Santiago Bejarano, co-founder of Think Galapagos, photographer and naturalist guide in Galapagos since 1992 gives his roundup of the top 5 highlights in Galapagos for the month of August.
“August is a fantastic month for many species in the Galapagos Islands. The Cromwell Current and South Equatorial Current will be slowly reaching their peak around this month which means nutrient-rich water is brought towards the ocean surface – triggering a wave of activity for all kinds of marine life in the archipelago.”
1. Whales and dolphins
August is a great time to see whales and dolphins, especially in the southern, western and northern parts of Isabella Island as well as the south eastern parts of the archipelago. Whales that can be spotted include Minke, Sperm whales, and even Humpback whales. You can also spot the Sei whale (Balaenoptera Borealis, a baleen whale and the third-largest rorqual after the blue whale and the fin whale). This is also a great month to observe good size pods of dolphins, both Bottlenose and Common dolphins.
2. Sea Lion Pups
The abundance of food for marine life in Galapagos means August is the best time for sea lions to deliver their pups. The abundance of food means female sea lions (known as cows) can spend more time with their pups since food is within easy reach of their nursing territories. The slightly cooler air temperature around August also ensures a healthy environment for the pups to grow big and strong. They can be seen throughout the Galapagos but the best place to see them is around the Plazas Islands, Santa Fe, San Cristobal, Espanola and Fernandina.
3. Waved Albatross Chicks
All the sea birds in the Galapagos are busy at this time feeding their chicks and taking advantage of the upwelling and food rich water. The Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata), also known as Galapagos Albatross chicks in particular, which live only on the island of Espanola, have grown very big and fluffy by August. Slowly parents start to leave them on their own by August, as both male and female Waved Albatross need to provide large quantities of food for this huge and hungry chick.
4. Giant Tortoises
By August everything is dry in the low lands so Giant Tortoises start to travel up to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island in search of food. This means they are much easier to see and in far larger numbers compared to the previous months.
5. The Encantadas or “Enchanted Isles”
In August the islands really live up to this name. This month finds Galapagos right in the midst of the “garua” or dry season, meaning that each morning the islands are covered in a veil of mist, giving them a mysterious and enchanted look. As the day goes on and the sun breaks through, the mist clears revealing the beautiful crystalline turquoise waters. The name “Enchanted Islands” was first given to Galapagos by Spanish sailors in the 16th Century who, peering through the mists and carried by the currents, felt as though the islands themselves were moving and that they were enchanted, hence the name “Las Islas Encantadas”
Travellers’ Questions for August
What are the temperatures like?
In August air temperatures normally have a daily high of 24 ºC and a daily low of 19 ºC whilst sea temperatures will average at 21 ºC, but can be as low as 19 ºC in some parts. Sea temperatures can vary widely from island to island with the coldest waters in the western and south eastern part of the archipelago where the cold water current upwellings have the most influence.
Is there anything in particular I need to pack for August?
As this is the dry season, the chance of rain is quite low however it is Garua so expect mist and rain and a sea breeze, so do bring a wind breaker. It is sunny most days so sun screen and hat are essential. As this an abundant time for marine life, it’s also a great time to swim and snorkel so we recommend a wet suit as the sea can be quite cool.