Answers to some questions we get asked every day!
What are the fees I will pay to enter Galapagos?
The first is the transit card that you will need to pay in Quito or Guayaquil at the airport before checking in. The cost for 2017 is $20. You can register online for a pre check in by following this link
Once you arrive to the Galapagos airport you will be required to pay the National Park entrance fee – IN CASH – is it $100 per person for 2016/2017, but there are rumours that it will increase.
If you visit Isla Isabela there is also a $10 entrance fee collected by the local council.
How do I get from the airport to town?
When you arrive in San Cristobal the transfer to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (the town) is very simple. Many taxis are available and it will take you about USD 1 to get to your destination. The transfer from Baltra to Santa Cruz Island and then Puerto Ayora can be a little more complicated.
Most tour operators organize transportation but if you need to get from Baltra to Puerto Ayora there are some steps you will need to take.
Find a bus with the sign “Canal”. This bus is free (provided by the airline) and will take you to the Itabaca Channel. Make sure your luggage is properly stored under the bus and take your hand luggage or delicate items with you. Do not take a bus with the sign Muelle, this bus will take you to the dock where live-aboards and naturalist cruises dock. If you are enrolled in one of those, look for a representative of your tour company. They will be there to meet you.
The bus ride to the Baltra side of “Canal de Itabaca” takes about 10 minutes. Once there you will have to board a ferry . The ferries take the luggage on top so make sure you place it there. Take your hand luggage or delicate items with you as well. Crossing the Itabaca Channel is quite short and has a cost of 80c – $1. Be very careful when arriving and de-boarding the ferry. Many people have slipped and fell in this manoever.
Once in the Santa Cruz side of the Itabaca Channel you will have two options for the 40 kilometer drive to Puerto Ayora. Buses and taxis are available. Buses are definitely slower but charge approx USD 2 for the transfer. Taxis are faster but a private one will charge about USD 18. Taxis take up to four people, so make some friends in the plane or at the airport and you can Split the fare! If you arrive by taxi to Puerto Ayora, the drives will require a drop off place. Make sure you know your accommodation’s name or location. If arriving by bus you will find the last stop is close to the peer. You can orient yourself from there or take a taxi (USD 1) to the place where you will be staying.
The return trip is very much the same.
It is easy to get money in Galapagos?
The legal currency is US Dollars and no other currencies are accepted in regular businesses. International card ATM machines are available in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal) and Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz). There is no ATM machine at the Baltra airport (serves Santra Cruz). Travellers cheques are generally not accepted. Many restaurants, boutiques & agencies accept credit card, Visa & Mastercard, with some taking Diners or American Express, and most have a minimum 6 – 9% surcharge to use the service.
What is the best time of year to go on a dive liveaboard in Galapagos?
There are two seasons.
January to May is the “warm” or “rainy” season. We call it the Panama season. The climate is tropical due to the Panama, El Niño current. These warm waters bring in usually calm oceans with very favorable surface and underwater conditions.
This is a great season for beginner divers who want to dive Galapagos, technical diving expeditions and diving with Manta Rays. The water productivity in Galapagos is generally poor during this time of the year (poor meaning less productive in terms of plankton and up-welling). The reduced amount of nutrients make finding big animals such as whale sharks less likely. In addition, the “milder” currents make it less likely for hammerhead sharks to school in great numbers. Nonetheless, diving is still superb quality during the Panama Season.
During the Panama season, water temperatures average 24-28°C. Sharp thermoclines can be encountered. Usually the thermocline depth will determine the depth at which the best activity can be found underwater . The average daily air temperature is 25 – 28°C. Weather during this time of year consists of cloudy charged skies and almost daily rain followed by a burning sun, then charged skies followed by rain, followed by burning sun etc….
June to November is the “cold” or “misty” season. We call it the Humboldt season due to the influence from the cold Humboldt Current coming up north from Antarctica. When the deep ocean water runs colder, it carries nutrients and plankton and creates an up-welling when it reaches the Galapagos Islands. As a result, waters are colder and marine mega fauna is more frequent. This is the prime season for whale sharks and also the most favorable conditions for hammerhead sharks schooling in greater numbers.
During the Humboldt season, water temperatures average 19-23°C with less noticeable thermoclines. The average daily air temperature ranges from 21-24°C. Usually gray skies and “garua” (spanish for misty) are encountered. Clear skies are also common in some areas of the archipelago.
Can I go shore diving on my own in Galapagos?
No. Diving is strictly regulated by the Galapagos National Park and is allowed only in specifically defined areas of the Galapagos Marine Reserve. As part of the regulation, divers must be accompanied by a certified Galapagos Marine Reserve Dive Master Guide. All of the diving happens in off-shore areas and a properly licensed boat is needed at all times.
Can non divers accompany me on the dive trips?
No, we prefer not to take non divers on the dive boat for snorkelling. Most of the time they would be the only one snorkelling, most people don’t like snorkelling in deep water, and many times non divers get quite seasick waiting for the divers to surface.
Day tours or Cruises? Which will I do?
This question is asked of us numerous times a week by people arriving to Galapagos not knowing if they should spend their savings on an 8 day cruise or take the more economical option to stay on the islands and take day tours.
Having done both, I can say that, though they are different experiences, both options have a lot to offer. (Especially if you don’t do too well on boats!)
The cruise boats will take you to islands not able to be visited in one day tours, and they take you to different and often more exclusive sites than those of some of the daily tours. Having said that, some of the daily tours are exactly the same as the day on the cruise. Typically you will visit 2 land sites and 2 snorkel sites per day, and have all your meals catered and generally be with the same guide (and same group of people, for better or for worse!) for the whole trip. Day tours on the other hand are done by 5pm, you can go back to your hotel, stroll around the town, take dinner where ever you like and still have seen an amazing amount of flora and fauna. Due to time constraints of transport to and from the islands, the daily tours offer 1 land site and 1 snorkel site for the day. So it all depends on your budget, how much you like boats and how much you like to gamble (on the other 15 passengers who will be on your boat!)
Can I take a day diving tour to Wolf and Darwin?
No, to reach Wolf and Darwin you need to take an 8 day dive cruise. These cruises require divers to have at least 50 dive experience due to the strong currents and deep dives.
What is the water temperature in Galapagos?
The Galapagos “garua” season (from June to December) has the coldest water temperatures and the “wet” season (from December to June) has the warmest. On the other hand, the water temperature in the archipelago varies with the different ocean currents that influence the Galapagos Islands.
Surface temperature usually stays at 18 – 25 Celsius (64 – 77 Fahrenheit) all year round. In contrast, temperatures at depth can reach 13 Celsius (56 Fahrenheit) in thermoclines or in colder parts of the Galapagos archipelago. Thermoclines in the Galapagos usually occur between 12 – 18 meters (40 – 60 feet). Thermoclines also affect visibility
How are the currents in Galapagos?
Probably the most challenging condition for diving the Galapagos is current. The currents are often too strong to swim against reaching up to 4 knots in strong conditions. The strength and even direction of current changes with depth and time; often very different conditions can be found at the same dive site from one dive to another. Whirlpools, eddies and localized down (or up) currents can be found in different parts of the archipelago. The influence of up and down currents can often be hard to control by novice divers, though there are certain áreas of most sites where experienced guides can take novice divers to aviod the strongest currents.
How is the visibilty in Galapagos?
Although there can be 30 meter (100 feet) visibility in the Galapagos Islands, the more common visibility conditions are between 10 – 20 meters (30 – 70 feet).
Visibility is very dependent on the amount of plankton in the water. For this reason, the colder months of the year have poorer visibility than the warmer months. In exchange, more plankton in the water means more activity.
Can I fly out the day after diving?
The recommend no fly time for 2 recreational dives is 18 hours. Our dive trips depart at 7am, so you are normally out of the water from the 2nd dive at approx. 12.30pm.
As most flights out of Galapagos depart after 10am you should not have any problems flying the following day.
Is there a Recompression Chamber in Galapagos?
Membership to Divers Alert Network (DAN) is highly recommended. A modern recompression chamber is available and functions as a DAN referral center. In addition, travel insurance is also highly recommended.