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The Galapagos Islands

Added 24 Feb 2014
The Galapagos Islands
 

The Galapagos Islands are located 970 km west of the Ecuadorean coast on the equator. The main islands are San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Isabela, Floreana, Santiago and Fernandina, however there are also 12 smaller islands – Baltra, Santa Fe, Pinzon, Espanola, Rabida, Daphne, Seymour, Genovesa, Marchena, Pinta, Darwin and Wolf – as well as over 40 small islets.

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There are a wide range of vessels cruising the national park and picking the right one for you is essential; our Tailor-made Regional Specialists will help you chose the right boat or hotels to suit your holiday requirements. You can also find a guide to our favourite boats here.

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With such a variety of wildlife and birdlife, every month in the Galapagos has something different to offer; with a limited number of passengers allowed into the area and a limited number of vessels sailing, we highly recommend you book early to secure your place. Confused about what to see and when? Don’t be, here’s our wildlife calendar for the year to help you decide when to travel:

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January - Adult marine iguanas on Española Island become brightly coloured, green, red and black. Green sea turtles arrive to beaches to lay their eggs. Land iguanas begin reproductive cycles on Isabela Island.

February - On Floreana Island greater flamingos start nesting; Bahama pintail ducks start breeding and marine iguanas are nesting on Santa Cruz Island.

March - Sporadic tropical rains and hot climate means air temperature can reach up to 30C (86F), humidity is high. Marine iguanas nest on Fernandina Island. Waved albatross start to arrive on Espanola Island from mid to late March. The western islands’ waters warm up, where snorkelling is excellent. Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela) can be an amazing site with penguins active in the water next to tropical fish.

April – Waved albatrosses continue to arrive on Espanola and where they start courting. Green turtle eggs begin to hatch. Eggs of land iguanas hatch on Isabela. Visibility in the water is perfect for snorkelers.

May - North Seymour's blue-footed boobies begin their courtship. Sea turtles are still hatching on Gardner Bay, Punta Cormorant and Puerto Egas; and marine iguana eggs hatch from nests on Santa Cruz. The waved albatross on Espanola start laying their eggs.

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June - Giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island head down from the highlands in search of suitable nesting places in the lowlands, nesting season begins. Groups of humpback whales migrate up to equatorial latitudes along the coast of Ecuador.

July - Lava lizards start initiating mating rituals (on going until November). Whales and dolphins can be observed off the western coast of Isabela. This is a great month to see the four stages of nesting of blue footed boobies; from eggs, to chicks, to juveniles and young adults.

August - Galapagos hawks court on Espanola and Santiago. Nazca (masked) boobies and swallow-tailed gulls nest on Genovesa Island. Giant tortoises return to the highlands of Santa Cruz. Pupping season of sea lions starts, western and central islands are common place for such sightings.

September - Galapagos penguins show remarkable activity on Bartolome, where since May swimmers and snorkellers are delighted with penguin activity at the surface or torpedo-like swimming underwater. Sea lions are very active. Females have reached estrus stage and so males are constantly barking and fighting to find a mate. Shore fighting is heavy.

October - Lava herons start nesting until March. The Galapagos fur sea lions begin their mating period. Blue footed boobies raise chicks on Española and Isabela. Giant tortoises are still laying eggs.

November - Pupping of sea lions continue, while sea lions are sexually active on the eastern part of the archipelago. Some species of jellyfish can be seen around the islands. The genus physalia is commonly seen floating around Gardner and Tortuga Islets, and can also be seen stranded at the shores of the Flour Beach at Floreana. Band-rumped storm petrels begin their second nesting period. Sea lion pups, especially at Champion Islet play aqua-aerobics next to snorkellers.

December - Hatching of giant tortoise eggs begins and lasts until April. Green sea turtles display their mating behaviour. The first young waved albatrosses fledge.

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See all of our small group and tailor-made adventures in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.