The Galapagos Islands are unique – probably the only place on earth where we can get a real sense of what the world was like before humans.
A group of 19 islands lying in the Pacific Ocean 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos are a fascinating living laboratory. Each island is host to its own extraordinary mix of flora and fauna that has been blown or washed across from mainland South America and forced to adapt to survive. From the youngest Island Fernandina which is still being formed, to the oldest island Espanola formed 3.5 million years ago, each has its own unique landscape and set of ecosystems.
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What makes Galapagos so unique?
What makes these islands truly unique is that they have remained isolated from predators (most notably humans) for most of their history. The result is a unique and diverse range of animals that are totally unafraid of humans. From breeding boobies, to flightless cormorants, to iguanas and giant tortoises, the fearlessness of the fauna here is astounding.
Thanks to ongoing conservation work by the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station, the Galapagos remain largely the way Darwin saw them almost 2 centuries ago — a pristine natural habitat and an inspiration for anyone with a love of the natural word.
Although the weather and temperatures don’t vary hugely, the islands do have two distinct seasons. These seasons are determined by the ocean currents around the Galapagos, principally the cool north-flowing Humbolt and the west-flowing Peruvian Ocean Currents both of which originate in Antartica. Generally December to April are the warmest months with daily highs of between 26°C–31 °C (79°F –87°F) and the coolest from May through November with daily highs of between 24°C–26 °C (76°F –79°F) with August and September the coolest.
The islands only receive around 25 cm (10 inches) of rain per year, so it is rarely ‘rainy’ although you can expect some rain year round in the highlands of some of the islands.
|Daily High ºC (ºF)||29 (85)||29 (85)||31 (87)||31 (87)||27 (81)||26 (79)||25 (77)||24 (76)||24 (76)||25 (77)||26 (78)||26 (79)|
|Daily Low ºC (ºF)||22 (71.6)||24 (76)||24 (76)||24 (76)||22 (71.6)||21 (69.8)||20 (68)||19 (66.2)||19 (66.2)||20 (68)||21 (69.8)||22 (71.6)|
|Sea Temp ºC (ºF)||24 (75.2)||25 (77)||25 (77)||25 (77)||24 (75.2)||23 (73.4)||22 (71.6)||21 (69.8)||22 (71.6)||22 (71.6)||23 (73.4)||23 (73.4)|
|Rainfall mm (inch)||68.6 (2.7)||91.4 (3.6)||94 (3.7)||71.1 (2.8)||33 (1.3)||22.9 (0.90)||15.2 (0.60)||5.1 (0.20)||5.1 (0.20)||5.1 (0.20)||7.6 (0.30)||30.5 (1.20)|
The temperature of the air and water in Galapagos varies depending on the strength of the trade winds. December through March, the winds are at their weakest and the cooling currents subside and temperatures rise. The waters are warmest during this period (65-80F). In April, the trend begins towards stronger winds and cooler air and water temperatures with the strongest trade winds and coolest temperatures usually being in late September. In October the trend reverses and so the cycle begins again with the occasional appearance of the El Nino and La Nina phenomena…
The larger islands with volcanic peaks have a dramatic range of climactic zones (Isabela, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Floreana). Whilst the coastal areas are arid, and covered with plants adapted to desert conditions with very infrequent rain, the highland parts of these Islands receive moisture almost year-round in the form of garua (thick fog, mist or drizzle), which supports a lush forest area where all of the giant tortoises live.