Galapagos Wildlife Calendar
Nowhere on earth is quite like the Galapagos Islands when it comes to wildlife. Boasting a remarkable array of endemic species, these islands have been fascinating nature lovers since Charles Darwin sang their praises back in the 1830s. Nowadays, the islands are more developed than they were in Darwin’s times but the animals have stayed the same, UNESCO has declared the islands a World Heritage Site in order to protect and preserve their natural wonders. On these magical islands you will find tortoises that are pushing 100 years old and birds that you never even knew existed.
But, spotting the varied fauna on this archipelago means planning your trip at the right time. Are you interested in seals or birds? Tortoises or penguins? Check out our Galapagos Wildlife Calendar to see which animals are around in each month. This will help you plan your trip and make sure you get to see exactly what you want to see.
January marks the beginning of the rainy season in the Galapagos archipelago. On Española Island, the adult marine iguanas become brightly coloured with shades of green, red and black and a number of different land birds begin nesting. However, the most exciting thing to happen in January is the arrival of hordes of green sea turtles.
On Floreana the greater flamingos begin nesting so if you were hoping to see them, February is a great time to go to the Galapagos Islands. Meanwhile the Galapagos doves have reached peak nesting; the Nazca boobies on Española are ending their nesting season; and the Bahama Pintails have just started breeding. There are also large numbers of marine iguanas nesting on Santa Cruz Island.
If you’re hoping to see marine iguanas in March then your best bet is to go to Fernandina as this is where lots of them will be. Towards the end of the month the waved albatross will arrive on Española. This is a great time of the year to do some snorkelling as temperatures are high and the water is warm.
April sees even more waved albatrosses arriving on Española, performing their amazing courtship dance. Travellers who go to the Galapagos Islands at this time will also get to see land iguana eggs hatch as well as the eggs of the green sea turtles. This is generally considered one of the best months to visit the Galapagos Islands as the weather is good, the water visibility is great and there are plenty of animals to spot.
Tied with April for best month to visit, May sees the blue-footed boobies begin their courtship on North Seymour and the waved albatrosses lay their eggs. There are also band-rumped storm petrels all over the place as they begin their first nesting period. A final highlight of May is getting to see the marine iguanas’ eggs hatch on the island of Santa Cruz.
Giant tortoises take the limelight in June as they migrate from the highlands down to the lowlands to nest. But, that’s not the only exciting event to look forward to. There is also an influx of birds in this month as they use the Galapagos as a pit stop on their migration journey to the North. You might even see some humpback whales as well as they follow the same trajectory. In addition to this, the short-eared owl starts mating on Genovesa Island.
Sea birds are very active in July with regards to mating. On Española you will see the blue-footed boobies in action as the flightless cormorants take over Fernandina. This is also an active time for the lava lizards who begin mating in July. Look to the seas and you will see pods of dolphins and whales making their way North just off the western coast of Isabela.
In August you will see Galapagos hawks courting each other on the islands of Española and Santiago as well as Nazca boobies and swallow-tailed gulls nesting on Genovesa. August also marks the beginning of pupping season for the sea lions on the western and central islands and the migration of the giant tortoises back to the highlands. Be aware that the water can get quite cold and choppy at this time of the year.
September in the Galapagos Islands is all about the penguins on Bartolome. The activity of these adorable little birds is remarkable as they torpedo through the water. The sea lions are equally active in September as males fight for the attention of females on the shores. There are also occasionally whale sharks off the northwest coast of the archipelago.
This month marks the arrival of the lava herons, which will nest until March. Additionally, October sees the Galapagos fur seals begin mating and the blue-footed boobies on Española and Isabela raising their cute little chicks. There is also still a chance that you might catch a glimpse of a whale shark during this time if you’re lucky.
The sea lions continue mating in November and some of them are even old enough at this point to get up close and personal with visitors without panicking their mothers. Meanwhile, the brown noddies begin their breeding process and the jellyfish come out in full force – you might see some washed up on the shores of Flour Beach on Floreana.
By December, some of the fur seals have grown up enough to become quite playful so allocate a bit of time to watching them. In other news, the giant tortoise eggs begin to hatch around this time, the green sea turtles begin to mate and the first young waved albatrosses take to the skies.