All the basics about travel, weather & diving conditions
To help you plan your trip, we've prepared a list of basic information you'll want to know before you book. Once your trip has been reserved, you'll receive pre-departure information with all the details you need for your adventure.
Getting to Galapagos
Unless you are planning a land trip in Ecuador, we recommend for multiple reasons – including cost, convenience & flight schedules - flying into Guayaquil for your trip to the Galapagos Islands. Guayaquil is located on mainland Ecuador and several airlines offer international flights there, including KLM, LAN, Iberia, American Airlines, Avianca and Copa.
From Guayaquil to the Galapagos Islands you’ll fly via Avianca (formerly Aerogal) or TAME. We will be happy to book the domestic flights for you to ensure you’re on the flight most convenient for the boat’s transfer service.
Flight times, prices and the Galapagos airport of arrival are all subject to change with little or no notification and flights often run late. Also, due to flight schedules, we strongly encourange guests to overnight in Guayaquil on the way to and from the Galapagos Islands. Domestic flight arrival times from Galapagos to the mainland are usually too close for safely connecting to international flights – and there’s little worse than missing an international flight!
Should you wish to extend your trip in Galapagos, we work with excellent operators on the islands and on the mainland and will happily arrange a land program for you.
Arrival, departure & transfer details
As mentioned above, we strongly recommend that you spend one nightin Guayaquil before and after your liveaboard cruise as coordinating internatioal and domestic flights on the same day is extremely difficult (read: virtually impossible).
Arrivals and departures in Galapagos Islands will be on either San Cristobal Island or on Baltra Island. Your arrival is normally dependent upon the port your liveaboard leaves from and we will assist you with all of these details.
Prior to check-in at the airline ticket counter at the Quito or Guayaquil Airport, you are required to pay small fees for the Galapagos Visitors Card and for a Transit Control Card. Upon arrival at the Galapagos Islands a National Park Fee is charged. At this writing, these fees are under $150 ... but, the government can change them at any time.
For information and planning, you can see the ports below for the Galapagos dive liveaboards:
DEPARTURES FROM SAN CRISTOBAL
DEPARTURES FROM BALTRA
Galapagos Aggressor III
Passport holders of most Western and Asian countries will be issued with a visa on arrival into Ecuador that allows for stays of up to 90 days. Please make sure that your passport has validity of at least 6 months beyond the period you intend to stay in Ecuador and that you have a return flight. If you are travelling with medication please take your physician’s prescription with you. Check www.ecuador.org for further information.
Requirements for entering Galapagos ....
Galapagos has very specific requirements for entry. This is due to the effort to manage the impact of both residents and visitors on the islands and their wildlife.
Prior to entry into Galapagos - ALL visitors MUST have the following:
- round-trip ticket
- reservations in a hotel or on a cruise which correspond EXACTLY to the dates of your airline tickets
- (or) an invitation letter to remain as a guest of a permanent or temporary resident in Galapagos for no more than 60 days in a year
- immigration card (known as the Ingala card) issued by the Galápagos Special Regime Governing Council.
* The requirements must be presented to & accepted by the Governing Council at Quito or Guayaquil airport upon entry. You will then receive your Ingala (immigration) card.
If you are on a dive liveaboard (or liveaboard naturalist cruise) you will NOT be allowed to spend time on the islands before or after your cruise UNLESS you have made prior reservations. We will be happy to advise you regarding accommodation on the islands.
What's the weather like in Galapagos ?
There are two seasons in the Galapagos Islands. January to May is the warmer season. Seas are calm. Light rain falls for a short period of time each day, but the remainder of the day tends to be very sunny. June to December, the islands experience their cooler, dryer season. During this time of year clouds fill the sky but rainfall is uncommon. Winds tend to be stronger and seas a bit rougher.
In the cooler months, June through November, the air temperatures range from 65°F/18°C (evening) to 85°F/29°C (day). During the warmer months from December through June, the temperature ranges from 75°F/24°C (evening) to 100°F/38°C (day)..
Water temperature ranges from 21-30°C (70-86°F) between December and May and drops to an average of 16-24°C (60-75°F) between June and November. Thermoclines can also be expected and divers are advised to bring suitable thermal protection.
We recommend you bring a 5mm-7mm wet suit with hood and gloves or a dry suit with light underwear all year round.
Galapagos diving conditions can be challenging, even for the experienced diver. Currents are moderate to strong and may require you to grab hold of the rocks below the surface so you don´t drift away. Surge can offer up difficulties during your safety stops. The average visibility is 10 – 21m (30 – 70ft), but can often be even less.
The currents are often too strong to swim against reaching up to 4 knots at really 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 with just a surface interval in between. Whirlpools, eddies and localized down (or up) currents can be found in different parts of the archipelago.
Divers must follow their Dive Master rules and the Galapagos Marine Reserve rules at all times. Divers must stick with the group and Dive Master constantly, remain with their buddies, and ascend in pairs. Safety Stops are obligatory for all Galapagos dives.
Experience required for Galapagos diving
The diving in Galapagos can be strenuous, due to its currents and surge, varying water temperatures, limited visibility, and diving from dinghies. Only experienced divers should be going on a liveaboard. (Minimum Advanced Open Water, 50 logged dives, and experience in cold water and currents.)
Best Time to Go
It depends on what you’re looking for. From January to May you have warmer air & warmer water temps ... and this is when manta & eagle rays are more commonly sighted along with larger schools of hammerhead sharks.
From June-December you will find the largerst number of whale sharks, but will have colder water temps. It is cold water diving all year-round, but even COLDER at this time of year ... and with thermoclines too. But, never fear. It's well worth it for the experience !
Most divers bring their own gear but rental gear is available if requested in advance. You want the following gear: wetsuit, mask, fins, snorkel, regulator with visible pressure gauge, a mandatory dive computer, buoyancy compensator, depth gauge, dive gloves, weight belt (without weights), dive light, dive watch, safety sausage & dive alert (optional Nautilus Lifeline).
We suggest you put all or most of the above items in a carry-on bag.
No specific vaccinations are required to visit the Galapagos Islands, but it is recommended that travelers are up to date with vaccinations against hepatitis A and B. When traveling to any new part of the world, it’s advised to stick to bottled water.
We suggest you take over the counter motion sickness medication. Currents and winds may cause moderate movement of liveaboards at times.
We recommend a complete physical before your trip. Both Guayaquil and the Galapagos are at sea level, while Quito is at 7,500 above sea level. If you are affected by altitude, we suggest not overdoing it with excess physical activities, food or drink. The sun is also a factor to consider in the Galapagos Islands. Bring coral-friendly sun screen and long sleeved shirts.
Flying after Diving
Current studies show that you should wait at least 24 hours after multiple days with repetitive diving before flying. Please keep this in mind before you book your onward international or domestic flights.
The U.S. dollar is Ecuador’s standard currency. The vast majority of all hotels, resorts, shops and restaurants will accept a wide range of credit and debit cards. Please note that in some cases you may be asked to pay a service charge for credit card handling.
There is a sales tax of 14% on all purchases made in Ecuador and on your liveaboard. We recommend that you have cash on hand for any extras you may wish to buy.
Taxes & Fees
Galapagos National Park entrance fee (USD $100); Transit Control Card (USD$ 20). There are no airport fees and no departure tax for Ecuador.
What are the Safety Standards ?
All live aboards use top of the line navigational equipment, safety aides, and safety equipment, including: VHF and HI-SUB radios, GMDSS, Furuno GPS, Depthsounder with alarm, EPIRB, defibrillator, Oxygen system and first aid kit. All of the required safety equipment and drills are carried out.
Do I Need Insurance?
Travel insurance: We strongly advise our guests to obtain comprehensive travel insurance to cover against unforeseeable events including personal & business impediments, illness, travel delays and missed flight connections. We can recommend excellent and inexpensive insurance options which will cover virtually every scenario.
Please don't allow yourself to be one of the unfortunate travelers who are without coverage for unexpected circumstances. Insurance is a small slice of the pie in terms of overall travel costs and can save you from serious financial losses.
Dive insurance: Dive insurance is required by the liveaboards. Do not confuse regular travel medical and/or travel insurance with diving-specific insurance such as DAN (Divers Alert Network) or Dive Assure. This type of insurance will cover all of your scuba diving and snorkeling activities, including the costs for recompression chamber treatment and emergency air evacuation. These are not covered by the average travel insurance.
We usually recommend contacting Dive Assure who can set you up with a travel insurance plan which includes general travel insurance, including trip cancellation .... plus full dive coverage. Click here or on the button in the side panel on this page to access their site for information.