Cruising Report On The Galapagos Islands

Published 16 years ago, updated 5 years ago

I know a lot of sailors that are heading for the Galapagos and are frustrated by the lack of info about sailing in the Galapagos and will be keen to hear how people have found things this year.

I have been trying to get the definitive procedure to the clearance process but after nearly two weeks I have found that there is no definitive answer. So I will give you what info I can base on my experiences and the comments from other sailors that I have met. You may find things differ as everything can change here. The following is based on info from Peter for Galapagos Ocean Services the agent that we used.

You can come to the Galapagos as “in transit” or “tourist”.

In Transit

You can stay in Galapagos for up to 20 days. This is intended for yachts stopping for supplies and repairs. You may be able to go to the four main ports but it is up to the discretion of the port captain. When asking for permission to go to another island it may help to mention supplies/repairs as reasons for going. If you have an agent the port captain’s discretion may become more favourable but you don’t need any paperwork prior to arrival. There may also be some fees for each port entered around $40-$80.

NAVY FEES multiplied by boat tonnage (US$)

Arrival 0.02 x T; Channel Access 0.25 x T; Anchor 2.44 x T; Radio Frequency $11.00; Contamination $16.10; Zarpe 0.02 x T; Light and Buoy 3.00 x T. Total 27.10 + 5.73 x Tonnage.

National Park Fees

$100 per person for the duration of your stay in the Galapagos.


This allows you to take your yacht into the national park. For this, you need an Autografo which needs to be arranged before the boat gets to the Galapagos. You would require an agent to arrange this for you. It takes at least a week to get and the cost is related to the number of people and the tonnage of the boat. I don’t know quite how it is worked out but based on what we were quoted I would guess it to be around $2,000 for a 50 footer.

Once you have the Autographo you can now take your own boat into the national park areas. While you are in these areas you need to pay $200 per person per day and have a guide onboard costing approximately $200 per day. So for a 5-day trip, it would cost four people about $7,000. You still have to pay all the fees for in transit as well.

We decided this was not cost effective for what we were looking for.

Some of the other agents said there is another type of Autographo for boats just wishing to visit the four main ports. That should be applied for before getting to the island. They quoted us around $500 dollars so you should expect to pay less than this but this may just be the same as “in transit”.


Baquerizo Moreno (Wreck Bay) San Cristobal (Chatham) clearance port

This is the port that we cleared in at as it is the most eastern island. The bay is sheltered and has lots of local boats anchored. There was no wind so the boats tended to swing in opposite directions so allow plenty of space when anchoring. There is a good dinghy dock behind the small pier towards the eastern end of town. On the pier is a map showing customs and immigration, as well as other useful places.

Fernando is the local fixer he can arrange for provisioning (a list you pick what you want) and he brings it to your boat. The only fuel dock in the islands is at the north of Santa Cruz so everywhere else they bring it out to you in small boats and pump it across. He can also arrange land tours and his brother has a dive shop that does boat trips. If Fernando doesn’t come out to your boat to say hello you can get hold of him from his sister’s restaurant Flamenco in the gardens on the waterfront.

The sea lions will be sitting on the transom in the morning. This can be quite a sight but they are not house trained and will need cleaning up after. If you decide you don’t want them there, hang fenders there so they can’t get up. To get them off slapping a snorkelling fin on the deck so it makes a big bang normally does it.

Puerto Ayora (Academy Bay) Santa Cruz (Indefatigable) clearance port

Santa Cruz is the centre of the tourist industry in Galapagos. The town of Puerto Ayora is also four times the size of Puerto Baquerizo. Most of the day trips and longer cruises leave from here. The bay is open to the southerly swells and very rolly, a stern anchor may help keep the boat into the swell. There is nowhere to moor a dinghy ashore just a drop off the dock so most people use the water taxis. If you walk along the road on the seafront customs is after the volleyball courts.

On the other side of the road near the triangle is Darwin tours that we used to arrange a number of our tours and we found them very helpful. There are however lots of tour agents, dive shops, restaurants, internet cafés and souvenir shops. There is a big food market on the road out of town and on Saturday morning the new produce arrives.

There is a good hardware store Bodega Blanca that stocks things like stainless steel shackles, some water pumps, and would be a good place to start if looking for things for the boat. It is a 15 min walk from the dock, follow the road along the front till you pass a fish market then take the next left and it is four or five buildings down on the right. Ask for Jason Gallardo he speaks very good English.

Puerto Velasco Ibarra Santa Maria (Floreana)

The port that you can go to which is outside the national park in Puerto Velasco Ibarra. This is on the WNW side of the island. It is not a deep bay but is generally quite sheltered from the swell because it is on the leeward side of the island.

There is a dinghy dock that is used to drop people off at but it is not one of the wooden floating ones it is rough concrete. But you would need a stern anchor on the dinghy to moor it here and this may get in the way of other boats trying to use the dock. There are two water taxis but these may only operate when day trip boats or cruise boat are in port.

The island only has a population of about 100 people. And most live in the centre of the island. There is one snorkelling spot just round from Velasco Ibarra. The best snorkelling/diving is at Devil’s Crown just off the north of the island but you would need a tour boat to take you out to it and to get one of these you would have to go back to Santa Cruz. Soon the island there are no organised tourist trips. If you are a keen bird spotter then you might be able to spot some birds on the way to the village. But this might be the one secluded spot in the Galapagos you can escape to with the boat (away from the swell of Santa Cruz) without the national parks Autographo. I don’t know what the situation is for getting your Zarpe stamped there as we didn’t take the boat.

Puerto Villamil Isabela (Albemarie)

Isabella was our last stop in the Galapagos. We cleared immigration in Santa Cruz and had a Zarpe made to go to Isabela and then onto the Marquesas. I believe the only Port that is open to boats “in transit” is Villamil on the south-east of the island. You have to stay about 2 miles south of the island to avoid the reefs before heading back northeast to approach the anchorage. When the swell is running all you can see for miles is white water crashing on the reefs around but the route to the anchorage is wide and marked with two big Starboard buoys to the north and one port buoy to the south (these are lit as the islands supply ships moor just off this anchorage).

You will see a lagoon which will almost certainly have some sailing boat anchored in it (there were about ten there when we arrived) there is one unlit yellow buoy at the entrance and a lighthouse to the south. Go past the yellow as the supply ship arrives at about 5:00 in the morning and anchors just off it. You should be around 0 deg 57.8 mins S, 90 deg 57.8 W you have now arrived. It may look tempting to try and go past the other boats and moor further in be very careful as it gets too shallow for the dinghy about halfway into the lagoon. Like any of the Galapagos anchorages, the wind will get light and the boat will swing in every direction. The tide was about a meter while we were there.

Going ashore, like most of the other islands there is a dock but only suitable for dropping off. The lagoon is very shallow (we touched the bottom once in the tender). You head from the yacht anchorage to the big fishing boat in the south-east corner. From them to a couple of barges and then to the eastern end of the boats moored by the mangroves, then just south of them to the dock. On the far side of the dock is a beach that the dinghy can be beached on.

The Taxis only run during daylight from about 8:00 to 18:00 they don’t respond on the radio you just have to shout to one when it goes to another boat. If you are doing a day trip to the Sierra Negra volcano crater get the guys organising the tour to arrange for a water taxi. The afternoon tour to the islands that make up the south side of the lagoon is well worth doing you will see Penguins and white tipped sharks and probably Rays.

When you get ashore there is “Penguins Tours” just at the base of the dock they can organise tours and have maps of the town showing the Port Captains Office. On the other side of the road is a skip for the rubbish. This is all there is at the dock it is a half mile walk along a sandy road to town. The people are very friendly and will often stop for hitchhikers. The town is small and has a nice beach. This was my favourite island and a nice way to finish our stay in the Galapagos; I think it is more how people imagine the Galapagos with sand roads, sparsely populated, barren smooth and rough lava terrains reminding people of a moonscape.


We have found doing things in Galapagos complicated with the uncertainty of the rules and the language difficulties. We saw lots doing day trips both on land and on the water. We didn’t do a longer trip, there is a whole range available from 2 days to two weeks. Having talked to people that did these trips they said they were very good. The advantages were of being on a boat that knew the right places to go, is set up for diving/snorkelling can travel between the islands much faster than a sailing yacht which will maximize what you can see. People recommended a five day trip as a good length. It is enough time to get around the key islands. They pack the days very full with early starts so most people see a lot but felt quite tired by the end. These trips seem to start at about $150 per person per day and go up in price depending on your requirements.



Peter Schiess (That agent we used): Galapagos Ocean Services, Santa Cruz, Puerto Ayora, Galapagos Ecuador, cel. +593 9477 0804, email: [email protected], web:

Johnny Romero, Station Manager, Naugala Yacht Services, Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Phone: ++(593)-5-2527403 [email protected]

Lisa Greenberg Operations Director USA Naugala Yacht Services US Mobile: ++(954) 638 7757 Mobile 1: ++(593)-99-264-355 Ft-Lauderdale-USA Mobile 2: ++(593)-99-330-494 [email protected]

Ricardo Arenas (spoke the best English), Sail’s Galapagos Yacht Services. Puerto Ayora Santa Cruz, Tel. +593 5 2526186 Cell. +593 9 9480859 [email protected] VHF Ch 09 Web

Luke Windle (Captain)

Moonraker [Broken Link]

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