Seasons For The Animals And Birds In the Galapagos
Pictures from A Recent TripSilver Galapagos Cruise - November 2016
Beginning of the warm, rainy season. Both, water and air temperatures rise and stay warm until June. This is an ideal time for snorkeling. Land birds start nesting, generally after the first rain. On Hood (Española) Island, adult marine iguanas become brightly colored (green & red + black). The green sea turtles arrive to beaches in Galapago for their egg laying period. Land iguanas begin reproductive cycles on Isabela Island.
The highest water temperature reaches 25C (77F). This temperature remains constant until April. On Floreana Island, the greater flamingos start nesting. The Nazca (masked) boobies on Hood are at the end of their nesting season. Bahama pintail ducks (Black-tailed pintail) start their breeding season. Marine iguanas are nesting on Santa Cruz Island. Very few penguins are sighted at Bartolome Island (most have followed the cool waters back to the west or near upwelling areas). The nesting season of the Galapagos dove reaches its peak.
The rainy season reaches the highest precipitation, however this does not mean it rains all day, every day. These are sporadic, tropical rains, and there is still intense sun and hot a climate. Air temperature can reach up to 30C (86F) and humidity is high. Even the western islands have warm waters where snorkeling is excellent. Marine iguanas are nesting on Fernandina. March 21st, the beginning of the summer equinox, signals the arrival of the waved albatross to Española. Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela) can be an amazing site as the penguins, still active in the water, are next to tropical fish! Some shores, specially those facing the north side, can receive deep surges and can be quite a challenge for landings.
While the rains have ended, the islands continue to be quite green. There is good visibility in the water for snorkelers. Perhaps, together with May, this is the best month in Galapagos for weather, animals, and water temperature. There is a massive arrival of waved albatrosses to Española and an their amazing courtship starts. This month marks the end of the hatching season for the giant tortoises. Also, the eggs of the green sea turtles and of the land iguanas on Isabela begin to hatch.
The rains have ended, and the islands continue to be green. clear waters provide good visibility for snorkelers. Perhaps, together with April, on of the best months in the Galapagos for weather, animals, and water temperature. North Seymour's blue-footed boobies begin their courtship. The sea turtles are still hatching their eggs. Most of the marine iguanas eggs have hatched from their nests on Santa Cruz. The waved albatross on Española start laying their eggs. Ban-rumped storm petrels begin their first nesting period.
This is the beginning of the rainy season and there is drizzle and mist. The southeast trade winds return and currents become a bit stronger so the seas pick-up in surges and wave action. Giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island migrate from the highlands to the lowlands in search of suitable nesting places. June marks the beginning of the nesting season for the giant tortoises. The red pouches flourish from the males of Magnificent Frigatebirds on North Seymour. Southern migrants have started their journey towards the north. Galapagos is a rest stop for such migratory birds. Some species of cetaceans also follow this pattern of migration. Some groups of Humpback whales that migrate up to equatorial latitudes along the coast of Ecuador, can reach the Galapagos too.
Water temperature does not reach more than 21C (68F). Sea bird communities are very active with breeding, especially the Blue Footed Booby 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 could find American oystercatchers nesting. Lava lizards initiate their mating rituals which continue until November. Cetaceans (whales & dolphins) are more likely to be observed, specially off the western coast of Isabela. This is a great month to see the four stages of nesting for the Blue Footed Booby: eggs, chicks, juveniles and sub-adults.
Oceans are quite choppy and the currents are at the strongest levels; surges can be expected along the shores that face west or south. The temperature of the ocean drops to 18C (64F), which obviously varies according to the geographic zones among the islands. Pupping season (births) of sea lions has started. Western and central islands are common places for such sightings. Galapagos hawks court on Española and Santiago. Nazca (masked) boobies and swallow-tailed gulls nest on Genovesa Island. Migrant shore birds start to arrive, and stay on the islands until March. Giant tortoises return to the highlands of Santa Cruz.
This is the peak of the cold, rainy season. The air temperature reaches its lowest levels at about 19C (66F). Sea lions are very active and the females have reached estrus stage, and so harem-gathering males are constantly barking and fighting. Shore fighting amongst the sea lions is heavy. Western and central islands are the most active in terms of sea lions' activities. 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. Most species of sea birds remain quite active at their nesting sites.
The days are not always sunny and drizzly rains 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. Sunrises in the west can be quite beautiful. As the mist rises, it covers only certain locations of the western volcanoes leaving the summits clear, but low-lying fog covers the shoreline. The Galapagos Fur Sea lions begin their mating period. Lava herons start nesting until March. Blue footed boobies raise chicks all over Española and Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela). Giant tortoises are still laying eggs.
Seas are calmer as the southeast trade winds have decreased in strength. Water temperatures are slowly rising. There is good visibility for snorkelers. There is generally great weather due to transition between one season and the next one. Pupping of sea lions continue. Sea lion pups (specially at Champion Islet) play aqua-aerobics next to snorkelers. Most pups here are curious enough to nibble at the fins of snorkelers. The average age of most pups is 3-4 months. This is the breeding season for the brown noddies. Some species of jellyfish can be seen around the islands. Band-rumped storm petrels begin their second nesting period. Chicks are abundant which makes for great photo opportunities.
Great weather with mostly sunny days. There is hardly any wind from the southeast and the waters continue to warm up. Water temperatures are still too cool for long snorkeling periods. The Western islands remain very dry. The rainy season is just starting to begin and all the plants of the dry zone produce leaves, thus Galapagos becomes very green. Hatching of giant tortoise's eggs begins and lasts until April. Green sea turtles display their mating behavior. The first young waved albatrosses fledge. The first red pouches of Great frigatebirds are seen at Genovesa. Nothern migrants have started their journey towards the south. Galapagos is a rest stop for these migratory birds. Some species of Cetaceans (whales & dolphins) also follow this pattern of migration.