Famous for their incredibly fearless and unique wildlife, the Galapagos Islands are some of the most spectacular volcanic islands in the world. Isolated just off the coast of Ecuador, it’s the only place in the world where you can swim with a playful sea lion, plod along with a giant tortoise and ogle at the brightly coloured feet of the blue footed booby. There are several ways to explore this wild and magical archipelago and we have selected the best of all these options to get you started:
On the Galapagos Islands you can expect to be rewarded with an abundance of wildlife all year round, therefore unless you have something in particular you want to see (for example the Waved Albatross, is absent from January to March), you can travel there anytime and always look forward to seeing something different.
• Beginning of the rainy season.
• Land birds start nesting, generally after the first rain.
• On Hood (Española) Island adult marine iguanas become brightly coloured (green & red + black).
• The green sea turtles arrive on the beaches to begin egg laying.
• Land iguanas begin reproductive cycles on Isabela Island.
• Both water and air temperatures rise and stay warm until June.
• Ideal time for snorkelling.
• On Floreana Island greater flamingos start nesting.
• Bahama pintail ducks (Black-tailed pintail) start their breeding season.
• Nazca (masked) boobies on Hood are at the end of their nesting season.
• Marine iguanas nest on Santa Cruz Island.
• The highest water temperature reaches 25C (77F). This temperature remains constant until April.
• Very few penguins are sighted at Bartolome Island (most have followed the cool waters back to the west or near upwelling areas).
• Nesting season of the Galapagos dove reaches its peak.
• The rainy season reaches the highest precipitation (this does not mean it rains everyday).
• Sporadic tropical rains, intense sun and hot climate. Air temperature can reach up to 30C (86F). Humidity is high.
• Marine iguanas nest on Fernandina.
• March 21st, the beginning of the summer equinox signals the arrival of the waved albatross to Española.
• Even the western islands have warm waters where snorkeling is excellent. Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela) can be an amazing site. Penguins are still active in the water, next to tropical fish - a bizarre sight!
• Some shores, especially those facing the north side, can receive deep surge (ola de fondo) coming from the northern currents. Wet landings at places like Puerto Egas, Gardner Bay, Bartolome can sometimes be a challenge.
• Snorkelers can remain in the water for longer periods.
• Massive arrival of waved albatrosses to Española. Amazing courtship starts.
• End of hatching season of the giant tortoises.
• Eggs of green sea turtles begin to hatch.
• Eggs of land iguanas hatch on Isabela.
• While the rains have ended, the islands are still quite green.
• Good visibility in the water for snorkelers.
• Perhaps, together with May, the best months in Galapagos (for weather, animals, water temperature).
• North Seymour's blue-footed boobies begin their courtship.
• Sea turtles are still hatching on Gardner Bay, Punta Cormorant, and Puerto Egas.
• Most of marine iguanas' eggs hatch from nests on Santa Cruz.
• Palo santo trees begin to shed their foliage.
• Waved albatross on Española start laying their eggs.
• Ban-rumped storm petrels begin their first nesting period.
• You may just see the beginnings of the garúa season, when a fine mist can appear.
• Giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island migrate from the highlands to the lowlands in search of suitable nesting places.
• Beginning of the nesting season of giant tortoises.
• South east trade winds return. Currents become a bit stronger. Seas pick up in surge and wave action.
• Many red pouches can be seen on the magnificent male frigate birds at North Seymour as they search for a mate.
• Southern migrants have started their journey towards the north. Galapagos is a rest stop for such birds. Some species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) also follow this pattern of migration.
• Humpback whales migrating up to equatorial latitudes along the coast of Ecuador can sometimes be seen around the Galapagos too.
• Sea bird communities are very active (breeding), especially the Blue footed boobies on Española. Flightless cormorants perform beautiful courtship rituals and nesting activities on Fernandina.
• If you walk along the shores of Puerto Egas (Santiago Island) you can find American oyster catchers nesting.
• Lava lizards initiate mating rituals until November.
• Cetaceans (whales & dolphins) are more likely to be observed, especially off the western coast of Isabela.
• Great month to see the four stages of nesting in Blue footed boobies: eggs, chicks and juveniles.
• Water temperature does not reach more than 21C (68F).
• Galapagos hawks court on Española and Santiago.
• Nazca (masked) boobies and Swallow-tailed gulls nest on Genovesa Island.
• The temperature of the ocean drops to 18C (64F), which obviously varies according to the geographic zones among the islands.
• Migrant shore birds start to arrive, and stay on the islands until March.
• Giant tortoises return to the highlands of Santa Cruz.
• Oceans are quite choppy, currents at the strongest levels, surge can be expected along the shores that face west or south.
• Pupping season (births) of sea lions has started. Western and central islands are common places for such sightings.
• Peak of the "garúa" season, when the weather is at its coldest and potentially there is fog and sea mist in many locations. The air temperature reaches its lowest levels, 19C-66F.
• Galapagos Penguins show remarkable activity on Bartolome. Since May swimmers and snorkelers can be delighted at Bartolome with penguins active at the surface or torpedo-like while underwater.
• Sea lions are very active. Females have reached estrus stage, and so harem-gathering males are constantly barking and fighting. Shore fighting is heavy. Western and central islands are the most active ones in terms of sea lions' activities.
• Most species of sea birds remain quite active at their nesting sites.
• Lava herons start nesting until March.
• The Galapagos Fur Sea lions begin their mating period.
• Blue footed boobies raise chicks all over Española and Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela).
• Giant tortoises are still laying eggs.
• Garúa, the colder, foggy weather front, can be expected in most locations, except the western islands where most days have a misty start but after few hours of daylight it burns off. Days are not always sunny.
• Sunrises in the west can be quite beautiful after the garúa covers only certain locations of the western volcanoes.
• Summits are clear, but low-lying fog covers the shoreline.
• Pupping of sea lions continue.
• Sea lions are sexually active on the eastern part of the archipelago.
• Breeding season for the brown noddies.
• Some species of jellyfish can be seen around the islands. The genus Physalia is commonly seen floating around Gardner and Tortuga Islets. Some can also be seen stranded at the shores of the Flour Beach at Floreana.
• Band-rumped storm petrels begin their second nesting period.
• Seas are calm. South east trade winds have decreased strength. Water temperatures are slowly rising.
• Generally great weather due to transition between one season and the next one.
• Good visibility for snorkelers.
• Sea lion pups (especially at Champion Islet) play aqua-aerobics next to snorkelers. Most pups here are curious enough to nibble at fins of snorkelers. The average age of most pups is 3-4 months.
• Hatching of giant tortoise's eggs begins and lasts until April.
• Green sea turtles display their mating behaviour.
• The rainy season begins; all of the plants of the dry zone produce leaves. Galapagos becomes "green".
• The first young waved albatrosses fledge.
• Great weather.
If you would like to visit these spectacular volcanic islands, have a look at our favourite ways to experience them in full:
The Galapagos Sea Star Journey cruise
The most stylish and intimate of yachts cruising the Galapagos Islands, M/Y Galapagos Sea Star Journey (formerly M/Y Grand Odyssey) is ideal for wildlife cruises in the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos Seaman Journey
A small expeditionary catamaran with excellent on-board facilities, offering amazing value and top wildlife experiences which can be enjoyed by foot, snorkelling, kayaking or in the pangas’ (inflatable boats).
Galapagos Safari Camp
Not a fan of cruises? Then fear not, this luxury tented camp in the highland areas of Santa Cruz (in the Galapagos Islands) is the perfect alternative to cruising and offers a wide range of activities to get outdoors and explore these islands.