Usually, the words "dry season" conjure up visions of arid, less than favourable conditions. But for the remote archipelago of the Galapagos Islands, the dry season is anything but boring. |
Unlike some other destinations around the world, the dry months are actually an ideal time for nature lovers to embark on a wildlife cruise in Galapagos. It doesn't experience a typical tropical climate, and between July and December is actually a time of great activity, migration and breeding.
What Happens During the Dry Months?
The archipelago experiences two distinct seasons: the dry and the wet. The seasons here are directly influenced by the cold Humboldt Current, which mixes with the warmer waters of the Equatorial Current and causes the rich nutrients (of the Humboldt) to rise to the surface. During the six-month dry period, the current is pushed towards the islands by the prevailing trade winds, which has a massive effect on the local ecology.
An Abundance of Marine Animals
With an abundant food supply, the marine life of the archipelago thrives at this time of the year. Along with the vast numbers of fish that can be seen in the shallows, the populations of sharks, octopi, rays and crustaceans swell to greater proportions. For sea turtles, it's prime breeding time and December signals the start of their nesting season.
The diverse elevations of the volcanic islands mean that, even in the drier months, there's significant rainfall in some areas. At high altitudes, drizzle and damp mists known as Garúa are a constant presence and, while down in the lower reaches conditions are fairly arid, the highlands are lush and tropical. Because of this, great numbers of animals – such as the Giant Tortoise – migrate to higher elevations in search of food. While this seasonal movement occurs on a smaller scale than that of the "great migrations" of Africa, it's the same principle. In order to encounter the very active wildlife, most itineraries for a wildlife cruise in Galapagos at this time of the year will include an excursion to the high altitudes of some of the islands.
Surprisingly, the temperatures are lower during the dry months, and it's during this cooler weather that many species choose to breed. This is particularly common among avian species and, when their young hatch, the vast amounts of small fish in the surrounding waters serve as a reliable food source. Boobies, Frigates and the Flightless Cormorants begin their mating at the onset of the dry, and their numbers increase as the hatchlings begin to emerge in the ensuing months.
Other species that are higher profile during this prime breeding time are the quirky Lava Lizards, migratory sharks, flamingos, Sea Lions, penguins, whales and dolphins.
The End of the Dry Months
By late December, as the Humboldt Current slows and the temperatures rise, there's a discernible shift in the activity of the wildlife as the archipelago's second season – the wet – approaches. For those planning a wildlife cruise in Galapagos, no time of the year is a bad time, but the dry season can be a particularly exciting and rewarding time to visit.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in the Galapagos Islands. For those interested in a wildlife cruise in Galapagos, Marissa recommends the itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of species in one of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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