Below is a list of some of the most common questions for travelers to Galapagos; click the links to learn more.
A grandparent sharing a Galapagos experience with their grandchildren is a wonderful, life-changing opportunity. Check with your travel agency about options, or select a cruise option on a larger boat (20+ passengers) — as they often have other children on board, have more space, and might even offer activities specifically geared for children.
Galapagos is not an easy destination for someone dependent on a walker or a wheelchair, unsteady on their feet, or only able to walk short distances. Travel companies may not be able to accommodate mobilizing a person with physical limitations, but you will need to confirm this with your tour company or hotel. Galapagos travel generally includes getting on and off moving dinghies, up and down stairs on a moving vessel, and negotiating uneven terrain. One option could include a land-based visit staying on one specific island with the opportunity for day trips to nearby sites. Taxis are available to assist in transportation and, if swimming and snorkeling are possible, Galapagos can offer enjoyable water options at the beaches close to the towns.
While you will be issued with a 90-day tourism visa on arrival in Ecuador, you are only permitted to stay for a maximum 60 days in Galapagos under the very strict migration laws in place for the Islands. Only Galapagos residents are permitted to work in the Islands. Plan to come to Galapagos and enjoy your vacation, but do not plan to stay without ensuring that your paperwork is in order. The Galapagos Special Law requires that you process a visa or special permission for any category of staying in Galapagos that is not tourism before arriving in Ecuador and with the local authority — the Galapagos Governing Council.
The wildlife and history of the Galapagos Islands makes it an attractive place for film and TV producers and professional photographers. Any film or professional photography project carried out in the protected areas of the Galapagos National Park must submit a formal application to the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) to obtain authorization at least 15 working days prior to the starting date. Fees vary according to the project’s classification. Full information can be obtained by contacting the GNPD.
Camera drones are NOT permitted to be flown by tourists anywhere in the Galapagos Islands. The use of camera drones is only permitted, under strict regulations, for research and monitoring. However, authorities recognize that many travelers pass through Galapagos on their way to or from other countries. For that reason, tourists are allowed to bring drones into Galapagos, and they will not be confiscated at the airport or elsewhere (unless the drone is caught being used in the air).
Camping is NOT permitted on any of the uninhabited islands. However, camping is permitted in a very few areas with the Galapagos National Park that are easily accessible to the public on the inhabited islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Isabela) — and then, only in designated camping areas:
- The Garrapatero on Santa Cruz Island
- Puerto Chino, Manglecito, and Puerto Grande in San Cristóbal Island
- Volcano Chico-Sector El Cura and the Sulphur Mines on Isabela Island
You are required to request authorization to camp from the GNPD at least 48 hours in advance (but no more than 15 days) of your planned camping date(s). Permits may be denied if ocean or weather conditions are not optimum. Campfires are not permitted under any circumstances. The GNPD permit outlines your obligations, so please make sure to read the fine print. Note that camping gear is not easily found in the Islands. Camping on private land has recently become a “business” that ranges in price. On San Cristóbal, you can camp at El Ceibo, an area that is home to the largest tree on the island. Cerro Mesa on Santa Cruz is another place where you can pay to camp. Many of these places are a long way from facilities.
Fishing is prohibited from all tour boats, except for the day tour option known as “Pesca Vivencial.” Sport Fishing is NOT a permitted activity in the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR). The essential distinction of “Pesca Vivencial” is that it can only be offered by Galapagos fishermen licensed for this activity. Further regulations distinguishing this permitted form of fishing include: maximum size and power of the boat, fishing schedule, types and quantity of fish permitted as catch, among other specific requirements. Permitted fishing methods include trolling, popping, jigging, fly-fishing, etc. Spearfishing is not permitted.
If you are traveling on a private yacht, it is mandatory to arrange your visit to Galapagos with a local shipping agent. There are very strict quarantine (especially hull cleaning) procedures required, as well as paperwork from the Ecuadorian Navy and Galapagos National Park to complete before your arrival. Galapagos is not just a port of call, but all of the ocean within 40 miles of the coastline boundary is a World Heritage Site marine reserve. It is possible to visit some or all of the ports on the inhabited islands (Isabela, San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz), but you cannot tour the other islands outside the main ports on your own boat without a licensed naturalist guide, and your itinerary must be approved by the GNPD. As of January 2014, all yacht arrivals may be subject to an Environmental Risk Assessment. Some local agents that may be able to provide assistance are listed below. The global sailing website Noonsite.com also keeps up-to-date with the latest regulations.
The revenue generated by the Galapagos visitor entrance fee is shared between the Government agencies that help protect the Islands: the Ecuadorian Navy, the Galapagos National Park Directorate, the Ministry of Agriculture, local municipalities, and the Galapagos Governing Council. Revenue generated by recreational and tourism activities that take place in protected areas is used to carry out conservation and management activities in protected areas, maintain basic infrastructure and environmental services that benefit the local community and tourists, and more.
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