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13/07/2016 Wildlife facts

Galapagos in July

Galapagos is a year round destination. If you are visiting the Enchanted Isles in July, here are the highlights of the month you may see

Photograph of Jenny Vidler

Jenny Vidler

Former Communications & Membership Assistant at Galapagos Conservation Trust

Galapagos is a year round destination with rare mammals and sea life constantly active. Each month, a range of different animals and marine life are more frequently seen, so the visiting month depends on each visitor’s personal interests and preferences.

July sees stronger winds and rougher seas around Galapagos. The Garua season is in its second full month and the weather is relatively cool and dry, with sunny or overcast skies with occasional drizzle. The presence of the Humboldt Current surrounding the islands begins to strengthen, bringing in cold arctic water to meet with the warm pacific, subsequently creating abundant nutrients in the waters surrounding the islands. Thus, the marine life becomes more active, making snorkelling one of the best activities for visitors as the water is clearer than May and June and many species of fish and sea mammals are active in shallower waters and reefs.

Sea life, especially sea birds, take center stage in the month of July. Sea bird communities are very active with Flightless Cormorants performing beautiful courtship rituals and nesting activities on Fernandina Island. Many birds are nesting due to the abundance of food in the waters in July; Blue footed boobies, red footed boobies, masked boobies, waved albatross, magnificent and great frigate bird, flightless cormorants, penguins and greater flamingos.

Smaller sea birds such as American oystercatchers also begin nesting on Santiago Island and moorhens nest between May and October. The moorhens are often seen with their babies following behind in July, a great spot for the avid birdwatcher.

© Brett Horwell

© Brett Horwell

July is the start of California sea lion breeding season. The large males are almost always competitive, however they are much more so during July. The larger begin to fight in order to secure a territory on a beach where a harem of up to 25 females live, in order to mate with. The Galapagos sea lion is very large, with the males being about 900 pounds at maturity, the females average about 244 pounds at maturity. There is a large degree of sexual dismorphism, with males weighing up to four times that of females. The males also have a prominent bump on their forehead.

Cetaceans, especially humpback whales, orcas and dolphins, are likely to be observed off the southern and western coasts of the archipelago, especially in the deeper waters to the west of Isabela Island.

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