By Missy Johnston on April 19, 2019 — No two ways about it, the best way to experience the Galapagos is by chartering a private yacht. The Galapagos are an exciting and very unique location, unlike any other island archipelago in the world. One of the most exciting aspects of a private yacht charter experience, besides the fabulous natural life is that It is readily apparent, when fully immersed in the natural world of the Galapagos Islands, why Darwin developed his theory of evolution.

Bartolome Island Galapagos

A private crewed yacht charter of the Galapagos means that you and only your group are the guests on board the chartered yacht. This is a private experience with no strangers on board. A private crewed charter yacht is also called a “whole boat charter”, meaning there are no options for anyone to book just by the cabin with you on the same yacht.

The quality of the overall experience, how much you enjoy the Galapagos, and your “take away” understanding of the Galapagos is a much better experience when on a private crewed whole boat charter rather than onboard a vessel booked by the cabin with strangers and here are five reasons why.

Galapagos Sea Lion pup

1. Flexibility
On a whole boat charter, the expedition times each day can be very flexible, timed for when you want to go ashore. The itinerary is still pre-set by the Galapagos National Park Authorities, to which the Captain must abide, (Unless the itinerary is changed as described in reason #4) and you will still have an onboard naturalist who will be with you when shoreside or on a water expedition, both of which are good things. With a pre-set itinerary, the Park Authorities spread the yachts, including mini and larger cruise ships, out across the Galapagos Islands, so there is never a crowded anchorage. This keeps humanity from interfering in the natural world to retain a more realistic experience of the Galapagos, and assures that humans do not scare the natural life with too many intruders at one time. Having a naturalist with you on all expeditions assures that everyone stays on the required trails and that the natural life is protected, however; the naturalist is also a wealth of information and will point out everything and anything you want to know about the formation of the Galapagos Islands, and the natural life found on each island.

The bonus, on a whole boat charter, it is up to you when to go ashore for a shoreside expeditions or when, for instance, you want to swim with the sea lions perhaps for a game of “hide and seek”. Or sit with a sea lion pup while it waits for its mother to return from sea after gathering food for her little one. Unlike a vessel booked by the cabin, no loud speaker announces shoreside or water expeditions nor must you assemble at a designated location on board, line up single file to board the tender and follow the leader single file once ashore. On a private yacht charter, your expeditions times are discussed with your Naturalist, usually the night before, and you decide when you might want to go ashore or to swim with the Galapagos penguins. It is your schedule.

Galapagos newborn sea lion nursing

2. Small groups
Seeing and learning everything is a totally different and a much better experience with a smaller group on a whole boat charter rather than with perhaps 50 people on a shoreside expedition when on a larger “by the cabin” yacht. With a smaller group the naturalist can allow you to gather around him while he speaks and perhaps you might watch a baby blue footed booby bird hatch out of his shell and with flexible timing, have the time to see that hatchling poke his head out of the shell for the first time. Any expedition on land or in the water can, (within reason given the cruising schedule to which the Captain must adhere), be as long or as short as wanted and focused on that which your group or family wants to see and learn.

When on a vessel with strangers, booked by the cabin, the expedition is pre-set both in length and topic to appeal to a cross section of people. There may be 50 people in a shoreside group. And 50 people can hardly be huddled around the naturalist to see something very special, such as perhaps a sea lion pup nursing with his mother for the first time. It is in a small group with flexible timing where a naturalist can really explain Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and how a particular species might adapt in one manner on one island while on another nearby island the same species might adapt in an entirely different manner. For instance, marine iguanas were originally all land iguanas, however on certain islands in the Galapagos there is no vegetation on land. Iguanas on those islands uniquely learned to dive off of cliffs into the water below and stay under water for a length of time to feed on sea algae, and other underwater vegetation. To survive, land iguanas on barren islands became sea iguanas, while nearby on a neighboring island with vegetation, land iguanas remained as land iguanas feeding on vegetation on land.

Swimming penguin in the Galapagos

3. Getting up close
Whole boat charters are generally for a smaller group of less than 20, which is an ideal number to be able to be up close and personal with the natural life, to see and hear all that the naturalist has to say, and to be able to swim with the penguins and snorkel without having a flipper in your face.

Blue footed Boobies in the Galapagos

4. Itinerary requests
Itineraries are pre-set; however perhaps there is something of particular interest that may not be on an itinerary, or perhaps the itinerary may not include enough time in an area of particular interest, or there may be a concern about sea conditions on a particular itinerary. On a private yacht charter, with enough advance notice and depending on the time of year, such as not during holidays, with payment of a small fee to cover the cost for Park Authority time to re-arrange all of the itineraries for that week to accommodate a special request, and still keep all yachts spread out, it may be possible that your special itinerary request can be accommodated and the itinerary can be changed as you might want. On a yacht booked “by the cabin”, the advertised itinerary is the only itinerary that can occur.

Galapagos Land Iguana

5. Catering for specific interests
Often, even in a smaller group, there may be various ages, and/or varied interests. As everyone must have a naturalist with them when on an expedition, on a private charter, a second naturalist can be hired for an additional cost so that two expeditions can happen at the same time. Perhaps there are young children in the group that might more enjoy being on the beach, swimming and learning about sea turtle tracks in the sand rather than a trek inland to see iguanas and various bird nesting grounds. Or perhaps part of the group are super athletes and want to challenge themselves to a vigorous hike over lava fields, while the rest of the group would enjoy moderate hiking. There could be any number of reasons why a second naturalist would add flexibility and more expedition options for every guest on board. However, having a second naturalist on board is only possible on a private yacht charter.

Cruising in the Galapagos could very well be a once in a lifetime experience, and the way to make a Galapagos trip be the best once in a lifetime experience is by private yacht charter with your family or group only on the crewed charter yacht of your choice.