Clearing into the Galapagos
10 April 2012 | On our way to Isla Santa Cruz
The rules for private yachts entering the Galapagos seems to be in constant flux and what you might find as the requirements one year could be quite different the next. We've been reading about and planning this trip for sometime and we've even seen some changes since we first started learning about the process.
For the last few years it seems there are two main ways to see the islands if you arrive in private boat which are go get a permit ahead of time or just sail in. In both cases you now need an agent to handle all the check in procedures. If you just sail in agents will approach you and you can enlist their services for a fee and they will take you through the process of mucho paperwork to make you legal in the islands. The drawback to that approach is you are given a maximum of 20 days to remain in the islands and your boat has to stay in the port in which you made landfall. You can still visit other islands but it would be through arranged tours, which are plentiful.
We chose to get an agent in advance and apply for the permit -- or Autografo -- which allows you more time in the islands and the privilege to take your boat to more than 1 port -- usually 5 anchorages total. We applied for the maximum stay and were granted the full 60 days. We aren't sure yet if we have 4 or 5 islands because one of them may have been removed from the permitted 5. We will clarify that when we talk to our agent tomorrow. Even though we can only take our boat into those permitted anchorages, we too can explore other islands or other parts of the islands we go to on tours.
We secured our agent nearly 2 years ago as we first planned to sail to the Galapagos in 2011. I researched through sailing forums and blogs to get names of agents and I chose Ricardo Arenas as he had high recommendations and speaks English. It cost us $600 to enlist his services and the permit process was begun. We received our Autografo a few days before we left Mexico.
He is located on Isla Santa Cruz -- one of the other ports of entry, but our autografo asked that we clear in on San Cristobal and he has agents there to help with the arriving boats. Shortly after we dropped anchor yesterday one of the colorful water taxis came out to our boat with Carmela aboard who was our representative and she got the ball rolling and the check in process was begun. She returned about noon with a group of 5 young people who are the government officials from the navy, agriculture, customs etc. and we had a very nice visit (one girl spoke excellent English) while they filled out their paperwork and did a simple inspection of the boat and checked out our produce. 15 or 20 minutes later they were gone and we were told to meet Carmela at the pier at 3 and she would take us to the agencies to complete the clearing in.
At 3 we met a smiling Carmela who had all of us (the crew of Inspiration at Sea was with us) jump into a small pick up truck (which are their taxis) with the guys riding in the truck bed. It was a great scenic ride through the small charming town and out to the country side where the two offices were located. One was Immigration and the other the National Parks department. There she guided us through the paperwork and paying of the different fees, and after a couple hours we were done and went back to the waterfront where the diesel jugs that Vicky had filled for Inspiration were ready and waiting.
All told, the fees amounted to $379 -- $200 of which was for our $100 per person park passes which everyone is required to purchase when you enter the islands, so only $179 was for boat clearance and immigration fees.
We also received a zarpe, or departure paper, as we planned to leave Cristobal in the morning to head to Santa Cruz. We all enjoyed a celebration dinner in town before hoping on a water taxi and going back out to the boats after successfully, and enjoyably, clearing into the Galapagos. It was a very good day.