5 reasons to charter a private yacht for the best experience in the Galapagos


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Missy Johnston is Owner of Northrop-Johnson Yacht Charters Newport. Northrop-Johnson Yacht Charters is a luxury crewed yacht charter company offering top notch private yachts with great crews in every worldwide cruising destination.

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Comments (12)

  1. Chris H says:

    Only five reasons for private yacht charter to cruise around the incredibly exciting maritime environment that is the Galapagos? I thought that there would be far more than that for what is arguably the ultimate form of luxury travel.

  2. Gerald says:

    For me much of the attraction of travel is planning the itinerary. I like to collaborate with tour organisers and take their advice on what to do and see. But for me it is important to have significant control over the itinerary. When travelling I do not want to spend my time compromising on arrangements and having to do what someone else has chosen.

    • You sound like the perfect private yacht Charterer, as in every location you can have as much input in planning as is possible in the area. In the Galapagos, the actual itinerary will always be preset, however as far as expedition times in each area, that would be totally up to you.

  3. Jean Hall says:

    Private yacht hire really is living the dream. If you are going to the Galápagos Islands you really want guides who are going to take you to places where they know that they are going to see the wildlife. Also with a private guide you can ask questions and learn what you want too.

    If you want a lazy beach day just tell the skipper and he’ll oblige.

  4. Paul Y. says:

    I would recommend a private yacht charter to first-time visitors in the Galapagos because then, you don’t have to worry about anything at all. You just have to ride and sail. Everything you’ll find in the itinerary would be amazing anyway, so there’s no need to think about where to go or what to see or do any extensive research. This is what me and my wife did and we don’t regret anything.

  5. Kate says:

    Chartering a yacht is a great way to get the family together. Although the Galapagos would offer real diversity of activities during the day just think how brilliant it would be to get everyone together for dinner – especially when it was prepared by someone else. When someone else is in charge of all those practicalities it means you can enjoy spending time with your loved ones.

  6. Private yacht charter is one of the best ways to get the family together for quality family time, while at the same time building outstanding new memories of family charter activities. I often hear when Charterers return from a family charter that one of the best parts of the charter was having all together for family time, especially around the dining table, and without distracting cell phones and personal devices in sight.

  7. Hannah says:

    Wow this article is awesome… I love the idea of renting a yacht in the galapagos… When I went i was doing hostels and daytrips to afford it… Love the idea of going back in the future and being able to do this… Great pictures :)

  8. Exploring the Galapagos by private yacht would be a lovely way to re-visit this terrific destination.

  9. Charlize F. says:

    I agree, travelling in small groups would lessen any unease that come with the unfamiliar. I can’t really enjoy much of any destination if there are too many people with me because they can be a distraction to the beautiful sceneries of a place. Not to mention, the usual long lines and crowds that are quite noisy would ruin the getaway. I would rather travel by myself in a private yacht and spend more than to be a cheapskate and not enjoy my holiday.

  10. Anna Hassan says:

    The Galapagos islands are on my bucket list. Now that’s specified with a private charter! It would be amazing to see the wildlife with peace and quiet

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