The Galapagos’s islands in the covid-19 crisis

This archipelago is a land of the Equator and is composed by 41 islands including the main ones (Santa Isabella, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Santiago and Fernandina). It is the biggest protected area in the world. There, in addition with endemic fauna and flora, a lot of species live in a total freedom, far away from the human impact as intensive fishing or hunting, plastic pollution, ...

Only three of these islands can be visited by sailors : San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabella.

To entry in the Galapagos Archipelago you have to :

  • have a very clean boat to avoid any importation of organism. Most of the boats clean the boat in Panama and paint it with specific products

  • perform a fumigation inside the boat

  • have three bins (one for the plastic, paper and organic), the black water tank has to be dropped off 12 miles away from the coast

  • avoid any fresh food (meat and fruits) coming from the other countries

At our arrival, more than 10 persons from several authorities’s services came on board after the checking of the divers. This procedure was different due to the COVID crisis : the first person on board was a doctor to check the good health of the crew.

Our view of the Galapagos will be focus on San Cristobal only and mostly on Puerto Baqueirizo Moreno as our arrival corresponds with the quarantine declared on the Equator and all the lands. A curfew was put in place from 4pm to 5am, no moving was allowed, all the tourists were sent back to the main land, the airport was closed.

On the boats, only one person per day was authorized to go ashore to buy food. But in the shops we can find what we needed :

  • meat : mostly chicken, pig but also beef and fishes, shrimps, lobsters....

  • fruits : bananas, tomatoes, salads, green beans, potatoes, ....

The life is not so expensive compared to the one in Europe (except for the special product as marmalade, chips, crackers, wine and all the alcohols ...) but knowing that the minimum salary is 400US$ the part of the food in the budget is high!

A ship from the main land comes every three weeks to bring products to the shop. There are also some local productions of vegetables, fruits and there is also a local endemic beer produced in San Cristobal.

The primary and secondary school are in the islands but for the university, the students have to go on the main land. The school system is different as in France : at the end of the school, there is a national exam. The rank obtained will give the job you will do but also the area where you will live!!!

In the city, a lot of areas are dedicated to the kids and to do some sports : here the soccer is the king!

We were 5 sailing vessels in San Cristobal ‘s bay (Australians, Germans, Americans, Dutch). 2 boats will remain 2 days before leaving.

To go ashore, it is required to call the port captain to obtain the authorization and to use a taxi boat.

The life’s organization is new, the solidarity between boats is real. To know each other, a quiz via the radio was organized : the first one is done by Del Mar and we handled the second one.

We put all the boats in the same area to discuss more easily, to do some little repairs (thanks again to Philippe Plaisance who gives us a support from France) or to have some helps as for example to refill our gas bottles : in normal condition, we can do that only in Santa Cruz island.

Some meal exchanges, some bread competition were done! When the night arrived, everybody went in water for the apero in the other boats!!

The Galapagos’s island are not rich. The life is hard there and the tourism is the main mean to win money. The COVID has stopped all the activities in the archipelago. There is no social protection here (except the medical care which is free in the hospital)! The population remains nevertheless positive and the solidarity is present : the fisherman distribute some fish, the locals provide vegetables to everybody. Despite the difficulty, we have been welcome!

Even if our situation was not catastrophic and we never felt in danger, the time seemed long in a boat with 3 kids. The most difficult is to have no visibility. We knew what happened in France and in Europe via the social net, newspaper and our family and friends. We felt isolated far away in this archipelago. We could not go in the East as all is closed (Panama, Equator and Colombia) nor in the West... We only could wait for... we didn’t know...

To go ashore, Nicole of Mikado took the girls and Lucas took care of Elouan.

During this period, we did the school, the kids improved a lot their English! A eastern hunt was organized on the other boats, Epiphany did a afternoon with pearls, Del Mar an evening with movie and crepes, Lucas an handcraft morning...

The situation on the other boats seemed more difficult : the internal atmosphere became hotter between couple or between skipper and crew members... two crew members let the boat and the skipper went back in Panama alone...

The very good mindset between the boats helped us to live this particular situation as good as possible... We meet some locals as the crew of Archipell 2 (Luis the owner, Jorge the skipper, Jose the chef, Arturo the mechanic and Pancho the steward). This meeting will change a lot our daily life : we will go on the boat to play soccer, Luis will organize two mornings in a farm ashore, we will go with them for a cruising, they will come aboard for their first sailing trip... this lovely team will give us a lot of wonderful memories!

We were stuck 2 months in this island, the situation get harder and harder and the inhabitants felt more and more depressed. Even if few cases were reported in the Galapagos, the Equator was hardly touched by the epidemic. The president decided to cut by two his salary and the minimum salary went down to 200US$ per month which is not enough to survive with a family (around 800US$ is needed). Everybody tried to find solution to live in this situation but it seemed very hard.

We hope that the situation will be restored rapidly and that the tourism will go back quickly there as it is a wonderful place!