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Standout Stay: Galapagos Sky Liveaboard

Explore Ecuador’s stunning remote archipelago aboard a ship that blends luxury and sustainability
By Alexandra Owens | Published On June 12, 2024
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Standout Stay: Galapagos Sky Liveaboard

Galapagos sky liveaboard in darwin
Courtesy Galapagos Sky

There’s magic to be found everywhere in the Galapagos. But to explore Darwin and Wolf—the best and most iconic dive sites of the Galapagos Marine Reserve—you must travel by liveaboard. Galapagos Sky, an eight-cabin purpose-built yacht, allows you to make the long journey to these remote islands in total comfort, spoiled by an attentive 11-member crew the whole way. (When the captain himself helps you unzip your wetsuit, you know it’s good service).

hammerhead sharks in galapagos

Schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks are one of the main attractions of diving in Galapagos.

Courtesy Galapagos Sky/Dennis Whitestone

Darwin’s Enchanted Isles

Gifted with nearly 3,000 marine species, roughly 20 percent of which are found nowhere else on earth, as well as the world’s highest concentration of sharks, you’d be hard-pressed to find a destination with more thrilling wildlife sightings than the Galapagos. From comical sea lions and the only sea-faring lizard to schools of scalloped hammerheads and tiny penguins, the Galapagos offers an astounding amount of rare and charismatic animals for divers to admire. Boring dives? They simply don’t exist here. If Galapagos Sky’s dive masters seem like they know these waters like their own backyard, that’s not a coincidence. All guides are Ecuadorian nationals, and 65 percent are Galapagos residents.

Related Reading: 8 Things to Know Before Scuba Diving in Galapagos

Most divers visit during whale shark season (June to November) when the gentle giants stop by Darwin and Wolf to feed on plankton. Since this time of year also means strong currents and chilly, choppy water, some divers prefer the milder off-season (December to May) and its parade of mantas.

scuba divers and whale shark

Divers check out a whale shark

Courtesy Galapagos Sky

A Local, Eco-Friendly Option

Galapagos penguins at Bartolome

Galapagos penguins at Bartolome

Courtesy Galapagos Sky/Micahel Patrick O'Neill

In 2007, UNESCO added the Galapagos to its list of World Heritage sites in danger, calling out overtourism, the introduction of alien species and illegal fishing, among other factors. As the number of tourists grows, so does the pressure to accommodate them with larger cruise ships, expanded tour options and sprawling, resort-style hotels that can harm the islands’ fragile ecosystem.

Fortunately for sustainably-minded divers, Ecoventura—Galapagos Sky’s parent company and the first carbon neutral operation in Ecuador—remains committed to small-scale, responsible ecotourism. All boats meet a strict set of conservation and social standards, boasting reverse osmosis desalinization units that produce their own fresh water, Zodiacs with four stroke outboard engines, biodegradable soaps and shampoos, and a waste management and garbage-recycling system.

Because the Galapagos Marine Reserve remains threatened by illegal fishing and shark finning, Ecoventura also works closely with the World Wildlife Fund to finance the Galapagos Marine Biodiversity Fund, which helps maintain park patrol boats and takes a stand against industrial scale vessels that attempt to enter the park’s pristine waters.

Break Down the Details For Me

Master cabin onboard the Galapagos Sky

Couresty Galapagos Sky

Cabins: Let’s be honest. The point of a liveaboard isn’t to luxuriate indoors, and Galapagos Sky is no exception to the rule. However, the yacht’s cabins are perfectly cozy and clean, with ensuite bathrooms and plenty of space for storage. Pro tip: Spend a little more for a room on the upper deck where you’ll benefit from extra square footage and can enjoy scenic views through massive picture windows.

Vegan crispy tofu with sweet and sour sauce

Courtesy Galapagos Sky

Food and Drink: You certainly won’t go hungry onboard. The boat’s chef cooks up a light pre-dive continental breakfast, full breakfast, lunch, dinner and hot snacks throughout the day. Most meals are a generous buffet of Ecuadorian and international dishes, while dinner is served plated. An open bar (excluding premium liquors and wines) is included in your cruise rate; watching the sunset over Darwin’s Arch (which collapsed in 2021 due to erosion) with an expertly-mixed mojito in hand is as good as it gets.

Amenities: Galapagos Sky is a 100-foot liveaboard yacht custom-built for scuba diving and it shows; you’ll have everything you could need or want during a week at sea. The liveaboard is equipped with a camera table and charging station on the dive deck, indoor and outdoor lounges, two flat- screen TVs with Apple TV (perfect for showing off your photos), an ample video and book library, and a sun deck with hammocks.

Top Dive Site: Everyone comes to the Galapagos for Darwin and Wolf Islands, but don’t sleep on the fun of the marine iguana dive at Cabo Douglas, where you’ll be surrounded by real-life mini Godzillas.

Galapagos tortoise

Courtesy Galapagos Sky

Topside Fun: Galapagos Sky’s itinerary offers three land excursions, including a hike or zodiac cruise around Bartolome, one of the most stunning islands in the Galapagos, as well as a visit to the Galapagos Tortoise Reserve with free time in the charming town of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz. The trip ends with a tour of the Interpretation Center in San Cristobal, a small museum dedicated to natural history in the Galapagos. Eager to explore more? Galapagos Sky provides a five percent discount to guests traveling back to back on one of its sister yachts in Ecoventura’s fleet.

Certifications/Requirements: All divers are required to show proof of an enriched air nitrox certification to dive at Darwin and Wolf due to recreational non-decompression limits. (Note that nitrox classes are not available on board). It’s recommended that divers have at least 100 dives, and have training in currents and cold water. If you’re on the fence or feel you’d be more comfortable diving with additional supervision, Galapagos Sky can arrange a private dive guide for $1,750 per week.

Gear: Because of advanced diving conditions at Darwin and Wolf, Galapagos Sky recommends divers bring their own proper-fitting gear. A limited number of 7 mm wetsuits, BCDs, fins and regulators are available to rent.

Related Reading: 9 Reasons to Book a Liveaboard

Pricing: In 2024, a seven-night cruise on Galapagos Sky costs $7,395 per person for a deluxe (lower deck) cabin and $7,695 per person for a master (upper deck) cabin. This rate includes accommodation, food, beverages, tanks, weights, up to four dives per day, land excursions and airport transfers. This does not cover nitrox ($200), fuel surcharge ($150), gratuities or the fees required for diving in the Galapagos, including a $100 Galapagos National Park entrance fee, $35 hyperbaric chamber fee and transit card ($20).

Single Supplements: Solo guests may share a deluxe cabin with another guest of the same gender or pay a single supplement of 65%. In master cabins, the single supplement is 85% November–June and 100% July–October. Master cabins cannot be booked as a share if deluxe space is available. If a master cabin remains available two weeks prior to departure, the option to upgrade will be given. Single supplements are 100% on group bookings or full charters regardless of cabin type.

Getting There: Once you arrive in Ecuador (Quito UIO or Guayaquil GYE) you will need to take a domestic flight to the Galapagos (San Cristobal SCY). Galapagos Sky can help arrange domestic flights. If you fly to San Cristobal on the liveaboard’s departure day, Galpagos Sky will also prearrange your park fees.