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When is the best time to go on an adventure cruise in the Galapagos Islands

March 17, 2016

One of the most commonly asked questions about the Galapagos Islands is "When is the best time to go on an adventure cruise in the Galapagos Islands?" 

 

Read on to find out the best time to go on an expedition cruise in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.

 

There is never a bad time to go on an adventure cruise in the Galapagos Islands  It all depends on what animals you would like to see and what you would like to do.

 

Here is a quick summary of the seasons - more information follows below for those of you who would like to get into the fine details:

 

December through May - rainy season - great for land animals, swimming & snorkelling

  • water and air are warmer

  • daily drizlle for a short period of time

  • also the sunniest time of year

  • great for swimming and snorkeling

  • not as many fish

  • breeding season for land birds (watch unusual mating rituals)

  • sea turtles nest on the beach

  • March through May land tortoises come down from the highlands in search of a mate

  • sea lions mate (males fight it out for the females)

  • March and April see newborn sea lion pups

  • February, March, and April flowers bloom and the islands are awash in colours

  • sea is calmer, so there is little chance of getting seasick.

 

June through November - dry season - fish & birds abound, great diving

  • cold water (bring a wet suit)

  • cold weather

  • water rich in nutrients and plankton, which attracts fish and birds

  • often cloudy but rarely rainy

  • windy - seas can be rougher (especially July & August)

  • best time for diving

  • Albatrosses on Espanola from April to December

  • Penguins are more common

  • Blue-footed boobies mate (beautiful mating ritual)

During the school holidays - from mid-June through early September and from mid-December through mid-January - you need to book far ahead of time. And while the number of visitors to each island is strictly controlled, during school holidays you are less likely to get a sense of solitude and isolation.

 

My recommendation is to spend as much time as you can on your adventure cruise in the Galapagos Islands.  Operators often add one night on either end in Quito and two days are used up for travel back and forth to the islands.  So what may look like a 10-day adventure cruise in the Galapagos means you only spend six days on the ship.

 

At a minimum you should try to include Fernandina, Isabela and Española in your itinerary. They offer a lot of the different species you can see on your adventure cruise in the Galapagos Islands.   If you are looking for specific animal species, check out my blog post on where to find what animals in Galapagos.

 

Rábida (Jervis) and Santiago (James) offer the best snorkeling in the islands.

 

Broken down by month, this is what you can expect to see on your adventure cruise in the Galapagos Islands

 

January

•    Land birds start nesting, generally after the first rain.

•    On Española adult male marine iguanas become brightly colored.

•    green sea turtles arrive to lay their eggs.

•    Land iguanas begin their reproductive cycles on Isabela.

•    Hatching of giant tortoises eggs

 

 

February

•    greater flamingos start nesting on Floreana 

•    Bahamas pintails start breeding

•    Masked boobies on Española end their nesting

•    Marine iguanas nest on Santa Cruz.

•    Penguins migrate from Bartolomé Island to cooler waters off Isabela and Fernandina Islands

•    nesting season of Galapagos dove peaks

 

March

•    Sporadic tropical rains, intense sun and hot 

•    Marine iguanas nest on Fernandina and North Seymour

•    Frigate birds mating season starts on San Cristobal and Genovesa

 

April

•    Massive arrival of waved albatross on Española; courtship starts.

•    End of hatching season of giant tortoises.

•    eggs of green sea turtles begin to hatch.

•    Sea turtles, marine iguanas and land iguanas nesting

 

May

•    North Seymour's blue footed boobies begin courtship.

•    Sea turtles still hatching on Gardner Bay, Punta Cormorant and Puerto Egas.

•    marine iguanas eggs hatch on Santa Cruz.

•    Palo Santo trees begin to shed foliage.

•    Albatross on Española start laying their eggs.

•    Band-rumped storm petrels begin first nesting period.

 

June

•    Giant tortoises on Santa Cruz migrate from highlands to lowlands

•    Whale sharks in the northwestern islands toward the end of the month

•    Humpback whales can be seen

 

July

•    Sea bird communities very active, especially blue footed boobies on Española.

•    Flightless cormorants court and nest on Fernandina.

•    Nesting season for American oystercatchers, waved albatross

•    Lava lizards mating rituals until November.

•    Whale sightings, especially off the Western coast of Isabela

•    Start of sea lion breeding season

 

August

•    Galapagos hawks court on Española and Santiago.

•    Mask boobies and swallow-tailed gulls nest on Genovesa.

•    Migrant shore birds arrive and stay until March.

•    Giant tortoises return to the highlands of Santa Cruz.

•    Frigate bird chicks hatch

•    Sea lions give birth

 

September

•    Penguins active on Bartolomé until December.

•    Sea lions very active, especially in western and central islands. 

•    good month to see baby sea lions.

•    most marine birds remain active at nesting sites

 

October

•    Lava herons nest until March.

•    Galapagos fur seals begin mating

•    Boobies raise chicks on Española & Isabela.

•    Giant tortoises still lay eggs.

 

November

•    Sea lions sexually active on Eastern islands

•    Band-rumped storm petrels begin second nesting period.

•    whale sharks in the far northwest

•    Green sea turtle mating season starts

•    snorkeling with baby sea lions

 

December

•    Hatching of giant tortoise eggs begins - lasts until April.

•    Green sea turtles mate

•    young albatrosses fledge; waved-albatross nesting season ends

•    Marine and land iguanas mate

•    Sea lions and fur seals breed

 

 

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