TRAVEL TIPS & EXTENSIONS

Making the right choice – how to choose between Galapagos yachts

AUTHOR The Ecoventura Team

Why traveling to Galapagos in 2021 is a smart move – if you choose the right luxury yacht

The roll-out of a vaccination programme throughout the world in the first weeks of 2021 is one of the most upbeat news pieces we have had for a while. For the travel industry, it has given us hope that we may just be beginning to return to a world where regular international travel is possible once again.

Whilst there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel, it is clear that some things have changed for good as people expect to travel, and holiday, in a safer, more responsible and more sustainable way than ever before. Here at Ecoventura, we are well-placed to meet these needs, recently being recognised as one of 5 sustainable voyages for 2021.

And to help future guests make the best choice, travelers will need to be able to identify how best to reach, and spend time in, their chosen destination. With that in mind, we have put together a guide to choosing the best yacht for your 2021 Galapagos cruise. After all, with fewer visitors around guests can really feel like they have these wonderful islands to themselves this year.

Social distancing

The Galapagos has one of the lowest Covid risks in South America and has been pioneering safe international travel during the pandemic. By nature it is suited to social distancing; a mere 3% of the archipelago is inhabited and there are strict regulations in place to prevent crowding at any spot. With the main draw being the landscape and the wildlife, and sunny, warm weather year-round, guests tend to spend much of their time outdoors, exploring the islands and bays.

However, it is still possible to find yourself stuck on a large boat or in a large group excursion, so for those seeking a more exclusive experience, more privacy and their own space while exploring the islands, a smaller yacht with a capacity of 20 guests or less is the optimal choice. Especially given that cruising on a larger ship could pose a challenge from a social distancing perspective.

A smaller vessel is ideal if you are planning on chartering the yacht for the exclusive use of a small number of friends and family. No crowds and no strangers helps minimize exposure, and you have the vessel all to yourself. Our luxury yachts Origin and Theory have cabins that can be connected to create exclusive two-bedroom suites, and what’s more we currently have some unmissable savings of up to 30% on charter bookings up to April 2021.

Don’t follow the crowd

One of the key ways to enjoy the phenomenal wildlife that the Galapagos Islands has to offer is to be part of as small a group as possible on all excursions and activities. As well as avoiding larger vessels, which inevitably involve more people, more waiting around and larger group activities, the other key thing to look out for is the guide to passenger ratio and number of zodiacs a vessel carries.

Our naturalist guide to passenger ratio is the most favorable in the Galapagos, with 1 guide for a maximum of every 8 passengers. Not only does this reduce the exposure to more people inevitable in a larger group, it also allows our highly experienced, talented guides to create a more intimate, curated experience that allows groups to go at their own pace. In addition, guests can also hire their own private guide for around $1500 or, for those really looking to treat themselves, book the VIP private moments package.

Larger vessels typically have closer to 16 guests for each guide, and disembarking for excursions is inevitably a slower process when the zodiacs have to make multiple trips to ferry guests to the shore. Origin & Theory both have two zodiacs avoiding any back and forth, and each vessel also has a glass-bottom boat – perfect for guests who don’t want to miss out on the marine life but would prefer not to get wet whilst doing so.

Seven nights in paradise

Different companies offer different itineraries whilst sailing the Galapagos, and one key factor to consider is how long guests sail for and how often they change. Some yachts offer a choice between three, five or seven nights for example, meaning if you are on a seven-night cruise guests will come and go during your trip. Any guests arriving or leaving during your voyage increases the exposure you may have to a wider number of people, which should be kept to a minimum.

A full-week seven-night cruise with no shorter segment ensures that the same guests will remain on board the entire week. Ecoventura only offers guests a full-week itinerary, with departures every Sunday. Guests can choose between two exhilarating seven-night itineraries, which showcase the best the archipelago has to offer. Itinerary A follows a Southern & Central Islands itinerary, whilst B explores the Northern and Western islands, the most remote outer islands in the archipelago. For help choosing which you might prefer, read from one guest who did both back to back.

To further protect our guests and crew we have amended our itineraries to avoid any of the inhabited towns of the Galapagos, including the Darwin Station and highlands of Santa Cruz.  Until further notice, we will treat our guests to trips to Sombrero Chino Island and Sullivan Bay, Santiago instead.

Furthermore, each of our crew members is tested 3 times (2 rapid tests and a PCR test) before they are able to board a cruise. They work in a bubble with their team for four weeks and are prohibited from disembarking during that period.

Table for two

Different yachts have different seating options, with many using fixed, communal tables for up to eight guests. Our advice is to look for flexible dining options with private tables for one couple, group or family to sit together. Our indoor dining room has flexible seating arrangements, allowing us to configure the seating in any way necessary to accommodate a private table for one couple or any size family group.

In addition, we have updated our safety protocols to minimize any risks to our guests. All meals are served a la carte, with physical menus being replaced with digital QR codes. The dining and bar area, as well as the kitchen, are disinfected on a regular basis and our waiting team adheres to strict security procedures whilst serving all food and drinks. The good news is, despite these changes our food is as scrumptious as ever – we are the only Relais & Chateaux vessels in the Galapagos and our chefs even used the lock down in 2020 to upgrade our menus!

Soak up some rays

In this new world of social distancing, we are often advised not to gather in large numbers indoors, so vessels with spacious outdoor areas is a must. Origin and Theory have an expansive sun deck fashioned with shaded day beds and sun lounges, an outdoor shower, a bar and BBQ grill, a restroom and a hot tub – all perfect for social distancing. We also prepare some meals on the grill and serve lunch al fresco on the sundeck.

With only 10 rooms our vessels also provide plenty of indoor and outdoor seating to allow guests space to themselves. In addition to our chic interior lounge, inspired by the calming natural environment of the Galapagos, we also have a shaded outdoor area with comfortable seating where you can catch the ocean breeze, as well as a private area where two can sit in front of the bridge. With each room also boasting floor to ceiling windows, there’s no shortage of space to enjoy the Galapagos landscapes passing by.

Breathe easy

Small vessels such as ours have individual air conditioning units for each cabin, whereas larger ships tend to have big systems that pump recycled air throughout each section or deck. Guests can also rest in the knowledge that their cabins are cleaned three times per day, with ozone machines used twice a day in every cabin and in the main salon – something that once again would be impractical for larger vessels with dozens of cabins.

Going the extra mile

In order to safeguard the safety of visitors and residents alike, there are certain additional requirements related to travelling to Ecuador and the Galapagos, and for most guests for returning to their home country as well.

To make these extra steps as seamless as possible, Ecoventura will process the salvoconducto or safe passage form (upon receipt of negative PCR test results) for our guests – a requirement for travel to the Galapagos.

In addition, we have partnered with VERIS, a certified lab in Ecuador, to provide PCR or Antigen tests onboard our vessels on Saturday mornings, for our guests who need to show a negative test result within 3 days before their return flight home. The test results are available on Sunday afternoon – the day guests disembark – allowing them to continue with their itineraries with no delay.

If required, we can also arrange for a PCR test in Quito or Guayaquil on Saturday morning, with same day results, prior to onward travel to the Galapagos.

A proven track record

We are thrilled to have sailed several times since the Galapagos Islands reopened to tourism in July, welcoming our first guests in August 2020 and about 12 successful departures – both private charters and FIT voyages – completed since then. But ultimately, our main priority is the safety and wellbeing of our guests, so we would only want people to travel once they are comfortable doing so.

The best way to do this is to ask. Check if a company has a proven track record sailing since the pandemic, request details about their updated health and sanitation protocols, and ask if they are carefully following the sanitary protocols put in place by both themselves and the Galapagos Island authorities.

We would be happy to answer any questions you might have, and look forward to welcoming you aboard soon. For further details, please get in touch with the team or email info@galapagosnetwork.com.