Every month, we ask one of the local experts in the Galapagos Islands for their top 5 highlights of the month. Step forward good friend of Think Galapagos founders Santiago and Rachel, Luis Die.
Luis has worked in Galapagos for over 20 years. Originally from Spain he has a Masters in Ecology from Madrid University and is widely recognised as a top Galapagos National Park Guide. A wildlife photographer and naturalist, Luis has had several books published on the Galapagos Islands.
1. The rain is here… finally!
February is here and the rains have finally arrived to the islands. After a relatively dry beginning of the year the much-needed rains are triggering the breeding for many land species of reptiles and birds. With the rain, flowers are blooming, leaves are sprouting and insects are emerging after many months of dormancy. This short-lived abundance of life provides food for the chicks of many species of birds, including the Darwin finches, which depend on a decent rainy season to secure the next generation.
Although this is the rainy season with short spells of rain pretty much every day, ironically February is also one of the sunniest months with plenty of warm sunshine for visitors to enjoy.
2. Sea Turtles laying eggs
The beaches throughout Galapagos are filled with large tracks visible even from the anchorage spots of the yachts. Hundreds of female Green Sea Turtles, some of which have travelled for more than a thousand miles, are congregating near certain beaches waiting for the cover of darkness before they come ashore to lay their eggs in the sand dunes.
Galapagos is considered one of the last safe breeding places for sea turtles in the Eastern Pacific. This month offers exceptionally good conditions to see them while snorkeling.
3. Marine iguanas nesting
These prehistoric-looking reptiles will be nesting during the warm months in order to ensure that their offspring will hatch during the period of maximum algae growth in the cold season.
The colonies, usually quiet and calm, now look more like a battlefield, as hundreds of females fight for the best nesting locations, usually at the centre of the colony. Digging a nest in the equatorial sun is not an easy task, so many prefer to steal nests from other females, leading to endless combats where only the stronger ones will get to lay the eggs in places where the babies will have the best chances of surviving.
4. The best time to snorkel!
Warm sea water means more rain and more heat, but it also means fantastic snorkeling conditions.
As the sea reaches temperatures of 25-28 C snorkeling becomes the perfect way to enjoy the Galapagos after 10AM. The visibility also tends to increase and the high water temperature allows visitors to enjoy delicious hours observing the abundance of marine live that thrives in the Galapagos.
5. Frigate bird display
This is the beginning of the display season for the Great Frigate birds. Although the Magnificent Frigate birds (a very similar species) display throughout the year, it is during the warm months that both species are at their peak, filling their colonies with large red balloons as the males show their beauty to the females. During the nesting months the colonies will be more active than ever, the air filled with the sounds of desperate males calling the females which are flying over the colony. In certain colonies, the trees and bushes look from the distance like Christmas trees, with large red balls decorating the branches.