Should I still consider going to the Galapagos this year?
Have you been pondering heading to the Galapagos this year? Are you on the fence about deciding whether or not it’s too late to go visit the Galapagos? Don’t be! The Galapagos are continuously teeming with numerous different forms of wildlife activity, making it a bona fide year-round destination, with great weather to boot! Just have a look at the Top Reasons for Why Galapagos is the Best Place to Travel to in 2018!
In this blog, we invite you to have a look at a month-by-month breakdown of the archipelago, specifically focused on what’s in store the latter half of this year. We invite you to join us on an unforgettable journey to the Galapagos!
Important Note: Be aware that this blog details the second half of the year, which in itself is officially the Dry Season in Galapagos.
Important Note 2: Below is but a brief compendium of the particularities of each month, listing notable species behavior. Don’t worry! It’s not like these are the only things you’ll get to see during each month. No, this is all in addition to the continuous plethora of year-round sights you’re guaranteed to see whenever (i.e. our BIG15 group of iconic species, numerous other species and otherworldly landscapes).
July in Galapagos
An elevated presence and activity of blue-footed boobies over on Española Island.
The famous beautiful bird, largely known for the vivid shade of azure blue it carries on its feet, happens to be the most prolific booby in Galapagos! It can lay up to three eggs, and it’s during this month in Galapagos that you’ll most likely get to see not one, but all four stages of the blue-footed booby saga! That’s right: courtship dances, nesting, juveniles and sub-adults will be present!
Flightless cormorants are ready to astonish visitors as they mesmerize with their dazzling displays of courtship.
One of the most remarkable evolutionary sights in all of Galapagos will be highly active, with their vestigial wings serving as nothing more than a visual reminder of what once had an airborne purpose. In order to keep their wholly unique species going (so rare that it only exists in Galapagos), the flightless cormorant resorts to a remarkably intricate courtship process. If you come during this month, you are most likely to witness their extraordinary courting behavior.
There’s a higher chance of seeing whales and dolphins, particularly off the coast of Isabela and Fernandina.
Up to five species of dolphins are often seen throughout the archipelago. Humpback whales reign supreme as the most common site, as well. This collection of remarkable creatures remain one of the most rewarding spectacles that you can witness while visiting the Galapagos aboard your excursion vessels, often times getting within meters of the ship or sometimes even your skiff!
August in Galapagos
Sea lion pupping season has commenced!
That’s right! One of the biggest cuties of the archipelago will be joining our planet Earth at this time! You’ll be delighted to know that you’ll be more than likely to get acquainted with these cute little fellas while journeying aboard your Galapagos cruise, as they’re seen on pretty much every island. It’ll be a fascinating time to get to see them and watch as they’re cared for by their highly protective mothers. If you’re lucky enough, you might even get to witness mother sea lions giving birth!
Galapagos Hawks are busy courting over on the islands of Española and Santiago.
As an apex predator of the archipelago, the Galapagos hawk shows no hint of fear and feeds easily on the ample food supply throughout the islands. It’s a beautiful and handsome bird, and its courtship dance is definitely one for the books. As a result of the copious amount of food it has at its feet, mating seasons don’t exist for this bird, nevertheless it’s during time of year that they’re often seen courting on the islands of Española and Santiago. The courtship “dance” itself mainly takes place in the sky, and involves essentially “fake attacking” the female until she eventually concedes and the pair flies down to Earth in search of a secluded mating spot.
Nesting Nazca boobies and swallow-tailed gulls can be seen on Genovesa.
Genovesa Island ranks among the top places to check out while in Galapagos. What’s more? The island is home to the elegant Nazca booby, particularly during this time of the year. Alongside the Nazca boobies, you’ll spot swallow-tailed gulls nesting around as well, making this an excellent time for birders to get fantastic photos of these beautiful birds up close.
Arrival of the migrant shorebirds, which will stick around until March.
Migrant shorebirds will be arriving during this month, and will often times stick around the archipelago until as late as the month of March. You can learn about a decent number of them by checking out our blog on Shorebirds of the Galapagos right here!
September in Galapagos
Galapagos penguins are out and about over on Bartolome Island!
That’s right! The beloved and much sought-after Galapagos penguin can be spotted along the coasts of Bartolome, during this month more than ever! These are the only penguins in the world that are found north of the equator and, consequently, it’s no surprise that they often remain at the top of everyone’s list of iconic species! One could even go as far as both dapper and dorky, with their tuxedo-looking penguin feathers and amusing way of walking around.
Our guests at Bartolome Island never fail to delight themselves with Galapagos penguins, as these will often be curious enough to amble along right next to you or, should you decide on going snorkeling, be daring enough to swim right next you and torpedo around underneath you! Find out more in this blog that details an experience we had with Galapagos penguins over on Bartolome Island!
Sea lions are now more active than ever!
With the recent birth of their pups the month prior, sea lions waste no time in attempting to get back into the full swing of things during this month in particular! As females have begun reaching estrous stage, visitors to the Galapagos during September will find that harem-gathering males are busy barking about and fighting with one another to claim the alpha spot. Quarrels along the shores of the Galapagos, particularly along the western and central islands, are quite common during this period and consists of a cacophony of masculine sea lions trying to claim their share of the female population.
Seabirds make for their nests
The plethora of seabirds in Galapagos are tremendously busy at this point, skittering about and attempting to nest. Among these are the legendary Galapagos albatrosses – one of the largest birds in all Galapagos – with their superbly mesmerizing courtship dancing and one of the longest fledging phases of all birds in Galapagos.
October in Galapagos
Lava herons are present and nesting
Now called a striated heron, this beautiful bird is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. Try to locate it amongst the lava rocks and ponds where it feeds! This bird camouflages with its environment with its slate-grey feathers and slow movements. Unlike other bird species in the Galapagos that like to nest in groups, the heron nests solely with its partner. Even though most species breed all year long in the Galapagos, during this month of October you will be more likely to find the elegant heron in nesting mode!
Galapagos fur seals are deep into the mating period
If you are into fur seal pups, then this is the month for you! Not only are fur seals mating, but you will be able to spot fur seal pups calmly hanging out by their mothers, cooling themselves under a rock or basking under the sun. Watch Mother Nature work her magic as mother fur seals nurse their newborns and younglings! Get ready to get a photo of these cuties during a dingy coastal exploration!
Giant tortoises are busy still migrating to lay their eggs
When you are so big and heavy – and you have to move your whole house with you – it takes a while to go from one place to another. During this month, observe these magnificent and peaceful giants as they move downwards from the highlands to the coast to lay their eggs. See them roam around freely in their natural environment – often times even walking along the roads – or learn about them at the Charles Darwin Research Station and their fascinating breeding program.
November in Galapagos
Sea lions are still sexually active, particularly on the eastern side of the archipelago.
Male sea lions, which are also sometimes known as the “beach keepers,” are hard at work trying to keep their harems to themselves along several of the beaches. Younger “sneaky” males will often try to sneak around the surveillance of the alpha males and get at the females. Females on the other hand will stay loyal to whoever is the most powerful, as the strongest male sea lions provide the best genetic material. It’s always fantastic to remember just how protective sea lion mothers are with respect to their offspring, which you can find out more about in this blog that details a mother sea lion versus Galapagos hawks!
Storm petrels are starting not their first, but second nesting period!
The smallest seabird in all Galapagos is ready to captivate visitors with its mesmerizing and darting patterns of flight. During this month, they’ll be busy tending to their nests on land – which happens to be the only time when they come to land. These humble birds display philopatry – the remarkable ability to make it back to a specific area after months or sometimes even years of being away. What’s more? These tiny birds are one of the few that prefer to nest in the ground rather than up in a nest somewhere.
Sea lion pups by this point (especially over on Champion Islet) are busy practicing their aqua-aerobic skills with curious snorkelers.
And it’s quite a rush and joyous thrill to have them swim alongside you, as you can find out in this blog here: The Ridiculously Playful Nature of Sea Lions in Galapagos! They won’t hesitate to playfully nibble on your fin! The average age of most of these pups, at this point in time, is somewhere between 3 and 4 months.
December in Galapagos
Giant tortoise eggs are hatching!
Throughout the month of December, you’ll find giant tortoise eggs hatching, which is often much to the delight of our lucky guests that are fortunate enough to spot them out in the wild during this period! If not, the Charles Darwin Research Center or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno will give visitors a chance to see hatchlings in captivity.
Green sea turtles are starting to display elevated levels of mating behavior
Green sea turtles, the species of sea turtle that not only lives but also nests in the Galapagos, are usually seen on their own, foraging atop rocks or just calmly swimming in the pristine Galapagos waters. During December – a transition month between the dry and the hot season – you will be able to observe males courting females and engaging in a rather lengthy reproduction process, as the male has to make sure insemination is complete and he has to fight off other males while this happens.
The first of the young Galapagos albatrosses begin to fledge
After they are born, Galapagos albatrosses take a long time to fledge. The process usually begins in September and can last up until December, when visitors can observe chicks becoming adults. You will see them spreading their wings and experimenting with their body motions before finally taking off and leaving the colony in January.
Generally great weather due to transition between one season and the next one
December is considered a transition month between the dry and the hot season. This means water and air currents start getting warmer and rains are more common. It’s one of the Galapagos’ most spectacular months to experience, weather-wise! Vegetation will start getting greener, Galapagos giant tortoises eggs begin to hatch and sea turtles begin to mate. Enjoy the month of December’s as the hot season begins!
With parents that worked for the U.S. Foreign Service up until he graduated from high school, Chris was raised to have the heart of a nomad throughout his life. He has resided in Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador throughout his years, and just recently spent the past four up in Canada finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy & English at the University of British Columbia. He is now devoted to writing about all things related to travel in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia.