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Galapagos in May – Top 5 Highlights

Santiago Bejerano, Galapagos GuideSantiago Bejarano is the co-founder of Think Galapagos. He is also a photographer and one of the top naturalist guides in Galapagos. Santiago personally accompanies all of our small group trips and is currently spending the month of May in the Galapagos with three consecutive trips of Think Galapagos guests on board the Tip Top III. Here he explains why May is one of his favourite months.

“May is one of the best times to visit the Galapagos Islands as it marks the transition between the warm and cold sea currents as the colder Humboldt Current starts to influence the waters around the Galapagos Islands. This triggers the nesting season amongst both the seabirds, creating a noisy and colourful soap opera of courtship displays.”

Great Frigatebirds nesting on Genovesa1. Great Frigatebirds nesting on Genovesa

These incredible seabirds are one of the iconic creatures of the Galapagos. During the breeding season, males show off by puffing out their bright red gular sacs, giving them a bright red balloon shape on their chests. As females fly overhead, the males waggle their heads from side to side, shake their wings and call out to attract attention. These colourful mating displays amongst the bushes and trees are an incredible sight and are incredibly photogenic!

Great Frigatebirds nest all over the Galapagos can be seen in the largest numbers on Genovesa Island (Tower). Once the females have chosen a mate, the pair will stay together to build a nest then look after the single egg until it hatches into a helpless chick.

Waved Albatross courtship on Española2. Waved Albatross courtship on Española

The Waved Albatross, also known as the Galapagos Albatross breeds primarily on the Island of Española with over 30,000 birds making this their breeding ground. These are fairly shy birds and their courtship ritual is rare to see, however those lucky enough to see it witness a spectacular sight. It is like a slow dance where the male and female stand opposite each other, circle and clack their bills, bow and then lift their heads to make a very distinctive ‘woo woo’ sound.

When the eggs hatch, the chicks stay together in nurseries while their parents fly off to sea in search of food. Their parents are model parents, remaining mates until one of them dies.

Cerro Azu3. Lovely daytime temperatures

May is the crossover month of the rainy season which ironically is the sunniest season in the Islands and the dry season which runs from June to December. It usually rains for a short time at least once a day but the rest of the time it’s warm and sunny. Due to the influence of the Southern Trade winds creating a lovely breeze, the more intense heat of the previous months diminishes, making it the perfect temperature for exploring. In May you have the added advantage that the sea is nice and warm too, perfect for snorkelling or diving. From June onwards the sea cools as the Humboldt Current starts to make its presence felt.

Green Sea turtle hatchlings4. Green Sea turtle hatchlings

May is at the end of the Galapagos green sea turtle nesting season and most eggs have been laid, however we sometimes see the first hatchlings emerge this month on the few sandy beaches of the Galapagos. Most hatchlings emerge under cover of darkness to avoid predators but they can be occasionally be spotted seen in the late afternoon as they leave the nest and head straight to the sea to start feeding. This is a heart-warming sight for those lucky enough to witness it. Once they reach the water, the turtles will remain at sea for many years until they mature into adults; this makes the sighting of them before they disappear even more special.

Galapagos Finch chicks5. Galapagos Finch chicks

The Galapagos finches are the most famous land birds in the Galapagos, due to the role they played in Darwin’s theory of evolution. The thirteen slightly different species are easy to spot on each island, although it takes a trained eye to tell them apart. May is the month when the chicks hatch and start to be visible. Although the birds are dull coloured and not the most exciting to look at, they are very noisy and curious and of course play a huge role in natural history!

 

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Rachel DexCall Rachel, Ecuador and Galapagos Specialist
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