Having been isolated from the mainland for thousands of years, Galapagos wildlife has evolved in unique and fascinating ways, and inspires visitors today just as it did Charles Darwin in 1835. Giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies and marine iguanas are among its most captivating species, together with playful sea lions, scuttling Sally Lightfoot crabs and iconic Darwin’s finches.
Before reviewing the Galapagos wildlife calendar, know that most of the animals are visible year-round. Birdwatchers will be treated to sightings of both great and magnificent frigatebirds throughout the year, together with flightless cormorants, Galapagos doves, greater flamingos along with Nazca, red-footed, masked and blue-footed boobies. Year-round land species include lava lizards, giant tortoises, and both land and marine iguanas, while sea lions and fur seals can be seen basking along the shoreline and tropical fish, sharks, rays and sea turtles can be spotted just below the water’s surface.
The start of the rainy season sees marine iguanas ignite in bright colors and green sea turtles arriving to lay their eggs on the beach, while land birds begin nesting.
A rise in sea temperatures is accompanied by the start of the nesting season for flamingos, together with marine iguanas on Santa Cruz. Galapagos doves can be seen courting, while black-tailed pintails also begin breeding.
March sees frequent downpours at the peak of the rainy season, with the arrival of the waved albatross to Española towards the end of the month and marine iguanas can be observed nesting on Fernandina.
The impressive courtship of the waved albatross is on display together with the mating rituals of frigatebirds, while green sea turtle and land iguana eggs begin hatching on Isabela.
The courtship rituals of North Seymour’s blue-footed boobies can be observed , while the waved albatross begin laying their eggs on Española. Green sea turtles can be seen hatching at Gardner Bay, Punta Cormorant and Puerto Egas.
The courtship rituals of North Seymour’s blue-footed boobies can be witnessed, while waved albatross begin laying their eggs on Española. Green sea turtles can be seen emerging from their eggs at Gardner Bay, Punta Cormorant and Puerto Egas.
Seabird colonies are alive with courtship rituals, egg-brooding and the feeding of chicks, while flightless cormorants on Fernandina are particularly impressive. Lava lizards begin their mating rituals and both whales and dolphins are often spotted off the west coast of Isabela.
Galapagos hawks begin courting; Nazca boobies and swallow-tailed gulls are nesting, while giant tortoises begin their journey back into the highlands. Sea lions begin to give birth to pups and the sea currents are at their strongest, with ocean temperatures falling to around 18°C.
The peak of the cold season sees Galapagos sea lions at their most active, with males barking and fighting over females, while most seabirds are still busy nesting and feeding chicks.
Galapagos fur seals begin mating as lava herons start nest building, while blue-footed boobies can be seen rearing their chicks on Española and Isabela.
As the seas begin to calm and water temperatures rise, snorkelers can get up close to sea lion pups and enjoy the excellent visibility. Brown noddies start breeding and storm petrels can be seen nesting on Genovesa.
Giant tortoise eggs begin hatching and green sea turtles are mating, while waved albatross chicks start to fledge.
The Galapagos Islands are a birdwatcher’s paradise, with many species endemic to the archipelago. Witness tiny finches that inspired Darwin’s “Theory of Evolution”, colorful flamingos and blue-footed boobies, together with the impressive waved albatross, frigatebirds and cormorants.
Cold water currents have created ideal conditions for an abundance of marine species in the Galapagos, 17% of which are endemic to the archipelago. These include colorful Sally Lightfoot crabs, tropical fish, sea turtles, marine iguanas, rays and sharks.
The Galapagos wildlife is dominated by reptiles whose ability to survive without water for extensive periods enabled them to colonize the archipelago. Galapagos reptiles include iconic creatures like giant tortoises and land iguanas, together with species of snakes and lizards.
Isolation has resulted in few native Galapagos mammals, however swimming with Galapagos sea lions, fur seals and their pups is a highlight for many visitors, while sightings of other mammals, such as rice rats and bats, is less common.