A Review of My Time on the MV Daphne – Galapagos Islands

The Daphne is a mid-range Motor Yacht. She is owned by an Ecuadorian family and leased to Intrepid Tours who market cruises of various lengths around the Galapagos Archipelago.The trip on which I travelled was the ‘Ultimate Galapagos Cruise. The boat’s schedule is regulated and agreed with the National Parks Service so as to avoid conflicts with other boats wanting to land at the same place.at the same time.

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She was built in 1997 and remodelled in 2015, Her vital statistic are:

Length – 21 metres
Width – 6.5 metres
Depth – 3.4 metres
Gross Weight – 247 tonnes
Cruising speed – 10 knots
Fuel tanks hold 2000 gallons of diesel
Engines – 2 x 240 hp Caterpillar engines

The Daphne is manned by seven crew – Captain, Engineer, two Sailors, two Chefs and a Barman / Cabin Boy.

On the very top of the boat is a sundeck. Half of this is shaded with a canopy and it is fitted out with sun lounges and a couple of u-shaped seats.

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On the third deck, are the bridge and four double cabins. My cabin was a standard size, small – about 2 1/2 metres square and each one has its own tiny bathroom with hot water. Water in the shower and toilet is desalinated seawater and not fit for drinking. Drinking water is available from the water stand in the Dining Room. Passengers are advised not to take large bags as there is simply not enough room to store them. Intrepid provides people with soft duffle bags so that they can leave their large suitcases in the storeroom at their departing hotel in Quito.

My cabin had two bunks (the lower one being larger than the upper one. In it were a small cabinet with a shelf and two drawers underneath. There were also two more large drawers under the bottom bunk (no wardrobe). There are four hooks on the wall by the bathroom door for hanging towels and jackets etc, as well as a small rack at the end of the top bunk. (pardon the mess in the picture).There are two US-style 110v powerpoints in each cabin and one in the bathroom.

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On the middle deck are the dining and lounge areas. The dining room has two tables that each seat eight people. There is a small bar from which you can buy drinks. Wine and beer are sold by the bottle and debited to your cabin account. You settle this up at the end of the trip. The bartender will keep half used bottles for the next day or next meal. Beer is about US$4.50 per bottle and wine is about US$35 per bottle

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Meals are mainly buffet style with the main course, vegetables and salads for lunch and dinner. Dessert is mostly fresh fruit or occasionally a slice of nice cake. It seems that eggs are the traditional Ecuadorian breakfast so there always eggs in one form or another for breakfast. After very snorkelling or zodiac trip, the bartender will have a hot drink, juice or snack available at the bar.

The lounge area is used for daily briefings, watching TV (when in range) and is a good place to relax. The guide will write the schedule for the next day on a whiteboard and hang it in the lounge so that you always have a reference for daily activities.

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On the lower level of the boat are four double bunk cabins, the engine room and the staff quarters. Whilst the upper deck cabins have large windows and individual air conditioning units, the lower deck ones have rather small portholes and a vent from a common air conditioning system. Some people found these cabins to be a little pokey although few people spent any time in them other than to sleep.

All excursions and transfers to the shore are via Zodiacs. The Daphne has two of these – each capable of carrying eight people. The standard procedure is that you head to the back of the boat and put on a blue life vest. Then if you are going ashore, you find your shoes/sandals in the storage area and head down to the very back landing on the boat to step across into a zodiac or panda. Shoes and sandals are always left outside. Mostly, this is because the islands abound with seal Lon’s and wearing shoes inside the boat means walking seal poo into the living areas. Everyone simply went barefoot on the boat.

The zodiacs are either tied onto the back of the Daphne or nudged against the boat at full throttle to keep them still and stable. Once you are ready for your excursion, you step aboard (holding your backpack/bag) with the assistance of a sailor, or guide, using a sailor’s grip. Onshore, it is a reverse of this process. You wear shoes for dry landings (where you get off the zodiac onto a landing or rock ledge) or sandals for a wet landing, where you get out of the zodiac by swinging your feet over the side and step into knee-deep water on a beach.

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The local regulations in the Galapagos require that you are accompanied at all times by a registered guide. Ours, Jacinto, was excellent. He acted not only as a nature guide but s a translator and an interface between the passengers and the boat crew. Passengers need to follow their guide’s instructions at all times and not go off the tracks whilst on shore.

On a number of nights, the Daphne will navigate to a new location. This will take place after meals (so that they are served and eaten in calm water). Moving from island to island means being out in the open sea. Some of these navigations take as long as eight hours. During this time, the boat will rock and roll considerably as it is a relatively small vessel. You should certainly take some sea sickness medication while these relocations take place. I found it quite hard to sleep as the boat pitched and rolled and it wasn’t until the early morning, or so, that I got to sleep at all.

Overall, the Daphne is comfortable and well presented. The meals are interesting and varied and the crew capable, friendly and hospitable. While the schedule may occasionally be modified due to weather, the tour was well organised. I never felt unsafe.