A week on a boat is a daunting proposition for anyone who has ever experienced a serious bout of Mal de Mer—or “sickness of the sea.” In fact, I’ve met a few people who’ve confessed they would love to travel to the Galapagos Islands but won’t for fear of what the cruise industry euphemistically and understatedly calls “motion discomfort.”
The truth is the waters around the Galapagos are generally pretty calm. It can get a little rough now and again, say, when a storm blows through or during an open ocean crossing between islands, especially when your boat is headed into the current. Still, for most visitors seasickness isn’t much of an issue. And fortunately, there are some pretty simple and effective things you can do to avoid it all together:
1. Go when the seas are calmer
If you are prone to seasickness, you may want to book your trip between January and June. The water tends to be calmer during these months. The seas can be a little rougher between July and December, especially in September and October. That said, the weather in the Galapagos (like pretty much everywhere else) is unpredictable, so it’s best to just be prepared.
2. Get low
Generally speaking, the closer your cabin is to the water the less it will move. Consider requesting a cabin on a lower deck.
Fortunately, there are quite few effective over-the-counter treatments for seasickness, such as Dramamine and Bonine. The antihistamine Benadryl also works for many people. These medicines are generally more effective if you take them before you start to feel sick. There are also some very effective prescription remedies, such as Scopolamine, which is administered through a patch worn behind the ear. Ask your doctor what she recommends and follow instructions, as both over-the-counter and prescriptions remedies usually have some side effects.
4. Band aid
Some people swear by anti-nausea bands, which are bracelets designed to exert pressure on a particular area of your wrist that’s associated with motion sickness. As far as I know, there is no clinical proof they work, so it’s probably best to bring some medicine along as well, just in case.
5. Put down the iPad
If reading in the car makes you feel queasy, then chances are reading on a boat will make you feel even worse. If you know you’re prone to motion sickness, you might be better off not even attempting to read if there is any motion at all. And the second you start to feel the least bit woozy, put down the book, computer or whatever you happen to be staring at.
6. Lay off the bottle
Many people think that just a little alcohol can help induce a bought of seasickness. And even a mild hangover can definitely help get things moving in the wrong direction.
If you do start to feel sick, you can do some simple things to avoid feeling worse:
7. Get centered
The middle of a boat tends to rock and roll less than the sides. If you feel woozy and there is a comfortable place to relax somewhere near the boat’s center, nab it.
8. Keep your eyes on the horizon
Seasickness generally occurs when your body, inner ear and eyes send conflicting signals to your brain about motion. One way to counter this effect is to look at something that appears stable, which on a boat is usually the horizon.
9. Sunshine and fresh air
Oftentimes, the best thing to do when you start to feel a little woozy is get out of a confined space and get some fresh air. It may feel like the last thing you want to do, but being stuck alone in a dimly lit cabin for hours on end while seasick is no fun.
10. Avoid others in your condition
Being around other people who are seasick is a surefire way to feel worse. Avoid people who are talking about seasickness or other unpleasant things, and especially avoid those who are actively “getting sick.” Also, it helps to avoid strong smells of any kind, even normally pleasant ones, such as food or perfume.
11. Just do it
If you need to vomit, don’t fight it. You will feel better.
All of this probably sounds ominous. The good news is that the waters around the Galapagos are generally pretty calm, and seasickness isn’t a huge issue for the majority of visitors. If you are prone to seasickness or are worried about it, follow the steps above, and you should greatly minimize your potential discomfort. And whatever you do, don’t let the specter of seasickness keep you from experiencing a truly magical place.