Every month we ask one of the Galapagos guides we know to give us their top 5 highlights of the month. Step forward our guide for April, Harry Jimenez who works for Haugan Cruises who operate our two favorite deluxe catamarans, the Ocean Spray and the Cormorant.
Born and raised in the Galapagos Islands, Harry is a level III Naturalist and Guide and is loaded with bountiful information about the flora and fauna of these amazing islands. Harry’s experience involves freelance work writing about the Galapagos and many years of working on numerous yachts in the Islands. His knowledge covers everything from the geology, oceanography, marine life, evolution, human history, reptiles, mammals and birds of the Galapagos Islands. My favourite things in April:
1. Courtship ritual of Waved Albatrosses on Española
April is mating season for many of the birds of the Galapagos and the Waved Albatross is no exception. Known as Waved Albatrosses because of the wave like patterns on the feathers of adult birds these amazing creatures breed almost exclusively on Española Island where they build their nests on the lava and brush. It can get quite busy with the 12,000 or so Waved Albatrosses on Earth all building their nests here.
The courtship ritual of these birds is a sight to behold for those lucky enough to witness it. It involves lots of rapid bill circling and bowing, bill clacking and raising of the bill to make a “woo woo” sound. Once together, these Albatrosses will remain mates until one of them dies – and with average lifespan of these birds being between 40-45 years, that makes a very long-term partnership!
2. End of the dry season
The dry season is now finally over and the trees, previously parched, have sprung to life and are covered in new green leaves. April is a lovely time to visit the Galapagos as the air temperature is warm and the sea temperature is at its warmest for the whole year, with an average of 25 degrees. This makes it perfect for snorkeling and getting a glimpse of the underwater wonders of the Galapagos.
April is when the highlands receive the most rain, with showers bringing plenty of life giving water resulting in an explosion of foliage – and food for the wildlife.
3. Darwin’s Finches are nesting and you see plenty of them
Galapagos Finches or so called Darwin Finches, made infamous by Charles Darwin after he spotted subtle differences in the birds from island to island are busy nesting this month. They are very much on show as they busily fly around collecting items with which to build their nests.
4. Butterflies of the Galapagos
April is a fantastic time to see the butterflies of the Galapagos as they flutter about the vegetation, helping to pollinate the flowers. Eight species of butterfly are known to live on the Islands and below are some that you can spot:
- The Galapagos Sulphur butterfly is the only yellow butterfly native to the Islands and a sub-species of a butterfly that occurs throughout the Western hemisphere.
- The Galapagos Silver Fritillary is a black and orange butterfly with silver spots on the underside. It is a common sight from the coast to the highlands.
- The Monarch butterfly is the largest butterfly in the Galapagos and is the same species as the well-known migrating Monarch of North America. The wings are brownish read with black veins and wing-tips with white spots on the wing tips.
- The Queen butterfly is similar to the Monarch but smaller and with less black on its wings. The Queen is found on Isabela Island.
- The Galapagos Blue butterfly is a beautiful little blue butterfly that is commonly seen on the Islands. It is a shy butterfly that has a fast fluttering flight as it moves about the vegetation.
- The Large-tailed Skipper is a little brown butterfly which has large ‘tails’ to its hind wings and yellowish spots on its fore wings. It is common in the highlands of the larger islands.
5. The amazing changing colours of the reptiles!
Several of the reptile species in Galapagos change colour during the mating season in April to help the males attract a female. Male Marine Iguanas acquire different colours depending on which Island they live on; on the Southern Islands of Española and Floreana they are the most colorful, becoming a stunning red and teal colour. On Santa Cruz they are red and black whereas on Fernandina they are red and dull green. If you forget which Island you are currently standing on, just check the colour of the marine iguanas!