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SOUTH AMERICA - ADVENTURE

WILDLIFE WATCHING IN THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS.

Tom Ricketts   By Tom Ricketts  - House of Travel Content Specialist


Galapagos Islands wildlife watching

A natural wonderland of untouched wildlife about 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador, the 13-island archipelago known as the Galapagos Islands are so severely isolated, the wildlife has evolved in weird and wonderful ways.

These are the fascinating natural events that occur year-round on the islands.

 

Sea turtle Galapagos Islands

JANUARY

The temperature rises and the rainy season begins, signifying the arrival of green sea turtles, landing on the islands to lay their eggs. Land-birds start to nest and land-iguanas begin to breed on Isabela Island. With crystal-clear waters and an abundance of marine life, this is an ideal time for snorkelling.

 

American flamingo Floreana island Ecuador

FEBRUARY

Water temperatures reach 25 C (77 F). This is also the month for bird-lovers, with greater flamingos flocking to Floreana to nest in a whirlwind of pink and white.

Elsewhere, Bahama pintail ducks begin their mating season, while Nazca boobies on Hood Island come to the end of their nesting season. Several penguins can be seen on Bartolome and marine iguanas nest on Santa Cruz Island.

 

Marine Iguana Galapagos

MARCH

With intense sun and sporadic rain, the waters are warm and allow for extended snorkelling.

Marine iguanas nest on Fernandina, while over on Espanola Island waved albatrosses arrive. Out by the western islands, penguins swim alongside tropical fish. At times, coasts are susceptible to water surges, and wet landings at Puerto Egas, Gardner Bay and Bartolome are challenging.

 

Galapagos Tortoise

APRIL

April is one of the best times to visit the Galapagos Islands. The rains end, leaving the islands fairly lush and green. April marks the end of the giant tortoises' breeding season and the beginning of the hatching period for green sea turtle and land-iguana eggs.

 

Albatross Galapagos

MAY

Lots going on! Sea turtles breed around Gardner Bay, Punta Cormorant and Puerto Egas, the waved albatrosses begin to lay their enormous eggs on Espanola Island and the North Seymour blue-footed boobies start breeding.

The waters grow colder in mid-May and the leaves of the 'Palo Santo' (holy wood) trees begin to fall. Stripped of their greenery, the islands will look quite barren until December.

 

Humpback whale

JUNE

The garua season - or dry season - runs from June to November, bringing with it morning mists and sporadic rainfalls in the higher parts of the islands. The southeast trade wind picks up and the sea gets lively!

In search of the best nesting spots, the regal giant tortoises begin their migration from the highlands of Santa Cruz to the lower parts of the island. Birds that have migrated south to Galapagos begin their journey north in search of warmer weather.

If you're lucky, you might see humpback whales migrating along the equator.

 

American oystercatcher

JULY

Seabirds steal the show! American oystercatchers nest along the shores of Puerto Egas beach on Santiago Island and cormorants perform their hypnotising mating rituals on Fernandina.

Lava lizards, whales and dolphins can be spotted more frequently, especially off the coast of Isabela in the west.

 

Galapagos Hawk

AUGUST

See the magnificent Galapagos hawks in mating season. Giant tortoises make their way back into the highlands of Santa Cruz. Sea lions begin to give birth around this time, concentrated in the central and western islands. Ocean currents are at their strongest during August, and the sea can be fierce and unpredictable.

 

Galapagos Penguin

SEPTEMBER

The coldest time of year in the Galapagos Islands, with temperatures dipping to around 19 C (66 F). For an unforgettable experience, snorkel with penguins in the waters around Bartolome.

Sea lions become very active during this period, with the males constantly barking and fighting as they vie for the attention of females. The best places to watch are on the central and western islands.

 

Blue footed bird Galapagos

OCTOBER

After much fanfare the previous month, the sea lions finally begin their mating season. Giant Tortoises continue to lay eggs and baby blue-footed boobies follow their mothers around the islands of Espanola and Isabela.

The seasonal mist creates beautiful sunrises along the western volcanoes, with the mountainous peaks rising out of the haze below.

 

Sea lion pup Galapagos

NOVEMBER

Sea lions continue to give birth in November. Warmer sea water allows for improved underwater visibility for snorkelling. Play with the inquisitive young sea lions around Champion Islet who will come right up to you and nibble on your fins!

 

Galapagos Island

DECEMBER

The wet season. Giant tortoise eggs begin to hatch and continue to do so until April. Green sea turtles begin their mating rituals and the young waved albatrosses take flight.

Tom Ricketts

ABOUT TOM RICKETTS

Tom started working at House of Travel straight after leaving high school and has held a number of positions including Retail Travel Consultant at one of our stores, and most recently, Content Specialist. He has lived in Canada and Australia, backpacked through Cambodia, self driven the length of Cuba, trained across Russia, and comes in very handy during the geography round at pub quiz!

More about Tom >

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