Photos by Graham & Judy Vos
custom touring in the the galapagos islands
"Forged by fire, fuelled by the ocean, fanned by the wind." David Attenborough
In this place of wonders, evolution is proceeding at an extraordinary speed. Millions of years ago these volcanic islands were colonized by a strange cast of characters, animals and birds, which had to dramatically adapt their bodies in order to settle in this unforgiving landscape. Every species living here has come from the continent, taken on the harsh conditions and won. Relative to its size, more unique species are found in the Galapagos Islands than anywhere else in the world. Today they are home to a remarkable collection of animals, birds and plants.
In January 2022, the President of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, signed an executive decree formalizing the expansion of the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR). President Lasso signed the order during a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Puerto Ayora. A celebratory lunch hosted by the Presidency of Ecuador and the Ministry of Environment followed aboard the Galapagos Legend, the flagship of Go Galapagos – Kleintours, anchored just off Santa Cruz Island, in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago. Marking the significance of the occasion, the ceremony was also attended by Colombian President Iván Duque, and former US president Bill Clinton, among other dignitaries.
The new decree expands the protected marine areas of the Galapagos by 60,000 square kilometers, adding to the existing reserve of 138,000 square kilometers. Establishing a maritime migratory corridor between the Galapagos and the Costa Rican Isla del Coco, the decree creates a safe swim way where important endangered migratory species, such as sharks, whales, turtles, and manta rays, can safely travel. This expansion will allow the Galapagos Islands to remain one of the most important marine reserves in the world.
The Galapagos Islands are a unique habitat with incredible biodiversity. The territory is home to over 3,000 species, of which about 600 can only be found here. This expansion will help secure one of the world’s most critical migratory ‘highways’ for marine wildlife. This means there is now, more than ever before, space available to protect these amazing creatures and continue to responsibly share this pristine natural environment with visitors from all over the world.
The expanded GMR is a victory for marine conservation advocates and the species calling the territory in and around the Galapagos Islands home. It is also an important win for tour operators who promote environmentally friendly tourism to the islands. Ensuring the survival of endangered migratory species through the expanded GMR means continuing to responsibly share the magic of Galapagos Islands with visitors for years to come.
Map courtesy of Go Galapagos, Ecuador
Different islands offer different experiences and as you cruise through the archipelago, the wonders of the islands are revealed, together with their amazing inhabitants with no fear of humans. Blue and red footed boobies, two species of frigate birds, swallow tailed gulls, Nazca boobies and noddy terns are just some of the amazing birds you will encounter. Other wildlife includes sea lions, Galapagos fur seals, marine and land iguanas, Galapagos penguins and the bright red sally lightfoot crabs. Flightless cormorants are the world’s only existing marine birds, other than penguins, that have changed from flying to diving birds. A visit to the Charles Darwin Research Centre to learn about the giant tortoise breeding programme and to view these gentle giants is a special experience. A walk through the lush greenery of the highlands on Santa Cruz Island, contrasts sharply with the beaches, coves and arid lowlands, offering the possibility of encountering giant tortoises in the wild. For anyone interested in nature and wildlife, a Galapagos Islands cruise should be at the top of your “wish list”.
seasons in galapagos
Every month in the Galapagos there are changes in climatic conditions and wildlife activity.
This schedule of what you can expect in the Galapagos will assist you with planning your trip for a season which holds the greatest interest for you.
- Beginning of the rainy season
- 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 GPS for egg laying period
- Land iguanas begin reproductive cycles on Isabela Island
- Both, water and air temperatures rise and stay warm until June
- Ideal time for snorkeling
- 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 arriva 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 still active in the water, next to tropical fish! (How bizarre!)
- Some shores, specially 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 will remain long periods of time in the water.
- 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 quite continue green
- Good visibility in the water for snorkelers
- Perhaps, together with May, the best months in Galapagos (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
- Beginning of the garúa season
- 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 by males of Magnificent Frigatebirds on North Seymour.
- Southern migrants have started their journey towards the north. Galapagos is a rest stop for such 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.
- Sea bird communities are very active (breeding), specially 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 could find American oystercatchers nesting.
- Lava lizards initiate mating rituals until November
- Cetaceans (whales & dolphins) are more likely to be observed, specially off the western coast of Isabela
- Great month to see the four stages of nesting in Blue footed boobies: eggs, chicks, juveniles and subadults.
- 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 cold (garúa) season
- 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. 2
- 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
- Days are not always sunny. Garúa 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 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 (specially 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 behavior
- 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