  Take your pick!

Have fun!

Dominomarie & JP

Footnote 23 October 2013: We had a false start to the Marquesas, burned both alternators 2 hours underway.  We're back in Santa Cruz, enjoying the Galapagos for another 10 days while we wait for our alternators to be fixed. Having to return to the Galapagos has opened our eyes on a few things, namely the agent - Johnny Romero has been dismal.  I´ve updated the blog to recommend Ricardo Arenas who is now taking care of us.

www.dominocatamaran.blogspot.com

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