The most famous visitor to the Galapagos Islands was also the co-author of humankind’s most influential scientific theory. Charles Robert Darwin sailed around the Islands in 1835 as part of a longer voyage around the globe on a Royal Navy vessel named HMS Beagle.
In five weeks, Darwin the young naturalist and his more experienced crewmates landed on just four islands to explore the geology and wildlife. Today known almost universally as Isabela, Santiago, San Cristobal and Floreana, in Darwin’s notes the islands were Albemarle, James, Chatham and Charles islands (the latter after King Charles II, not Darwin).
The abundant and diverse flora/fauna on the Islands (most notably the variety of finches) were the principal source of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. However, it wasn’t until 1858, after Alfred Russel Wallace had written to Darwin about the same idea, that both men jointly published their papers to the scientific community.
When is the perfect time for that once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Galapagos Islands?
If your tolerance for humidity (or rainfall) is low, both are lowest from May to December. From January to May, average temperatures are higher. Optimal water temps can be enjoyed around April, though wetsuits are widely available for rent.
However, since the principal reason to visit the Galapagos is its abundant wildlife, we took the time to make a nice infographic about mating/migration seasons for the spectrum of species found on the Islands. You can find it on our infographics page.
January: Giant tortoise eggs are hatching. The future is especially bright for these Galapagos giants since rats were practically eradicated from the Islands in a comprehensive poisoning program in 2012. Meanwhile, Green Sea turtles come onshore to begin laying their eggs — usually at night. This activity peaks in February and lasts until June.
There are three dimensions to the fascinating wildlife of the Galapagos: land, air and sea. Though many creatures are comfortable in more than one (even all three!), the vast majority of species reside exclusively below sea level.
So to get the most out of a Galapagos trip, we recommend bringing a dive mask. Maybe you already own one, or can pick one out in your local dive shop. This is preferable to a used mask which may not fit exactly. A new snorkel might also be a good idea, though fins (which are heavier) can be rented. In fact, fins are entirely optional.
After a short orientation from your tour/cruise guide, you’re all set to explore the first few meters of the Galapagos underworld. If no wetsuits are provided and you find the water chilly, a tight-fitting shirt/vest and cycling shorts are usually enough…