Galapagos Islands

KEY EXPERIENCE

The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed at the equator, 600 miles west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. 97% of the land area of the islands are designated as a national park and World Heritage site: The Galapagos National Park (GPND).  The GPND ensures visits can only be made to specific landing sites with certified naturalist guides, coordinates visits to these sites, scrutinizes ship itineraries and carefully monitors the delicate ecological conditions.
The Galapagos Islands are a must-visit destination for anyone looking for the wildlife adventure of a lifetime as they are famous for the number of bird and animal species which are unique to the islands. Different islands are known for specific scenery, vegetation, and wildlife. However, many species, such as sea lions, marine iguanas, lava lizards, and a variety of coastal birds such as herons, tattlers, plovers, turnstones, and whimbrels, are common at most locations.
The toughest part about visiting these islands is choosing where to go and when to see the wildlife you care most about, although keep in mind, no island or time of year disappoints as animals are active year-round.  Expedition Cruises are available throughout the year, so you have the option of seeing the Galapagos in different seasons for a very different experience of the islands. Depending on the time of year, during your cruise you can swim with the only penguins found north of the equator, walk alongside the endangered giant tortoises that gave the Galapagos Islands their name and visit brightly-colored blue-footed boobies, magnificent frigate birds and many other diverse and fascinating species.

MAIN ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT

  • January: Green Sea Turtles lay their eggs; Land Iguanas begin to mate; Marine Iguanas brightly colored; snorkeling

  • February: Greater Flamingos and Galapagos Dove start nesting, Bahama Pintail Ducks begin breeding season; Nazca Boobies at end of nesting; Marine Iguanas nest; fewest Penguins

  • March: Marine Iguanas start nesting; Waved Albatross begins to navigate back to the archipelago; Penguins can sometimes be spotted in water next to tropical fish; best snorkeling; highest humidity

  • April: Green Sea Turtle and Land Iguana eggs begin to hatch as the rainy season comes to an end; massive arrival of Waved Albatross; End of hatching for Giant Tortoises; one of best months (weather, animal, water)

  • May: The Blue-Footed Boobie starts its courtship ritual; Sea Turtles still hatching; Marine Iguana eggs hatch; Waved Albatross start laying eggs; Ban-rumped Storm Petrels begin nesting; one of best months (weather, animal, water)

  • June: Beginning of garúa season (cooler dry season); seas and winds pick up, current and waves become stronger; Giant Tortoises migrate from highlands to lowlands and begin nesting; Magnificent Frigatebird males flaunt red pouches; Southern migratory birds begin their rest stops on the way south, along with some whales and dolphins

  • July: This is the best time for whale-watchers to visit, marine wildlife is most active; Lava Lizards begin their mating ritual until November; Sea bird breeding activity very active; American Oystercatchers nesting; Blue-footed Boobies peak of various nesting stages; drop in water temperature

  • August: Galapagos Hawks begin courtship; Nazca Boobies & Swallowtail Doves begin nesting; Migrant shore birds arrive, stay until March; Giant Tortoises return to highlands; main Sea Lion pupping season; water choppy, currents strongest

  • September: Peak of the cold garúa season, air temperature lowest - marks more active penguins, sea lions, and other marine wildlife; most species of sea birds actively nesting

  • October: Weather begins to warm up; Galapagos Fur Seals begin mating; Giant tortoises lay eggs; Sea Lion pupping continues; Lava Herons start nesting; intense sunrises frequent

  • November: Sea Lion breeding common; Jellyfish; Band-Rumped Storm Petrels begin 2nd mating; Sea Lion pups active in water; Brown Noddies begin mating; seas have calmed, water temp rising

  • December: Great Tortoise eggs begin hatching until April; Green Sea Turtles mate; Start of the rainy season, lush vegetation returns to the Galapagos; Waved Albatross fledge; great weather