When is the best time to travel to the Galapagos Islands? (Part I)

February 05, 2013
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At least once a day, International Expeditions’ travel planners field the question “When is the best time for a Galapagos cruise?” So, our favorite naturalist Greg Greer sat down to tackle this popular question.

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most magical destinations on Earth. As a naturalist with great experience in world travel, I am often asked which destination is my favorite and although it is extremely difficult to answer, a destination that certainly comes to mind are the Galapagos Islands. Not only because of the written history by such famous explorers as Charles Darwin and William Beebe but because the islands still have great allure as the wildlife, still today has little fear of people. This results in very close wildlife encounters and often it is a result of the animals approaching people.

So, when is the best time of year to travel to Galapagos? This is a very complex question as people may have varied interests and therefore, timing may be of significance. However, for the general traveler wanting to experience the islands, do a little snorkeling, observe wildlife up close…any time of year is ideal!

Timing is actually significant if a person wants to observe a certain wildlife event, although nothing is ever guaranteed as annual cycles are somewhat confused today.  Much of the Galapagos are dependent upon nutrients provided by the sea, so currents play a key role in nesting and breeding success of birds, reptiles and marine mammals.  El Niňo and La Niňa events occur much more frequently, thus nesting success for birds and pupping success for sea lions is dependent on the sea temperature so giving a suggested time for certain wildlife events is more difficult today than it was even 30 years ago.

In regards to climate, the Galapagos Islands are geographically situated on the Equator, thus temperatures are fairly constant throughout the year. The islands are basically desert islands but there is a minimal wet season that occurs from January–June. During this time, much of the precipitation falls in the highlands providing lush vegetation with lots of green views. The temperatures are cooler in the highlands due to rainfall and elevation.  The dry season occurs from July-December and during this time, the cold Humbolt Current flows into the archipelago so besides being dry, it is also a little cooler than it is during the wet season.

The events that make long range weather forecasting impossible are the El Niňo and La Niňa events. When El Niňo events occur, the extremely warm water conditions result in declines of many fish species that are vital to the success of marine birds and mammals.  El Niňo events typically occur from December-May and many animals perish during El Niňo, including marine iguanas, sea lions and many seas birds, like boobies, frigates and the waved albatross. During these events, sea water temps may reach 90°F, and fish species just disappear.

There of course are always exceptions and during El Niňo events, land iguanas flourish with the exuberant lush lowland landscapes as heavy rains prevail in the lowlands.
 


 

 


Naturalist Greg Greer is a favorite among IE travelers, and has gained a reputation for his friendliness and good humor, along with his incomparable knowledge of natural history, photos and articles have been widely published in books and magazines, including Georgia Outdoor News, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Alabama Outdoor News, Riversedge and Southern Wildlife.